Virtual School Meanderings

August 15, 2014

Leadership Day 2014: Educational Leadership and Virtual Schooling

leadershipday2014_01-300x240Well, it is that time of year again, when my CASTLE colleague Scott McLeod posts an entry on his blog Calling all bloggers! – Leadership Day 2014.  I’ve participated in this initiative for the past five years.

For the past year, I have been a faculty member in an educational leadership program at Sacred Heart University.  Prior to joining the faculty here, I tended to describe educational leadership broadly to include educational administration (i.e., the preparation of principals, district officials, and superintendents) and educational policy (also sometimes called educational studies).  Given my own professional and research interests, as well as my political and policy background, I had always identified more with the educational policy/studies aspect of educational leadership.  Over the past year I have come to understand (or learn) that educational leadership isn’t as cut and dry as I had initially envisioned it, but at the same time it is that cut and dry.

The field of educational leadership is about developing leaders.  It is really that simple.  Leaders of departments, leaders of schools, leaders of curriculum, leaders of athletics, leaders of districts, leaders of states, leaders of policy – simply put, leaders.  This is what connects all aspects of educational leadership, a focus on providing potential leaders with the knowledge, skills, and aptitudes they will need to become actual leaders.

What does that mean within the field of K-12 online learning?  Well, I’m reminded of a news item from the Washington Post that came across my electronic desk just yesterday…

Seven things teachers are sick of hearing from school reformers
By Valerie Strauss August 14 at 4:00 AM

[Stuff deleted]

1. Don’t tell us that you know more about good instruction than we do.
2. Don’t talk to us about the importance and rigor of the standards.
3. Don’t tell us about testing data.
4. Don’t tell us “The research says…” unless you’re willing to talk about what it really says.
5. Stop with the advice about teaching critical thinking skills.
6. Stop using education reform clichés.
7. Don’t tell us to leave politics out of the classroom.

[Stuff deleted]

I felt that these were particularly important today, given that we are talking about leadership.  How much of this applies to the world of K-12 online learning?  For example, in describing the first item the reporter writes “

This tells us there is an institutionalized disregard for our professional judgment. Some teachers get scripted curriculum that is often sub-par and that gets in the way of real teaching and learning. Others work under policies that are so broad that they are essentially meaningless.

The purpose of the policies is the same in both cases: to serve a top-down structure that is in place not to help students but to serve a kind of aesthetic of educational toughness, which itself is in place to combat a “crisis” in education that scholars such as David Berliner have thoroughly exposed as a sham.

In the K-12 online learning world, virtual school teachers are often provided an online curriculum that they aren’t allowed to modify, that has built in assessments that the teacher has no control over (and that represents the vast majority of the student’s overall assessments).  In other instances, virtual school teachers are hired to teach an online course and the online content simply doesn’t exist – and the teacher has to build the plane as he/she is flying it.

Or more importantly, in discussing number four, the author writes “Research is also of varying quality. Peer-reviewed journals are to be taken seriously; ideological think tanks not so.”  Wow!  That pretty much slaps down 95% of the “research” neo-liberals use to argue in favour of expanding access to online learning!

My very favourite was what was written about number six.

“After consulting the research and assessment data, and involving all stakeholders in the decision-making process, we have determined that a relentless pursuit of excellence and laser-like focus on the standards, synergistically with our accountability measures, action-oriented and forward-leaning intervention strategies, and enhanced observation guidelines for classroom look-fors, will close the achievement gap and raise the bar for all children.”

Sound like something out of the mouth of many of the proponent of expanding access to K-12 online learning?  Could Jeb Bush or Tom Vander Ark or Susan Patrick have said something like this (or even this exact statement)?

As individuals working with future leaders, it is imperative for us to counter these dominant narratives that are based on ideology!  We can do that be creating the critical thinkers that the educational reformers, and neo-liberal proponents of K-12 online learning, want us to create.  As Strauss writes, “critical thinking means analyzing ideas to understand them completely and find ways to improve them or dismiss them, including ideas about the value and purpose of technical and technological innovation.”  Given the research available right now, anyone who approaches K-12 online learning with an open mind can come to one conclusion – that the policies being pursued by most proponents of K-12 online learning are based on ideology and not what is best for the student.  The critical thinker leaders we are developing need to promote policies and activities that are in the best interests of the students, not of the corporate sponsors of these individuals and their organizations!

To view my past entries, see:

August 12, 2014

Top Stories From Our Blog

From yesterday’s inbox…  Not directly related to K-12 online learning, but of indirect interest…

Top Stories from Our Blog
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5 Characteristics Of Global Learning
holding_globeAn increasingly globalized society is putting pressure on education to “globalize.” We’ve talked about the definition of global learning before. This quick post is more about the characteristics of that kind of approach to learning. As globalization becomes more and more inevitable, understanding where we’re drifting might help us make adjustments as we go, yes? The characteristics are numerous and […]
read more
This Is What a Student-Designed School Looks Like
colorful_studentsWhen Sam Levin was a junior at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, Mass., he realized that two things were in short supply at his school: engagement and mastery. He also noticed that he and his peers were learning plenty of information, but not much about how to gather or create their own […]
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How the Manufacturing of an iPhone Impacts the World
iphone_handThe manufacturing and sales of an iPhone affects nearly every region of the world. From the thousands of employees across Asia to the thousands of stores across North America, the iPhone has single-handedly touched nearly every corner of the globe. In this infographic we explore the impact the iPhone has had on the global supply […]
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Does a Tweet Make a Difference?
twitter_birdAs I moderated #caedchat on June 8, I tipped over the 10K mark for tweets. What?! 10K? Ten years ago I never thought to myself that one day I would have sent out over 10,000 tweets. In fact, 10 years ago I wasn’t even a part of social media. So here I am today, having created over […]
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Google Knows All Our Secrets
google_robotThese days whenever things go wrong – or even right – it’s search engines we turn to for answers and affirmation. So how did the internet become our best friend, confidant, oracle – and what do the questions we ask reveal about our lives? Kate Bussmann investigates. If you were to look at the search […]
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New Research: Students Benefit from Learning That Intelligence Is Not Fixed
gear_brainTeaching students that intelligence can grow and blossom with effort – rather than being a fixed trait they’re just born with – is gaining traction in progressive education circles. And new research from Stanford is helping to build the case that nurturing a “growth mindset” can help many kids understand their true potential. The new […]
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Tools of Our Tools & What To Do About It
cautionWe’ve become the tools of our tools; And the fault – and the solution – lies not in our tools, but in ourselves. The digital revolution promised so much at the outset: computers would make air travel safer, health care more affordable, and education more widely available. But for all the evident benefits – and there are […]
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5 Ways Google Tools Can Empower Teachers
hand working businessThere are about a million different ways to use all the great Google tools available for free in your classroom. Whether you’re bringing your classroom into the 21st century by making it paperless or AppSmashing, even the simplest of Google tools offers you a wide array of ways to use it. The Google suite of tools can be useful when […]
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Roller Coaster Middle School: How One Kid’s Crazy Idea Took PBL to Thrilling New Heights
coasterWhen my sixth grader Lyle asked if we could build a roller coaster in the backyard, I said yes — for two reasons. First, as a dad, it’s my job to help my kids do what they want to do. I believe that what kids want and what kids need are usually the same thing. […]
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5 Apps for Making Movies on Mobile Devices
3D_crowdEvery year at Hollywood award shows, we see fantastic movies celebrated for their rich storytelling and dynamic performances. Your students can become moviemakers, too, thanks to some powerful apps for mobile devices. With these tools, your children can take videos and edit their work to make professional quality movies using iOS devices (iPads and iPhones) […]
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August 4, 2014

EDTECH537 – End Of Course

Eight weeks ago I posted an entry entitled EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom that described a course I have been teaching for the Department of Educational Technology at Boise State University this summer semester. During that time I have posted weekly messages to describe what I was asking the students to do and the readings I had assigned.

I have also posted entries for all of the activities I have asked of the students:

I have also posted sample blog entries for each of the different types of entries that I have asked of the students.

Finally, during one of the early weeks I posted a sample entry about the readings, and then later I asked the students to participate in blogging in three different formats:

This year I also made a point of highlighting things in the monthly statistics entries for my EDTECH537 students.

I post this summary message for those folks who haven’t been following along for the past eight weeks, as I suspect this will be the closest I ever get to one of those # days to a better blog series.

July 31, 2014

EDTECH537 – Statistics for July 2014

As readers of this blog are familiar with, generally at the end of each month I will post a back dated entry for 23:59pm on the last day of the month quickly outlining the statistics for the past month. As I mentioned last month, I am once again teaching my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course and I wanted to try to do a bit more detailed version of this entry, and reflect a little more for my students.

This past month there were 3,968 visitors to this blog. This is compared with 3,197 in the month of June and 5,184 from July 2013.  The most visited entries over the past 30 days were:

  1. Questions About The School Of Tomorrow
  2. EDTECH537 – Potential Hazards Of Blogging
  3. EDTECH537 – Examining Generational Differences
  4. Master Mobile Learning Techniques for Increased Student Engagement
  5. iNACOL Summer Spotlight: Blended Learning
  6. CANeLearn 2014: Ontario Summit – What’s The Future Look Like Now That We Are All Online Learners? How Did We Get Here And Where Are We Going?
  7. EDTECH537 – Guest Blogger: Roles For MOOCs In Online And Blended Learning
  8. Instructional Technology Dissertation Topics
  9. Virtual Schooling In The News
  10. Create Interactive eBooks with SoftChalk Create 9

In looking at where people came from to get to this blog (i.e., how they found these and other entries), search engines accounted for approximately a third of the referrers this past month. This was followed by Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Scoop.it.

Those folks that used search engines, used the following terms:

  • a decade later, pennsylvania cyber schools go viral
  • early bird
  • does georgia connections academy get 100 percent of state funding for each student
  • cyber school,nc
  • york city bearcat cyber academy
  • qsl physics lab kit
  • advanced placement conference 2014
  • open learning journal
  • phrase “from april 22 to the 24″
  • panow + credenda

Last month I promise that I would dive into the statistics that Feedburner keeps a little more, as my EDTECH537 students created Feedburner accounts to add to their blogs.

feedburner-1

feedburner-2

Note that none of the top three entries recorded by Feedburner were listed in the top ten entries as collected by WordPress.  Also note that in the past 30 days, Feedburner recorded over 8,500 views and over 4,000 clicks from the entries – both of which are higher than the less than 4,000 recorded by WordPress.  What this tells me is that more than twice as many people access my blog through the RSS feed I have created in Feedburner, as opposed to directly on the blog itself.

Further, according to Google they described “uncommon uses” as:

FeedBurner manages hundreds of thousands of feeds and in doing so, we’ve catalogued thousands of common places where feeds are referenced throughout the web. These include email clients, web-based feed aggregators, news filters, and more, each outlined in detailed in the Subscriber section of your Analyze tab.

Beyond these known places, FeedBurner can also help identify “Uncommon Uses” of your feed content. These references could be a neat little news filter somebody wrote, a blog somebody assembled from feeds, or even blog spam. Whatever it is, we’ve found that publishers want to see where their content is republished and it’s very helpful to have something like FeedBurner to provide visibility into usage. When FeedBurner identifies an “uncommon” use, we highlight it in your main Analyze tab Dashboard and in the detailed Uncommon Uses section within this tab as well.

This essentially tells me that there are several places that scrape my content (see blog scraping).

As I end each statistics entry, the data from my old blog site (which I have left up to allow those that may have linked to specific entries to still be able to find them).

(more…)

July 30, 2014

EDTECH537 – Blogging Plan

As I mentioned in the Week 8 entry for EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course, I did want to post an example of a blogging plan.  What I tried to do was post some of the regular features that I know will be posted each day, plus at least one substantive entry per week.  I know that the former Sloan-C and SoftChalk and several others will be sending me multiple items per week, I suspect I’ll get monthly newsletters  from Alpha Omega Alpha, VHS Collaborative, Florida Virtual School, Learn, etc..  But here is what I am reasonable sure of, and want to aspire to (in the case of the substantive entries).

august-2014

september-2014

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