Monday, April 23, 2007

Virtual Leadership Training

Here are my notes from the Virtual Leadership Conference, Day 1. I am
just going to let these fly out there, and it may be in several parts,
but I am not usually one who writes in this format (notes, that is).

Goals of the group:

* How to build an online school
* How to grow a school wisely
* How does teaching look in this environment
* How are students successful in this environment
* How does staffing look in regards to the union issue?
* LMS’s.
* How do we monitor students and teachers
* Assessment of students? How is authentic?
* Pacing of students as they move through a course
* Funding of your own students/funding of students from outside of the district?

There is a lot of demand and a lot of need out there

* state requirements
* credit recovery
* Kids don't have issue with the online learning, we do.

How do you grow your online school and maintain quality

* million dollar question
* constant battle to maintain that balance

Florida Virtual School is funded based on student success

* at their own request
* measures in place to maintain academic integrity

What is student success in an online school? Is there a way to track student performance over time?

* SAT, ACT prep courses and affect on scores
* Do online schools show success in this area?
* Is the very nature of an online learning environment contrary to standardized testing?
o should these students be measured in another way?

Blogger is giving me issues. Here are some more ideas:

Class discussions via YackPack.

* Whatever LMS we choose, it should have the ability to me module or node-based, so we can add things like YackPack or Skype directly into them.
* elluminate is another that FLVS uses.

College Reach-out Program

* priority funding with FLVS and priority access to students in this group who are at-risk or designated for this program.
* This type of program provides students who might have slipped through the cracks or missed out on a traditional school "track" on getting themselves in position to reach the college level.
* Underserved students are viewed as not a good fit for online learning
o not true-- a populare misconception
o FLVS has data to show that students in minority populations do very well on standardized tests after having been associated with FLVS.
o Stereotype eraser, and students who might otherwise shy away from academic success, or are shunned due to social stereotypes (behavior problems, bad decisions, social stigmas) do very well in an online class.
* The idea that students are "embarrassed" to be smart in some schools due to social pressures, can be "invisibly smart" in an online class while still maintaining their social status (the sagging pants phenomena)
* Migrant students benefit from FLVS through Dan Bolton--Angels Helping Hands who provides inexpensive laptop computers to them so they can participate in online learning.

The prevailing opinion is that online learning is for the bright kids. It also attracts students who are looking for a free ride.

* 29-day grace period for students to drop the class. This usually weeds out those looking for a free-ride.
* This system also represents under-achieving students.

Initially, the focus of online learning was on the higher-achieving students, but the trend is to move away from this and to "serve the underserved."

Internet connection speed also plays a part in the creation of course content

* providing equal access for all members of the class to materials is essential to the students feeling of success and belonging in the environment.
* This could be meted out in the beginning of the class or at initial enrollment through a survey that informs the school how each student connects to the internet.
* Funding options for students with limited access to technology need to be explored.

Student support

* mentoring programs that involve community support or corporate support.
o many companies require that employees mentor students
* The need for students to rise to meet a level of success mandated by an online school, rather than being held back by it is crucial, and providing support measures, either through mentoring or through built-in measures.

Publicity and Marketing also play a huge role in the success of your online program if you plan to open it to those outside of your district. Even within district, buy-in from counselors who trust the program and push it in their meetings with students will make or break the school.

As for how to "teach" so far the best quote is "You will not work less, you will just work differently."

In addition, a rather depressing statistic for me, the Northeast is the least progressive in the area of online school proliferation when compared to the rest of the nation.

* is this union related?
* If so, this will require a lot of relationship-building with unions and with other stakeholders.
* The idea that this will change the working environment is unquestioned, but will it impact negatively?
o what will the hours of a virtual teacher look like?
o how will that be worked out in a teacher contract?

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