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Online school – more than a fad

An August 19th New York Times article about a recently published 12 year study on virtual learning  highlights just how significant online learning has become.  The report indicates that average performance of students participating in virtual learning is higher than the comparative group – those who did not.  The study weighs higher education more heavily than k-12, however data from k-12 learning was included in the study. 

“The study’s major significance lies in demonstrating that online learning today is not just better than nothing — it actually tends to be better than conventional instruction,” said Barbara Means, the study’s lead author and an educational psychologist at SRI International.

Regier is quoted in the article stating that he believes recent social networking technologies will accelerate the trend towards more and more online learning.  I couldn't agree more Mr. Regier.  The impact of these technological advances on student behavior and American culture is historically significant and education is not isolated from these changes.  Students, parents, and communities are connected more and more with real time communication and indeed, this kind of connectivity often enhances learning.  Instead of resisting these changes as a distractor from education, we educators must embrace the richness of collaborative learning and the use of technology to facilitate it.  That, after all, is the real world today and our students understand this very clearly.  Don't know the answer to a question?  Post it to your Facebook wall, Google it, Wiki it, or just shoot a text out to a few smart buddies.  They understand that Wiki is more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica…


New Video “Social Media Revolution”

For those who remember the video/powerpoint called "Did You Know," here's a new one by Scott McLeod and company:

Social Media Revolution

Lindholm opinion:  Social media, and the incredible amount of interconnectivity today, have changed the culture of our students and our world faster than any other technological advance in the last 30 years.  Parents and educators – are you keeping up or hiding under your desk? 


Healthy dialogue and learning through blogs

I admit having been slow to embrace staring at a computer screen more as a means to learning and participating in professional dialogue.  Two years ago I could honestly say that I did not know what a blog was – or why it would benefit me.  Today is different.  An understanding of how to use a "reader" site and a bit of time invested in finding bloggers who challenge my thinking have made me a believer. 

Today while skimming through a blog post I ran across a link to a blog written by a math teacher who seemed to be taking a shot at prominent blogger Scott McLeod.  Her elequent post and the comments that followed (including a comment from Scott) paint a wonderful picture of how blogs can indeed be a rich arena for dialogue, debate, and conversation.  The post called Dr. Strangeblog, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Scott McLeod is a great read for those questioning the value of this venue (and don't forget to read the comments).  To Kate Nowak, a math teacher of 4 years, thank you for initiating the conversation!


MIT or Stanford for free?

Seth Godin's recent post called "Education at the crossroads" presents an intriguing conversation for those of us in public education… one that must be had.  MIT and Stanford are now offering some classes online – for free.  The context of Seth's post is directed at higher education institutions who usually charge large tuitions to support the enormous infrastructure costs of building and running large campuses with residential and academic resources for students.  He presents three big decisions these institutions will soon have to face:

  • Should this (higher education coursework) be scarce or abundant?
  • Should this be free or expensive?
  • Should this be about school or about learning?

Most intriguing is the conversation he begins after presenting these three questions about what higher education might like with different answer combinations.

Imagine a school that's built around free, abundant learning. And compare it to one that's focused on scarce, expensive schooling. Or dream up  your own combination. My recent MBA program, for example, was scarce (only 9 people got to do it) and it was free and focused on learning.

Just because something is free doesn't meant there isn't money to be made. Someone could charge, for example, for custom curricula, or focused tutoring, or for a certified (scarce) degree. When a million people are taking your course, you only need 1% to pay you to be happy indeed.

Eight combinations of the three choices are available and my guess is that all eight will be tried. If I were going to wager, I'd say that the free, abundant learning combination is the one that's going to change the world.

Hmmm…  It seems to me that "free, abundant learning" is really the bedrock of what k-12 public education was and is supposed to be – unlike post-secondary education.  Online schools currently exist and meet the needs of a small but growing population, but there is certainly more to public education than boiled down content… right?  What are those things?  Do we measure them and communicate them to the public?  Have we done the legwork necessary to make the case that public education offers far more than online coursework?  We have work to do in this area. 

Possibly most significant is the possibility that post-secondary education may finally be, like k-12, free and abundant for all students.  In a democracy like ours, is there really a down side to that?  Indeed Mr. Godin, that may change the world…


Blogging for kids

The core of a successful democracy depends upon a public that is well informed, that values the common good, and that upholds the importance of rigorous and respectful debate leading to decisions that are right.  This blog is a means to that end where sharing insights, supported opinions, and thoughtful questions is encouraged.  Your thoughtful dialogue is appreciated!


Good to Great at Emmaus

Along with using the framework and principles in Good to Great for improving our school, I am currently working a little bit with Emmaus Church in Northfield on the journey to greatness.  Some of the resources I ran across while preparing for a session with the church council and ministry staff seemed too valuable to keep in my own notes.  If you’re a fan of Good to Great, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, or other Jim Collins work, here are some resources that may be applicaple to your work.  Please feel free to add comments with other resources that may be helpful!! – Jim’s site including many articles, videos, etc…

Eric Swanson shares some enlightening thoughts about defining greatness in churches in his article published in Christianity Today. “Not every church can go from good to great in the traditional sense, but perhaps it is in going around doing good that we become great—no matter what our size.”

Taking your church missions strategy from Good to Great from North American Mission Board

The Good to Great Pastor from Leadership – an interview with Jim Collins – **Great interview**

Because I Said So blog 

Breakout Churches by Dr. Thom Ranier – replicated research strategy in GTG studying churches

While I don’t like the title of the blog on church marketing, here is a post briefly outlining GTG and a trail of rich comments. 

Alpha Leadership blog post on Breakout Churches and GTG – quick article with some good points

Neat blog post story that ends up hashing out the Hedgehog Concept for churches

Flyer from a business consulting firm on their use of GTG  –  pastor/scholar on GTG – not a fan!

Please add more!!



Is it seat time or mastery?

If you're a public educator and are not feeling the heat of the other venues now available to students to learn, please wake up and join the dialogue.  Your job may be at stake. 

Today I was faced with "calling the shot" on an report card sent to our school documenting the credit a student had earned through online high school.  The document showed a solid grade equivelant to a quarter long class… completed in just over 8 hours of computer time.  Clock hour requirements for a public school to give comparable credit value would demand at least 30 hours of seat time.  If you were a student, which venue would you pick?  Time is precious!

It has always struck me as odd that public discourse is demanding more accountability yet seat time hours are still dictated in MN statute.  If proving mastery can be measured by a few tests (as some claim…) then why not just have the students pass the test and be done?  Seems to me we could pull that off in, well, maybe a couple of 8 hour work sessions online and call it a year…  Or maybe there is something more to public education than that…  If so, what is it?  How do we measure it and shouldn't we be held accountable for that too? 

Public educators, our work lies at the core of making democracy work.  There is more to what we do than a math and reading score.  How do we measure it and report it loudly to the public?  How could we do that?  If we don't work together to figure it out soon, the public will be convinced that they can boil education down to a few online classes that take a long weekend. 

Now pardon me, I need to get back to my facebook chats…