Tag Archives: Board of Directors

New Board Members Elected for 2017 – 2020 Term

Five candidates have been elected to the VSTE Board of Directors for the 2016-2019 term. Two are new members while one is returning for a second term. We welcome all of them to the VSTE leadership:

David French, Virginia Beach City Public Schools
Heather Hurley, Arlington County Public Schools
Anita Harris, Cumberland County Public Schools
Terry Lowry, Wakefield Schools
Michael Speidel, Loudoun County Public Schools

 

The Word Change (Quick, Find the Exit!)

Members of the VSTE Board of Directors will be taking time to periodically share their ideas and passions with the VSTE membership. In this edition, Board Member Josh Long  provides ideas for implementing personalized learning. 

Changing the way we teach is a difficult task. Asking anyone to change something they have been doing for a long period of time creates tension and stress. I think of a quote I saw from Woodrow Wilson; "If you want to make enemies, try to change something." Nothing can be truer than the changing environments of our classroom. I am currently in a district that is going through this change as we speak. It's a great change as we shift and dive our focus onto a focus of student learning. It is a philosophy that I embrace, it's good teaching, and it hits on everything that one of our previous bloggers touched on, which is personalized learning and personal learning. It is difficult trying not to be that person on the stage anymore giving all of the answers and all of the clues out to scholars. So how do you begin to let your scholars begin their journey on personalized learning and personal learning?

Here are my thoughts, take them with a grain of salt, as I am not an Orator… I am just a teacher of 16 years who believes that if you change the way you teach, it will benefit the scholars and practitioners around you.

  1. Know that personalized learning when it comes down to it is just good teaching practice…it is not something new; it is a change from the norm.
  2. Trust yourself to take on this change. You are good at what you do or you would not be in this position.
  3. Go in knowing that it is going to take time to change, it isn't something that is going to happen overnight, just like we can't expect scholars to change their way of learning overnight
  4. It is no secret that we are no longer teaching students for factory-based jobs. We are in the time of tailoring scholars for jobs that require global communication and understanding of different cultures. In most classrooms I observe, students are in rows, talking is done by the leader in the front, and time for discussion is held to a minimum... (If it's not broke don't fix it right?) The problem with that I believe is that we don't see the problems yet, but we will in the future.
  5. Understand that personalized learning isn't chaos in the classroom...it is just another way of students learning, in the manner that is best suited for them. This gives the practitioner a great vantage point of seeing and knowing how all of our scholars use to learn. In fact it most likely will be less chaotic in the room as students will be doing something that is meaningful to them which means they will be engaged in their own learning and not their neighbors.
  6. Personalized learning to me also doesn’t mean putting them in front of a device and expecting them to learn everything from the computer or a piece of software. Communication is the key, I believe, to good personalized learning. That may occur with a Skype call to an expert in the field, or seeing a scientist working with animals in their respective field.
  7. Lean on your peers for help. Working together to come up with lessons that will inspire your scholars to dive deeper into their learning will make it shine on how much they have actually gained and learned through their unit of inquiry.
  8. Lesson plans are a one way street sometimes. Through personalized learning there are many ways to get to the end of the road, with frequent stops along the way to help gain further and deeper understanding of a topic or thought (Understand though that I’m not saying a lesson plan can’t do that…many times in my class we would wander off the beaten path to discuss something related to the topic at hand.)

I hope that you too can find the way to change the way you reach out to your scholars, and know that yes, it really does look a lot different now than when we were sitting in those chairs those many years ago.

Josh Long is the Supervisor of Technology for Fredericksburg City Schools.

No Longer the Sage on the Stage

Members of the VSTE Board of Directors will be taking time to periodically share their ideas and passions with the VSTE membership. For this edition, Board Vice Chairperson Michael Speidel discusses his own path to personalized learning. 

No Longer the Sage on the Stage.

I have long been an individual who believes that, if you would like your school to change its instructional practices, you must model and be the change that you wish to see.  A few years ago, while conducting a professional development session on how to use our learning management system, I came to the realization that the individuals in the class were all at very different points in their learning. That evening, I struggled with ways that I could meet the needs of all of the learners in the professional development session.

The next day, I developed a “choose your own adventure” professional development activity based on our learning management system. Teachers in the next session would take a pre-assessment that would determine where they would begin their training. Because this was during the “flipped” classroom craze, much of the choose your own adventure professional development was done via YouTube videos that I had created. Besides some of the odd looks that I got from participants as I explained how they were going to learn about our learning management system, the other interesting reaction was that of fellow presenters. Many other presenters looked at me with a “Okay… what do I do now?” face. The presenters were so used to being the sage on the stage that initially this new method of training was something that was uncomfortable to them. Slowly, they began to understand that they could be the coach on the side and help all of the learners meet their needs at one time. This was my initial introduction to personalized learning.

Why Personalized Learning?

This past summer I read a book by Todd Rose called The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World that Values Sameness. In the book, Rose details the history of how the concept of the average individual came to be. There is one example in the book that struck me which was the transition from propeller planes to jet engines. Prior to 1950, all Air Force cockpits were designed around the average pilot.  The US Air Force would measure pilots on 10 various body measurements and then design a cockpit around the average measurement of those 10 standards. As the US Air Force transitioned to jet airplanes, they found an increased number of pilot related crashes. Confused about what could be the cause of these crashes, the US Air Force commissioned a study to re-measure 5000 pilots to see if the average measurements had changed and were resulting in the pilot related crashes. The Air Force believed that, if they designed the cockpit around these average measurements, they would have designed a cockpit that would work for the majority of US pilots. When the study was completed, the US Air Force found that, of the 5000 pilots who were measured, not one pilot had the same body measurements as the “average” pilot would have, so they had developed a cockpit that works for no one!

When you think about today’s society, it is a society that is based on the average. Admissions offices, HR departments, banks and doctors make life-changing decisions based on averages. As a matter of fact our entire educational system is based on the systems of average.  When you think about all of the students that you had in your classroom as an educator, you know that all those students had strengths and weaknesses. There were no two students who were the same, and there is no such thing as the “average” student. In fact, there is no such thing as the average teacher, the average administrator, or even the average school. This simple yet flawed theory is the reason why personalized learning is so important.

Personalized Learning vs Personal Learning

The terms “personal” and “personalized” have become buzzwords in both technological and educational spheres, with “personal” learning environments and “personalized” search engine results making headlines. Often, the terms are used interchangeably. The difference between personalized learning and personal learning sometimes seems like a matter of semantics, but that could be that terms are used interchangeably when they’re actually not the same.

In a personalized learning environment, much of the content is served up through various platforms; many that are specific to content. Often, these are educational platforms that do not leave much room for personalization. Personalization of learning comes in with how the educator designs their lessons. Personalized learning is like being served at a restaurant. Someone else selects the food and prepares it. There is some customization – you can tell the waiter how you want your meat cooked – but essentially everyone at the restaurant gets the same experience.

On the other hand, in a personal learning environment the learner is the individual who gets to select what and how they wish to learn. Often, personal learning is an item that is equated to project-based learning. Personal learning is like shopping at a grocery store; You need to assemble the ingredients yourself and create your own meals. It’s harder but it’s a lot cheaper, and you can have an endless variety of meals. Sure, you might not get the best meals possible, but you control the experience, and you control the outcome.

Ultimately, if students are to become lifelong learners, they need to be able to learn though a method that works for them. Students need to understand how to forge their own processes, and we as educators, have the responsibility to ensure that they have the necessary skills and tools to meet their varied needs.

Michael Speidel is an instructional designer for Virtual Loudoun at Loudoun County Public Schools. 

 

Measuring the Technology Return on Investment, Part II

Members of the VSTE Board of Directors will be taking time to periodically share their ideas and passions with the VSTE membership. In this edition, Board member Meg Swecker will talk about the approach used by Roanoke County Public Schools. Last week, Janet Copenhaver shared the strategies from Henry County Public Schools. Janet and Meg have worked together on many projects in technology that benefitted the school divisions in the Commonwealth.  Their designs are easily replicated and measurable. 

How Two School Divisions Measured a Return on Instruction for their Technology
Part 1: Roanoke County Public Schools

In today's world, most school divisions have chosen a device to use instructionally with their students. After the device is implemented, the real question becomes, how do you prove real outcomes on your investment for instruction? A successful implementation that is instructional driven is much easier to chart outcomes. As you move forward with technology, there are many measures you can use to calculate your Return on Instruction. 

MEASURING RETURN ON INSTRUCTION FOR ROANOKE COUNTY SCHOOLS.

For over a decade, RCPS has maintained a robust 1:1 program in grades 9-12. In recent years, the 1:1 program was piloted in in our middle schools.  Currently, grades 7-12 are involved in our 1:1 program, and we hope to expand the program in future years.

Feedback from parents, local businesses, and higher Ed institutions indicate that Roanoke County students are better prepared for a life after graduation based on their participation in the 1:1 program.  Regular use of Microsoft Office programs and 24/7 learning via Blackboard familiarize our students with skills they will need as the move on to college or into the workforce, and access to a laptop 24/7 deepens learning opportunities that many students, and their families wouldn’t otherwise have.  But our instructional practices take students beyond the Virginia standards and support the development of less measurable soft skills, as well. 21st Century skills are a focus of our comprehensive plan and embedded in RCPS instruction.

An example of this is a year-long program that was implemented during our 8thgrade 1:1 pilot.  The Be the Change project challenged 8th graders to identity, research, and connect with, agents of change.  The students selected change agents based on their own personal interests and passions.  Cultural diversity, animals rights, hunger, clean water, special needs, and women’s health, were just some of the topics that students connected with.  Based on this description, you might be inclined to think that the parameters of this project were not that different from other good projects for students of this age. But the technology involved, and the way it was used, gave us a much deeper ROI.

Using their personal interests and passions, the students in the Be the Changeproject selected historical change agents to research.  They were then added to a group of students who were studying the same historical figure.  Each group was comprised of students in their own school, although not necessarily from their own class, as well as students from our neighboring district, Roanoke City Public Schools.  The groups met at local public libraries on three occasions throughout the year, but the rest of the work happened digitally.  Students collaborated via Office 365 to accomplish their tasks.

Students worked collaboratively to research and presented information about their historical agent of change. The presentations were well done, but the overall impression was that these individuals were somehow above the norm.  The students didn’t really connect with the idea that their actions could create positive change in the community.

The next phase of the project was closer to home.  Based on the original interest that the students in each group selected, local agents of change were identified. These individuals were working in our own communities to make positive changes.  The teachers approached these individuals, explained the project, and asked the local change agents to mentor a group.  The response from our local community was overwhelming positive. In our second face to face meeting, groups met their mentors, interviewed them, and learned how regular people from their own communities worked every day to make a difference.

The culminating project for each group involved designing a 30 second PSA based on the information gleaned in the interview with each mentor. The PSA needed to be developed for the mentor’s target audience and had to be easily shared via social media or television.  The students used Office Mix to create artifacts that were broadcast ready.  Most were unfamiliar with Office Mix, however, and had to learn how to use this tool.  Once students understood how to use Office Mix, they created tutorials for their counterparts in Roanoke City. The tutorials were also shared with mentors who expressed interest.

To celebrate the completion of this project, community leaders, mentors, family members, teachers and students met on a Sunday afternoon at a public library. The students shared their PSAs and talked visitors about the changes that were occurring in our community.  It was a celebration that inspired all of us.  The students had transformed. They knew they could make a difference, and they knew how.

The ROI from this project goes far beyond the development of research skills and the use of software.  Students from very different social cultures worked together, based on shared passions. Working together helped them embrace the differences in their cultures and they developed a respect for each other that otherwise might never have existed.  They collaborated in a digital workspace and overcame the challenges associated with not working together in a physical environment. They connected with experts in the community and created artifacts that would further positive changes in our area.  More than all of this, they students learned that they had a voice and the ability to make a positive change in their own communities and beyond.

Quality instruction has always been a focus for Roanoke County Public schools, and the meaningful integration of technology has played a major role.  The Be the Change project is just one example of deeper learning that could not have happened without technology.

Meg Swecker is an ITRT currently working with the Roanoke County School system.  

Measuring The Technology Return on Instruction, Part I

Members of the VSTE Board of Directors will be taking time to periodically share their ideas and passions with the VSTE membership. In this edition, Board member Janet Copenhaver describes how Henry County Public Schools measured their Return on Instruction as they implemented a 1:1 program. Next week, Board members Meg Swecker will talk about the approach used by Roanoke County Public Schools. Janet and Meg have worked together on many projects in technology that benefitted the school divisions in the Commonwealth.  Their designs are easily replicated and measurable. 

How Two School Divisions Measured a Return on Instruction for their Technology
Part 1: Henry County Public Schools

In today's world, most school divisions have chosen a device to use instructionally with their students. After the device is implemented, the real question becomes, how do you prove real outcomes on your investment for instruction? A successful implementation that is instructional driven is much easier to chart outcomes. As you move forward with technology, there are many measures you can use to calculate your Return on Instruction. IThis blog is a discussion on how two school divisions measure their Technology Return on Instruction!

The first school division is Henry County Public Schools and how they used devices and students, and new learning spaces to measure their ROI.

In my years as a technology innovator I found several factors weigh heavily on usage, student improved achievement, student engagement and your real outcomes our your ROI (Return on Instruction.) In 1998, my division implemented one of the first laptop initiatives in the Commonwealth.  The laptops went home with students and had an external wireless card.  One of the many things I remember when starting our wireless laptop initiative was other technology personnel calling us "radical" and wondering why anyone would want a wireless laptop.  Yes, that was just a short 18 years ago. Imagine what would have happened in technology if those of who chose to think differently had listened to people who called us radical and told us to stop what we were doing with new technologies. We quickly discovered that laptops were not durable enough to go home with students every day so brought the laptops back into school and used them in carts for teachers to checkout with their class. This was our first ROI as these devices were used instructionally in all core classes and used for online testing. Move forward a few years and our school division was one of four divisions chosen to try the Virginia Department of Education's "Beyond Textbooks Pilot. " We were allowed 40 devices (iPads) and 40 digital textbooks. Two determining factors and questions were to be determined by the pilot.  The first one was, Are divisions ready to adapt to digital textbooks? and the second  was, Are textbooks companies  ready and willing to supply digital textbooks? The pilot ran a year and data was collected to determines successes and challenges.As a division, we decided to implement two grade levels with the digital textbook and device so purchased an iPad for each third and fourth grade student.

We also contacted the textbook company and they allowed us to use the digital copy on all of our devices.  We also worked with other textbook companies until we were able to use some form of digital textbook in all four-core subjects.  This became our second ROI as all third and fourth grade students had their textbooks digitally on their device.  The device went home with the students so no heavy book bags were needed.  A survey was conducted with parents to determine if students read more, did their homework more quickly, and was more engaged with their digital books and device.  The answers were not surprising.  Most parents stated that their student was more engaged at home with their device.  Parents also added comments that the device opened up a new channel of communication between parents and students on many subjects including homework and being a digital citizen. The return on Instruction was measured on engagement and homework with our students.

Check out our video on our implementation from the eyes of a former fourth grade student:  https://youtu.be/b-v88QZeRfs

 

Still moving forward a few years, we implemented a 1:1 device in grades 3-8.  However, we found that textbooks companies still did not have the desire to implement textbooks that could be downloaded on the devices to be used without Internet access. Our next step was to find activities that our students could use the devices in school and after school hours.  We began in our libraries.  Librarian purchased eBooks, which could be checked out on the devices. Teachers researched and added appropriate grade level apps and activities on the devices.  Our devices were used as a tool for instructional activities 24/7 and could easily be tracked for homework activities.

As we moved forward, we decided our devices needed new environments.

We first changed our library environment spaces to challenge our students to collaborate, think critically, communicate and create. This is a sample of how our media center looks at this time.  Notice the stage that students can sit on and listen or read.  We redid the tile, painted the walls, and added new technologies.  This video shows an elementary library that has been transformed into a learning commons space.  Notice the stage that students can use to sit on rather than their chairs.   https://youtu.be/iLEtRplmQWw In some instances just getting new paint, new tiles, new furniture and branding the new collaborative center with technology and maker spaces encouraged the students to use their devices to create and to share activities with their peers.  Moving forward, the librarians were trained on coding and other STEM activities and integrated these into their lesson plans for all elementary grade levels.

We believe it is very important for students to use technology in an environment that is conducive to collaboration and creativity.  These new learning spaces are ways our students use their technology for return on Instruction.

In our two high schools students may opt to attend one of our academies based on the New Tech concept.  Students are issued a laptop to use 24/7 and are required to work with their peers to design and create projects.  These two academies use devices to  solve and create solutions for the community as well as for the school division.  Their return on instruction is helping businesses in our community with web pages, instructional artifacts, and creating schedules for activities.  Their technology is used every day for collaboration, communication, creativity and think critically.

Janet Copenhaver is the retired Director of Technology from Henry County Public Schools.

Meg Swecker is an ITRT currently working with the Roanoke County School system.

MEASURING RETURN ON INSTRUCTION FOR ROANOKE COUNTY SCHOOLS.

For over a decade, RCPS has maintained a robust 1:1 program in grades 9-12. In recent years, the 1:1 program was piloted in in our middle schools.  Currently, grades 7-12 are involved in our 1:1 program, and we hope to expand the program in future years.

Feedback from parents, local businesses, and higher Ed institutions indicate that Roanoke County students are better prepared for a life after graduation based on their participation in the 1:1 program.  Regular use of Microsoft Office programs and 24/7 learning via Blackboard familiarize our students with skills they will need as the move on to college or into the workforce, and access to a laptop 24/7 deepens learning opportunities that many students, and their families wouldn’t otherwise have.  But our instructional practices take students beyond the Virginia standards and support the development of less measurable soft skills, as well. 21st Century skills are a focus of our comprehensive plan and embedded in RCPS instruction.

An example of this is a year-long program that was implemented during our 8thgrade 1:1 pilot.  The Be the Change project challenged 8th graders to identity, research, and connect with, agents of change.  The students selected change agents based on their own personal interests and passions.  Cultural diversity, animals rights, hunger, clean water, special needs, and women’s health, were just some of the topics that students connected with.  Based on this description, you might be inclined to think that the parameters of this project were not that different from other good projects for students of this age. But the technology involved, and the way it was used, gave us a much deeper ROI.

Using their personal interests and passions, the students in the Be the Changeproject selected historical change agents to research.  They were then added to a group of students who were studying the same historical figure.  Each group was comprised of students in their own school, although not necessarily from their own class, as well as students from our neighboring district, Roanoke City Public Schools.  The groups met at local public libraries on three occasions throughout the year, but the rest of the work happened digitally.  Students collaborated via Office 365 to accomplish their tasks.

Students worked collaboratively to research and presented information about their historical agent of change. The presentations were well done, but the overall impression was that these individuals were somehow above the norm.  The students didn’t really connect with the idea that their actions could create positive change in the community.

The next phase of the project was closer to home.  Based on the original interest that the students in each group selected, local agents of change were identified. These individuals were working in our own communities to make positive changes.  The teachers approached these individuals, explained the project, and asked the local change agents to mentor a group.  The response from our local community was overwhelming positive. In our second face to face meeting, groups met their mentors, interviewed them, and learned how regular people from their own communities worked every day to make a difference.

The culminating project for each group involved designing a 30 second PSA based on the information gleaned in the interview with each mentor. The PSA needed to be developed for the mentor’s target audience and had to be easily shared via social media or television.  The students used Office Mix to create artifacts that were broadcast ready.  Most were unfamiliar with Office Mix, however, and had to learn how to use this tool.  Once students understood how to use Office Mix, they created tutorials for their counterparts in Roanoke City. The tutorials were also shared with mentors who expressed interest.

To celebrate the completion of this project, community leaders, mentors, family members, teachers and students met on a Sunday afternoon at a public library. The students shared their PSAs and talked visitors about the changes that were occurring in our community.  It was a celebration that inspired all of us.  The students had transformed. They knew they could make a difference, and they knew how.  Special Olympics PSA   Angels of Assisi PSA

The ROI from this project goes far beyond the development of research skills and the use of software.  Students from very different social cultures worked together, based on shared passions. Working together helped them embrace the differences in their cultures and they developed a respect for each other that otherwise might never have existed.  They collaborated in a digital workspace and overcame the challenges associated with not working together in a physical environment. They connected with experts in the community and created artifacts that would further positive changes in our area.  More than all of this, they students learned that they had a voice and the ability to make a positive change in their own communities and beyond.

Quality instruction has always been a focus for Roanoke County Public schools, and the meaningful integration of technology has played a major role.  The Be the Change project is just one example of deeper learning that could not have happened without technology.

2017 THINK

Members of the VSTE Board of Directors will be taking time to periodically share their ideas and passions with the VSTE membership. In this edition, Board Treasurer Rod Carnill encourages us all to share our ideas, being careful to do so in respectful ways, demonstrating digital leadership in all our online interactions. 

Reflecting on 2016 brings me many fond memories among some difficult challenges. For me and for many the year was in many respects four seasons of unprecedented events. Even among the milestones we achieved, we may have walked away wanting. Wanting clarity among confusion, wanting constancy among uncertainty, wanting hope during times of trial. Perhaps like me you sense that there is more to come in each of those areas that cause us concern and cost us sleep.

Yet, I hope that you will join me in welcoming the new year with optimism, determination and a want to give your best to make good things happen for those we face each day, for those we walk beside each week, for those we will occasionally encounter through the coming year as well as those a world away who we may never meet.

As is the custom of many, the new year is greeted with resolutions, goals, intentions, resolve, aim, a plan. We make a decision to change a habit, to make better use of our time, talents and treasures. There is a desire to move along a different path, breathe more deeply freshness into our lungs and extend a helping hand to make a contribution.

And so it is that I challenge myself and in turn challenge you to engage, design, construct, collaborate, communicate, and most importantly THINK. Yes, THINK! Do all of these as often as possible, but be certain to take time and THINK. Challenge yourself to then reflect, share, and inspire. Choose your thoughts carefully as they will lead you to action and your actions will ripple through your circles of influence and your communities of practice. Some say actions speak louder than words, regardless of the channel, first measure your resolve and your intention against this simple acrostic...THINK.

Is  it  True?
Is  it  Helpful?
is  it   Inspiring?
is  it  Necessary?
Is  it  Kind?

Then, tell the world about it. As you plant your mustard seeds throughout the year post your reflections and inspirations with #VSTE so that we can applaud the good works across the changing seasons and celebrate our collective accomplishments @VSTE in Roanoke next December.

Rod Carnill is the Supervisor of ITRTs in Frederick County, Virginia. He serves as the Treasurer and Advocacy Chair of the Board of Directors. 

Board Nominations Open Now

Nominations for the Board of Directors of the Virginia Society for Technology in Education are open now and will be open until  Friday, March 3, 2017.

You are invited to nominate yourself or a colleague to be considered for election to the Virginia Society for Technology in Education (VSTE) Board of Directors, for the 2017-2020 Board term (three years).  This is an opportunity to become involved in the key decision-making group for the Virginia Society for Technology in Education.

Learn more about becoming part of the VSTE leadership here.

Gear Up for Advocacy

Keith David Reeves

Members of the VSTE Board of Directors will be taking time to periodically share their ideas and passions with the VSTE membership. In this edition, Board Chair Keith Reeves challenges us to become advocates for quality public education, especially in the area of virtual education.

Happy New Year to each and every one of you, my friends and colleagues in education here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Thank you for helping to make our annual conference this year a marvelous success. About 1,200 of you joined me, Dr. Richardson, the Board of Directors, and our exceptionally-talented Conference Committee in Virginia Beach to raise our voices, our awareness, and our skill levels.

As we gear up for the second half of the year, I’d like us to re-spark our interest in paying attention not only to our kids and families in our respective schools, but to the “thirty thousand foot view” of Virginia education. I’d like you to take a moment, in your drive or workout or stroll to the store, to think of what you’d say if you had just a quick opportunity to say something to your local elected officials about educational technology.

If you stepped onto an elevator with your Delegate, what would you say about ed tech?

I think I’d play the role of the “Ghost of House Bills Past” and mention HB8, the failed legislation effort of the past two years that sought to back-door privatization in Virginia’s schools by putting K12, Inc. in control of a mandatory virtual school option in every school system in the Commonwealth. Governor McAuliffe clearly understood this privatization effort, and vetoed the bill in early April 2016. (You may recall that VSTE was ardently against this bill, as we articulated in our February 2016 statement, and I made sure as Chairperson of the Board to be significantly vocal on the subject.)

Why mention it? Because it’s coming back.

Many people hear “K-12” and think we’re only ever referring to “kindergarten through twelfth grade,” but K-12, Incorporated is a for-profit corporation, not an age range. This perilous conflation may lead many to misunderstand the intent of legislation, and we have a role to play in raising our voices in clarity.

The reason VSTE and I stood against HB8 was simple: It put a state-level mandate on schools that put the power in a single corporation’s pocket, siphoning local funding away to fuel the fires of this new private engine.

According to sources who say they have spoken with him, Representative Dickie Bell (R) apparently intends to reintroduce a version of HB8 this year, as a competing measure against Governor Terry McAuliffe’s (D) intended legislation, which would put a local-level mandate on schools and give them choice in how they implement virtual learning. Students who attend such programs have been shown in recent data analysis to underperform students who have the fuller advantages of the ever-more-personalized learning opportunities you, the talented and skilled educators of Virginia, provide in your local schools. While there are places where the Virtual Virginia pilot has been going well, we believe it most appropriate to allow local schools to evaluate programs and to mount pilots consistent with their needs and priorities, rather than create a law that all but guarantees sole-source contracting as the defeated HB8 did.

Let’s be clear about this: It is one thing to say “we want students to have the opportunity to learn online.” It is entirely another thing to say “And a sole-source corporate provider will be that option.” It is important for local school divisions to be able to select innovative, meaningful, and most importantly not-for-profit educational methods to ensure student learning is not commodified. The introduction of market principles into educational policy craft is a mistake, as I write about in my work, and we must take extraordinary care to ensure that we don’t see another back-door attempt to privatize Virginia’s public schools pass muster in the guise of providing good online learning.

Virtual education can do remarkable things for students when done right, such as the extension of supplemental counselor-assisted asynchronous high school instruction in Loudoun County, and the schools of Virginia need such professional educators making pedagogical decisions, not imposed structures of corporate influence.

It is my hope that we educational technology leaders can raise our collective voices to make the clear distinction to our legislators, whenever and wherever we can: Yes to innovative learning opportunities. No to corporatizing public education.

In the coming months, I issue to you the same charge then-Vice Chairperson Karen Streeter offered to you from the dais at the 2016 Conference in December: Find time to engage with your elected officials. Encourage them to scrutinize any bill that says “virtual” on it, and offer to engage with them on the subject. Lend your voice. Lend your ideas. Lend your assistance, so that our students are well-represented and have the opportunity to learn from excellent local professional teachers using locally-selected online materials that best serve the needs of your community. A state-level one-size-fits-all mandate that hands the reins of curricular and implementation powers to for-profit enterprises would jeopardize the state of education in the Commonwealth, and that is a misstep we simply cannot afford.

On behalf of your Board of Directors, thank you for your continued support of quality educational opportunities for our students, and of the mission of your Virginia Society for Technology in Education.

An Educator in China: Final Post

Members of the VSTE Board of Directors will be taking time to periodically share their ideas and passions with the VSTE membership. In this edition, Terry Lowry from Wakefield School reports on her first day in China as part of an education delegation. 

On my fourth day here in China, we traveled from Xuzhou to Taizhou to attend the Jiangsu International Forum. I traveled with Grace, Madame Chen, and another visiting educator from the UK, Geraldine. I learned that principals in China are held in even higher regard than I originally thought – Madame Chen is provided a car and a personal driver which she kindly offered to us for the trip.

Our arrival to the forum was marked by a flurry of international introductions and networking. As everywhere I have visited, everyone was very welcoming. We arrived in the afternoon, giving us time to rest up before dinner. The hotel is amazing – incredibly well-appointed and luxurious. Dinner was yet another incredible spread. I’m not always sure exactly what everything is, but I’ve enjoyed the adventure of trying it all. I will be lucky if I am able to still fit into my clothes after this trip. During and after dinner, I met more amazing educators from California, Australia, the UK, Canada, The Netherlands, and Finland, just to name a few!

The actual forum was held the next day. It was a very impressive affair. I was expecting something like an educational conference. That was NOT what this was. It felt more like something one might experience at the United Nations, complete with our own earpieces for translation purposes. There were many speeches from local and regional officials, everything was carefully orchestrated, and all was well documented by dozens of official cameramen. The only active participation piece of it was during our assigned panel discussions. We were broken into four groups and assigned various topics for discussion. My group’s topic was “Cultivating Key Competencies in the Internet-Age.” The discussion was, again, well-orchestrated, somber, and well-documented, but I truly enjoyed hearing the opinions of other educators from throughout the world.

I think my key takeaway from the forum was that there are many more similarities between all our educational systems than there are differences. Initially my discussions with other educators from around the world led me to believe that our educational goals varied greatly, primarily regarding rote memorization and testing vs. higher level thinking. As the forum progressed, however, it became increasingly apparent to me that our underlying goals were virtually indistinguishable. I was delighted to discover that the overwhelming emphasis amongst all of us was on the importance of teaching higher level thinking and problem solving in our ever changing world. We all recognized that, with information just a click away, what you know is every bit as important as how you came to have that knowledge as well as what you plan to do with it. As Alvin Toffler stated, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” And that was a common theme at the forum—making sure our students acquired the skills they needed to be successful in today’s world.

This is my last entry for my trip. Tomorrow I head back to the airport and then on to home. I hope you have enjoyed traveling along with me. It has been an amazing ride and I am grateful to have had this opportunity!

Terry Lowry | terrylowry@vste.org Wakefield School Director

Board director Terry Lowry is Director of Technology Integration and Curriculum Coordination at Wakefield School located in The Plains, Virginia.  Terry serves as the chair of the VSTE Awards Committee. Find her on Twitter @tekkieteacher.

An Educator in China: Days Two and Three

Members of the VSTE Board of Directors will be taking time to periodically share their ideas and passions with the VSTE membership. In this edition, Terry Lowry from Wakefield School reports on her first day in China as part of an education delegation. 

These past two days in China have been spent traveling to and visiting our sister school, Xuzhou No. 1 Middle School. The trip from Nanjing to Xuzhou was long – just over 4 hours – but I took advantage of the time to ward of jetlag and slept for most of the trip. Driving in China involves a lot of horn blowing and serious courage on behalf of the driver. I have determined that the lane dividers are really just a suggestion and by no means indicative of where one should consistently stay. I don’t think this is a distinctly Chinese characteristic – I experienced much the same thing in London last summer. In any case, I am happy to say we made it to Xuzhou safe and sound.

Upon arrival, I was graciously greeted by Grace, one of the teachers from the school, who whisked me off to my hotel. After settling in, she and one of her colleagues treated me to one of the most amazing meals I have ever had. The dishes just kept coming out and each one was wonderful! I am proud to say I did fine with the chopsticks and did not embarrass myself. I ended the day by rolling off to bed and sleeping soundly.

The highlight of my visit, though, was definitely the classroom visits I was fortunate to experience the next day. In one class, an American teacher, Kyle, was teaching the children about the US presidential election and the differences between the parties. What an amazing experience to listen to their perceptions regarding the election. They examined the experience of the two candidates and, understandably, how the election of either would affect China. In my next class, an English class, I was able to help students with their grammar assignment (it was surprisingly difficult) and then answered any questions they might have about Wakefield or the US. I think their questions were very interesting, so here are some of them (the ones I can remember, anyway)

  • Are we allowed to have boyfriend/girlfriend relationships in school?
  • If a student’s test scores indicate they should go to university, but he/she really wants to do something else, like be a bus driver, is that allowed in the US – would his/her parents be supportive?
  • If I want to be a film maker, how can I get Americans to watch my movies?
  • If a student wants to travel to the US to attend school, what is it they might have the most difficulty with?
  • If Hillary or Trump won, how did I think that would affect America?
  • What do American students have to do to be accepted into college?

After a morning attending classes we went to the school cantina and were joined by their school principal, Madam Chen, for another amazing meal. Everyone went out of their way to make me feel very welcome and special. Later, Grace and I explored the second campus and then took a tour of the city, the highlight of which was traveling down a willow tree lined boulevard beside an extremely large man-made lake. The rain that started couldn’t dampen my spirits but rather made the day feel fresh and new. All in all, the visit was incredibly memorable and definitely a highlight of my educational career.

Terry Lowry | terrylowry@vste.org Wakefield School Director

Board director Terry Lowry is Director of Technology Integration and Curriculum Coordination at Wakefield School located in The Plains, Virginia.  Terry serves as the chair of the VSTE Awards Committee. Find her on Twitter @tekkieteacher.

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