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Articles: Virtual

The increasing incorporation of digital materials and resources into school and district portals and repositories has given rise in recent years to a new focus on the issue of identity management in K12 education.

Clintondale (Mich.) Community Schools’ high school has turned the traditional school day upside-down by asking teachers to assign short video lectures as homework and have students do activities, participate in discussions and complete assignments in class, with their teacher at hand to answer questions.

Readers spoke out in the largest numbers yet for District Administration’s 2011 Readers’ Choice Top 100 Products awards. The DA editorial staff spent days sifting through hundreds of submissions and learning about new and innovative education products nominated by readers. Nominations were accepted via the DA Web site from March through Sept. 15, 2011. Each nomination required a testimonial from a school administrator to allow us to understand how the product specifically impacted a school or district. Some products received more than 70 unique nominations.

Over 150 school districts in Illinois have teamed up to share software and technology through IlliniCloud, a one-of-its-kind nonprofit cloud-computing consortium for schools. Jim Peterson, IlliniCloud's chief technology officer and Bloomington (Ill.) Public Schools' technology director, started IlliniCloud in 2009 with the help of technology company CDW. Three data centers, located in Belleville, Bloomington and DeKalb, house computer systems, backup power supplies and security devices.

Are you an "unlearner?" If not, you need to become one—fast. Of the many important messages articulated by Duke professor Cathy Davidson in her newest book Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, that may be the one that is most relevant for educational leaders at this moment.

Online learning has seen a STEEP upward growth trajectory over the past decade. In the 2011 report "The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning," authors Michael Horn and Heather Staker of the Innosight Institute say the number of students taking online courses has leapt from 45,000 in 2000 to more than 3 million today, and that by 2019, 50 percent of high school courses will be delivered online.

In August, as the back-to-school clothing and supplies were hitting the stores, Miami-Dade County (Fla.) Public Schools launched its own new "product line of services" to its student clientele, including additional magnet schools, a conservatory for the arts, salad bars, and new technology and online digital tools for students. This "ritual of reinvention" is a signature program of Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, as he's unveiled similar plans each year since joining the district in fall 2008.

Online social networking includes much more than Facebook and Twitter. It is any online use of technology to connect people, enable them to collaborate with each other, and form virtual communities, says the Young Adult Library Services Association. Social networking sites may allow visitors to send e-mails, post comments, build web content, and/ or take part in live chats.

The 700 students that attend Mississinawa Valley (Ohio) Schools now have some work to do on their snow days. Only three "calamity days" are allowed, instead of the usual five, and two days will become "eDays," in which all K12 students will spend their time working on online lessons created by their teachers. This was made possible after the Ohio Department of Education in September allowed the district to adopt this change. On the fourth and fifth calamity days, students will log on to the district's Web site and follow their class's eDay lesson plans and assessments.

Diane Lewis began building her popular virtual education program in a storage closet. The drab room, just big enough to squeeze in a tiny table, was her office at the headquarters of Seminole County (Fla.) Public Schools. She had a computer and a small staff of temporary workers. “We had pretty much no money, no people, no space,” recalls Lewis, director of instructional technology for the district. “One of the myths is, if you’re virtual, people don’t think you require anything.”

One day last fall, much to my surprise, I walked in the front door and heard something that sounded amazingly like Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" being banged out on the piano in our family room. I couldn't imagine it was my 13-year-old daughter Tess, who had been struggling with the piano for the past five years, getting by with practicing for 15 or 20 minutes just before her weekly lesson. I actually thought we had an unexpected guest.

I'm not your typical parent in this age of Race to the Top and Common Core Standards. I don't care so much how my kids do on the test, whether they can remember the names of Columbus' three boats (it was three, wasn't it?) or how many AP courses they are going to take in high school. I'm not much concerned with the traditional ways that my kids' school or their teachers are being evaluated.

 

Collective Bargaining

Mark Roosevelt, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, says the district and its teachers union reached an agreement on a five-year contract that includes new pay elements focused on teacher performance.

TYLER TECHNOLOGIES

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In June 2010 DA magazine asked our advisory panel of administrators what their districts are doing for professional development as they face tighter budgets.

Professional development funding has taken a cut overall. According to DA's survey, 31 percent of administrators reported a decrease in professional development funding, and 38 percent said professional development was only available because of federal grants.

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