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Virtual Schools and Colleges Newsletter - January 2012 Issue

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Welcome to the January 2012 edition of the Virtual Schools and Colleges Newsletter

This first edition of our 2012 newsletter contains a variety of articles and reports related to the use of ICT in secondary and post-secondary education for 14-21 year olds in Europe and elsewhere. The Virtual Schools and Colleges Newsletter is an outcome of the European project VISCED which is carrying out a systematic review of virtual schools and colleges at international and national levels including a study into operational examples of fully virtual schools and colleges.

You are very welcome to send us news about developments related to virtual schools and colleges in your region or country, share this newsletter with your colleagues and join us on the Virtual Schools and Colleges wiki.

News

Laura dekkers onboard her sailboat Guppy

It's good to see that Laura Dekkers, the 16 year old who recently sailed single-handedly around the world onboard her yacht Guppy, suceeded in a dream that has inspired her since she first set off sailing at the tender age of 5. Her success raises some questions though about the extent to which educational authorities can enforce their decisions when it comes to compulsory education.When Laura and her parents first made their plans known in 2009 when Laura was 13, the Dutch authorities strongly opposed them on the grounds that she would be neglecting her education. Eventually she was allowed to go ahead on the condition that she followed regular online tuition and kept up with her school work. Laura enrolled in the Wereldschool which provides teaching programmes for Dutch-speaking children who stay abroad with their parents.

Cover of EQF Newsletter

If you are interested in the current state of affairs regarding European qualifications then the latest EQF Newsletter contains lots of interesting articles particularly in respect to the coming together of various qualifications frameworks in vocational training with higher education.

Articles include a useful overview of recent developments in national qualifications frameworks in Europe, a report on collaboration efforts by EQF, EQAVET and ECVET and an insight into  the implementation of qualifications frameworks on an international scale.

Global conference on Technology, Funding policies and Teacher Education

In almost every conversation on education reform these days, Finland's education system inevitably comes up. "Finlandophilia," as one reporter called it, is growing because of the country's top-ranking status on international tests, among other measures, and because this success comes through very different policies and practices than those that are the norm in the United States. A conference held at Stanford University on 17-18 January brought together academic and policy experts from the United States and Finland to identify effective policy and practice approaches to create high quality education for all learners.

Future Classroom Lab Corridoor

Future teaching and learning with innovative use of ICT was the focus of discussion during the official opening of the Future Classroom Lab in Brussels this week. This lab has been created by European Schoolnet with its supporting 30 ministries and industry partners to help visualise how conventional classrooms and other learning spaces can be easily reorganised to support changing styles of teaching and learning. The official opening of the lab was performed by Jan De Craemer, Vice Chair of the European Schoolnet Steering Committee. Read more on the Future Classroom Lab website

iNACOL website front page

iNACOL (International Association for K-12 Online Learning) is organising a series of Leadership webinars in 2012 related to virtual schooling. In the first which took place on 11 January, the focus was on state-level online learning policy for the US. This focus has been driven largely by the release of a Roadmap to Reform by the Foundation for Excellence in Education which provides input to US state policymakers wishing to implement the Digital Learning Now elements. eSchool News carries a full report of this webinar.

A recent article by Stephanie Saul in the New York Times (December 12 2011) asks a number of significant questions about the value of online schooling particularly when the management of online schools is in the hands of for-profit organisations. Describing significant revenue streams while embracing far from innovative teaching methods, several specific schools come in for significant criticism. This article paints a far from rosy picture of many virtual schools in the US although it is worth pointing out that the main bone of contention in the article seems to be with sommercal organisations running these schools on a for-profit basis. Read the full article.

Susan Patrick with Claudio Dondi and Daniela Proli at the VISCED IAC meeting in September

A recent article in eSchool News highlights the importance of constant teacher/pupil communication as a key to success in virtual schooling. In the same article iNACOL CEO Susan Patrick who is also a member of the VISCED International Advisory Committee makes the point that the increase in virtual schooling is clearly in line with the overall educational context in the US where about one in three college students now take some courses online, and about 50 percent of workforce training is believed to be done online. Read the full article in eSchool News.

Reports

Data image from the Pearson article

Brian Epp, writing recently on the Pearson Learning Solutions website, explains how educators can use data linked to students' online learning patterns to provide better services. Making comparisons to online retail behaviour, Brian makes the case for using data as a foundation for progress citing several diferent examples. These include mining LMS and SIS systems for information on student performance (both grades and learning outcome scores), activity by feature or by content object to come up with actionable at-risk dashboards for academic leaders.

Read more on the Pearson site.

The latest edition of EurODL includes an interesting case study based on the experiences of an at-risk student in a rural school in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador enrolled in an online class. Although based on a single case, this study highlights a number of revealing results particularly when it comes to online collaborative and communication behaviour among students who tend to 'tune out' of virtual classroom activities. This paper is written and submitted by Michael K. Barbour and Jason P. Siko from Wayne State University, US.

Finnish video

Finland's innovative approach to special needs is summarised in a short video available now on Edutopia. Early intervention and sustained individual support for every student are keys to educating the whole child in Finnish schools.Teachers explain their approach which includes obligatory weekly meetings for all teachers, an extensive student welfare service and as early intervention as possible. Key concerns and drivers of the Finnish system are equity and quality.

Projects

Cicero Learning

CICERO Learning Network, University of Helsinki and Tampere University of Technology in Pori have received generous funding from the Learning Solutions programme of Tekes (the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation) to set up the Finnable project. In addition to researchers, this value network project includes several companies, schools and representatives of the public sector. The project also includes extensive international cooperation, especially with Stanford University and schools in Silicon Valley. Professor Hannele Niemi (University of Helsinki) is the Scientific Leader of the project. Finnable is coordinated by CICERO Learning Network  with Director Jari Multisilta as a Principal Investigator in many of the sub-projects.

Paul's Blog

Last week I attended Learning Without Frontiers, which is rapidly occupying a similar place in the educational conference universe to the late lamented opulent Learning And Technology World Forum, held each year just before BETT at Olympia, whose 2011 event fell victim to government cuts in autumn 2010.  Among the attractions, at the stand for WISE, a Qatar-based Foundation, was a book signing by Charles Leadbeater, the charismatic consultant who was the research leader of the study Learning from the Extremes, conducted for Cisco Education, which was one of the key influences on the VISCED bid. His book is called Innovation in Education: Lessons from Pioneers around the World.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.