Category Archives: online learning

Notes from District 219 Technology Conference, 04/09/11

Notes from the D219 Technology Conference, April 9, 2011

Keynote: Cracking the Native Information Experience — David Warlick

Handouts at http://Handouts.idave.us

Starts presentations with something he did not know yesterday.  (Books everyone should read, info graphic)

Teachers must be master learners.
They must be able to teach themselves something new.  The question is, how do we get teachers to master learners?

We teach in classrooms rich with information abundant environments.  Students are growing up in societies with limits to learning; information is

  • Networked
  • Digital
  • Abundant                  

If the native code can be cracked, can we hack it for learning?

Do we develop relationships with the content or with the author.? Digital content allows us to manipulate the meaning of the ideas. 

Digital environments allow for immediate assessment.

Hack:

  • Responsive
  • Distraction

Learning should:

  • Responsive
  • Inspires personal investment
  • provokes conversation
  • Guidely by safely made mistakes

Previous traction points:  textbook, classroom, teacher. Today’s traction points:  other students

Students are hyper-connected (and distracted)  How do we design (hack) distraction into learning?

What is the purpose of school?  (In the native experience, children succeed by getting it wrong?)

reference: Doodlebuzz.com

Can formal learning be more playful?

Students must be future-ready.

Leveraging Technology to Personalize Learning — Henry Thiele

How do we make learning more personal — understanding the individual student?
How do we use charts and graphs to help us really understand the student?
How do we respond to students when they share information that tells us their inner thoughts?

What does the hidden curriculum teach students?

Thiele used an electronic journal for student reflections.  Allowed him to learn what was going on with his students.  Journals allowed him to prepare for class pacing.

Insights:

  • Facilitate two-way conversation.
  • Make information available
  • Increase Personal Communication
  • Provide Timely Feedback
  • Establish Challenging Goals

Making it Personal

  1. Teach Smarter — Open-ended pretest questions.  Ask students about their preferred learning strategies to learn the content for the course.
  2. Break down walls — Virtual field trips, students are constructing content based on the themes of the learning.
  3. Learn from Each Other — Peer reviewing of writing.
  4. Immediate Feedback — http://goo.gl/8BZhR or www.flubaroo.com
  5. Meet them where they are. — online chats.
  6. Make learning relevant.  Using marketing classes to promote school athletic teams.
  7. Prepare for the World — Virtual business.
  8. Learn to think differently.  Show vizualizations from data. 
  9. Ask the Experts and Become One — Use Internet to connect to experts.  They will respond.

Presentation: http://goo.gl/xZykn

Learning Spaces — David Jakes

Dave’s website:  http://www.jakesonline.org/

Do we need classrooms and computer labs?  How can hallways be used differently?  (learning streets)

His school has an “open device” policy. 

Think about moving away from a tech rich environment to tech enabled environment.  Equity issues will exist in this tech-enabled environment

Batchgeo help produce a map of data.

Webkinz — 6 million users

Poptropica — 144 million users

togetherville — social media, facebook enabled.

www.kzero.co.us — virtual worlds registered accounts Q12011

Companies are seeing that a digital experience is valuable with the product.  What digital experiences do we have for our classrooms?

George Washington University Online High School — providing high school connected to university.

Create video — YoutTube Creator Institute.

Students will be able to choose their learning path.

Learners congregate in spaces where they can collaborate, share and learn.

Liquid Space-App — find a great space to work now.

Color – app — share photos with other Color uses in near proximity.

What does it mean to be well-educated in the 21st Century?

Have you identified the:

  • Skills
  • Habits
  • Experiences
  • Dispositions

Life-long, life wide and life deep experiences.

Do your spaces support the learning you wish to see?  Have you done a learning space inventory in your school?

Vision of Learning in Schools?

Anywhere
any time
any path
any one
any device

idea paint — what surfaces in the classroom can be used for learning.

mooc — massive open online course.  Different levels of participation.  Considerable content.  More information than student will need to learn the content.

Purdue studio

My presentation

Notes from iNACOL’s Midwestern Regional Professional Development Symposium

iNACOL Midwest Professional Development Symposium.

Random Notes from the meeting, April 4, 2011.  Symposium wiki.

Susan Patrick’s Keynote. 

  • It’s a new landscape with new leadership at the state levels and in state houses.
  • Global trends (from Educause):  mobile learning, cloud computing, 1:1 computing, ubiquitous learning, gaming, personalized learning, redefinition of learning spaces, open content, smart portfolio assessment, teacher managers and mentors.
  • Open Content:  ED — open high school courses and community college courses, $2B.  Open RFP for $500M  (www.learningbeyondtextbooks.org).
  • From 2003-2007, China spent about $1B to implement online learning projects in the rural areas.
  • 39 states have state virtual schools; 27 states have full-time charter schools.
  • Online learning is growing about 30% each year.
  • Harris Survey:  40% of secondary students want to take online courses.

Challenges for states:

  1. Declining state fiscal revenues
  2. Mounting teacher shortages
  3. Demand for skilled workers.

Digital Learning Now

CCSSO — Next Generation Learners

  1. Personalized learning
  2. Systems of Support
  3. World Class Knowledge
  4. Performance based learning
  5. Anytime, Everywhere
  6. Authentic Student Voice

Next Generation (Gates Foundation) — Current conditions (low graduation rates in some schools, college readiness) in education necessitate breakthrough change. (www.nextgenlearning.org)

Rose Fernandez, The National Parent Network for Online Learning

Home schooled children and moved them into cyber charter school.  Advocate for online education to personalize learning for her children.  Allows her  family to focus on outcomes with challenging learning activities.  She sees her school as a different way of public schooling.  School was closed by a lawsuit.  Parents worked to save the school.  Her view is that adults need to serve the students not the system.  She urges that schools seek parent involvement when developing the school.  Parents are the messengers of urgency and options to serve the families.

Interventions to Increase Online Learner Involvement (Phonekeo Siharath & Jan Mitchell)

Instructor works in a blended classroom.  Although students are scheduled to see him each day, about 40% of learning is online.  Uses action research to guide his instruction.  How does instruction impact learning?  He states that this provides immediate feedback.  Research study:  Does requiring students to respond to other students in online discussion post affect the quality of the original posting?  (He states that it does, when a student must respond to all students.)  What happens to responses when students are grouped?  This may not result in positive student engagement.

Introduction to online  learning environment  (All things in moderation — www.atimod.com)

  1. Welcoming environment — be helpful
  2. Socialization — create community for newcomers, tap the excitement, and build bridges.
  3. Information exchange  — provide for interaction with content and others.
  4. Knowledge construction — probe for depth, summarize new understanding.
  5. Development

Best Practices in Online AP Instruction (Dawn Nordine, Dennis Kostac, Karen Kitze,  Jim Kinsella, Eric Lehman)

Help with AP courses:  AP workshops,  Reading AP exams, Experience teaching AP; AP central web site; local training sessions.

Professional development to teach online AP courses:  teaching online, certification for online instruction,  taking an online course.

Challenges:  Discussions, Labs

Recruiting students:  take another course first, meeting prerequisites

Successful AP students: communication, local (technical) help for student, having time during school day.

Student Panel

Why learn online?

  • Focus on courses that are difficult.
  • Take online back at my home school while living out-of-state  for father’s military deployment.
  • Athlete
  • Work at own speed
  • Family Flexibility
  • Prepare or college

Advantages:

  • Flexibility
  • prepare for college
  • Work at own pace, slow or fast
  • Teachers help energize students
  • Develop stronger work ethic

How do you handle multiple inputs (multitasking) and helping you with future?

  • Helps me learn other computer programs
  • Helps me organize my time and priorities.  Uses a binder to help with planning.

Disadvantages:

  • Easy to procrastinate

Suggestions:

  • Faster technology for students
  • Course-long projects
  • Using game theory in courses
  • Use multimedia
  • More tutorials, step-by-step, especially in math
  • Different explanations
  • Getting faster response with teachers
  • Use video conferencing software

Adult Question:  Would you like more structure? 

  •  Preparing for AP Exams; Having intermediate deadlines.

What about socialization? 

  • I can meet people in other places. 
  • I am there to study, not to socialize. 
  • There are other ways to connect with kids. 
  •  It is difficult to make friends, but I don’t have people around with the drama. 
  • My school has social events.

Has the relationship changed with your parents? 

  • Yes, I have good discussions with my parents about what I am learning. 
  • Yes, I have more communication with my parents about my coursework.

What incentives are needed to encourage students to stay on pace charts to complete courses? 

  • Grade-dependent event. 
  • Posting class average to let me know how I am doing compared to the other students. 
  • Having parents off my back is enough incentive. 
  • Give rewards for students who show up to live online sessions.

Ensuring Quality Online Teachers (Sue Steiner, Rick Nettesheim, Kris Keckler, Kelly Pochop)

  • Use iNACOL’s standards to select teachers.
  • Use a consultant to get personalized training.  Consultant can serve as support for teacher.
  • Screen carefully; some teachers trying to escape traditional classroom.
  • Connect new teacher to a mentor, experienced teacher.
  • Meet only when necessary for professional development; communicate routine information by email.
  • Students and Families should use chain of command to resolve issues — teacher first, then program head.
  • Understand and address every concern from student and family.  Use technology to help — such as following email thread.  If organization has a way to track student contact (email, phone call, f2f meetings) use it.
  • Use written document to establish teacher expectations (teacher manual).
  • Focus plans that set high expectations for all teachers that are consistent across courses and post them on web site for all to see.
  • Use non-traditional ways to evaluate teachers.  Have teacher focus on things they can control, such as when and how many phone calls are made.
  • Administrators should take many opportunities to make informal observations — assessments, communication, etc.
  • Use effective and timely communication as keys to online teacher evaluation.
  • PCP — Positive feedback, Constructive direction, Positive direction.

Blended Learning Opportunities (Dawn Nordine, Paula Hagerman, Annette Walaszek, Kaye Lietz)

  • From Keeping Pace 2010:  Blended Learning, Competency based Learning, Mobile Learning are key issues
  • BL — combines face to face with online courses.  Convergence of online and f2f.

In summary, the day’s symposium provided means to reaffirm understandings of online learning constructs and implementations.

Written Comments to IL House Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee

Illinois State Capitol

 

The Remote Education Act, passed in 2009, is under revision to allow school districts to count student attendance in online programs for days that are not in the districts’ approved calendars, such as weekends, holidays and other non-attendance days.  [This revision is known as HB3223.]  Illinois residents, please send communications of support to your Senator and Representative.

Below are my written comments supplied to the Illinois House of Representatives’ Elementary and Secondary Committee that met in Springfield, Illinois today (March 16, 2011).  The comments were accompanied by a very short presentation to the committee.

The written comments:

My name is Jeffrey Hunt. I am the director of e-learning at Indian Prairie School District 204 in Aurora, Illinois. I am an educational technology practitioner with practical experience implementing learning technologies in traditional classrooms as well in electronic settings, such as online learning.

I am here today to speak in support of House Bill 3223 to amend the existing Remote Education Act.
For Indian Prairie, remote education is the district’s online learning program.

The number of online learning opportunities is increasing for the nation’s students. The International Association for K-12 Online Learning reports that in 2009 approximately 1.5 million students were enrolled in online courses nationwide and that 70% of the nation’s school districts offered at least one online course
.
In higher education, the Sloan Consortium reports that during the fall semester 2009, nearly 30% of all students enrolled there participated in online courses.

Learning in non-traditional formats is an emerging trend in education. From the phone calls I receive, Illinois’ schools are beginning to notice the promise of online learning.
In today’s implementations online learning has different meanings, such as hybrid courses where students attend traditional classes for part of the courses and they complete work online for the other fraction of the courses.

In fully online courses, students may never see the inside of a traditional classroom, except for an orientation to the course and to complete the final exam. Yet, students and teachers interact electronically through electronic mail, video conferencing software, and telephone calls, when necessary. Learning online does not mean that a student learns alone. Quality teachers are essential in learning regardless of the learning format.

At Indian Prairie, we offer fully online courses. Consumer Economics and Health are the most popular courses taken online. We also offer, astronomy, English courses, and US history online. Our students are successful in our courses, with over 90% of them finishing their courses with an “A,” “B,” or “C” grade. Our students follow the same curriculum plans and take the same examinations as students enrolled in traditional courses. We share the concerns that many have about the quality of online courses, and we focus our attention on those issues.

In our end-of-course surveys, our students tell us that they like the reality that they can work at their own pace and that they like the flexibility of time that the courses offer. While they have time in their daily school schedules to work on their courses, about 45% of them work on their courses after school during the traditional homework hours from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Our surveys tell us that about 40% of them would prefer to work on their online courses on the weekend. One student wrote, “I’d like to work on my more difficult courses during the week and then focus on my health course on the weekend.”

We are not suggesting in this bill that students be forced to work on weekends or holiday breaks. Rather schools should be allowed to track students’ participation in their online courses outside the approved school calendars for General State Aid purposes. Many students are telling us that they want to learn outside the traditional time and place of school. Online courses provide them the avenues of flexibility, pacing, and place of learning. A revision to the Remote Education Act will make this a reality.

ICE 2011

 

 Just returned from two days at the Illinois Computing Educators (ICE) annual conference where ICE was celebrating 25 years as an organization.  The ICE conference is always an outstanding way to see what’s happening in classrooms with technology, paw the latest hardware in the vendor area, reconnect with the professional contacts, and add new colleagues to the professional network.

I attended several presentations to learn about perspectives and applications.  I attempt to view many of the ideas as a beginner and then drill into the topics in a scholarly fashion.  Eventually, I look at the ideas from a research base as well as practical implementations in schools.  What is the foundation of the ideas in technology education research as well as how can the ideas be scaled into other classrooms?  I found some disconnects from practicality and any research base.

The power of web 2.0 software is important for individual teachers.  As students age into schooling, how do they keep track of all their teachers’ web 2.0 initiatives?  Without an overarching system, to connect all the desparate web 2.0 sites, it’s too confusing for students.  While one vendor demonstrated a learning management system that aggregates all this for  students, the price is steep at $10 per student.  Certainly, there’s a developer out there who could write an “app” that could aggregate all the web 2.0 sites for students.  The same vendor calls his product “blended learning,” although it does not qualify as such.  It’s more like a “web-facilitated classroom,” a traditional classroom with electronic connections for students to use away from school.   Blended learning is when a student spends some time away from the traditional classroom in an electronic classroom, such as 2 days a week in a traditional class and 3 days a week learning online.

Further I see all this occurring in “classrooms.”  Clayton Christensen calls putting computers and technology into classrooms “cramming.”  We are trying to make technology work within our existing classrooms and as such we erase the capabilities of the technology purchases.  The conference boasted an online strand, but it was hardly online programs in the way that would be presented at a Virtual Schools Symposium.  The online thread in this conference was mainly about “online tools.”

On Wednesday, I participated in a panel discussion about collaboration with other Illinois leadership groups, including techgeeks, LUDA technology directors, ICN, ICE, IL CTO, and IllniCloud.  While all the groups have different focal points, all have a stake in success in school technology.  The organizations have clear intersection points, such as IL CTO and LUDA sharing professional development.  There appeared to be interest in developing shared position papers about school technology topics, when possible and appropriate.

On Thursday, David Pogue, New York Times columnist, provided the morning keynote.  The important points that I am processing are the megatrends he identified:

  • The “App Phone” is  a new class of device.  It’s not a standard cell phone and it’s not a computer.  It will have major impact in technology use.
  • “Augmented Reality” is on the rise.  This is where other data appears on maps and virtual presentations, such as a Google street view map that displays everybody in the area who is tweeting.
  • “Web 2.0” is the “audience as creators.”  Most of us know it as blogs and wikis; recently it is Twitter and others.
  • Privacy is being redefined.

Pogue says that in the past five years, “things have changed.” Now it is  real time (text not email), multitasking, content on-demand, redefing privacy, and consumers as reviewers.  Interesting with the multitasking note is that in our online classes, about half of our students report that they do not multitask when they work in their online courses; they seek quiet places to study.

Reconnecting with the professional network is always rewarding.  I enjoyed hearing about their current thinking in their sessions and in private conversations about their projects.  I found new contacts who are interested in online learning, as it is emerging across the country. 

I left the conference with a mixed analysis.  In the future, I am hoping for more grounded presentations where presenters can provide data about their projects and understand the larger trends in their specialized areas.  Further I am looking forward to see what my professional network will be experimenting with before I see them again at a future conference.  Overall ICE 2011 was valuable to reconnect, recharge, and ramp up.

Virtual School Symposium 2010

Image Credit: Virtual School Symposium
Spectular Desert Sunsets

Nearly 2,000 conferees assembled in Glendale, Arizona for the 2010 edition of the Virtual School Symposium, the annual conference of the International Association for K-12 online Learning, November 14-16.  The theme of the conference:  Online and Blended Learning:  The Future of Education.

Preconference sessions looked at starting programs, free or nearly free content sources, diversity and other topics.

Breakout conference sessions focused on 10 tracks, such as Learning Models, Administration, Advocacy, Teaching Methods and others.

Monday morning’s Keynote started with a provoking delivery from Tommy Bice, the Deputy State Superintendent of Education in Alabama.  In that capacity he has opened doors to remove time as course requirement.  He thinks that policy and red tape get in the way for all students to be successful.  He stressed the urgency to act now and not in “the future.”  He stated that we know what we have to do for all students to learn, but that the system gets in the way.  He proposes that in a 21st century school, we should be looking at competencies rather than other standards; that is, students move to new content levels they are proficient in their current topics.  Learning should be the constant and time the variable.

At lunch a cast of presenters outlined the status of their programs.  Michael Horn of the Innosight Institute and co-author of Disrupting Class summarized the state of technology and online learning in schools:

  • Technology improves faster than our lives change, but it needs to be upwardly scalable to affect our lives.
  • Online learning is becoming increasingly blended or hybrid.
  • Students need a supervised place to learn, whether in a classroom or online.
  • Communication and interaction is improved between teachers and students with video conferencing.
  • Hybrid courses consider how we will look at the teacher’s role.
  • Content is changing in different ways:  gaming and modularization
  • Schools should be using Data differently, not punitive, but informing.  What learning happens next?
  • What is the role of mobile learning?  It will open doors to students who had nothing.  The content and courses will be low quality at first.

The Keeping Pace Report breakout session outlined the state of online learning across the U.S.  The highlights from the session:

  • Policy is the enabler.  State legislation  in Florida has allowed online education to explode in that state.  During the past year, course enrolments have grown rom 154,000 to 214,000. Every student has a right to attend FL Virtual. Only one-third of Florida’s schools offer AP courses.  Policy is more significant than budget.  During tight budget, programs are reduced or cut .  With supportive state policy, system must work for students.  Florida is performance based.  The state pays when student passes course.  School district does not write check.
  • In fulltime statewide virtual schools, AZ, OH, PA have the most enrollments, with approximately 200,000 students and approximately 1 million course enrollments.
  • With district online programs, the number is unknown but the best guess is the 1.5 million students are taking courses in those programs.
  • Emerging issues:
    • Blended learning
    • School turnarounds
    • Competency-based learning
    • Mobile Learning

On Monday evening, conferees were treated to a networking dinner on the floor of the University of Phoenix stadium (the home field of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals).

On Tuesday morning, Bob Wise, former governor of West Virgina, and Jim Shelton , Assistant Deputy Secretary at the US Department of Education, delivered the morning’s Keynote address.

Wise, along with co-chair Jeb Bush — former governor of Florida — lead the Alliance for Excellence in Education.  Gov. Wise is a strong advocate of addressing the needs of all students.  He sees three issues challenging schools:

  • Shrinking state revenues
  • Teacher shortages
  • Increase global demands

He proposed that these issues can be addressed with online learning and that they address further educational challenges:

  • access for all students
  • funding
  • high quality digital content and instruction
  • how to issue course credit
  • accountability for results of learning

Gov Wise left the conferees with one resounding challenge:  Be boldy innovative or badly irrelevant!

Shelton stated that the half-life of skills is now shorter than ever. 

While education is a state responsibility, the federal department can watch innovations in schools, pull them out, and develop them to scale.  The federal department is the single largest source of educational funding.

With the Elementary and Secondary Act, the legislation recognizes that the answers are in the communities  The federal government must be prescriptive in some cases, but it can attach money to results and give financial incentives to spread those results.  Yet, the politicians realize that their aspirations stronger than  the resources

For online learning, he stated:

  • Technology has ability to extend power of teaching to personalize learning.
  • In education 0.1% spent on research — power of analytics to understand what’s happening is essential to improvement
  • Online movement is fledgling and not assured to succeed.  Barriers to success are political.

As with any conference, some breakout sessions were not up to the level of their abstracts and vendors stepped outside their roles of informers to sellers.

VSS planned and executed another conference to highlight the state of online learning, display its biggest stars, and look to a bright future of online learning.

More Online Promising Practices

More online promising practices. In a recent posting, I outlined five promising practices for online programs.  Here are more:

  1. Teacher Communication:   Teacher communication with students must be regular and purposeful.  This can occur through email, phone calls or virtual classroom software.  This is to provide consistent, meaningful feedback to students.  It could be to offer encouragement to students to get on track, to schedule a meeting for remediation, or to substantiate a student’s good work.
  2. Oral Examinations:  At significant course milestones or as part of remediation cycles, students should be explaining their learning to their teachers.  In math, students can work through a problem or two in virtual classroom software.  For other classes, students can present their projects or teachers can ask questions that students answer to demonstrate their understanding and application of the course content.
  3. Problem of the week:  Accelerated students enjoy challenge problems and group problems.  This focus question or problem allows students to deepen their understanding of the topic.
  4. NCAA Approval:  This is important so that prospective Division I athletes can complete the courses.  NCAA has a course approval for core high school courses.  If a course is designed with a school’s traditional content structure and assessments, the online version can get approved easily.  Once approved the courses will appear under the school’s approved courses on the NCAA web site.

Many promising practices exist for online learning programs.  These practices ensure rigor and course quality as well as assure your community that students participating in them learn at least at a level consistent with traditional classes.

Promising Practices in Online (Remote) Learning

Online (remote) learning has several promising practices that schools can use to assure that students meet the same quality standards of traditional classes.  Below are five promising practices for adolescent learners.

  1. Quality (Rigor) — This means how well students understand what they are learning.  It is the depth of learning.  Rigor does not necessarily mean difficult or more work.  Sometimes my colleagues think that rigor means that they can academically flog students with extra work.  “Let’s give them 30 math problems,” rather than the five or six that will help students understand the content they need to know.  One way to ensure rigor and measure it is with the same unit assessments and end of course assessment that are used in the traditional course.
  2. Proctored examinations — A second way to assure course quality is with proctored exams.  Faculty members or other employees proctor the important assessments.  This may require the school to have a testing center or other place where students attend for help sessions.  The online program then assures that the student taking the course is the student taking the exam.  This is a quality check.
  3. Live Sessions — Using software like Wimba or Elluminate allows the instructor and the students to connect for live sessions for teachers to present and students to interact.  These sessions can be recorded for later viewing by students who could not connect live.  Additionally, a student can review the session again, at their own pace, stopping the recording, rewinding, and replaying as necessary.  Recently, while proctoring an exam, a student reported that the recording was valuable because in a traditional class, she would have stopped the teacher’s instruction to ask a question.  With a recording, she reported that she could replay the section until she was ready to move on, not interrupting the flow of the class or disrupting other students.
  4. Planned completion dates — Whether the student is working in a teacher-directed course or a self-paced course, the student needs a plan to complete the course, including frequent homework.  In a math course, students need frequent assignments and feedback to learn the mathematics’ spiral.  In my teacher directed-astronomy course, that has weekly requirements during the semester, I use a checklist.  It is a pdf that students can print and track their activity completion during the week.
  5. Student interactions with other students — Our end of course surveys indicate that students miss the regular interaction they have in traditional courses.  Online discussions, live sessions, wiki postings, and blog activities help with student interactivity.

Clearly, online practices for adolescents are different from the adult practices.  In an upcoming posting, I’ll write about more promising practices.

online ≠ isolation

One of the critiques of online education is that it isolates students from their peers.  In a recent posting by technologist Larry Cuban, he wrote that “Both parents and voters want schools to socialize students into community values, prepare them for civic responsibilities, and yes, get them ready for college and career.”  The limit to the “community values” thought is that many schools don’t do this now.  Schools are guided by state and federal laws.  Many parents are ruffled by terms like “Winter Break” or “Holiday Break,” when to them it’s CHRISTMAS!  Federal laws and court cases limit what communities value.  Community values are started at home, nurtured with neighbors, and expanded in churches and civic organizations.  Schools continue to be a barrier to community values.

Further how do schools prepare students for civic responsibilities?  Some have required civics and consumer education courses.  Besides observing a local government in action or visiting a bank, there’s little more in most schools.   Some others have community service opportunities or service groups.  The opportunities are limited to those who want to participate, if they are available at all.  I propose that the local church, synagogue, mosque, YMCA, or local food pantry has better civic programs than those offered in schools.  Volunteer opportunities at museums, nursing homes,  hospitals provide stronger opportunities for students to learn about the strong ties of communities.

I am a proponent of public education, although during these days of globalization, the time and space of “school,” bound by busses, bells and rows of desks, makes less sense than it did twenty years ago.  The great liberation of the Internet has made it possible to break down traditional barriers of time and space.

As for getting them ready for work and college, for the most part, beyond the obvious, high-profile exceptions, many schools get their students ready for college, at a great expense one might add.

Is online education THE answer?  Obviously, no.  While I am not normally a “choice” advocate, online education offers families the capabilities of education, without the boundaries of busses, bells, lines of students in hallways (a waste of time),and walls.  It offers students and families the abilty to time-shift or location-shift school.   It allows familiescomplete flexibility with travel, family arrangements, and time — the most value commodity in traditional schools. 

Not all online courses are of high-quality.  Many resemble higher education courses, where students read an assignment, post blogs or respond to discussion boards, and write analysis papers.  Many K-12 courses, even those from high-profile online schools or for-profit companies, emulate the higher education model.  Adolescents and children need different forms of input: reading, audio, video and simulations.  They need to be able the select the modality in which they learn.  I may want to read the assignment while Mary wants to listen or watch a video.  Additionally, adolescents want more adult direction during their online learning.  They tell us that in our course surveys.

Cuban and many professional peers think that online means isolation.  Students find many ways to socialize beyond the school walls.  Go to any coffee shop, fast food joint or mall parking lot on a warm evening.  You’ll find them socializing.  Perhaps that interaction is more meaningful than the activity that occurs locker bays between classes.  Students socialize in many ways outside school.  They don’t need the premise of school to do that, and they can be productive, socialized citizens.