Short Circuited

Short-Circuited: The Challenges Facing the Online Learning Revolution in California offers Lance Izumi’s take on the resistance to virtual, blended and tech-infused schooling.

Driven and dependent

I am honored to be guest-blogging with Michael E. Lopez while Joanne is away on vacation. Like Michael, I haven’t had much time for blogging; Joanne’s vacation allows me to make time and, with it, posts.

Do students in our hyper-collaborative, hyper-interactive environments learn to struggle with problems on their own? Or is that sort of work subtly discouraged?

The San Diego-based virtual charter school iHigh Virtual Academy recommends that prospective students take its iHigh Readiness for Online Learning Quiz to determine whether the school is right for them. Most of the questions (which are all multiple-choice) have to do with competence, organization, and drive. The points accorded to each answer are generally what one would expect, with a few exceptions, such as the following:

8. When I encounter a problem during class, or with my homework:

a) I review the directions, check my work, and try to work through the problem myself. Score 2 points. It is good to try your best to work things out on your own, but you also must be willing to contact your instructor whenever you need help.

b) I do not hesitate to ask my instructor for help. Score 3 points. Successful online students feel comfortable and confident in asking questions and contacting their instructors for assistance.

c) I skip the problem and move on. Score 1 point. Willingness to ask questions, especially asking for help when needed, is a significant success factor in an online independent study program. If your instructor does not hear from you, he/she has no way of knowing that you are not understanding the material.

Why should a student lose a point for trying to work through the problem alone? [Read more...]

Move learning online

Traditional schools aren’t working, so it’s time to move learning online, writes Reason Magazine editor Katherine Mangu-Ward in a Washington Post op-ed.

Thousands of ninth-grade English teachers are cobbling together yet another lecture on the Globe Theatre in Shakespeare’s day, when YouTube is overflowing with accessible, multimedia presentations from experts on Elizabethan theater construction, not to mention a very nice illustrated series on the Kennedy Center’s ArtsEdge site.

Virtual charter schools are showing how it can work, she writes.  For example, the Florida Virtual School offers for-credit online classes to any child enrolled in the state system.

Teachers are available by phone or e-mail from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. The state cuts a funding check to the school only when students demonstrate that they have mastered the material, whether it takes them two months or two years.

If lesson planning and delivery move online, teachers will have time to provide personalized support and mentoring, Mangu-Ward writes.

“Most teachers and most students who are taking classes online say that they have more interaction with their teachers and students than they do in a traditional setting,” claims Julie Young, Florida Virtual’s CEO.

Learning online won’t turn America into a nation of home-schooled nerds, sitting in their basements, keyboards clacking. And it doesn’t mean handing your kids over to Rosie the Robot from “The Jetsons” for the day.

There are many online learning models. I predict full-time virtual schooling will not work for the typical K-12 student unless there’s a parent coach at home. We should see more use of online education to provide challenge for bright students, extra help for lagging students and alternatives for those who don’t function well in a classroom.