Virtual School Meanderings

March 7, 2016

Guest Blogger: School of Tommorow

This is a guest post by Pastor David Wilson of the Grant Avenue Baptist Church in Redondo Beach, CA. He contacted me with these thoughts after reading either Questions About The School Of Tomorrow and/or Guest Blogger: Examining Accelerated Christian Education. I want to thank Paster Wilson for allowing me to post these comments, as the use of distance education and online learning materials in Christian schooling is a story that isn’t told as often in the field.

Dear Mr. Barbour,

I worked with the A.C.E. (now School of Tomorrow) curriculum for many years.  During this period, I ran into several conflicts with some of the materials and I wanted to share with you how some change
was effected in them.

We had a very intelligent young man (now a doctor) who was the first graduate who attended from preschool through High School and graduated with honors.  He also was African-American, and much more sensitive to issues which related to African Americans as depicted in the material.

He had some good questions.

First, he pointed out that the character “cartoons” in the material in the younger grades were all white.  Second, when African American characters were added they were always presented separately, as if they all had their own churches and fellowships.  I don’t recall a single occurrence of such a teaching strip presenting mixed fellowships.  To the people at School of Tomorrow all such relationships were separate as presented in the teaching strips.

Later, in High School material, an English Pace used an old poem about “Tracks.”  The reference was to gospel tracts, but the dialogue used was old Southern ignorant Black speech and dialect, even using the word “Massa” (as I recall, but that’s been a lot of years)… I personally wrote a letter to A.C.E. and received no answer.  Later, I spoke on the phone to Mrs. Howard’s assistant.  (the story then was that the founder, Dr. Donald Howard, was overworked and gravely ill and others were taking leadership responsibilities, including his son. I was assured that Mrs. Howard has seen the material and decided that indeed it was inappropriate.

In your blog, you quoted a section from High School Social Studies, American History, that spoke derogatorily of South African Blacks. The discussion was used as an example to illustrate a point I have forgotten, but had no place in a history of the United States and its founding.  Once again, I wrote a letter.  The pastor of the church wrote a letter as well.  The student wrote a letter as well.  I received a phone call from the author of the material, who defended it.  I continued putting the pressure on until I reached Donald Howard, Jr. (I think that was his name, but he was the son of the founder– the founder being ousted after allegations of sinful conduct came to light that created a breach in his family and the organization).. The young man was at the time taking the lead for the publication and had actually spent two years in South Africa and completely disagreed with the statement.  In fact, the statement was alluded to in later materials relating to World History, as I recall. He refused to RECALL and REPRINT the materials, but did tell me that the next printing would remove that statement because of my strong opposition.  He was very gracious and kind and when the next printing of those materials came out, that section had been edited out.  I was informed that the author of the material, who taught at their Institute (i.e. college) was retiring and would have no further input. He also advised me that the old school founders who had some “Southern ideas” were all being phased out, making room for younger people with a better understanding of such issues.

As a school administrator, I worked diligently to see a number of edits and changes made to the material, as our school was a mixture of all races.

ACE material had some weak areas.  I quickly learned that almost every student coming into our school would have to do a number of low level Packets explaining some simple English concepts  (adjectives and adverbs)… I took the material and established a remedial English class for those who had that failing, that met two times… Whereupon, students were able to retake the diagnostic test and understanding those simple concepts grow.

The major lack with School of Tomorrow was their challenge for our students to excel, while their people were allowed to continue with major fails in writing materials and distributing the materials. Materials were constantly on back order, or left out of a shipment, or the wrong materials shipped.  Their consultants would come and “inspect” our school, and insist on excellence, but they themselves did not hold those same standards.

When the ACE system was taken seriously by staff and students, students excelled.  We had many students who came to us who had missed very important concepts in public school experiences.  When the system was applied, suddenly the tools to learn were put in their hands.  The system broke down when students and staff sought shortcuts.  There were several math packets that were so poorly written that every student who completed the packet would have to repeat it, sometimes more than once.  Special tutoring sessions for those packets had to be created as the material was so poorly organized or explained that students could not grasp the material.  As I recall, Math PACE # 71 was a critical failure that 99% of students failed the test.  There were several others like that.

Other problems with the material (which gradually were corrected, thanks to input from our school and others) was that multiple choice questions were asked and of the three potential answers two of them made no sense.  A section of reading was immediately followed by a page of questions that were presented in the same order as they appeared in the material.  Students quickly learned that they didn’t need to read all the material, but simply go to the questions and scan the reading for answers.  To my knowledge, this was never changed,.

In comparison, when the church I pastored started a school, we mixed Alpha-Omega material for some classes, and the students and staff both found it to be well-written, but found that answering questions was much more difficult though I felt much more preparatory for college level work, as the questions were not presented in order from the reading material, were more in-depth questions, and required more critical thinking and response.  However, since students scored their own work, it was difficult for them to ascertain that they had articulated a correct or wrong answer since their wording was always
different.

Every breakdown in learning stemmed from students cheating, poor supervision to prevent cheating, or staff members failing to see a student struggling with an area and failing to provide assistance.

Finally, the problem we had in running Christian Schools (our church disbanded theirs about six years ago) was that the students who came to us claimed to come from Christian homes that were committed to Christ, but the students turned out to be refugees from public school. Either they had been in trouble or were avoiding trouble.  Therefore, it was difficult to prevent our Christian Schools from becoming REFORM schools with a Christian theme.  Sometimes, it worked.  Sometimes, it didn’t.  Our church established a rule that no student who had been suspended or expelled from another school could be received, unless a reasonable doubt of the fairness of that action was provided.  For example, the school I worked in for nineteen years had several incidents of temperamental staff expelling students without  just cause.  One administrator actually challenged a student to a fight over a comment made towards the administrator’s step-daughter and the student was the one expelled.  Another time, a student was told he could not do something (I forget the detail) and when he asked “Why?” the administrator threw a full soda into a trash can and told him he was expelled for challenging authority.  Since I knew the student, he attended and graduated in our church’s new school.

My problem was struggling too long with students who were not acting appropriately.  When they did not respond to discipline, I had no choice but to dismiss them.  Often, in efforts to love and reach them, I waited too long to do so.  In one case, because the students came from the church of a fellow pastor, I kept two brothers in our school for far too long, not wanting to offend the other pastor.  When their actions became so grievous that I had no choice, I dismissed them. Later, he thanked me for ministering to them, but advised me that they both were in serious trouble with the law.

There is also the problem of the Pastor’s oversight of the school distracting him from other work within the church.

Well, I’ve gone on and on, and your post was written six years ago… I just wanted you to know some of my experiences, and also, how some of that offensive material got changed.

God’s blessings upon you,

Pastor David Wilson
Grant Avenue Baptist Church
Redondo Beach, CA

This is a guest post by Pastor David Wilson of the Grant Avenue Baptist Church in Redondo Beach, CA. I want to thank Pastor Wilson for his unsolicited comments.  As is the practice here at Virtual School Meanderings, this guest post will be the only blog entry posted today.

July 21, 2015

EDTECH537 – Guest Blogger Entry: Why Teachers NEED Twitter

This is a guest blog post by Angela Rutschke, BEd, MET. Angela is a sixth grade teacher at Caroline School in Caroline, Alberta (Canada) – and a former EDTECH537 student. She blogs from Rutschke’s Renderings and tweets from @ARutschke.

As I mentioned in the EDTECH537 – Week 4 entry for my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course, I wanted to post a sample of a guest blog entry. As is the practice on this blog, this will be the only entry that is posted today.

twitterI intentionally avoided Twitter for a long time. What could POSSIBLY be appealing about tiny snippets of people’s lives and pictures of their food? When I finally signed up, I wasn’t too impressed. I just didn’t have much to share with the world, particularly in 140 character fashion! So I lurked, I read some interesting things, but remained unconvinced that Twitter was for me.

In June, 2013 I HAD to tweet if I wanted an “A” in EDTECH 597, Blogging in the Classroom. Now the stakes were personal, which made me even more hesitant! I would have a guaranteed audience of 20 people, but I still didn’t have anything to say! I wasn’t at all pleased, but decided I would REALLY try to “do” Twitter, after all my GRADE was at stake, so I became a full-fledged twit!

In the two short years since, Twitter has completely changed my teaching! No one is more surprised that I am, but I am not exaggerating! I have tapped into the enormous spring of inspiration, resources, and expertise that is available whenever I need it.

In my rural community of 500 people, where I am the sole grade 6 teacher, I can feel rather isolated at times, but Twitter shrinks the world, and has opened doors for my students I didn’t even know about before!

Here’s my Top Five ways Twitter has impacted my teaching:

  1. Professional Learning Network– I have grown an AMAZING Professional Learning Network! Twitter has connected me to teachers and technology experts that have changed my practice, inspired my creativity and helped me become more courageous. I have learned from, and been inspired by so many educators that I would not have had had access to before. The connections I’ve forged through Twitter are powerful, encouraging and supportive. The collective knowledge of my PLN is unsurpassed and connected educators tend to be generous with their resources as well!
  2. Finger on the Pulse of Education– I learn about current technology, useful teaching strategies, global education movements, and get a chance to hear from the best educators in the world, one tweet at a time. There is NOTHING more powerful than having the best in our profession share their genius and resources, and that is exactly what Twitter offers.
  3. Global Connection– Through Twitter chats, I have tapped into the richest source of PD I have ever found, and discovered a community that supports and drives innovative teaching practices. My class and I have been able connect with blogging partners from around the world, experience Google Hangouts with authors and other classes, and share our work with an authentic, world audience through Twitter. A question posted on Twitter is often answered within the hour!
  4. Leadership Opportunities– I host #6thchat, which is a weekly chat for sixth grade teachers. My experience with #geniushour and #tlap (Teach Like a Pirate) have led to sessions at EdCamps and opened the door for me to at the Alberta Technology Leaders in Education Conference in 2014 (ATLE). Twitter is the root of them all!
  5. Class Room Design- Twitter was my sounding board for my classroom make-over as well. I asked for feedback on how to change my classroom into the optimum learning space for my 28 students and educators all over the world responded! The result was empowering for my students and the closest I have ever been able to come to my ideal classroom. That’s a BIG change!
before after
BEFORE AFTER

Twitter has become my favorite place to glean ideas, share successes and become the best educator I can. I tell anyone that will listen what an extraordinary tool it has been for me. I am the best teacher I have ever been, in my 19th year of teaching, and can attribute much of my growth and improvement to using Twitter. My experience highlights why teachers NEED Twitter. I just wish I would have caught on sooner!

This is a guest blog post by Angela Rutschke, BEd, MET. Angela is a sixth grade teacher at Caroline School in Caroline, Alberta (Canada) – and a former EDTECH537 student. She blogs from Rutschke’s Renderings and tweets from @ARutschke.

April 7, 2015

Guest Blog Entry: Integration of Online Learning in Schools – A New Fully Online Graduate Program

This is a guest post by Jered Borup, an Assistant Professor of Learning Technologies in Schools at George Mason University. As is the tradition at Virtual School Meanderings, this will be the only entry today.

Logo

NOW ENROLLING FOR THE FALL 2015 SEMESTER

As a student you will learn how to blend online and face-to-face instruction, teach online, design effective online learning activities, foster online learning communities and much more.

Choose a degree or certificate from this teacher-friendly program:

TUITION DISCOUNTS

Now offering new tuition discounts that reduce out-of-state tuition by approximately 45% and in-state tuition by 15%.

LEARN MORE AT A WEBINAR

Attend one of the following live information sessions by logging in as a guest at https://webcon.gmu.edu/iols

  • Wednesday, April 8 at 6:30pm EST
  • Saturday, May 9 at 11:00am EST

Additional details about the program can be found at http://mason.gmu.edu/~pnorton/IOLS.html

Email Dr. Jered Borup at jborup@gmu.edu for additional information or to receive reminders for upcoming information sessions.

Jered Borup, Ph.D.
Phone: (703)993-3137
E-Mail: jborup@gmu.edu
cehd.gmu.edu/online/iols

This is a guest post by Jered Borup, an Assistant Professor of Learning Technologies in Schools at George Mason University.

March 17, 2015

Guest Blog Entry: Integration of Online Learning in Schools – A New Fully Online Graduate Program

This is a guest post by Jered Borup, an Assistant Professor of Learning Technologies in Schools at George Mason University. As is the tradition at Virtual School Meanderings, this will be the only entry today.

Logo

NOW ENROLLING FOR THE FALL 2015 SEMESTER

As a student you will learn how to blend online and face-to-face instruction, teach online, design effective online learning activities, foster online learning communities and much more.

Choose a degree or certificate from this teacher-friendly program:

TUITION DISCOUNTS

Now offering new tuition discounts that reduce out-of-state tuition by approximately 45% and in-state tuition by 15%.

LEARN MORE AT A WEBINAR

Attend one of the following live information sessions by logging in as a guest at https://webcon.gmu.edu/iols

  • Tuesday, March 17 at 6:30pm EST
  • Wednesday, April 8 at 6:30pm EST
  • Saturday, May 9 at 11:00am EST

Additional details about the program can be found at http://mason.gmu.edu/~pnorton/IOLS.html

Email Dr. Jered Borup at jborup@gmu.edu for additional information or to receive reminders for upcoming information sessions.

Jered Borup, Ph.D.
Phone: (703)993-3137
E-Mail: jborup@gmu.edu
http://cehd.gmu.edu/online/iols

This is a guest post by Jered Borup, an Assistant Professor of Learning Technologies in Schools at George Mason University.

August 25, 2014

Guest Blogger: Teach Young People About The Gaps In Access To Education With This Free Online Game!

This is a guest post by Sarah Hutchison, an educational consultant with SPARK Global Learning, who is working on behalf of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

mind-the-gapAs the deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals looms (September 2015), the world is looking closely at whether we will reach the aim of providing universal access to primary education. Although significant gains have been made since the goal was set, progress in recent years has slowed. At the time of the World Education Forum in 2000, there were 102 million children out of school. That number had dropped to 58 million by 2012. Yet data show that the world is still unlikely to achieve universal access by 2015. Watch this for more: Video: Data Tell Us

As the new school year approaches turn your focus to a resource that examines these gaps and inequities in access to education around the world. Explore the online game Mind the Gap: Gender and Education.

mindthegapStatistics come alive with a click of a button allowing users to easily compare and contrast the education of children, adolescents, students and adults living in different countries around the world. Access to education for girls versus boys is explored along with some of the reasons why gaps still exist. Online learning is bolstered by engaging facilitated activities found in the accompanying Facilitator Guide.

This guide provides an introduction to the topic of gender and education, gives a framework for exploring the online data tool, and suggests further ways to extend learning. The activities are most suitable for young people in grades 5 through 10 participating in classroom settings, clubs and youth groups, and homeschools that are exploring global citizenships and education themes.

Neat idea! Explore this topic with young people on International Literacy Day, September 8.

Note: The tool is available in English, French and Spanish. The guide is available in English and French.

This is a guest post by Sarah Hutchison, an educational consultant with SPARK Global Learning, who is working on behalf of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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