Sunday, April 22, 2007

Virtual Schools

I am on the flight down to Orlando to attend one of the Florida Virtual School's training sessions. A few months ago I pitched the idea to our Director of Curriculum as a means to combat our growing student population and impending construction schedule at our high school. As always with conferences, I have so many questions as to how and what will be covered and in what way.

What I like about the idea behind a virtual school is that it looks to be a natural springboard to allowing students to create their own learning experiences. We are dabbling into Course Management Systems next year using SAKAI with a group of seniors, and I wonder if that will be how we deliver our online courses, provided we go that route after this trip. Through an online course, the ability to decentralize the learning process, taking some of the didactic monopoly away from the teacher and placing the onus to learn and explore onto the student, begins to become much easier in my opinion. As long as the environment is set up so that the students can customize some of the space for learning and adding links, feeds, and their own content, I don't see how this could be a misstep.

I often joke with family members that my dream job is to be the principal of an online school. But in actuality, listening to Roger Schank's address at the SITE conference as recorded by Wes Fryer, the idea that such places will exist as a normal and vital part of our school community is here, and happening all over the place. Schank is right, although at this point, being a revolutionary like him might land me in some funny places within my district and state. This is an idea that is worth exploring, and that is precisely why I will be down here over the next two days.

What we do with this, whether we keep it in house or decide to open it up as an option for students from other districts, is to be determined. A lot of that I think will be decided for us as the people from the Florida Virtual School explain how they began and how they fund their operation. Even if we don't use this immediately, I am glad that we are even at the level that we are thinking of pursuing it. A while back I wrote about School 2.0 and where I am at, and this ties in. This is a big step for us, and it shows exactly where we stand on moving toward a school environment that is not only modern, but relevant as well.


Barbara said...

As usual there is an uncanny connection between your thought process and mine. Please blog from the conference and point me to links.

We are using Moodle which we are happy with so far. The learning curve was a little complex for the admin side but even more challenging is planning the courses...if you want them to look different than a read discuss and test format (whicha lot of online stuff is) and move into a more constructivist genre you need to spend time on course design, pedagogy, long range planning, and essential skills and questions....

Anyway I will look forward to continuing this conversation

Patrick Higgins said...

I am in the middle of creating a post from here. I might be chopping it into several posts, but we are just getting into the bones behind the operation.

Your questions are right on and were very similar to those generated by the group that is here. Most people here are in your situation, where they have begun to implement their online courses, but are finding themselves in a sticky place with either course content, growing from a limited to an expanded number of course, or other similar problems.

Hope I can give you some ideas.

Carolyn Foote said...

Thanks for sharing this. Our campus is interested in exploring online learning options but we are at the beginning stages of thinking about it.

So the information you share will be very helpful!

Clay Burell said...

Hey Patrick,

Out of the loop for a while and happy to see we're hitting on the same cylinders re: virtual schools.

Shoot me an email about this, will you? Stuff to share offline.