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Articles: Virtual

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.

 

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.

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.

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Some things are just meant to roam free, like chickens in a farmyard. But students in a computer lab? Take 30-45 students, sit them in front of unmonitored computers, and you get a free-range social club and an Internet caf?—not a classroom.

A weak economy paired with a national push to improve reading and math as well as other core subjects has left an important skill behind in K12 classrooms—digital media literacy.

On August 1st, the National Collegiate Athletic Association put into effect new standards for online courses high school athletes may take. High school athletes seeking admission to a Division I school will be required to have taken 16 NCAA approved core classes in English, physical or natural science, social science, math, foreign language, or comparative religion and/or philosophy. Because student athletes have such full schedules, the flexibility of online courses has made it a popular choice; however this flexibility has often meant more relaxed standards.

Imagine online learning communities. Personal learning networks. An Internet device for every teacher and student. Ubiquitous access to the Web.

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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Although the Internet has revolutionized communication and provided powerful new educational tools for student learning, it has also created risks and raised ethical issues for students of all grades, as it has created many opportunities for illegal, inappropriate and unsafe behavior among all participants.

Increasingly, K12 educators are seeing the need to not only utilize the Internet in instruction, but also to teach students the knowledge and critical thinking skills needed to be safe and responsible digital citizens both inside and outside of school.

 

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