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Archive for November, 2011

Virtual Training: Are You Engaging or Boring?

“It tends to be very foggy when you are training in the cloud, but remember, if you know your content, and design your training with user engagement and frequent interactivity, you will be sure to attain great results with virtual training from the cloud.”

Cloud-based virtual training allows instructors to deliver content without being present in a classroom with the students. In virtual training, when you can’t see the participants, how do you compensate for the environment?

The answer is to engage learners through the pace of your presentation, skillful use of your voice, and thoughtful employment of the features of your conferencing platform. Here are a few tips for clearing away the fog and holding a successful virtual training session from the clouds.

Use pace to engage the learner

Engaging the learner is the single most important design criterion for successful distance learning via virtual classrooms.

As you are well aware, the reality is that people in the corporate world are busier than ever today. Because of downsizing, many individuals are doing the work that two or even three people formerly did. When people decide to attend a virtual training session, they are likely to encounter many distractions: e-mail, talking on a cell phone, working on a project, or multitasking on other activities that their duties force upon them.

Most learners will feel motivated to attend training if the topic is one in which they are interested, but in the case of “required” training … not so much. The content had better be great in either case, or else they will be off multitasking at the first sign of boredom. How do we keep the learner engaged in our live Webcast or virtual training session?

Keep it moving

Everyone loves to hate slide-based presentations, whether done with PowerPoint or some other presentation software, but a presentation will inevitably be part of most virtual training sessions. Depending on what you have available to support your session you may not have any other options – not all Web conferencing software provides a whiteboard, video, interactive features, or other capabilities.

The brain reacts to colors and images, and goes to great lengths not to miss anything once the eyes focus on a screen. If you were watching television, and the screen only changed every two or three minutes, it would not take you long to figure out that you could multitask and not miss anything at all. When you watch the news, notice the flow … the director starts with the anchor reading a teleprompter to begin the story, and then quickly switches off the headshot and rolls in field footage to help tell the story with images. By keeping things interesting, with compelling visuals that move and update quickly, viewers become more engaged because they don’t want to miss anything.

The lesson is that in a virtual classroom, you must keep the content constantly moving. This means that, when presenting content, you will need more slides, with more pictures and less text per slide, than you may be accustomed to using for physical classroom training. Design the presentation to move along smoothly with pictures telling a story.

Do not build your content with a few slides that only contain text. Slow-moving, text-heavy slides are a recipe for disaster. Participants refer to text-heavy slides as “Death by PowerPoint” … meaning, no one wants to read slides or (even worse) have a person read the slides to them. Learners leave these presentations, and the chances of their returning are slim.

So, when do you know that the change of imagery is fast enough and not too fast or too slow? One way to test this theory is to ask yourself another question: If you posted the slide file as a stand-alone asset, could the students get the same benefit from it alone as they would get with an instructor? If the answer is “yes,” then you haven’t designed your content for a virtual training session with a live instructor.
Use your skills as a speaker

Many facilitators who are excellent face-to-face trainers approach virtual training with the attitude of “how hard can it be?” However, delivery in the virtual classroom is completely different from face-to-face training, and requires simultaneously mastering the technology and the content. It’s like asking a news anchor to direct the news and deliver the news at the same time … not an easy thing to do!

Bring it to life, don’t flatline it

Figure 1. Listen to radio hosts and commercials to get ideas on creating voice inflections.

You must become the master of visual stimulation, and the master of show direction, and the master of focusing your learners’ attention at the right time. While all this is going on, you are unable to see them to know if you are delivering an impactful training session or if you put them to sleep. So what can you do?

Your voice has a tremendous impact on the quality of your virtual sessions. You must focus on inflections, speed, the tone that you use with the learners, and how you pace your delivery of the content. Learners will evaluate you not only on the quality of your content, but on how pleasant, natural, confident, and interesting you sound. Reading slides is not training. Maximum impact and higher retention levels require dynamic delivery – coupled with your visuals.

To build vitality in your voice, pay attention to radio commercials and listen to how the narrator changes pitch, rate, and volume to get your attention. (Figure 1) Just like a radio personality, you can’t see the audience, and, in many cases, they cannot see you. A dynamic voice and changing visuals must stimulate the learner to pay attention. You are not “reading the material,” you are delivering ideas, facts, concepts, and examples in a way that brings them to life for the learner.

Team up for variety

Another great tip for longer training sessions is to deliver content with a co-presenter whenever possible. This immediately adds vocal variety to your virtual sessions. Think about the news or any sporting event … there is always more than one broadcaster so personalities can interact with each other and keep the delivery more interesting.

We call this vocal variety. This style of training is less predictable, so people will be more inclined to pay attention. Have the co-presenter start off the presentation by giving the introduction and explaining the proper etiquette and ground rules of the training session, and then taking on a moderator role. Your co-presenter can also help to answer questions, prompt you for questions, reiterate points for clarification, provide time checks, and keep the conversation focused. With this type of co-presenter coordination, the meeting will come across as professionally organized and VERY engaging.

Use the conferencing features

Although platforms differ, all conferencing software provides some set of features that will help you keep your learners engaged. Here are some tips for using the more commonly available features.

Annotate, don’t just dictate

Use of annotation tools in your conferencing software, such as pointers, arrows, or highlighters, will command and direct the learner’s attention to specific points on complex graphics. These tools allow you to drive the learner to the exact item that you are referring to. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. The green arrow allows the participants to focus on a specific spot in complex graphics

Tailor the training space to the task

Always customize the virtual training room to reproduce the format that learners would experience in a live face-to-face classroom. Leveraging room layouts (such as those available in Adobe Connect – a Flash-based rich-media platform) is a great way to build a portion of the training with PowerPoint, a portion with pre-produced digital video, and a portion that uses video capabilities to broadcast several subject matter experts at the same time during a Q&A session. In an advanced platform like Adobe Connect that permits “multi-camera broadcasting,” each person can broadcast simultaneously so the learner can see the person answering their question.

Customization is a great way to make the training session dynamic and engaging to maximize the learner’s attention. This is especially important for well-known speakers or high-level executives. Put them on stage, let the learners interact with them, and they become part of the learning exercises.

Learners should not be listeners only

Polling is a great way to help you acquire instant and quantifiable input from your learners, and engage their minds. Even if you can’t see the learners, you can use polls to gain insight on their thoughts and emotions about the training content. A good polling question can get learners thinking in depth about the implications or applications of key points in the presentation. You can also use polling questions to determine the level of interest in a topic, and then make adjustments on the fly based upon real-time feedback to make the session more dynamic and fresh for each group of learners.

There are different types of polling questions, each with its own special characteristics. (See Figures 3 and 4) Don’t overuse polling questions, use them when necessary, and make them useful so the feature does not become redundant to the learner.


Figure 3. Multiple-answer polls allow more than one selection.


 Figure 4. Multiple-choice polls allow only one selection.

Check their status to maintain engagement – and stimulate thinking

Another method to engage the learner is by using “status tools,” or emoticons. Leverage student engagement by using whatever emoticons or response icons are available from your conferencing platform. (See Figure 5)

Figure 5. Emoticons

Status tools or emoticons compensate for lack of visibility between the instructor and the student. These icons can help you replace the visual cues you would normally get in a physical environment where you see people. Encourage all participants to use them throughout the presentation.

This type of classroom structure lets the participants know that you will accept interruptions and that you are paying attention to their opinions. It makes the delivery dynamic – not just some “cookie cutter” or canned presentation. A great example of use of status tools is to ask if they “agree” or “disagree” with a question or statement you deliver. As a trainer you would say, “Give me a thumbs up if you agree that this solution fits well within your company,” and you would see the feedback in real-time. This also allows a trainer to “see” the type of audience they are working with and make adjustments on the fly if necessary.

Are you ready for your close-up?

If supported by the conferencing software, use the Webcam feature so you can employ your presentation skills and gestures; this brings learners into the content and helps them take the journey with you.

Your Webcam is the direct link to your audience. Use it wisely, and look into the lens when speaking to your audience to give the illusion of eye contact with each of them. (Figure 6) Even though you cannot see your audience, they can see you. When using the Webcam, you must use facial expressions, inflections on words, and gestures to build a connection with your learners. You may even want to place a sticky note next to your Webcam, to remind you to stay focused on keeping the connection with your learners.

Figure 6: Webcams allow you to have a direct, emotional link with your audience.

Key advice: rehearse it, don’t wing it

The more you rehearse the content in real time, the easier it is to keep eye contact with the Webcam. Rehearsal gives you mastery of the content.

More key advice: use the Webcam wisely

New virtual trainers often ask, “When should I turn the Webcam on and when should I turn it off?”

Remember this guideline: content that includes data, statistics, and facts that require reasoning and analysis can be included in a PowerPoint format without a Webcam. When you have any complex graphics or content, you don’t want the Webcam competing with it so turn it off. The Webcam image will command the learner’s attention and focus – in other words, if they see you on the Webcam, that’s where they will look. Movement in the Webcam will distract them from the graphics, and learners will not be sure which area of the screen to focus on.

Content that appeals to participants’ emotions is better expressed through the full-motion Webcam, because gestures and facial expression can sell the emotional side of your message. I like to use the Webcam when conducting polls and getting feedback so learners can see and hear my inflections along with the specifics I’m asking about.

Always be aware of your learners’ environments

Figure 8. Design your presentation
with smaller screen resolution in mind.

Finally, you must be cognizant of the devices used by your audience. Many people are now participating via tablet devices with smaller screens. (Figures 7 and 8) You should design your content so that the images are legible on smaller screens, including on smartphones. Learn about the mobile applications for these devices with the virtual training platform you use. If learners can tab around on window options, you must include narration that will guide them to the proper window when discussing graphics or charts. If it’s hard to read on your screen, it’s probably more difficult to read on a participant’s computer or tablet device. Make the effort to keep screens simple, and include less text and more visuals to help tell your story.

Figure 7. Mobile devices, like this tablet, are becoming
more popular

Melt the fog away with engagement and interactivity

It tends to be very foggy when you are training in the cloud, but remember, if you know your content, and design your training with user engagement and frequent interactivity, you will be sure to attain great results with virtual training from the cloud.

This article was originally posted at

Virtual Ed. Advocates Respond to Wave of Criticism

It’s been a rough year for the public image of K-12 virtual education.

Studies in Colorado and Minnesota have suggested that full-time online students in those states were struggling to match the achievement levels of their peers in brick-and-mortar schools. Articles in The New York Times have questioned not only the academic results for students in virtual schools, but also the propriety of business practices surrounding the use of public dollars for such programs.

Meanwhile, two left-leaning magazines, The Nation and Mother Jones, contended this month that education policy reforms pushed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the name of digital opportunities for students have the ulterior motive of funneling money to big technology companies. And the move into education by the right-leaning media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, with his News Corp. conglomerate’s purchase of the educational technology company Wireless Generation, has drawn protests from some teacher advocates at public appearances by Mr. Murdoch.

Against this backdrop, educators who gathered at the Virtual School Symposium held early this month in Indianapolis appeared eager to strike a balance between working to address what they see as valid criticisms of their field and rebutting others they see as misconceptions. They also seemed largely to agree the burden is on them to tell their own story and prove their effectiveness.

“A lot of the publicity has been negative,” conceded Andy Scantland, the vice president of sales and marketing for Advanced Academics Inc., an Oklahoma City-based provider of public and private online learning programs. The company is a sponsor of the annual “Keeping Pace” virtual learning report, which was released by the Evergreen Education Group, a Durango, Colo.-based research and consulting firm, just before the symposium.

“It’s really critical that we don’t allow others to tell the story for us,” Mr. Scantland added. “Accountability and measurability is good for all of us.”

He and others associated with this year’s “Keeping Pace” survey of the virtual learning landscape insisted that its most important element may be its 10-page section on “emerging quality and accountability issues,” as the report terms it.

Addressing Criticisms

Susan Patrick, the president and chief executive officer of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, or iNACOL, the Vienna, Va.-based group that hosted the forum, said she sees a combination of factors contributing to recent criticisms of full-time virtual schools, with some issues having more merit than others.

For example, Ms. Patrick said the studies that raise questions about the achievement of fully online students may suffer in part because of the methods of measuring such achievement. Virtual school programs designed to help facilitate learning at a nonconventional pace and on a nonconventional schedule may struggle when molded to the confines of seat-time requirements virtual school advocates would like to see abandoned. But she accepted that getting some districts to view virtual education as a method that still needs quality instructors is a problem.

Ms. Patrick also acknowledges that some advocates of virtual schooling have politicized it, even at the symposium.

State Rep. Brian Bosma, the Indiana House speaker and a Republican from Marion County, in his remarks at the Nov. 9-11 gathering, painted support for virtual schools as a conservative issue aligned with debates over school choice. Ms. Patrick said the education reforms sought by former Gov. Bush and his Tallahassee, Fla.-based Foundation for Excellence in Education could be viewed as politically motivated, including ideas advanced through the Digital Learning Now initiative led by Mr. Bush, a Republican, and former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, a Democrat.

“People are people, and start to paint it one way or another, and that’s unfortunate,” said Ms. Patrick, who added that such Democrats as U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state and U.S. Reps. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota and Robert E. Andrews of New Jersey have been vocal supporters of online learning.

“We had 1,900 people [at the Virtual School Symposium], and 47 percent of them were first-timers there from districts wanting to launch programs,” she said in a telephone interview after the event. “That’s not political at all.”

Ms. Patrick says she’s unsure whether it’s possible to depoliticize virtual schooling, but says her bigger concern is the impression that it’s an effective method to cut manpower from a district’s teaching force. And she concedes some districts aren’t doing much to combat that impression.

“Teachers and people are the heart of online learning programs, and we need to, as a community, let the teacher voice be heard,” Ms. Patrick said.

“There are some valid criticisms, too, especially with districts facing budget crunches,” she said. “We want them to make a decision about good-quality programs. Sometimes they’re doing that, and sometimes they’re not.”

Examining Blended Learning

Some practices caught in the dispute may actually align more with blended learning, which retains in-person instructors but reshapes the teacher’s job description with technology integration.

For example, a report from the University of Colorado at Boulder that suggests K-12 virtual education is growing at a rate that is unsafe, considering the lack of knowledge about its effectiveness, also makes clear that the breadth of research on the benefits of blended learning is far greater.

Some businesses and philanthropies—such as the Microsoft Corp. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, built upon the fortune of the company’s co-founder—that are taking heat from critics of online education are actually looking to channel dollars to blended-learning projects. The third wave of competitive grants—worth up to $12 million in total—in the Gates Foundation’s Next Generation Learning Challenges program will be awarded to applicants that design new blended-learning models, in part because of a belief that they are more reliable than purely online models for students who are at risk academically. (The Gates Foundation also provides grant support to Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit publisher of Education Week.)

Microsoft, meanwhile, announced this fall a new service to offer discounted hardware and software to teachers, as well as its participation in the Federal Communications Commission’s “Connect to Compete” broadband infrastructure project that would theoretically provide more blended-learning opportunities to students of diverse backgrounds.

“The hypothesis is that population needs the brick-and-mortar setting and all-around wraparound support that comes with that setting to succeed,” said Elina Alayeva, a program officer for the Next Generation Learning Challenges with Educause, the Boulder, Colo.-based postsecondary-technology advocacy group that is managing the competition.

Meanwhile, even as critics of online learning have called for proof that fully virtual schools can be effective enough to justify public investment, they have shown awareness that quality in such programs can vary greatly.

For instance, at a Virtual School Symposium presentation from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, audience members disputed the notion that a student who failed a course should have to demonstrate a set amount of time needed to retake the course online instead of just demonstrating competency in the subject. But NCAA officials reasoned that their experience with athletes who may attach themselves to digital “diploma mills” is far different from the experience of other cyber educators.

“Some athletes are short of qualifying and need quick fixes,” Nick Sproull, the NCAA’s assistant director of high school review, said to his audience. “Our majority might be your minority, which is a difficult reality.”

‘Hollow Experience’?

That’s not to say all who know the breadth of online options available are convinced that any such offering can be equivalent to a live classroom.

Gene V. Glass, a senior researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s National Education Policy Center and a co-author of its recent report calling for more state regulation for online learning, said he staunchly opposes the use of public funding for any virtual programs.

“This is a hollow experience for kids, and for many of the kids it’s hardly an experience at all,” Mr. Glass said in an interview. “I haven’t seen a good experience in this whole area. I haven’t seen anything but greedy companies paying off politicians.”

But the report’s other co-author, Kevin G. Welner, a professor of education at the university and the director of the education policy center, said the evidence on the effectiveness of fully online virtual schools shows only that more evidence is needed.

“It’s not that there aren’t good things to be had or good things going on,” Mr. Welner said. “It’s publicly funded education, but without the usual safeguards that we attach to public education.”

This article was originally posted at

What is technology’s place in classrooms?

Using tech to enhance elearning: Brentwood Elementary School explains its use of technology to enhance learning.

One group of children is plugged into laptops, working on math problems. Another is navigating the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room. Four more students are tapping iPad screens, completing a creative writing assignment.

It is a typical morning in Amber Marshall’s third-grade class at Brentwood Elementary Magnet School of Communication and Technology. And every student is using a piece of technology.

Local educators say technology in elementary classrooms not only enhances learning, but also is necessary for young pupils to learn in this day and age.

“We need to be very cognizant that instruction is changing,” Santa Rosa Schools Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick said. “We have to teach students with the tools they are most comfortable with.”

Brentwood Elementary School third-graders Amalia Ball, left, and Christian Ford use technology to learn and re-enforce math skills. Brentwood Elementary, a magnet school, has heavily integrated technology into its teaching curriculum. / Tony Giberson/

Wanda Wade, an assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of West Florida, said technology has changed the face of education and the ability to deliver instruction.

“As teachers, we have to know how to integrate it into instruction,” Wade said.

She said it is crucial for teachers to be familiar with the technology they’re using in class.

“Integrating technology into your classroom is one way of taking a step into the 21st century,” Wade said. “You’re going to have to do it because it’s the way of the world.”

Wade said technology can be especially helpful in schools where students come from low-income families.

“Giving them technology (at school) helps level the playing field for them,” she said. “And they need teachers who know how to use it.”

Brentwood became a magnet school in 2001 and now serves 560 students from all over the district.

The school initially used a $1.9 million federal magnet grant to incorporate technology into teaching.

Technology and training is now paid for from school and district Title I funds.

Christine Baker, Brentwood’s technology coordinator, said electronic gadgets and the Internet make learning more fun for students.

“By the time they come to the third grade, this is what they’re used to,” she said. “Because of the stress and pressure of the FCAT, this really keeps them wanting to be here.”

Florida third-graders will take the reading and math portions of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test for the first time in the spring.

Technology as a tool
At Brentwood, Escambia County’s most tech-heavy school, Marshall’s classroom is decked out with iPads, laptops, iPod Nanos with video features, digital cameras, Smart Boards, document cameras and remote-controlled response systems for each student. In fact, all of the school’s classrooms are set up this way.

“With technology, it helps me pinpoint what these kids need to learn,” Marshall said. “It’s just one more tool that lets us be more efficient and effective. For a child who’s already mastered third-grade skills, this allows me to take it to the next level.”

But should technology replace the traditional pencil-and-paper way of learning? Not always, Marshall said.

“You choose the best tool for the job,” she said. “Sometimes a pencil is just fine.”

On Thursday, Ethan Pickett, 9, put the finishing touches on a video he was making on an iPad, using the Story Pals application, to go along with a story he’d just written on paper.

“It’s about a prince that goes into a castle, and the princess is stuck in the castle,” he said.

In about two minutes, Ethan re-created his story on the device with ease. He recorded himself speaking each of the characters’ parts as they moved around the screen.

Ethan said school is better with all of the technology he and his classmates use.

“It would be harder without it,” he said.

Baker said teachers must do extra work to learn about new devices before they start incorporating them into their instruction.

“It’s a constant learning curve for teachers,” she said. “It takes a lot of dedication for our teachers to do it, but they do.”

Heather Eaton, a third-grade teacher at C.A. Weis Elementary School, said while technology does not replace teachers, it helps with instruction.

“These are 21st century digital natives we’re teaching,” she said. “I need to speak their language. They need to be exposed to technology, not only to be successful in higher education but also in everyday life.”

Eaton said computer programs make constant assessment possible. Her students use the Successmaker program for reading. They read FCAT-level passages, answer questions and are assessed by the computer.

“They’re delivering passages at (the student’s) reading level and building them up,” she said. “As a teacher, I can go in and see exactly what type of questions they’re struggling with.”

Weis went from a D school in 2010 to an A school in 2011.

“Was technology an aid with that?” Eaton said. “Yes. We need all the help we can get.”

For Parents

Brentwood teachers encourage parents to work with their children on computers, tablets and other mobile devices at home to enhance what children are doing in school. All textbooks have corresponding materials online.

There also are options for families who do not have a computer at home.

“Some of our older equipment is available for checkout for families,” Baker said. “We’re hoping to help more of our tech-needy families.”

Kelly Roper of Pensacola said her fourth-grade daughter, Samantha, thrives off technology and that children today need exposure to it at school.

“It’ll benefit her educationally,” Roper said. “If she doesn’t have something electronic, she will drive you crazy. She can operate computers better than my husband.”

There are as many laptops as there are students in Samantha’s classroom at Brentwood, which Roper said is a good thing.

“The way kids think is not the same as when I was in school,” Roper said. “Their minds are going so much faster that they need multisensory (learning) in school.”

In Santa Rosa

One way Santa Rosa County schools utilize technology is the use of Computers on Wheels, mobile computer labs that consist of 30 laptops attached to a wireless device on a cart.

The COWs, as they’re called in the district, are typically used for assessment and instructional purposes, and can be rolled from classroom to classroom.

“It allows principals and teachers to move technology where it is most needed,” Superintendent Wyrosdick said. “There’s something exciting about watching a class of third-graders grab a laptop and begin to learn on their own.”

This article was originally posted at

10 Reasons Why 1:1 Advances Learning

Recently I got an email from my elementary division head. Our school is piloting a 1:1 netbook program this year, and our administration is interested in how the program is going and the different ways the netbooks are being incorporated into our curriculum. I started putting together a list, and even surprised myself at how much the availability of wifi-ready technology engages my students and supports instruction during the course of a regular school day.

1. Keyboarding – Each morning students grab a netbook and practice keyboarding skills. With daily practice, they are improving quickly. Reluctant writers are frequently students who just despise the physical act of writing. They write as little as possible, because they don’t want to have to actually “write” it. Once they can type, they are much more willing to craft longer pieces. Programs like BBC’sDance Mat Typing make it fun to develop keyboard skills.

2. Internet Research – Because it is so convenient to “look it up” online (and fun, too), students will quickly offer to look up the answer to a question using the kid-friendly search engines we have identified and bookmarked on our class Diigo page. Research is also fun when you are trying to solve a mystery! My fourth graders look up clues given by classes in other schools who join us forMystery Skype calls and try to figure out where their new friends are from!

3. Global Awareness – Why use a paper map when you can use Google Earth? We’ve used animated models to help us learn about the earth’s rotation, revolution, and the changing of the seasons. We were also able to easily see the earth’s hemispheres and find locations on earth by latitude and longitude.

4. Extra practice – Proofreading or practicing multiplication facts is dull and boring on worksheets. But when students can practice using interactive games, I’m finding that they spend much more time and effort to get the answers right.

5. Blogging – When a piece of writing is going to be turned in for only the teacher to see, a student is more likely to put forth minimal effort. But tell that student that their piece will have a world-wide audience, and they begin to imagine who might read their post, and what they might ask about it. Soon they’re writing with their audience in mind, and use their author’s voice to ask questions and encourage reader comments. As a result (and with a little help from their teacher’s twitter network), they get a variety of feedback and encouragement from all over the world. It’s quite the motivator!

6. Digital Storytelling – Using sites like StorybirdStoryjumperZooburst and Little Bird Tales, storytelling comes to life. Would you rather write a story on notebook paper, or create your own pop-up book or self-drawn and narrated tale?

7. Collaborative Learning – Group work just got fun. With collaborative documents like wikis and Google docs, students can be part of something bigger. They can merge individual work into a comprehensive piece, or collaborate to create a presentation or write a story.

8. Connected Learning – Through the Global Read Aloud Project, we’ve enjoyed a shared literature experience with over 3,000 other students across the globe using Edmodo. Students were attentive and engaged, knowing that they would be able to use their netbooks to get on the group Edmodo page and respond to questions, take polls, and make predictions about the story.

9. Eager Readers – With the netbooks available anytime, students can grab one as soon as they finish a book and take an Accelerated Reader quiz. Knowing that they are required to take a quiz, they read more carefully. Most of them are excited to push themselves to higher-level books and see measurable progress in their reading/comprehension ability.

10. Passion-Based Learning – Above all, the convenience of 1:1 netbooks provide students with the opportunity to learn about anything! By allowing time for students to construct their own learning, we teach them that they have the freedom and the power to learn about whatever interests them. This encourages our students to pursue their passions, and become life-long learners.

Count me a believer. Our 1:1 netbooks are providing a great return on investment. Technology isn’t everything – but when it is easily accessed and used to support learning, it motivates students and encourages collaboration, innovation, and creativity. I applaud our administration for taking this initiative, and look forward to many more days of learning ahead.

Photo: Patti Grayson

This article was originally posted at

U.S. Government Opens A Learning Registry That Lists Online Education Resources

via Flickr under The Library of Congress

After over a year in beta, the U.S. Departments of Defense and Education opened the Learning Registry prototype to the public – a comprehensive database of online learning resources for the entire nation. Not only will it help users find online learning content in one place, it will also provide content ratings. This initiative is a solution for organizing scattered learning content including tools for building lesson plans in different subjects. The registry is searchable in a number of ways – content can be found by subject or topic or grade level. Educators will be able to communicate with each other across the globe. Users can elect to be anonymous when commenting on educational content. This has its pros and cons.  While confidentiality may encourage participation, it may compromise the quality of information. Where an opinion comes from matters.  The registry is a work in progress. In the K-12 sphere, how it will shape curriculum and education standards across the U.S. will remain to be seen but it’s a big step forward.


  • Educators
  • Students
  • Parents
  • Producers of Educational Content
  • Consumers of online/distance learning such as people in the military and their families
  • Anyone interested in online learning

Here’s a slideshow on how it works

For more information visit:

Recent Coverage (used for this post):

E-learning ‘to help tackle drug use in 2012 Olympics’

Bringing thousands of people from all over the world to England’s capital city, the London 2012 Olympic Games will become a learning archive through online resources.

E-learning modules for the Olympic and Paralympic Games have been announced which will provide packages educating users on the benefits of sport and fitness, PJ Online reports.

In collaboration with the Games, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) Clinical Pharmacy Services Group has implemented the use of a new revolutionary system which will help those operating on site and allow them to get information on the go.

The three polyclinic pharmacies at the athlete villages in Stratford, Eton Dorney and Weymouth are designed and well under construction. Furthermore, the package entitled ‘The use of drugs in sport: a healthcare professional’s perspective’, are fully completed and ready for use as all pharmacy policies and procedures have been written.

According to the latest update for Pharmacy London 2012, David Mottram, who is involved in encouraging people to use the virtual learning materials, summarised the development of the e-learning package on fitness and lifestyle.

The package comprises three programmes including doping and anti-doping in sport, pharmacy services and support in sport and fitness, and medical services at international sporting events.

Aimed at the pharmacists operating as part of the Games, Mr Mottram suggested that the package is important to make sure they are fully aware of the issues surrounding drug and supplement use in sport and how to implement cautions and disciplinary action if incidents regarding misuse arise.

The pharmacists also have a role to advise members of the public who participate in sports and exercise about the risks of performance-enhancing drugs.

Online learning resources could help to raise awareness in conjunction with the experts.

Categories of drugs banned from sporting events such as the Olympics include anabolic steroids, peptide hormones, strong analgesic painkillers, stimulants and duiretics which can all have performance-enhancing effects which are deemed as cheating.

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Idaho Board Approves First Ever Online Class Requirement

Education officials on Thursday gave final approval to a plan that makes Idaho the first state in the nation to require high school students to take at least two credits online to graduate, despite heavy criticism of the plan at public hearings this summer.

The measure is part of a sweeping education overhaul that introduces teacher merit pay and phases in laptops for every high school teacher and student.

Proponents say the virtual classes will help the state save money and better prepare students for college. But opponents claim they’ll replace teachers with computers and shift state taxpayer money to the out-of-state companies that will be tapped to provide the online curriculum and laptops.

The rule will apply to students entering the 9th grade in fall 2012. It goes before Idaho lawmakers for review in the 2012 session, which starts in January.

The education board gave the online graduation requirement its initial approval in September after heavy opposition was voiced this summer at public hearings across Idaho. Trustees collected more feedback during a 21-day public comment period last month.

“A majority of the comments felt there should not be an online learning requirement,” said board member Don Soltman during the meeting.

Schools nationwide offer virtual classes, but just three states — Alabama, Florida and Michigan — have adopted rules since 2006 to require online learning, according to the International Association of K-12 Online Learning. The online rules vary from state to state, but Idaho would be the first to require two credits online.

The Idaho Education Association blasted the decision in a statement Thursday, saying the board “overruled the wishes of a majority of Idahoans and disregarded parental choice” by mandating the online credits.

To online learning advocates, the requirement seems reasonable. They say children need to be prepared for the world that awaits them after high school.

“There is still a live teacher. It may be at a distance, but that teacher is still instructing and interacting with the student,” said Susan Patrick, president of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, a Washington-based nonprofit.

Kendra Wisenbaker, 28, is among those questioning the Idaho plan.

“The poor kids are guinea pigs,” said Wisenbaker, an elementary school teacher in Meridian, the state’s largest school district.

Like many of her students, Wisenbaker is on Facebook, and she spends several hours a day online. But when it comes to requiring her tech-savvy kids to learn in a virtual classroom once they enter high school, Wisenbaker is among Idaho teachers who aren’t so sure.

“I am a little conflicted, I am. It won’t work for every kid, and I think requiring it is a horrible idea,” said Wisenbaker, who also reasons that some students may thrive learning online. “But it shouldn’t be an option for saving money,” she said during an interview with The Associated Press.

In Idaho, members of the state Board of Education have said most of the opposition is directed at new education laws as a whole — not just the online requirements.

Nationwide, state legislatures tackled education policy this year and triggered protests from teachers over proposed changes to their collective bargaining rights, and how they are evaluated and paid. But Idaho has made some of the most sweeping changes, according to education experts.
The state is introducing teacher merit pay, limiting union bargaining rights and shifting money from salaries toward changes such as more classroom technology, as part of the changes backed by public schools chief Tom Luna and the governor.

The overhaul has drawn heavy criticism, including from educators. But to others, Luna is changing a system that was badly broken and they have commended him for restructuring how Idaho’s scarce education dollars are spent.

A group seeking to recall Luna over the education changes failed to collect enough voter signatures earlier this year, but parents and teachers who want to overturn the new laws did meet a June deadline to put three repeal measures on the November 2012 ballot.

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