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Articles: Virtual

In January, the Jackson Public Schools became the first district in Mississippi to launch an evening high school that students attend from 2:30 to 8:30 p.m. It’s designed for students whose other commitments—such as jobs or caring for their own children or younger siblings—make traditional school hours difficult.

Schools provide blended learning opportunities in different ways. State-run virtual schools generally offer only online instruction.

Online learning activity in public districts has overtaken state-level virtual schools and charters, according to the 12th annual “Keeping Pace with K12 Digital Learning” report, released in December.

Poudre School District’s Global Academy ranked among the highest in the state of Colorado for student growth across all grades for the 2013-14 school year. 

No more snow days? Online instruction is replacing snow days in a growing number of school districts.

Sledding hills across the country may be a bit quieter this winter as snowstorms no longer mean a break from schoolwork for some students. An increasing number of districts are using e-learning to keep class in session during bad weather and to meet the required number of instruction days without having to add makeups to the calendar.

School systems in at least 10 states used up the year’s snow days by mid-February

The winter of record cold and heavy snow nationwide is finally over, but its impact persists even as students begin the countdown to summer break. Districts in several states are turning to online learning to make up for missed class time.

Students participating in the virtual field trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden watched horticulturalists demonstrate tree removal and the environmental impact of an invasive beetle.

Students from around the world have been traveling virtually to the White House, the Antarctic and the International Space Station thanks to a Google+ program that helps classrooms confined by budget cuts explore the world outside of school.

When deciding whether online learning is right for your district, many questions arise, from deciding on the best curriculum to how to properly onboard families. How to train staff and how success will be measured must also be thought through. This web seminar, originally broadcast on March 13, 2013, joined together online learning experts from across the country to discuss how they were able to successfully introduce online curriculum in their districts.

At the Chino Valley (Calif.) USD, Ruben S. Ayala Senior High School’s concert percussion ensemble uses digital displays from ViewSonic to enhance their performances. The vivid colors and crisp images that the displays project help make Ayala Senior High consistently one of the top teams in competitions. The ensemble can hang the signage with a crane 13 feet in the air, or use them as a stage and perform on top of them.

Schools are using digital signs more widely to convey information to students, faculty, and visitors. From emergency alerts to event schedules to touch screens to more creative uses—like backdrops for marching bands—digital signs are replacing posters that can clutter up a school, and are making communication more attractive, interactive, and efficient.

The evolution of digital signage

Open content, electronic textbooks, personalized learning, cloud technology and learning analytics are emerging technologies that K12 administrators will integrate into schools over the next few years, according to the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report on tech trends.

In addition, the report, which was released in June, predicts that within five years schools will be using even more far-out technology, including virtual labs, wearable technology, 3D printers and “augmented reality.”

Saikaly and his team make their way up Mount Everest.

Adventure filmmaker Elia Saikaly was approaching the top of Mount Everest Friday when he took some time out of the climb to speak to a high school classroom in Canada about his journey.

Students talked via Skype to Saikaly at his base at the mountain’s Camp 2, about 22,500 feet above sea level. They asked him about adjusting to the cold climate, his diet (lots of eggs, meat and potatoes), how to train for such a feat (plenty of exercise and hiking trips), and what keeps him motivated (hot showers, strawberries, and his family).

A student at the Beech Hill School in the Otis (Maine) School Department learns chemistry in a hands-on science lab over Skype.

Four students in Maine had the unique chance to study organisms on their shoreline this past year to help contribute research to a new chemical bond discovery that Vanderbilt University researchers made three years ago.

Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis observes students and educators participating in the Open Campus PA program.

This past school year has been a little less hectic for busy juniors and seniors at Hempfield High School, thanks to a new, unique online course-sharing initiative.

The Hempfield School District is in a suburban-rural community outside Lancaster, Pa., and is one of three local districts that have implemented Open Campus PA, a program that unites its high school with the nearby Penn Manor and Manheim Township districts’ high schools. The goal is to share teachers and selected online courses, allowing participating students to take online classes on their own time.

According to a recent survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 91 percent of adult internet users in the United States rely on search engines to find information, and 78 percent get news online. Similarly, among teenagers, where smartphone adoption increased substantially and mobile access to the internet is pervasive, one in four is a “cell-mostly” user who accesses the web through a cell phone. Online resources continue to shape every aspect of our lives, and are enriching, extending, and transforming schools.

To prevent high school students from dropping out, many districts nationwide are giving them the chance to recover credits via online classes, such as through Aventa Learning, Edgenuity, Pearson, and Plato, and seeing results.

“One of the biggest benefits is it provides schedule flexibility for the student,” says Gregg Levin, senior vice president of school solutions for K12, Inc., which offers online credit recovery courses through Aventa Learning. “This empowers them to learn with interactivity and multimedia, and more closely mirrors what they do outside the classroom.”

The first thing Bartow County Virtual Academy students learn is that online classes aren’t as easy as A, B, C. They’re also not for everyone.

Those also were early lessons for district administrators who opened the academy in January 2012 to 50 students—10 times as many as anticipated—in a former high school located an hour northwest of Atlanta. “A lot of kids thought it would be a piece of cake, but Aventa is very rigorous; you have to work,” says Jim Gottwald, executive director of secondary curriculum and student services for the Bartow County School System.

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