Tuesday, November 14, 2006

One vision--who will accept the task?

Meg commented on my last post in which I just mentioned the possibilities for a model virtual school and she inquired:
“You mentioned a "virtual school"- what exactly would this look like?”
In my mind’s eye, this model virtual school would showcase classrooms:
  • in which students are regularly engaged in authentic, multidisciplinary learning tasks
  • where collaboration is a regular part of teaching, learning, and assessment
  • where collaborative relationships are common among students and staff
  • where students are flexibly grouped based on interest and need, and these groupings often cross grade-level boundaries
  • where the teacher is the primary architect of the learning environment and purposefully facilitates student learning with overt strategies for nurturing student independence
  • where students in these engaging environments:
• “Self-regulate, taking charge of and investing themselves in their learning.
• Develop and refine their learning and problem-solving strategies.
• Derive excitement and pleasure from learning.
• Collaborate with each other, their teachers, and their communities.” -source
So far, I haven’t even mentioned technology! That’s because I agree that:
“These learning environments that engage and motivate diverse groups of learners often rely heavily on technology in order to meet their goals. However, they don't meet the needs of diverse learners because of technology integration; they succeed because of careful design. Planners first must have a clear picture of the kinds of interactions and processes they want to achieve. Technology integration, then, should not be an outcome, but rather a part of the larger instructional design process.” --source
We’d see extensive use of technology in this model virtual school because:
“Appropriate technology integration happens because the instructional design of engaging learning environments requires an infrastructure that supports the communication, collaboration, and access to information central to the instructional paradigm.” -source
And I think that populating this envisioned school might take awhile because:
“The ability to implement an engaging instructional design does not come overnight. ACOT research shows that the evolution in thought and practice for most teachers undertaking the change from a traditional to a more engaged form of teaching is three to five years (Apple Computer, Inc., 2000). This evolution requires a shift in perceptions about the relationship between teachers, students, and knowledge, and these new perceptions must be agreed upon by all stakeholders.” -source
Right now, I think we are still stuck here! We need to encourage teaching practice whose focus is engaged learning and we need support from all the stakeholders!! I reached this conclusion following 3 years as a resource teacher in the instructional technology office of a large urban district. I left the classroom in 1998 because I thought, at that time, that technology had enhanced the learning of my students. Three years later, I returned to the classroom; I had slowly become very aware that it was not the technology but the pedagogy that had altered the learning in my classroom. My mindset as an educator had been profoundly altered upon my return. In my last classroom, my role was dramatically adjusted from “sage on the stage” to a “guide on the side,” from “giver of information” to designer of learning experiences. As my youngsters eagerly anticipated the new learning experiences I designed, I implemented more authentic, project-based lessons. I tried to change the face of the how I taught, what I taught, and how I requested evidence of student mastery. The technology became a transparent tool—the laptops, the online course, the video conferencing, the use of IM to focus students on the task— those were the result of intentional instructional design which was not easy, but was oh so powerful!!!!

If a virtual school could model all of this and become a nurturing environment, one that recognizes and addresses the fears of those resistant to change, one that helps to shape new behaviors, one that serves significant, meaningful and effective professional development, one that supports with suggestions and “Teflon lessons,” one that sends the message to educators ‘you are valued, you are an educator’-- then more educators may feel empowered and this virtual model could become the wind beneath their wings as they then seek to change the way children learn, what children learn, and how children share what they know using technology.

This doesn’t speak to how to plan the environment but perhaps a vision of??

In the planning, some energetic, inspired group of educators might collaborate to seek a grant to create such a model perhaps seeking various types of assistance from these types of resources:

Just as the K12 Online conference arose from a grassroots effort with a $0 budget, so could a model school, perhaps building off David Warlick’s, New Century Schoolhouse.

What learning and possibilities abound!!! It makes my entire body tingle with excitement!!!

Who might grab this vision and just run with it?? Or are we past my time??

1 comment:

Barbara Bray said...


I feel what you are asking for is something I created in 1999 and is expanding today (My eCoach) - this started as an idea way before that in David's New Century Schoolhouse and on my listserv. As a professional developer I was working in Oakland Unified managing a team of coaches for two large grants for 49 schools. We needed a place online to store resources and publish online. We tried other tools. Now we are in 31 states and 15 countries. One group we are working with is Forest Hills School District in Ohio - just what you were talking about. (Check out our newsletter blog: http://newsblog.my-ecoach.com

Our focus is building communities powered by coaching. We provide the infrastructure and training for the coach who builds and manages their own community. It is not the technology: it is the learning and the conversations. We found that you have to have a password-protected environment and the facilitator has to understand the environment so they can build a program that works for them. If you would like more information or a membership, you can contact me at barbara@my-ecoach.com or go to http://my-ecoach.com.
Barbara Bray