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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Son to the Boy!

Just in time for Christmas, my dear pal James Morrison, recording as James Paige Morrison to satisfy industry protocol in the light of that Country Music interloper who shares his moniker, has released "Son to the Boy," an amazing, masterful, musically and lyrically rich assortment of jewels from his thoughtful, caring, loving, introspective, and humorous mind. CD Baby has yet to get their gift certificate act together or all of you would be getting one from me. This is true listening pleasure, ya'll, and I highly encourage you to gift yourself its magic.

Of particular note (though there's not a lacking cut on the recording) is "Lifeguard Girl," an airy fantasy that features the underlying current of my lovely daughter, Miranda, who flew out to L.A. to help with that cut. I'm proud--proud of her, proud of my brother-from-another-mother, and proud of you for taking the time to check out

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Immersive Australia: Education--A new modality for learning, collaboration, and knowledge production

I came across this report via the SLED listserv the other day and emailed its author, Mandy Salomon, to request a copy. She promptly emailed me one, and when I read it...well, read it yourself!

Thank you, Mandy, for sharing so openly your hard work and excellent research. IIA_Edu_18Dec

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Learning Environments--a Current Buzzword, Eh?

Yup, it is, but there's a good reason for it. My own team at MNPS Virtual Learning is studying about Instructional Design via "Designing Effective Instruction" by Morrison, Ross, and Kemp, and the focus of the ISTE Leadership Symposium in Denver last summer, led by Chris Johnson, was learningspacedesign (HEY, that's me and Kathy with Lee and others in one of those pics!). The cover story of the Dec.-January Leading and Learning with Technology is, guess what, "Design New Spaces for Learning." (I have a little POINT-COUNTERPOINT piece in that issue, by the way.)

But I digress. Here's the share for the day: David Thornbug, the fabulously driven educational change advocate, recently presented on the topic at TEDx TLN, an event that took place in Phoenix, Arizona. This video, a presentation David calls "Learning on the Holodeck: Theaters Without Audiences," just became available at YouTube and I want so much to share it that I'm embedding it here.

The punch line is worth waiting for. Wait for it...wait for it...

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Tennessee Educational Technology Conference 2010

I spent much of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday schmoozing and attending sessions at this year's Tennessee Educational Technology Conference at the Nashville Convention Center. Let me just say this: Any conference that centers around educational technology needs to make sure their gathering place provides ample free wi-fi for its attendees. I know it's an old building, but they've done better at that in the past. Many of the attendees at these things need to be connected and they don't need to have to pay for a very laggy top-floor-only connection or plug into a hardwired laptop on the vendor floor. Just sayin'.

That's better. Now. This was a great conference for me because I

  1. met Debi Crabtree, Virtual Learning Coordinator for  Hamilton County Virtual Schools (and I'm still wondering why they can call their program a "school" and we can't) and her partner in presentation, Betsy Norris, and to sit in on several of their 5, count 'em, 5 presentations;
  2. got to watch my boss, Kecia Ray, present twice;
  3. discovered, thanks to Debi, CompassLearning, an online course provider that Debi says is "the most interactive and engaging content out there." I'll be reviewing that content this coming week for our own program; and
  4. attended friend Rusthon Hurley's keynote address, where he emphasized the power of video in education.
I only had my Samsung "dumbphone" with me for picture taking, though I did also snap a couple things with the Mac PhotoBooth program, so though I apologize for the quality of the snapshots, I'm posting those four pics right here:
e4tn presentation re a new Middle School beta
program for online learning

e4tn demos their LiveScribe exploration

Debi Crabtree shares Web 2.0 resources. I even learned 
a few new tricks. I am grateful to Debi for her sharing spirit and 
her eloquence and I soooo look forward to our future

Rushton Hurley wows a packed house

Thanks to the organizers of the conference for a rich learning experience, despite the missing ubiquitous wi-fi. Sorry to my tweetz and other PLN for the lack of communication during the conference! I'll share out some resources here later!!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Professional Networking for Lifelong Learning

My thanks to the organizers of Texas's Virtual Education Conference '10, held this week Nov. 9 through 12, for the opportunity to meet a quality handful of new colleagues via my presentation last night. I did prepare a PowerPoint for it, though through the effort of adapting that object to the Elluminate10 platform I'm beginning to see value in starting out building a presentation in its whiteboard-based interface and will likely play with that during February's 4 webinar series with ESBOCES in New York. At any rate, on my way to my morning treadmill workout I want to offer the original PowerPoint here.

Focusing on only three elements of a PLN, it's chocked full of resources for an educator just starting out building a one, which for me has two "P's," Professional and Personal. Maybe I'll start abbreviating it "P/PLN" to make that point.

The 1 hour mini-event, moderated magnificently by Kim Caise, will be archived at the site, and if it's available via guest access I'll post the link to it right here. I had fun, and I learned some things myself. Please feel free to share:

Monday, November 08, 2010

Reposting Again, Another Opportunity to Share

I consider David Warlick a friend. Back in 2007 I was teaching a week of Web 2.0 exploration to a group of teachers and David spent an hour of his time chatting with us, an hour borne of our acquaintance through ISTE and subsequent conversations about education. A resulting artifact was podcast number 59 of my "Snacks4theBrain!" series, an interview, music show I produced back then for the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach. You can read (and listen) all about that at the Snacks4theBrain! podcast website

Zoom to present day, where you are encouraged to add to your calendar David's live share, detailed below, this Wednesday night via the K12 Online Conference. I regret to admit that I haven't participated at all in this annual event, but only because my personal and professional life has been so busy. Perhaps I'll see you in one or another event this week, or perhaps I'll see you at David's live post-conference keynote. I hope so.

Via email this morning:

Subject: Post-Conference Keynote Presenter Live 

Fireside Chat with David Warlick

A message to all members of K12 Online Conference

Hello everyone! I wanted to invite you to continue to view the 2010 K12 Online Conference presentations including the post conference keynote presentation by David Warlick - 'A Gardener's Approach to Learning'. The culminating live event of the K12 Online Conference will this Wednesday, November 10th at 7pmEST/11pm GMT.The session will be in Elluminate and accessible via either of the following links:

Date: November 10, 2010
Time: 7pm EST/12am (next day) GMT
Short URL:
Full link:

Mark your calendars with this event and stay tuned for more details with invitations to participate in the live Echo sessions held at EdTechTalk throughout the remainder of 2010 and 2011. The Live Events committee will continue to share details and additional live events after the 2010 conference and before the 2011 conference.

The 2010 K12 Online Conference has been a fantastic two weeks with amazing videos from presenters around the world. The Live Events Committee hosted several events throughout the conference and will continue into the new year. We hope to cross paths at the Global Education Conference hosted by Steve Hargadon and Lucy Gray. Many of the current and past K12 Online Conference presenters will again share the wealth of their knowledge throughout the five days the Global Education Conference will be held. Be sure to check the schedule and support conference presenters by attending, engaging or volunteering to assist with conference sessions at the #globaledcon10 website.

Have a great week,
Kim Caise
K12 Online Organizer Team

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Make Plans to Participate in the 2010 Global Education Conference, November 15 - 19!

While my two colleagues are planning to leave me behind to hold down the fort at the end of next week when they traipse on out to Arizona for the iNACOL 2010 Virtual School Symposium, I'm planning to, well, hold down the fort at MNPS Virtual Learning, but I'm also planning to attend another conference, all from the comfort of my own little (admittedly techtripped-out) cubicle. Thanks to Steve and Luuuuuuuuuuucy (I have to say it that way every time I see her, for some inexplicable and likely juvenile reason) for making this happen. I repost content from the Global Education Conference website here in the sincere hope that I'll see some of you there (virtually, of course!). Here 'tis:

Bienvenue! Welcome! 歡迎! Willkommen! Benvenuto! 
Seja bem-vindo(a)! Bienvenido!

The 2010 Global Education Conference will be held November 15 - 19, 2010, online and free. Sessions (do check this list out! You'll be AMAZED) will be held in multiple time zones and multiple languages over the five days.

The conference is a collaborative and world-wide community effort to significantly increase opportunities for globally-connecting education activities and initiatives.

There is no formal registration required for the conference, as all the sessions will be open and public, broadcast live using the Elluminate platform, and available in recorded formats afterwards. Links to watch the sessions will be posted a few days before the conference begins, in the "Sessions" and "Schedule" pages, and recording links will be listed soon thereafter. To verify that your computer system is configured correctly to access Elluminate, please run the self-test here.

We are currently looking for volunteers to help moderate session--please check here if you can help (and thanks!).

Thank you for your interest,

Steve Hargadon

Lucy Gray

A Spanish/Espanol version of the site is here.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

If You Teach, Enjoy This. If You Don't, You May Not...

I'm reluctant, in large measure due to the oft-expressed opinion of my dear friend Cathy Walker that too many would-be Web pundits don't really do anything--they only collect and re-publicize the original work of others, to share this, but omg I have to:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Utopian Visions? Possibilities? Something...Virtual Pioneers Closing Keynote October 30, 2010

Thanks to the folks who attended my closing keynote for the two-day Virtual Pioneers History Conference in Second Life last evening. Spiff/Andy had asked me to close with some visions for the future of education, and I kind of went wild. Though one attendee rather rudely backchatted his boredom during the opening wrap up and summary, I appear to have stifled his criticism, at least to some degree, with the following presentation. I spiffed it up (pun intended) a bit after subsequent dinner conversation with my lovely wife, who serves up the best pushback from the point of view of a parent and educator. The backchat text file is at .

Here 'tis. I may add some audio, but for now as you view it you should likely put on the Beatles "Revolution" or virtually any Ratatat, either one played very loud...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gary Stager's "Must Read" List for School "Reform"

The esteemed Gary Stager, educational change advocate and a strong voice in the edublogosphere, last week posted a piece--on the new Huffington Post Education tab--which he, with characteristic aplomb, entitled, "Wanna be an School Reformer? You Better do your Homework!" I heartily encourage you to begin yours with a visit to that post and a thorough reading of Gary's careful and knowledgeable descriptions of the 18 books on his (though "admittedly subjective") list of essential required readings. I took a few minutes at the start of my work day to cull out just the titles with Gary's links to the books themselves, but only because I want a concise assignment sheet for myself in order to search my local public library (that "teacher's salary" issue ;).

[Posted later, a pic of my growing collection from the public library, shared with my colleagues at my cubby]:
Steve Hargadon, through whose Facebook post I became aware of Gary's article, suggests that "we need to do a book study of these." I concur. As I say, please do read the original post, but if you need the cheat sheet I submit it here, along with Gary's comment preceding his must-read list:

"The following books are appropriate for parents, teachers, administrators, politicians and plain old citizens committed to the ideal of sustaining a joyful, excellent and democratic public education for every child."
A Schoolmaster of the Great City: A Progressive Education Pioneer's Vision for Urban Schools, Angelo Patri

Dr. Seymour Sarason, The Skeptical Visionary: A Seymour Sarason Reader, The Predictable Failure of Educational Reform: Can We Change Course Before It's Too Late, And What do YOU Mean by Learning, Political Leadership and Educational Failure and Charter Schools: Another Flawed Educational Reform?

Seymour Papert, The Children's Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer

The Big Picture: Education Is Everyone's Business by Dennis Littky and Littky's biography, Doc: The Story Of Dennis Littky And His Fight For A Better School, by Susan Kammeraad-Campbell

Deborah Meier, In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization

The Schools our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and "Tougher Standards" and The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools by Alfie Kohn

Dr. Theodore Sizer, Horace's Compromise

Jonathan Kozol, Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope

Herbert Kohl, The Herb Kohl Reader: Awakening the Heart of Teaching

Susan Ohanian and Kathy Emery, Why is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools?

Gerald Bracey published, Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality - Transforming the Fire Consuming America's Schools

Not With Our Kids You Don't! Ten Strategies to Save Our Schools by Juanita Doyon

Go for it! And let me know when you're ready to have that book study group!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sir Ken Robinson Helps Me Out (Again)

Okay, just to make sure you watch this. I've Facebooked, tweeted, emailed, and done everything but run screaming through the streets to share this 11 minutes of reasonableness with others. Here's my last effort (today, anyway) to nominate Sir Ken Robinson for a Global Reason Award. Is there such a thing? Maybe not, but there should be. I started off my MNPS SWAP session by sharing this with the 18 K-12 teachers who were really there for a Web 2.0 learning day. I said it was "to let you know where I'm coming from, here." Here:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Web 2.0 for US! Session at Martin Professional Development Center 101910

I had a great time yesterday facilitating an all-day Web 2.0 (and beyond) session for 18 MNPS teachers. The participants were a very nicely balanced mix of elementary, middle, and high school teachers and we got right into it at 8:37 a.m. The class was supposed to get underway at 8:30 but my watch (this has never before happened) inexplicably stopped at 8:16 and I kept glancing at it thinking, "we have a few more minutes" until I thought "It's been 8:16 for quite some time. Has time stopped?"

Off we went. The session was guided by the PowerPoint/GooglePresentation embedded here and underscored by dialog in a live chat room at I have now pasted the chat log into slides at the end of the pressie and added a few replies to questions or comments I didn't see because I was sharing my little heart out up front of the room. The final slide shares a bit of my own reflection on the day's work.

Please take a few minutes (11, which you will not regret) to view the Ken Robinson presentation we started the day with, because as I said, "I want you to know where I'm coming from..."

Thanks again to all my wonderful new colleagues and my hearty encouragement to you to keep the faith and keep your change moving in the right direction. On of our main support structures at Virtual Learning is "Do the next right thing for our students." You know what it is. You are good teachers.

Here is:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Virtual Pioneers Online History Conference!

Come and join in the 3D immersive fun and learn while you do it!

 Second Life and OpenSimulator, two important artifacts of future history, are continually providing new ways to see, hear, and personally experience the past. Other 3D platforms are doing so as well, and in the course of these presentations over a two day period, as you drop in when your own schedule allows, you will see what all this can mean for learning and teaching over the next generation. Read the press release for the conference.

Andrew Wheelock (Spiff Whitfield) has facilitated into being a group of around 200 educators interested in exploring history in virtual worlds. The Virtual Worlds Pioneers has been going strong for years now, having started out in a Ning and migrating to (as did so many other communities) when Ning dumped their free-for-education policy. The new address is at and I heartily encourage you to join.

Why? Because VWP consistently offers events in virtual worlds where educators can share a passion for history. In doing so, they build friendships that can last a lifetime. Two lifetimes, even...

If you don't have a Second Life avatar, now's the time. Simply visit and get one for free. Play around with it for half an hour prior to the conference so you will be able to sit or walk without sitting on someone's head (considered rude in any historical period or culture) or bumping into others embarrassingly. 

This is the first ever VWP online history conference, but it won't be the last. Themed "Re-Create, Educate, Illuminate--Learning History Virtually," it runs Friday and Saturday, October 29 and 30, coming up in just under two weeks. I'll be wrapping up the conference with a closing keynote on Saturday, 4 pm SL (Pacific) time, to be followed by a "Closing Celebration- Socializing, dancing, prizes, and music!" The entire schedule is available online at the conference website and it looks to be a doozy! 

Heck, I'll save you a click or two:

Saturday, October 29:
 Date         Time (SL time)    Session    SLURL



Kimmer Jameson from PBS Eight will inspire us with her blend of great teacher resources that can adapt to Virtual Environment history.

Virtual Pioneer Headquarters
Csteph Submariner will lead us on a tour of this unbelievably detailed and historically accurate sim that highlights the trials and poetry of this era in world history.

Western Front


Jacon Cortes
 will take us on a tour of Antiquity Texas, an 1800's role playing sim in the Antiquty Community of Victorian Sims and ruled under the gracious hand of the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Antiqutiy. Jacon has a superior knowledge of this time period as well as tremendous skill as a Second Life designer and builder. Please join us on this fantastic tour.

Antiquity Texas

Eureka Dejavu
- Understanding Islam in Virtual Worlds
 Virtual Pioneer Headquarters

Tamsin Barzane
- The Yoruba Light Project (still under construction) connects the past and present of the West African Yoruba people to Salvador da Bahia in Brazil and to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
 Yoruba Light

Saturday, October 30:
 Date Time (SL) Description    SLURL



BigD Flanagan- Join BigDin a discussion of team teaching Social Studies in the secondary setting.  BigD has 17 years of History teaching experience to bring to this topic.  The subject lends itself to a wide array of teaching approaches and practices.




Shenlei Flasheart-Overview of the 1:1 simulation of the Gettysburg Battlefield being developed in the openSim-based ScienceSim grid. Discuss how educators can become involved in this large-scale, big picture project to fully simulate the critical, 3 day Battle of Gettyburg.

Virtual Pioneer Headquarters


Norma Underwood
 -Historical Building by Students. Come see the Lincoln Memorial and a Holocaust Memorial built on a Second Life Teen Estate and moved to the Reaction Grid. If you are interested in re-enactments or role-playing, this shows what 13 and 14 yr olds are capable of doing.

Reaction Grid



DrM Magic- Connections Through Cultural Dynamics DrM & Students will present a cultural quilt of history and familial dynamics that bring educators and students together through a historic poster presentation blanketing their comforting past, gingerly gifting it to 21st Century learners! 



Ydnar Seljan-A Walk Through History with Language


Nany Kayo
- Dias de Los Muertos-The Day of the Dead -Exploring this unique Mexican holiday.

Smithsonian Museum of Latino Music



Closing Speaker- Scott MerrickOh- Will wrap up our conference as only Scott can, by inspiring us with the future of virtual environments and education.



Closing Celebration- Socializing, dancing, prizes, and music!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Marc Prensky on digital_nation: life on the virtual frontier

I'm cruising around looking for resources that will contribute to understanding for attendees of my Web2.0 for US! professional development session next Tuesday for Metro Nashville Public Schools teachers and came across this wonderful just-over-4-minute snippet from the PBS project digital_nation: life on the virtual frontier. I think it says a lot of what I'm moving toward in my own thinking and I thought I'd share it out with you, dear reader. I'd also like to point you to a recently published Education World interview with my colleague-in-change Will Richardson (well, okay, he's really an idol). In it he points out some obvious areas for change and admits frustration with the snail's pace rate of it. Here's a sort of a "re-tweet" from Twitter:

 Scott SIGVE Merrick 

Thursday, October 07, 2010

artclectic preview, ya'll

I'm just sayin' -- if you are anywhere near Nashville the 3rd week of October, and you fail to visit artclectic 2010, you're playin' de foooooooool.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

"Lives" is now available on Kindle!

From Amazon today!

Lives relates one soul's journeys through three times: the American Civil War, mid 20th Century middle-class America, and a post-holocaust future in which the protagonist might well be the only man left on the planet. (Contains sexual references and scenes of violence in a dramatic context.) It has been described as a contemporary-historical-sciencefiction-futuristic-fantasy. The author welcomes categorizations from readers...


Congratulations! The book(s) you recently submitted has published to the Kindle Store. Please note that while the title is available for readers to purchase now, the product description and links to the book’s physical counterpart may take up to 48 hours to appear on the book’s detail page.

Here’s a link to your book(s) in the Kindle store:
Lives |

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Live Interactive Event Monday--Come Join the Discussion!

From, an invitation: 

Date: Monday, October 4, 2010
Time: 2pm Pacific / 5pm Eastern / 9pm GMT (international times here)
Duration: 2 hours
Location: In Elluminate. Log in at The Elluminate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Elluminate, please visit Recordings of the session will be posted within a day of the event at the event page.
Event and Recording Page:
Hashtag:  #elev8ed
Charting the Course of Teaching and Learning in a Networked World

A message to all members of The Future of Education

Between the NBC "Education Nation" SummitWaiting for SupermanThe Oprah Winfrey Show, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million gift to Newark city schools, there has been a lot of media attention focused on the topic of education reform. Unfortunately, much of it has excluded actual educators, let alone students. Furthermore, and perhaps as a consequence, the dialog has become divisive, blaming, and ultimately counter-productive. and Edutopia are collaborating this coming Monday on a two-hour live and interactive look at "Elevating the Education Reform Dialog"--an online discussion with special guests and specifically for educators,  to help move past the bashing and to engage in a constructive conversation about the best way forward.  Connection details are at the bottom of this post.  Confirmed speakers include:
                             Julie Evans is the CEO of the national education nonprofit organization, Project Tomorrow ( whose mission is to ensure that today's students are well prepared to become tomorrow's leaders, innovators and engaged citizens of the world.
Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The author of eleven books and scores of articles, he lectures at education conferences and universities as well as to parent groups and corporations.

Chris Lehmann is the founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy, a progressive science and technology high school in Philadelphia, PA. The Science Leadership Academy is an inquiry-driven, project-based, 1:1 laptop school that is considered to be one of the pioneers of the School 2.0 movement nationally and internationally.

Deborah Meier has spent more than three decades working in public education as a teacher, principal, writer, advocate, and ranks among the most acclaimed leaders of the school reform movement in the U.S.

Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. In addition, she is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.  She shares a blog called Bridging Differences with Deborah Meier, hosted by Education Week. She also blogs for and the Huffington Post.

Will Richardson considers himself an "evangelist" for the use of Weblogs, RSS and related Internet technologies in classrooms and schools. Over the past six years he's had the chance to speak and work with thousands of educators from around the world on the merits of "The Read/Write Web." He was a classroom teacher for over 20 years who integrated these technologies into his curricula for over four years.

Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources. He has worked with governments in Europe, Asia and the USA, with international agencies, Fortune 500 companies, and some of the world’s leading cultural organizations.

Since 1982, Gary Stager, PhD, an internationally recognized educator, speaker and consultant, has helped learners of all ages on six continents embrace the power of computers as intellectual laboratories and vehicles for self-expression. 

Friday, October 01, 2010

I'm on for ESBOCES Webinars in February


ESBOCES in New York is setting up a cool year of professional development for their administrators and teachers, and I've been asked to belly up for a 4 week series of weekly webinars on the general topic of Leadership in education. Cool!

New! Model Schools Virtual Technology Leadership Series
Get inspired from the comfort of your own home! 

All administrators and interested teachers are invited to join us for this exciting and inspiring technology leadership series.  Participants will be given the opportunity to learn from and interface with technology subject matter experts.  This Leadership Series is designed to broaden your perspective on technology and its application to improving teaching and learning.   Each series will run once a week for four weeks and will feature a different technology expert. Weekly webcasts will be followed by additional on-line interaction (blogging, discussions, etc.) and will allow you the chance to interact with technology leaders from other districts as well.

Here's some info on my contributions to this innovative effort, and I'll post links for participation here once everything's set in virtual stone:

February 2, 9, 16 and March 2, 2011, from 8-9pm EST, facilitated by Elluminate

Scott Merrick--Innovative Leadership: a Contradiction in Terms?

An essential element of effective leadership is making sure our academic institutions improve and thrive. Or is it? For example, maintaining an ongoing plan for Professional Development can be well nigh impossible: What works one year may not work the next. What one school needs may not be what another needs. Are our schools and our school districts missing something important that may, if not "save the day," at least help in particular settings? This four-week set of hour long interactions will focus on several general topics through the perspectives its presenter has developed over the last decade of teaching, teacher training, volunteer work, and professional practice. The topics are at this writing subject to change, but they will likely include the following:

  • The Read-Write Web and what that means for teaching practice, professional development, and personal satisfaction
  • Personal Learning Networks, Professional Learning Networks, and the big question--"Why Bother?"
  • 3Dimensional Immersive Environments--Sense of Presence at a Distance and Why You Want It
  • Distance Education in K12--"Disantiquating" Schools and Schooling with Virtual Learning


Monday, September 27, 2010

Education Nation Attempts to Talk about It!

Did you miss the highly touted EducationNation broadcast on NBC yesterday?

I didn't, though I did check out before its ending. As a chat participant who did the best he could to be an active participant, it was immensely frustrating to be one of 6,000 educators  who had been given access to the live chat stream--only to discover that it was being filtered manually by a reader who was then reposting comments into CoverItLive.

I've use CIL myself some over the past couple years, and I must say I'm in awe of the chutzpah shown by this attempt. And I'd bet that I'm not alone in spending an hour of my time in a conversation that really wasn't one.

Don't get me wrong, the attempt was epic. I'm just saying that if dialog didn't move beyond trying to "fix" the current educational system into some right radical ideas for right radical restructuring, nay, re-imagining, then all the fol-de-rol was just that, and balderdash, too. Discussions about "are teachers under attack?" and arguments about teacher tenure just aren't enough. 

Since I didn't get any of my comments into the live chat, I am going to pull a few onto this blog post from the Facebook page set up for an alternative outlet. To my mind, this was a far better venue for the dialog than CoverItLive, but that could be just because I felt a modicum of dialog was going on there since immediate feedback from "likes" or comments on my comments could be seen immediately. Here are the comments, then I'm taking off out of the office for home. Without sounding despairing, because I'm not, really, I plan to wake up tomorrow to try to make some change in a system that is antiquated and held in place only because it's supported by the 7 most dangerous words in the English language, "That's the way we've always done it."

(After 30 minutes of searching for my now "older comments." I give up, but I will spend some time tomorrow working through the current topics. I hope they're not as dead-end as they were when I tried to participate...


Thursday, September 09, 2010

New Research on Study Habits: We've got it all wrong.

This is a most interesting NYTimes article about new research centered around the best way(s) to study/learn. It seems the most important think (though certainly not the only important thing) is motivation, something we can almost certainly assume our Virtual Learning kids have from the get-go. Thanks to USN's Justin Karpinos for sharing it and to Lee Ann for passing it along to me! is the article. 

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Gravity Arc

I was just walking the big black dawg, on one of the very first pleasant evenings of the fall. I watched a bird flying and had a moment where an analogy formed and I want to share it.

Gravity Arc.

A sparrow flew out in front of us. You've all seen this, I know you have. The tiny bird flew in spurts, beating its little wings and gliding and falling, then beating its little wings again to proceed. I thought, "That fall must have a name, let's call it the Gravity Arc." That's the space it falls in, where gravity takes over, it rests, and, inevitably, it works again. That's where we are now, in the Gravity Arc.

We presented our program to the Metro Nashville Public Schools Board of Directors today. Barbra set out the state of our progress to date: Website creation, identifying students in our core pioneer group of 13 students, all with qualifying states of their own education that made them prime candidates for involvement in our first group of full-time students, all eager to learn in ways that traditional schooling fails them, all with parents who want them to succeed. Kecia shared some important legislative issues we need to deal with. The Board was interested, supportive, and I think visibly excited for the possibilities. Our key advocate, Jay Steele, MNPS Associate Supervisor of High Schools, was supportive and vocal. I do believe that I heard a little tentative applause at the end of our presentation. We went back to work, involved ourselves in the incredibly difficult and insanely complicated task of enrolling our pioneers into online classes. Flapping our wings we were.

Tonight, I'm walking the dog, and I'm watching that sparrow (maybe a wren: no matter) and thinking, "This is what I'm doing now, falling, resting, and the inevitable next thing is flapping our wings again to make the next forward progress. Tomorrow."

The process is predictable and repetitious. The path is not. The path is forward.

I hope this analogy will help those of you who are making progress. I'm happy tonight in ways I haven't been happy in a long, long time.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Words, words, words...

My dear friend Cathy Walker, of the uber-innovative initiative MUVE Market, has often expressed an opinion just this side of disdain for the blogger or tweeter who only parrots what he's heard in the dialog, creating online presence completely based on others' thoughts. I personally think there's a place to that but I also value the extra input generated by those who contribute to the viral discussion. So much information is flowing by that the more a brilliant thought is repeated the more likely it is that I won't miss it altogether.

I hope, though, that this characterization is not applicable to me. That said, I'm parroting here.

I discovered Sam Chaltain's blog yesterday evening on Facebook, his "We Need a New Set of Words, Words, Words" post called to my attention by a share out statussed by Bonnie Brace Sutton, an educator I've never met in person but whose train of thought I get to glimpse occasionally through our connection on Facebook. Her post was basically a snippet of Chaltain's Shakespeare-fueled musings about the way our efforts in educational reform (there's another word that needs replacing) are crippled by our established lexicon, especially those old standby jargon staples "data, testing, and accountability." It was enough of a snack to make me want more, so I hopped on over to the original post.

I want to offer a couple of snacks here, then to hope that you'll do the same. How about:
"... it’s unquestionable that the words we use are somehow divorced from the essence of what schooling is all about — helping children unlock the mystery of who they are by acquiring the skills and self-confidence they need to be seen and heard (at college, in their careers, and as citizens in a democracy) in meaningful, responsible ways.

Why is the significance and power of this goal so absent from the most common vocabulary of the current reform movement? The optimistic side of me says it’s simply because we haven’t thought about it enough. The pessimistic side wonders if it’s because we’re so blinded by the current charade of labeling schools (or reform efforts) as successful or unsuccessful based on a single measure of success that we’ve come of believe our own press clippings: if the scores go up, we really are closing the achievement gap. If the scores stay stagnant or go down, we’ve made no progress whatsoever.
or chew on:
"Every time you want to talk about testing, talk about learning instead. Tests will always be a component of our education system. But take a moment to reflect back on your most powerful personal learning experience, and I can guarantee you it did not involve a test."
or, finally, and then you need to read the source, which will likely spur you to get your hands on a copy of Chaltain's book, American Schools: The Art of Creating a Democratic Learning Community:
" case you think this is flowery progressivism at its worst, you should know that I’m partially basing this notion on the insights of renown business guru Jim Collins, who says the best organizations create environments where employees need no motivation, and leaders trip up when they destroy that drive."
There you go. I've done my best. If I haven't spurred you to go read Chaltain's stellar post in its entirety, perhaps I've served by parroting some of the best bits...Cheers!

Friday, August 06, 2010

From Metro Nashville Public Schools News 08-06-2010

MNPS Virtual High School: A new era in education
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Aug 6, 2010) – Imagine the day that all 22 credits needed for high school graduation could be earned in a student’s own time, a time when students will be able to learn at their own pace earning credits based on mastery not seat time. Metro Nashville Public Schools is excited to say that day is here thanks to the district’s new Virtual High School.

“Virtual High School will open so many doors for so many students,” said Executive Director of Instructional Technology Dr. Kecia Ray. “We will now be able to meet students where they are on their path to finish high school on time and provide options for students where the traditional school or classroom is not conducive to their learning style. Our opportunities with Virtual High School are unlimited.”

For the 2010-11 school year, Virtual High School will seat 10-15 full-time students and will be able to seat more than a thousand part-time students at any given time. 

Full-time students can take up to three courses at a time. Though all courses will be taught entirely online, the group will be required to meet at least once each semester for non-academic reasons, such as social skills and bonding. Students will maintain a Virtual High School blog and other social elements to help them feel part of a bigger community.

“The beauty of virtual education is that students are in control of their own education,” said Associate Superintendent of High Schools Jay Steele. “We want to meet students where they are academically, regardless of age or geographic location.”

Upon completion of a course, they can immediately enroll in a new course, regardless of day or month. This will allow all students the opportunity for accelerated learning. Eligibility guidelines are still being developed, though five full-time students have already been identified for the upcoming school year. The district is now accepting full time students or students may enroll part time through their regular high school.

Ray explains this first class will be very small so that the district can “build out student support.”

“We have to be able to provide every student certain support services -- access to advisors and counselors, assistance with financial aid and post-secondary education opportunities, online resources like libraries, social networking -- all the things students in traditional high schools have access to. So we will start with a small group of full-time students in 2010-11, but we expect to be completely open by 2011.”

The school will also be open to students enrolled in other high schools in the district. These students will take a regular load of classes at their enrolled high school and be able to take additional courses online. This will benefit students who want to take classes not offered at their regular school, or those who want to get ahead but not miss out on the traditional high school experience. There will be a fee for non-Metro students; it has not been determined.

All students interested in Virtual High School must have access to a computer. Parents must also be prepared to learn. All parents of full-time students will be expected to participate in a training program that will teach them how to help their children.

About online learning
Online learning is different from e-learning, which MNPS already offers in the form of A+ Credit Recovery. While e-learning does not require an actual instructor, every online course has a full-time instructor. The teacher may be in another state, but he or she monitors and instructs the students daily.

MNPS will contract with an online learning vendor to locate and provide courses. The district will purchase so many “seats” which can be used for any course and any student. One of the greatest benefits to online learning is the unlimited number and type of courses MNPS will be able to offer students. According to Ray, “Japanese, AP Archaeology, you name it. If it’s out there, we can offer it.”

MNPS has a Coordinator for Virtual Learning and a Virtual Curriculum Specialist in place. Coordinator Barbra Thoeming worked with Florida Virtual School as an instructor and Instructional Manager. In addition, she was an online student during her Master’s Degree program. This gives her a unique insight into the needs of students, parents, and teachers in the virtual environment.  

Specialist Scott Merrick was recently selected as a National Association of Independent Schools “Teacher of the Future” and is chairperson of the Virtual Learning Environment Special Interest Group for Virtual Environments. He served 14 years as a Technology Coordinator at University School of Nashville.

Virtual High School will be funded through federal grants. This is the first school in our state to offer online learning in this capacity.

Important Reminder:
The 2010-2011 school year begins on Thursday, August 12, 2010, with new immunization requirements for pre-school, pre-K, kindergarten and 7th grade students. Vaccination information is available, in English and Spanish, at

- MNPS -

Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools serve more than 76,000 students with the goal of being the first choice for families in Nashville and Davidson County. The governing body for MNPS is the Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County Board of Public Education, a nine-member group elected by residents of Metropolitan Nashville. For more information, please visit

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