Virtual School Meanderings

April 4, 2012

Sunchild e-Learning Community – Competition Winner: Inspiring Approaches To First Nations, Métis And Inuit Learning

Just wanted to pass along another award for the Sunchild E-Learning Community…

ChangemakersInspiring Approaches to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Learning Competition

Congratulations to my Alberta colleagues!!!

March 30, 2012

SITE 2012 Award for Outstanding Service to Digital Equity

I wanted to mention that I will be traveling to New Zealand, starting this morning.  So I will be offline until sometime on Sunday.  I have a full three days of entries already scheduled, but note that I won’t be able to approve comments, trackbacks, or react to any new items that come across my electronic desk.

Also note that while in New Zealand my Internet may be spotty, so activity in this space may be infrequent or in fits and spurts or at odd times.

I forgot to mention this when I was posting all of those sessions about the annual Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education (SITE) International Conference, that the Sunchild E-Learning Community – a K-12 online learning program in Alberta focused on aboriginal students – won the SITE Award for Outstanding Service to Digital Equity.

Congratulations to my colleagues from Alberta!!!

January 18, 2011

Aboriginal Focused Programs in Canada

More than a week ago, I got the following mention in Twitter:

This is actually a topic that I’ve discussed in the past on this blog, but never in a specific manner (i.e., various entries on the topic, but nothing that brings it all together).  So I promised Angela that I would post an entry last week about this, but the week just got away from me.

To the best of my knowledge there are four aboriginal focused K-12 online learning programs in Canada:

  1. Keewaytinook Internet High School (Ontario)
  2. Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate (Manitoba)
  3. Credenda Virtual School (Saskatchewan)
  4. Sunchild E-Learning Community (Alberta)

In the past I have posted entries about reports that have been published focused on these programs:

In addition, the last two editions of the State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada reports have included content related to these aboriginal programs.

  • 2010 edition
    • Brief Issue Paper – Keewaytinook Internet High School: Moving first Nation Students ahead with Technology in Ontario’s Remote North (pp. 14-17)
    • Vignette – Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate (p. 46)
    • Vignette – Credenda Virtual High School (p. 48)
  • 2009 edition
    • Vignette – Keewaytinook Internet High School (p. 30)

Beyond these four programs, there have been several publications and presentations focused upon the provision of K-12 distance education primarily to an aboriginal population in Canada:

These are all of the K-12 online learning resources focused on Canada’s aboriginal population that I am aware of.  For those who have a more direct involvement in this community, am I missed any?

Also, for my readers south of the 49th parallel, are there any K-12 online learning programs or resources in the United States specifically focused on Native Americans?  I am aware of the Fort Washakie High School (FWHS)/Wyoming e-academy of Virtual Education (WeAVE), but that is really the only one that immediately comes to mind.

June 28, 2010

Report: Optimizing The Effectiveness Of E-Learning For First Nations

One of my fine colleagues here north of the forty-ninth, Vince Hill (principal of Credenda Virtual School), alerted me this past week to the following report.

Optimizing the Effectiveness of E-Learning for First Nations

This report looks at how to optimize the effectiveness of e-learning to improve the educational outcomes of First Nations people living on a reserve.

Report by Ashley Sisco
The Conference Board of Canada, 43 pages, May 2010

Document Highlights:
E-learning can help close the education gap between First Nations people living on a reserve and Canada’s non-Aboriginal population. Based on a brief literature review and interviews, this report found that optimizing the effectiveness of e-learning in improving the educational outcomes of First Nations people living on a reserve requires: better engagement of First Nations in e-learning program development and implementation; the development of an e-learning strategy; an increase in funding amounts and the extension of funding terms for e-learning; the assessment of community needs and educational outcomes; building tools and capacity to support e-learning; the development of a strategy to improve teacher engagement; consideration of generational differences among students; the promotion of student commitment; the expansion and increased flexibility of programs, with holistic program delivery; and better integration of e-learning under the overall Indian and Northern Affairs Canada education umbrella.

To view this page and the link to the report, go to

Credenda is one of four aboriginal K-12 online programs in Canada – the others are Keewaytinook Internet High School, Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate, and Sunchild E-Learning Community.  As some of you may recall, I’ve written about Sunchild (see Advancing Aboriginal Inclusion Through The Use Of E-Learning Technology In The Aboriginal Community and Follow-Up: Advancing Aboriginal Inclusion Through The Use Of E-Learning Technology In The Aboriginal Community), along with Credenda (see Elluminate Newsline – December 2008 and Canadian Virtual School Focused On Aboriginal Students Received $2 Million Donation) – plus Keewaytinook was the focus of the vignette from Ontario in the 2009 State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada (see page 30).  However, the Wapaskwa is knew to me – so I’m going to have to spend some time learning about this program.

February 22, 2009

You Must Learn To Teach Online!

This was posted in the weekly feature, as it appeared in the ASCD SmartBrief.  As a reminder, it read:

Why All Teachers Must Learn How to Teach Online
Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the International Association of K-12 Online Learning, talks about technology innovations in the classroom and why it is important for every teacher to learn how to teach online. Patrick says that public education has struggled to incorporate technology into schools; just adding computers piecemeal is not enough to engage students. An ASCD blog post highlights an audio clip of Patrick discussing her upcoming ASCD Annual Conference presentation, “Why All Teachers Must Learn How to Teach Online,” and provides session details. View the post

If you follow the link the post itself reads:

February 11, 2009
Why All Teachers Must Learn How to Teach Online

1113_Susan_Patrick Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the International Association of K-12 Online Learning, talks about technology innovations in the classroom and why it is important for every teacher to learn how to teach online.

Patrick says that public education has struggled to incorporate technology into schools and just adding computers piecemeal is not enough to engage students. Educators properly trained to use the Internet and digital tools can teach in a traditional manner and have unlimited resources at their fingertips. Online learning can also help create more personalized learning plans for each student.

Hear Patrick discuss her upcoming ASCD Annual Conference presentation on “Why All Teachers Must Learn How to Teach Online.” Session details are after the jump.


Saturday, March 14, 2009, 8:00-9:30 AM

1113T Why All Teachers Must Learn How to Teach Online

Everyone agrees that there is an urgent need to provide teachers with deliberate and meaningful technology training focused on 21st century skills and current uses of technology–yet old, piecemeal paradigms of technology training abound. So what’s the new paradigm for technology professional development? This session’s participants will learn from expert leaders in the field of professional development and virtual learning why all teachers should have the experiences of both teaching and learning online.

Presenters: Susan Patrick, North American Council for Online Learning, Vienna, VA; Tatum Murphy, Florida Connections Academy, Orlando; Mickey Revenaugh, Connections Academy, Baltimore, MD

In the comments that have been left on this entry thus far, people have indicated:

Comment 1: I agree that educators of traditional classrooms must acquire the skill of teaching online. If you have been sleep for the past ten years, you need to know that this is the future of education – online. Or at least entertaining the idea of hybrid classes (especially in the state of our economy). For example: students would attend three classes in school, the other two days would be online. Great post!

Comment 2: I agree that educators have “struggled to incorporate technology” but they still struggle to educate in the traditional sense. I continue to be amazed that people believe that technology solves any problems. (I am an engineer with ~$25,000 worth of computers and software in my office; I am not afraid of technology). Every person I know who can solve problems can read, write and think critically. Most took more math than necessary. I have not seen any technology that delivers content better than a dedicated teacher working with a student. (this teacher may or may not have a teaching certificate and the student may or may not be in K-16. I teach all the time.)

We’ve tried online education at my house and as residents in a dial-up only, technology wasteland, it stinks. The majority of those who would benefit most from online learning do not have access.

Just my humble opinion.

Comment 3: I whole heartedly agree that teachers should learn and teach online. FIRST they must engage as an online learner, before they can be the teacher. Online learning is a different experience, but opens many doors of opportunity. LEt’s start with professional development online for teachers. Deliberate and meaningful were the key words – if it doesn’t apply, then don’t bring technology into a lesson.

Comment 4: The online systems would save thousands in costs to educate the public. The accountability of a student’s progress is easier to track online. Computers can be made available much more cheaply than building classrooms and updating schools. This makes home schooling a good reality for the future of education.

The problems we face in education are perceptions. Students perceive learning as boring and not connected to any thing they need to know. Perceptions need to change.

Furthermore, our education systems should model the reality of our job markets to help prepare kids to enter the workforce, so they can pay taxes, vote, and make contributions to society.

You can even say the Pledge of Allegiance at the same time online.

I have to say that I find these comments interesting… As I would hope that you know, I’m very much in favour to K-12 online learning. But I’m not necessarily sure that we have to force professionals into learning online pedagogy – in particular if they aren’t interested in learning about it. If you take a look at a program like the Teacher Education Goes Into Virtual Schools program, they define the roles that teachers will play in the K-12 online learning environment as being one (or more) of these three:

1. Virtual School Site Facilitator: Mentoring & Advocating
Local mentor and advocate for students(s)
Proctors & records grades, etc.

2. Virtual School Teacher: Pedagogy & Class Management
Presents activities, manages pacing, rigor, etc.
Interacts with students and their facilitators
Undertakes assessment, grading, etc.

3. Virtual School Designer: Course Development
Design instructional materials
Works in team with teachers and a virtual school to construct the online course, etc. (Davis, 2007)

Now, for the person that is doing the second item – yes, we must ensure that this person is trained in online pedagogy (which also means that we need better reason on what constitutes effective teaching in an online environment for adolescent students).  However, for the third person I am more interested in that person having a strong background in curriculum and instruction, along with a good foundation in instructional design.  This person does not necessarily need to have as strong a background in how to facilitate or teach the online content, as long as they understand the fundamental principles related to designing effective instruction.

The first person is likely the person who needs the least amount of understanding of how to teach online, and interestingly enough, it is this third person who is one of the key players in the success of the student.  In evaluations that have been done with ACCESS Alabama, one of the key factors in student success was the active presence of a school-based facilitator – and this has not been an uncommon finding (as others have examined the roles of school-based personnel in the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation and the Sunchild e-Learning Community).  While this person is critical to the potential success of an K-12 online learner, do they really need to know online teaching pedagogy?  I’m not so sure!  I do believe that they need some understanding fo what K-12 online learning looks like, how it is structured, what are some of the soft skills that they can help their local students develop – and many of these things are currently not being provided by teacher education program.  But do they really need to learn how to teach in an online environment?  Again, I don’t think so if you have these other aspects.

This is not to say that I do know think that teacher education programs need to provide greater exposure to K-12 online learning in their current programs.  I think that this is a critical weakness in our current method of preparing teachers, particularly in states like my own, where online learning is required.  However, we still have a number of teachers – including many new teachers – that still believe the myths about K-12 online learning; and I think our efforts need to (and would be better spent) on focusing upon educating future and existing teachers about K-12 online learning and what they can do to support students at their local school who engage in online learning.  And then let those who want to pursue this as a possible career option to take those additional online pedagogy courses.

I should also note that the ASCD blog authors added:

Don’t miss Susan in EdWeek’s upcoming chat:

I won’t be physically attending the event, but I welcome any of those who will be attending to send in their thoughts after the conference (or at least this session) has occurred.


Davis, N. E. (2007, November). Teacher education for virtual schools. A presentation at annual Virtual School Symposium, Louisville, KY. Retrieved on August 11, 2008 from

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