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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

MNPS Virtual School's New Principal!

Metro Nashville Public Schools announced yesterday that it had selected a new Principal for our MNPS Virtual School who will begin working with us April 9! The tiny but capable, earnest, tight-knit team here, who have been working together daily for a year and a half to bring online learning options to the students of Metro Nashville and Davidson County, find ourselves completely elated to welcome Dr. James Witty to our team.

Dr. Witty brings extensive policy making and programs oversight experience to our school and his experience with nontraditional schools at the State level will lend significant added value to our endeavors. We met with him in person at the School last week and he was most appreciative of the progress we have made, while clearly set on making strides that will result in a new model of virtual learning that will be a national one. First impressions are stellar ones, and we couldn't be more pleased with Dr. Register's selection of him as our new leader.

Meanwhile, we are supporting our students and teachers in every way we can, moving into the final 8 weeks of our first year as a school, toward graduating our first class of seniors on May 21st (though as a program we did send 7 seniors from our Virtual Learning Program out into the collegiate world last year).

Look for amazing things in 2012-13!

From the media release: “I am extremely excited to be a part of the innovative work of the Virtual School,” says Witty. “I have  dedicated my career to working on behalf of nontraditional learners. As MNPS continues to expand the number of pathways for students to earn a high school diploma, I am humbled to be a part of this innovative and important work. I look forward to leading the dynamic team at the Virtual School and making the school a national model.”

Friday, March 23, 2012

Podcamp Nashville 2012!

Hey, y'all, I am sooooo looking forward to sharing some of my insights (yes, I do have a few) from what I would say is my mixed bag of avocational and professional experiences in virtual three dimensional worlds at Podcamp Nashville 2012. You could help me out by visiting my session description and signing up to attend--I'd be beholden.

So would my avatar(s).
ISTE Field Trip to Reaction Grid, 2010

The schedule is not set in stone yet, either onsite or virtually, so you're not so much committing as you are indicating that, "Hey, this looks like something I could learn from!"

Did you know that there is a fully online distance learning high school where students attend as avatars and are assessed based on their creations within the 3D world? Did you have any inkling that the "biggest" virtual world reports over 250 million users? Or that that the recognized research authority lists the top 15 virtual world platforms and that the one most often referenced as the keystone, Linden Lab's Second Life, is not anywhere on that list? Do you know anyone who has met their life partner in a virtual world? Anyone who has ruined a relationship "in real life" by pursuing one "inworld?" I do.

Do you know that virtual economies often are linked to real ones for major real income?" What about this arena's incredible potential for training and professional development? How about those 6000+ educators who have joined the Second Life Group for the International Society for Technology in Education?

What about its potential to enhance the lives of physically challenged people? Those who cannot walk--can fly.

We'll cover as much of this as we can during "Virtual Worlds: What's in them for You?" at Podcamp Nashville 2012, with a panel of real people who are driving avatars in real time. The time has come for you to begin enhancing your work with play.

Can't make it down to Cadillac Ranch on Saturday, April 14? Come into Second Life to ISTE SIGVE, the new home of the ISTE Special Interest Group for Virtual Environments. Either way, do take a minute to Sign Up at the Sessions site! While you're there, look over all the sessions! I'll be doing some live-blogging whilst not in my own session. Make a request for me to live-blog a session for you by commenting on this post!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

ISTE Senior Director of Education Leadership -- call to apply

ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education, is on the hunt for a top-tier educational thought leader who is primed to lead, inspire, and impact the lives of educators worldwide in the years to come. This new Senior Director of Education Leadership will help forge the future of ISTE's education services, products, and resources and become an essential part of the ISTE Leadership Team. Preference will be given to strategic thinkers and skilled implementers, who understand key concepts behind transformative leadership at the systems level, including practical application throughout the K–12 education enterprise.

Consideration will be given to applicants with an active and current national (preferably global) network of leading educators. Specific knowledge about the delivery and measurement of effective professional learning experiences, demonstrated credibility in the field of education, and a passion for remaining current with digital age learning and teaching skills are a must. ISTE seeks applicants with outstanding internal and external communications skills and a strong track record of turning strategic ideas into positive results. ISTE's Senior Director of Education Leadership will be responsible for leveraging ISTE services, products, and resources to achieve consistent and predictable revenue targets to fuel the organization and increase the reach of its mission globally. Identifying and driving new opportunities and alliances for content creation, curation, and dissemination will serve as the cornerstone of this visible position. For more information on this position, which is located in Eugene, Oregon, please visit

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

ISTE SIG Leadership Positions Election Now Open!

For those of you who are members of ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education, I want to share the ballot for Special Interest Groups positions in the ongoing election, which closes April 12. Here's the announcement from ISTE, along with a list of the candidates for SIG positions (links disabled, but enabled at the ISTE voting site). 

I am pleased with the opportunity to serve SIGOL, the Special Interest Group for Online Learning, and especially to be in the company of such a big ticket of talented educators. I won't be doing a lot of campaigning for this position, choosing rather to let nature take its course with the confidence that any one of these ISTE members, many of whom are friends, will do a bang-up job as Professional Development Chair for SIGOL.

April 08, 2010
Calling all ISTE members! If you haven't yet chosen your preferred candidates in the ISTE board elections, please review the voter's guide and cast your ballot by 5 pm pacific/8 pm eastern on April 12. Make your voice heard!

2010 ISTE Board Elections 


The 2010 ISTE Board Elections are open March 11-April 12, 2010, at 5 P.M. (Pacific Time). Election results will be announced at the end of April on ISTE's Web site. ISTE thanks every member who took time to vote in this year's election. Voting is for ISTE Members only. Vote now through April 12
Voting is open to ISTE members only, so join now to make your voice heard! Read more about the candidates for each open position in the voter's guide (members only, login required).

Administrators (SIGAdmin) Communications Officer
Dodie Ainslie
Gerald Aungst
Jaime Lassman

Administrators (SIGAdmin) Vice Chair
Raluca Diana Bidulescu
Stacy Hawthorne
Vicky Creasy

Innovative Learning Technologies (SIGILT) Professional Development Chair
Jon Knolle
Kimberly Ingram

Innovative Learning Technologies (SIGILT) Member at Large
Bill Bass
Stacy Hawthorne
Vicky Creasy

Innovative Learning Technologies (SIGILT) Chair Elect
Gayle Berthiaume
Yasemin Allsop

Online Learning (SIGOL) Professional Development Chair
David Deeds
Elaine Plybon
John Ross
Jon Knolle
Kimberly Ingram
Rebecca Kelly
Robert Cole
Scott Merrick
Tara Park

Techer Educators (SIGTE) Membership Involvement Coordinator
Kimberly LaPrairie
Laurie Fowler
Susan Williams

Teacher Educators (SIGTE) Communications Officer
Blanche O'Bannon
Mia Williams
Randy Hansen

Friday, March 09, 2012

Changes at Virtual School

Today is the last day for our Coordinator/Acting Principal's tenure at MNPS Virtual School. Our staff is now comprised of a full-time Specialist (moi), a full-time Senior Secretary, a 10-month Registrar, and a 10-month Counselor. A Principal's position has been posted to replace our lost colleague, whom we will all miss. Until then, it's "just us chilrens here" (sic).

MNPS Virtual School on the 3rd floor of Cohn Adult Learning Center

We're serving 49 Full-Time students this semester. We serve 152 "Hybrid" students, those taking one or more online classes with us and our Adjunct Faculty of 18 teachers while attending their bricks-and-mortar schools for a school day. These numbers represent exponential service growth by a factor of 3 over the Fall semester and we believe will continue to grow exponentially as we look to the future in school year 2012-13. Most of them are High-Schoolers, but we have pockets of Middle Schoolers taking Algebra I at their schools with our teacher and our curriculum and one Full-Time "beta" Middle Schooler. There's a lot of juggling going on.

Yesterday, we held an "Open House" for interested parties and several folks showed up, surprisingly none who did so because they were investigating the options for their own children. They were each from professional fields who came because they just wanted to see what it was all about. I found myself starting from the basics of our work and explaining in detail how things worked, to the point of actually demonstrating the courseware on the LED projector. This got me thinking.

We need some marketing. Despite some prominent--and more or less accurate--news coverage a while back (see the News page at our school's website), the overwhelmingly prevalent response when we mention what we do is a perplexed expression accompanied by something on the order of "Wait. You're a real school?" It doesn't matter what the demographic of the audience is: No one really knows what we do but us. Well, us and the students, parents, and in-school representatives, mostly Counselors, whom we serve.

This has to change. I'm wondering what other virtual schools are doing to help bridge the gap between the traditional understanding of what school is and the understanding of the revisions our work brings to the definition of "school." I'm planning to reach out in several ways to my Professional Learning Communities/Networks over the next week or so with that question. We could use your help. If you have some knowledge of ways this "understanding gap" is being bridged, please share; or if you think you know someone who knows something about this set of issues, please pass this post along. Thanks, and have a great weekend!!!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Social Exclusion

My pal Kevin Jarrett recently asked me for a copy of an image I snapped on the way to NSA with my son Colin last week. BTW, Kevin has an excellent educational blog and Colin will be releasing a 4 original song EP in the next month or so. Both those individuals bear following wherever you may find them.

I sent him the picture and he turned it into a stunning statement about bullying. I republish here toward sharing with as broad an audience as possible. Feel free to pass it around...

Social Exclusion


Gus by Scott Gardner Merrick  I wear these navy slacks I found behind O'Shaugnessy's, in the dumpster there. And they'r...