Sunday, April 19, 2015

School Aid Act

After reading about, and watching the video regarding the requirements of the revised school code, the first potential "pitfall" I see is quality control. It states that the school must provide a course of appropriate instruction and rigor, the the school itself is responsible for quality control. I see this a potential problem, especially with small districts, like charter schools who may not employ a specialist in curriculum, etc. Charter schools are public schools. What happens in a future scenario where a student or parent alleges that an online course did not prepare or teach them the way they expected?

Another potential challenge is concerning the "no-seat waiver" in non-cyber approved schools. There is a maximum of 25% participation. I would think there would need to be a written protocol on how those students are chosen. I understand many districts do have written protocols and policies, however, there are many smaller charter schools that are in non-compliance or do not have written policies.

I especially identified with the following scenario personally:

You're a rural district with only a few hundred students total. A child wants to take courses like calculus, but they cannot feasibly be offered by your high school.

Not calculus specifically, but in math. I have discussed this student before. He understands new math concepts very quickly after only a brief example. I often put him on a laptop and login to his mobymax account and do math so we aren't holding him back. Also, when he gets bored he starts clowning around and he moved much too quickly for the other students in the class.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Virtual Schooling Follow up

To follow up on last weeks' post, I am reflecting on the posted prompts .

Would you have appreciated the opportunity to take online courses when you were in school?
I would have appreciated the opportunity to go to take online courses. I went to a high school where many of the students were affluent, and I was not. I had difficulty identifying with the other kids I went to school with. I was also somewhat socially awkward and did not speak up if there might be a chance I was wrong. I really couldn't wait to get out of high school, and I think this experience caused me to postpone going to college right of school. There were many events happening, personally, and socially, that prevented me from being the best student I could be. Considering my daughter is like me, I am really going to have to consider this with her. As a parent, I want to challenge her to overcome this as I had to, but I also don't want her to hate school.

What/How is online learning utilized in your current situation?
In my current situation, I have a full-time job and two kids who also have responsibilities. There is too many places to be in day. Online learning has allowed me to take classes I would otherwise be unable to take, Additionally, it has allowed me to individualize for my students somewhat in many areas. Having a smart phone also gives me these much needed reminders of what needs to be done and who needs to be where.

What types of students/learners are engaging in online courses where you work? How do they fit with the descriptions from the readings?
All of my students participate in online learning using a program I purchased. It is slowly being adopted by the other teachers. I found it interesting , though, when last year one of my brightest students made a comment to me. He said he didn't like it, he liked it better when I did it to the whole class on the Promethean board. However, only he and 3 other students could understand the math only this way, the other students needed more, such as the online tutorials and digital manipulatives. I have also talked to other teachers about their online learning experiences. Several teachers are getting their Masters through accelerated programs at a reputable university where the classes are only 4 weeks long and they have the same group members during their entire time. I really don't agree with either scenario. I have talked to a teacher who got her Masters in Educational Technology. She said it was a new program and they just kept taking the same classes over again???? This is startling. There was nothing about design or planning or development. I also have had groups where I did not get along with the group members, or they didn't do their fair share, or they liked to criticize without giving suggestions. I can't imagine being with those group members for the entirety of my graduate school experience. I feel like you have to find a very fine balance between online learning and taking short cuts. There should still be the same academic expectations as a traditional environment.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Virtual Schooling; Myth VS. Facts

After viewing the video posted to the weeks content. the first thing that surprised me is the law in the state of Michigan pertaining to financial responsibility. I had no idea that virtual schooling providers were independent of a school district and that the home school district would be required to pay. I did have some idea that some schools provide a partial block of online learning only because I worked for an educational publisher and dealt with many schools and districts who purchased digital products.
It certainly didn't surprise me that a virtual education is not only for gifted learners, I have seen and thought that this kind of education accommodating different types of learners, including at risk students and students needing an individualized pace and instruction.
I was also not surprised that virtual schooling does not lack interaction. I feel that many times, especially introverted students receive more interaction because they can ask questions without an audience, without fear of being ostracized and also posting to a message board for other students to answer. I also feel that it's helpful to the instructor since they are not being asked the same question over and over again, which often happens.
I also feel that there are so many ways for students to turn in homework, email, google groups, and other services and also sharing ideas through cloud based services, it is a lot easier to collaborate. It also helps alleviate the issue of constantly losing assignments for unorganized students. However, while they are not isolated, I think the use of video based interaction like google hangouts is necessary so we don't lose out on personal communication skills that are needed in the working world.
I can also see how online teachers work harder and is more than just putting it up on a website. There is constant revising and as new technology emerges, we are always looking at the many options we have and also teaching the students how to use that technology in addition to the standards-based content. While I teach in a traditional classroom, I have 8 laptops in my room and spend a vast amount of time revising the website to adjust for new students and different learners. I spend my entire Sunday every week just revising the website. This is in addition to the 9 page weekly lesson plan with standards, I Can statements, essential question, etc.
I also feel students really need to be self motivated or self starters to succeed in an online learning environment. It is very easy to slack off when you don't have someone harassing you for missing assignments and fooling around.
I found most of the myths not surprising, but most surprising was how many variables go into online learning such as state laws and financial responsibility. I am aware of schools doing blended learning but I haven't been able to experience that on my own.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Virtual Schooling, what do I know?

I will admit, I do not know a whole lot about complete immersion in a completely online format as an instructor. As a student, I have had a lot of experience.
Before my current teaching position, I worked for a publishing company in the Digital Installation dept., as part of the National Geographic team. It was an area for all digital based products from kinder all the way to college level. My dept was focused K-12 products. There were many products available in reading, grammar, and science, but none for math. Occasionally, when I was out of things to do, I helped the other teams catch up, so I got a glimpse of the higher education academia realm. These were the areas where international accounts were.
In my area, I did have contact with districts that conducted education wholly online. It appeared that it would usually be a sub-district within a district.  I internally made the vague assumption (not saying it was correct or not) that these types of schools were designed for kids who have problems adjusting to traditional school. It also appeared that some states used virtual learning more than others and especially where it is year round school. I had also given product training to a teacher who was a solely virtual schooling teacher,
What I think about virtual schooling is this. I believe it hugely beneficial for advanced kids so they aren't being held back by the other students. I also believe it beneficial for students who have social issues that interfere with  learning, There is an awful lot of time being wasted doing "housekeeping" in a classroom such as paperwork, lunch count, homework procedures, journalism, and the most time consuming of all, behavior problems. I must spend at least an hour a day dealing with the same behavior problems daily. These problems are expected due to some very traumatic backgrounds.
How I know how much time is wasted is how I compare it to a brief homeschooling. While my son is very outgoing, my daughter is the opposite and struggles socially. I kept her out for about a month until we moved. I made lesson plans to be accessed online with instructions under the guidance of her grandparents with explicit instructions. I would then check it in the evening, She completed all her work in 2 hours. 2 hours!! I gave her way more than I would my own students (she was the same age). After this little experiment, I noted that her writing and spelling greatly improved. This leads me to think about how much instructional time is really wasted in a traditional classroom. There are many facets to homeschooling and virtual schooling and I am not asserting it should be one way or another, but I do believe a combination allows for students to progress at an an individualized rate.
Now, I use a whole curriculum program for my students. I have one who can do crazy mental math. He took his placement test and he has advanced 2.5 grade levels in just 6 months. When I do math lessons, this is what he does because he is bored. He is also ELL so it is hard for him to explain his thinking to other students in a way they understand.