Hang Out your Shingles V TEachers

Much of this is live blogged.  Please forgive mispellings and awekward writing.

I get to sit this morning.  It’s 9:00 and Brenda and I went back to Early Girl for another omlette.  This morning it was a build-your-own, which was almost as good as the black bean omlette I ordered yesterday.  I’m sitting in a small auditorium, getting ready to learn about how “Online Learning = 21st Century Skills.” 

The presenter is Mark Sample from Stanly Community College.  We don’t seem to have WiFi here, or else I could look this feller up, so, we’ll just swim with what ever life raft he throws out to us. The opening slide says, North Carolina Virtual Public School. The person who was supposed to be presenting, could not be here.  I do not know who the speaker is, but he certainly looks familiar.  He is talking about North Carolina’s shift ABCs of Public Education, to the new Future_Read Students for th 21st Century.  The goals of this program are for schools to:

  • NC public schools will produce globally competitive students.
  • NC public schools will be led by 21st Century professionals.
  • NC public school students will be healthy and responsible.
  • Leadership will guide innovation in NC public schools.
  • NC public schools will be governed and supported by 21st Century systems.

Michigan now requires all students to take at least one online course to graduate.  The speaker says that North Carolina is not far behind this. They just opened up an online AP Exams course, and in the first week they had 8,000 enrollments. The NCVPS promises not to establish enrollment caps.  If students want they course or more seats (virtually), then they will find the teachers.  The presenter also said that they have redefined seat time.  He didn’t explain what he meant by that, but it is promising.

They’ve recruited 350+ teachers, but need many more.  They are providing professional development for virtual teachers.  Seems to me like a whole new job/career as online teacher.  I have to talk to my daughter about this.

One common question has been asked — how do you assure security in online courses.  How can you be sure that the student actually is the one who took the test…  The presenter says that any course for which an EOC test is requred at the end, a School must administer the test face-to-face.  For all other courses, portfolio assessment will be used.

I know now.  The presenter is David Edwards, Chief Marketing Officer, former director of technology for Lenoir County Schools.  That’s where I know him.

One of the more contentious issues that has risen from the NC Virtual Public School program, is that some schools have been providing many enrichment courses to students through Virtual High School, courses like Introduction to Vet Medicine, The Holocaust, and The History of Rock-N-Roll.  They are now required to get all of their online courses from NCVPS, who does not yet offer these types of courses.  There is s great deal of frustration around this, among secondary school distance learning folks.  Edwards promises that they are working as fast as they can to add in the enrichment classes.  They were mandated by the legislature to offer the core courses first — courses that help kids graduate.

Edwards had said earlier that students could take only specific modules within a single online cours.  So I asked about students taking modules, asking for a scenario of a problem that this might solve.  Edwards said (paraphrased), Student takes the Algebra II EOC (End of Course) test and fails.  But in reviewing their test, they simply bombed polynomials.  That student can then take only the polynomials module of the online course, and then complete the course, rather than sitting in Algebra II again.  home run!  Bingo! 

Much of the rest of the morning was shop talk. a lot of acronyms that I know most of the attendees work with every day, but they meant nothing to me.  One idea that occurs to me, however, especially as I hear several times that they are mandated to offer services of high need is that they are working to the left of the long tail.  They are working to solve common needs, and in a world of scarcity, this makes perfect sense.  But how do you move into the long tail, to offering courses and services that are desired by only 1000 students across the state, or 100, or 10. It seems that it would be technically possible to create an open tool with which anyone could create and populate a course one some topic of personal interest, expertise, or experience.  There would be standards of quality and probably a streamlined and timely approval procedure.  But then the personal who creates the course might be payed for maintaining and facilitating it per enrollment.

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5 thoughts on “Hang Out your Shingles V TEachers”

  1. Dave – My shingle’s out.

    I’ve been teaching high school, online, for six years now. It’s quite an adventure.

    It sounds like NCVPS is going through the growing pains that every online school I’ve been involved in has gone through. The three biggies, are seat-time, authentication, and testing.

    Seat-time: We have to abolish that right now. The carnegie unit needs to be taken out and shot, and the shot again, and the lit on fire. If the point of school is learning, then what truly matters is that students can demonstrate their knowledge. It shouldn’t matter if that take nine minutes or nine months.

    Authentication: Online learning faces the same issues as traditional schools on this front. Any time a teacher sends an assignment out of the classroom there’s no way to be sure if who completes the assignment. Arguments can be made that this is the same case in the classroom. There have been lots of articles on how students are using ipods, cellphones, etc. to assist in class. It’s way past time to think about how we assess learning, not just in the online world.

    Testing: It may be time to put this one to bed too. If the point of learning is to demonstrate what you know on a multiple choice then, well, we can’t do away with it. You have to force the students to come in to a physical location and fill out the scan-trons. If this isn’t the point of learning, which it isn’t, then assessment needs to be authentic and there are a whole lot of real world ways for students to demonstrate what they know online.

    Many online schools are trying to take what goes on in the traditional classroom and shove it into the box you’re reading this on right now. It can be done, but it’s painful for students, parents, teachers, and administrators.

    Online learning offers a whole new paradigm for education. If we seize the opportunity now, show that students can be successful in this environment, and get it established before the establishment takes notice, we might just change the face of what education is forever.

  2. David,

    Why is taking an online course virtuous? Isn’t this yet another arbitrary curricular requirement?

    I’ve taught online for more than a decade and know quite a bit about it. I also know that all of the online courses I’ve seen for high school students do little if anything to benefit from the affordances of being online while reaffirming the worst educational practices of the 25 little desk, one big desk f2f world.

    The best response to the AP is to avoid it as the Scarsdale Public Schools (arguably the best public school system in the world) just did. Putting it online is merely a cheaper way of “delivering” test-prep curriculum.

    Here’s a paper I recently published on this subject – “Towards a Pedagogy of Online Constructionist Learning.” http://stager.org/articles/onlineconstructionism.pdf

    Here’s another article:
    “Gary Stager on High-Quality Online Learning” – http://www.districtadministration.com/page.cfm?p=1086

    “Distance Education? Gary explores the critical distinctions between distance education and distributed learning.”

  3. This evening I had a conversation with my sister-in-law on how her travel shop business has changed in 20 years. She remembers telling her business partner 10 years ago that the Internet would change their business. Her partner thought she was crazy! It appears that educators are also in denial over the changes that the Internet will bring to education.

    The other conversation I had this week was with a local educator who told me that our county wide alternative school will be able to cut funding next year by offering students only a half day of “in building” classes. The rest they will take online. As Gary noted education is looking for cheap!

    On-line curriculum can provide meaningful solutions to some of our educational needs, the real question will be making sure that our needs and solutions are based on a student’s learning needs, not on our pocketbook or on the results of a single standardized test. One need we have is creating life long learners. Laptops can certainly extend the school day. But extending the school day with “more of the same” isn’t going to achieve what we want. We do agree on what we want – right? – ahhh maybe that’s the key.

  4. You commented on Michigan’s online learning graduation requirement. Don’t get too jacked-up about Michigan being on any cutting edge just yet. Sure, our MVHS program is great, and we have the new online learning requirement for graduation, but we still aren’t reaching the unreachable. Michigan will only allow for 2 courses out of the day to be taken online. That’s keeping the true “virtual school” from becoming a reality here (probably because the teacher’s union in Michigan is too strong). How about Michigan step up and REALLY be the innovator that our governor pretends we are and let students take ALL their courses online if they want. Let’s reach the “unreachable” and rebuild an environment where the non-traditional student can thrive, instead of just drop out. I know this little rant was a bit off-subject, but being from Michigan and constantly hearing all of these kudo’s for our state just for doing half the job burns my toast a bit. Yes, our illustrious governor has already heard this from me too…I am still waiting on a reply…haha She’s probably too busy losing more Michigan jobs to other states and countries.

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