VSS 2009

I have returned from yet another iNACOL Virtual School Symposium and find that I can’t begin to say enough about the quality of the conference – including the outstanding presentations, sessions, food, and definitely the extensive level  of networking with colleagues from around the globe. I don’t know if it’s just a result of our common experience and passion for K-12 online learning or the exceptional conference management, but the level of energy I experienced is not something I see often at conferences.

Dr. Lisa Dawley and I presented on the progress we have made on phase III of our Going Virtual! research series examining professional development of K-12 online teachers – to a very lively and packed audience. Thanks to everybody who participated in our discussion on the complexities of evaluating the effectiveness of professional development – particularly when attempting to make linkages between training and improved learner outcomes. Through a series of pilot program evaluations we are attempting to define common data sets that might be useful when looking at effectiveness from a national perspective (given the limitless number of program and school models in existence). Thanks also to those program representatives who volunteered to participate when we decide to go national with this phase. You can view our presentation and phase I & II reports on the conference wiki site: http://vss2009.wikispaces.com/rice. To the best of my knowledge all session were recorded, but it doesn’t look like they have been made available yet.

Boise – Poland Connection

International CommitteeI had an opportunity to visit the University of Szczecin (Poland) in October as part of an International Committee attending the II Zachodniopmomorski Kongres Edukacy JNY (Westpomeranian Conference on Education). Our goal was to brainstorm ways in which we could collaborate on activities centered on exploration and examination of school reform.  In my case within an educational technology context – but not necessarily for all members of the committee. Overall, it was an eye-opening experience, in cultural similarities as much as in differences. Some observations:

  • We are all struggling with the same issues. During my visit, we conducted a planned visit to an elementary school. The administrators, teachers and students were warm, welcoming, generous, and gifted our committee with a wonderful lesson demonstrating the use of a Smartboard in classroom instruction. The activities were creative and well designed. The teacher explained to us that she had spent many, many hours developing them herself because there were no commercially available applications.
  • The focus is on respecting the rights of children and their innate right to a quality education. This was apparent in all aspects of the trip from our discussions of educational reform and the interest in online education, to the poster located in the main hall of the elementary school labeled “Rights of the Child” (or something similar) and signed by the Director of the Ministry of Education.
  • Directives are centralized and delivered in a top-down approach. Ministry of Education representation was included in the opening ceremonies, as was representation from many other government officials.
  • Online education is in the beginning stages in higher education and nonexistent in K-12 settings. There was great interest by several faculty in “shadowing” my online courses (I need to put this at the top of my list of things to do!)
  • The Socratic Method is alive and well at the University of Szczecin.

Our collaborations produced a list of first-steps for further consideration, including first and foremost an introduction to education in Poland, a book of papers in which the US contingent will assist with editing and publication, and the potential for collaborative grant writing and submission.

View photos form the trip here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kerry_pics/sets/72157622652644460/

Video coming soon – I hope.