Virtual School Meanderings

August 24, 2010

Georgia Cyber Academy – Online Information Session

Over the past month, I have attended a couple of online information sessions from the Michigan Connections Academy (MICA) (see my notes from the first session and the second session).  As I don’t want to be accused of favouring Connections Academy because of my involvement with MICA (note that I am a volunteer member of the Board of Directors of MICA, however, my comments here are as a private citizen and NOT in any official capacity as a board member), I decided to attend a couple of K12, Inc. school information sessions – beginning with the Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA).

The sessions focused only on their K-8 school, there are different sessions for the high school grades (which I assume was the newly approved grade nine). The session began with a live presentation from the moderator in Elluminate that started with a description of the school (and I missed much of this as I was just getting this blog entry started).  And I should note that I told the moderator at the beginning of the session that I wasn’t an interested parent, but a K-12 online learning researcher from Wayne State University and asked them if it was okay if I stayed.

K12, Inc. curriculum (both the online and offline aspects of their instructional model). The model was typical of what I would expect, “high quality, interactive online content,” along with offline things such as labs – plus face-to-face meetings with teachers and physical outings.  They do synchronous classes using Elluminate, and the parent is part of the instructional team as the learning coach (“parent-teacher partnership” as they referred to it in the session).

There are multiple assessments done online based on lessons, units, etc., and – as a state funded school-  they also are responsible for the statewide tests required in Georgia. This year that testing regime includes:

  • CRCT: Grades 3-8 (in April)
  • Writing: Grade 3, 5 (in March) and 8 (in January)
  • DIBELS Testing: K-3

These test are done in a physical location and last year they had about fifty different test sites.

Interestingly, students that qualify for free or reduced lunch get a computer, printer, and Internet reimbursement – and I wondered if that was something that K12, Inc. did in all of their state schools or if this was due to the fact that the funding levels for cyber charter schools were so low in Georgia?!?

The moderator paused part way through for questions.  Participants asked about the pacing, the portfolio requirements, the availability of foreign language and music classes, and the final question asked about the time commitment for the learning coach.  The response was that it was a full-time commitment, as the learning coach was expected to be engaged with the student as they completed their school work (i.e., if the student was expected to do five or six hours of work, the learning coach would be expected to be involved for five or six hours).

The moderator then described the GCA teachers and discussed their responsibilities.  Teachers were highly qualified, state certified (“and in most cases state residents”) teachers that were responsible for teaching content, checking the data entered by the learning coach, available for additional assistance, and grading assignments not scored automatically by the curriculum.

Next the moderator outlined some of the main topics in each of the core subject areas (e.g., English, mathematics, science, and social studies). The moderator then outlined (and showed screen shots) of the daily plan and weekly schedule that outlined all of the things that the student had completed and also what they would have left to complete.  This was followed by some of the screens that learning coaches would need to be familiar with and complete.  The next series of screen shots provided samples of what some of the individual lessons would look like.

The session then moved to discussing the GCA Community.  If I heard correctly, they have 6000 students and approximately 120 teachers.  There are numerous outings around the state and the GCA system would allow parents to find others in the geographic proximity and community building tools that allowed parents to connect with each other.

The extended K12, Inc. community includes over 70,000 students, and many of the student groups and clubs (at least the online ones) involve the entire K12, Inc. community.  K12, Inc. also provides learning coaches with an Introduction to Online Learning course and a speaker series.  There were also student speaker series, along with other activities (both statewide and national in scope).

The moderator then opened the session up to questions again.  The first question related to the amount of online instruction (which I assume meant synchronous), the response was that there were four synchronous sessions per subject area, per week for middle school and three times for elementary school.  There was a question about how the assignments worked (i.e., online or sent via other means).  Beyond that there weren’t many questions, even though at one point there were almost 20 participants in the room.  I wonder if this was related to the fact that the GCA has been in operation for a few years now and folks were generally familiar with them?!?

I chatted privately with the moderator for a few minutes at the end.  She indicated that given the size of the audience that she usually does receive more questions – particularly questions related to special education.

I should note that there are additional information sessions up-coming, several on the new grade nine program.  You can see them all at:

At this stage, I’ve attended one information session from IQAcademy, two from Connections Academy, and now this one from K12, Inc.. One of the things that I found interesting was the consistency in how the schools were set-up, along with their descriptions of both their curriculum and their instructional delivery process.  Without knowing enough of the history of the people involved in the cyber charter school community, I am left to wonder if the individuals with more recent programs were also involved in some of the older programs in some capacity (either as employees or parents of students attending).  But that’s just me thinking out loud.

Anyway, thanks for the moderator for allowing me to sit in and interacting with me at the end.  It was both enjoyable and informative.

Race To The Top Round Two Winners Announced

This came through my Facebook, news stream about an hour ago.

Click on the image or visit

A few minutes after seeing this in Facebook, the following EDWeek Update showed up in my inbox.

Race to Top Round 2: And the Winners Are…
Nine states and the District of Columbia will share $3.4 billion in federal Race to the Top funds—money that the administration hopes will transform education. (August 24, 2010, Politics K-12 Blog)

Essentially, Nine States and the District of Columbia Win Second Round Race to the Top Grants (i.e., Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia).  This is in addition to Delaware and Tennessee from the first round.

As a reminder, iNACOL did a summary of the K-12 online learning aspects of all of the finalist.  You can view those summaries at:

I haven’t had a chance to really size up who was successful and what they said they would do in relation to K-12 online learning, but you have that data in front of you.

2010 USDLA Public Policy Forum – September 22, 2010 From 9:00AM -1:00PM In Washington DC

From my inbox yesterday.

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2010 USDLA Public Policy Forum
September 22, 2010
9:00AM -1:00PM
Washington, D.C.

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USDLA will be hosting the 2010 Public Policy Forum on Wednesday, September 22, 2010 from 9:00AM -1:00PM at the City Tavern Club located at 3206 M Street, NW, in the Georgetown section of Washington DC. The event will be broadcast live by Elluminate for those unable to travel to the Washington DC area.

The purpose of the Public Policy Forum is to maintain USDLA’s leadership in the application and promotion of distance learning. Specifically, the Forum will focus on the insight and ideas being circulated by Washington DC policymakers. Furthermore, it will give USDLA members and others the opportunity to hear what is most current in government policy and listen to new ideas and thoughts being shared about the distance learning industry.


Robert E. Andrews, Congressman (D- NJ)

Robert E. Andrews,
Congressman (D- NJ)

James Kvaal, Deputy Under-Secretary, U.S. Department of Education

James Kvaal,
Deputy Under-Secretary, U.S. Department of Education

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About United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA)
The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) is a non-profit association formed in 1987 and is located in Boston, Massachusetts. The association reaches 20,000 people globally with sponsors and members operating in and influencing 46% of the $913 billion dollar U.S. education and training market. USDLA promotes the development and application of distance learning for education and training and serves the needs of the distance learning community by providing advocacy, information, networking and opportunity. Distance learning and training constituencies served include pre-k-12 education, higher and continuing education, home schooling as well as business, corporate, military, government and telehealth markets. The USDLA trademarked logo is the recognized worldwide symbol of dedicated professionals committed to the distance learning industry.

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This Week’s Live And Interactive Events In Elluminate

No K-12 online learning specific ones this week, but an interesting line-up nonetheless.

A message to all members of Classroom 2.0

Below are this week’s public, free, and interactive Webinars through, the social learning network for education that I work on for Elluminate.  Full event details can be seen by following the links, and event recordings will be posted there after the events if you aren’t able to attend them live.

I also hope you will consider hosting your own public webinars using the LearnCentral public room–instructions are available by joining the “Host Your Own Webinar” group on the main announcement tab (

Thanks for your attention, and see you online!


Steve Hargadon

Monday, August 23rd

  • 1pm PDT (US) / 4pm EDT (US) / 8pm GMT/UTC (next day) (intl times):
    Amber Mac
    discusses her book “Power Friending” and demystifying social media, with Steve Hargadon as part of the interview series.
    LearnCentral Link:
  • 10:45pm PDT (US) / 1:45am EDT (next day) (US) / 5:45pm GMT/UTC (next day) (intl times):
    “Tech Talk Tuesdays: LEEPing into Leadership – Students as ICT Mentors,”
    with host Anne Mirtschin. “In this session we will discuss LEEP with Lois Smethhurst and her students. LEEP stands for Lodgers’ E-learning Extension and is a special program offered to high achieving students at Berwick Lodge Primary School, Victoria Australia.
    LearnCentral Link:

Tuesday, August 24th

  • 4pm PDT (US) / 7pm EDT (US) / 11pm GMT/UTC (next day) (intl times):
    “Utilizando Web 2.0 para promover comunicación en las clases de Idiomas – Un Ejemplo de Youtube,”
    con Thomas Chaskel.
    LearnCentral Link:
  • 5pm PDT (US) / 8pm EDT (US) / 12am GMT/UTC (next day) (intl times):
    Join Steve Hargadon as he interviews Kathleen Cushman on her book about student studies on engagement and learning, “Fires in the Mind.” Part of the interview series.
    LearnCentral Link:

Wednesday, August 25th

  • 5pm PDT (US) / 8pm EDT (US) / 12am GMT/UTC (next day) (intl times):
    Join Steve Hargadon for a discussion about “The BYU-Idaho Learning Model” as part of the interview series.
    LearnCentral Link:
  • 7pm PDT (US) / 10pm EDT (US) / 2am GMT/UTC (next day) (intl times):
    Join Coach Carole for the latest session of “Moderator Masterclasses: Series 3” as she demonstrates how to moderate segments within the Elluminate tutorial and use the moderator tools effectively.
    LearnCentral Link:

Thursday, August 26th

  • 11am PDT (US) / 2pm EDT (US) / 6pm GMT/UTC (intl times):Elluminti: Back to School,” with host Shannon Autrey Forte. As organizations get ready to rollout Elluminate to their students and faculty for the start of the school year, the August Elluminati session will focus on ensuring you have a successful rollout.
    LearnCentral Link:
  • 12:30pm PDT (US) / 3:30pm EDT (US) / 7:30pm GMT/UTC (intl times):
    “Informational Text and Multigenre Text Sets.”
    Join Kimberly Lightle for a presentation on the importance of using informational text in the primary and elementary grades, and how the creation and use of multigenre text sets can enhance instruction.
    LearnCentral Link:
  • 4pm PDT (US) / 7pm EDT (US) / 11pm GMT/UTC (intl times):
    “Edublogs Fine Focus (topic to be advised).”
    Join Jo Hart a fortnightly unconference “Fine Focus” session on a wide range of topics from: how to use tools/applications (the “techie stuff”), edu issues, e-learning tools/strategies and much more.
    LearnCentral Link:
  • 5pm PDT (US) / 8pm EDT (US) / 12am GMT/UTC (next day) (intl times):
    Join Steve Hargadon as he interviews George Siemens about “Connectivism” as part of the interview series.
    LearnCentral Link:

Saturday, August 28th

  • 9am PDT (US) / 12pm EDT (US) / 4pm GMT/UTC (intl times):
    eduTecher: Webtools and Resources for Teachers and Students,” with co-hosts Kim Caise, Lorna Costantini and Peggy George. Adam Bellow, founder of eduTecher, will share this website featuring resources and information to assist teachers integrating and using web tools in the classroom.
    LearnCentral Link:
  • 7pm PDT (US) / 10pm EDT (US) / 2am GMT/UTC (next day) (intl times):
    “Carribean Educators Network (CEN) Webinar”
    with host LeRoy Hill. Join LeRoy as guest, Dr. Bob Zenhausern, talks to the issue of the diversity thinking styles and how that relates to reading disability.
    LearnCentral Link:

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