Virtual Schools and Colleges Newsletter - March 2012 Issue

Saturday, 31 March 2012

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

This 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.


Article in Education Week about the increased scrutiny faced by Virtual Education Companies

Writing in Education Week, Ian Quillen reports on how the expansion of virtual education has been putting companies that provide e-learning services under the microscope. In his article which is largely based on experience in the US, Ian refers to recent studies suggesting declining achievement among full-time public virtual school students which don't always distinguish between publicly and privately run schools. Read the full article.

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Virtual College reports on online opportunities for African schools

Online learning solutions have been provided to at least 5,000 students and teachers in Africa, enabling schools in the continent to use connectivity to boost their standard and performance. Eight secondary schools have been given PC as a Service - which allows them to use mobile broadband networks to access cloud computing - through the Connect to Learn initiative.

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Tony Bates discusses whether education can afford the iPad

Popular blogger Tony Bates carried out a useful exercise on his blog recently making the comparison between traditional textboks and the iPad. Tony concludes that while we are not there yet, e-textbooks are coming, probably within 3-5 years for general use. However Tony goes on to predict that e-textbooks of themselves will disappear altogether, to be replaced with modular collections of multi-media digital material that can be searched and combined at will by both teachers and learners. Read the full blog.

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Traumatised and injured Belgian children given option to follow lessons online

Following the horrific bus accident in Switzerland last Tuesday which claimed the lives of 22 Belgian school children, 4 teaching staff and 2 bus chauffeurs, Pascal Smet, the Flemish Minister for Education announced a number of initiatives to support the affected schools.  Injured and traumatised children in the two schools, one in Heverlee nearby Leuven and the other in Lommel, will be given the option to follow their classes online via a webcam in the context of the Bednet initiative which supports the education of chronically sick children in Belgium. 

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Virtual schooling’s popularity challenges policy makers

Virtual schooling is in the headlines again this week in the US. Writing in eSchool News, Nora Carr argues that articulating clear online learning policies and communicating these to stakeholders will help garner support Whether blended with more traditional instructional methods as a dual enrollment opportunity, or offered via an online-only school. She goes on to say that the key for school officials is to think through how to manage this transformative new opportunity wisely and well. Having smart policies in place that articulate the school board’s position or philosophy about online learning and provide guidance to students, staff, and parents represents a good starting point. Read the full article.

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Online access to great educational video from TED-Ed?

The launch of TED-Ed this week is creating a lot of interest. Inspired by the Khan Academy, this initiative aims to capture and amplify the voices of great educators around the world. Based on the relatively simple idea of offering tools to teachers to capture and distribute their best lessons on video and teaming up these teachers with animators - this initiative could provide terrific learning material to those interested in virtual schooling. As always - the devil is going to be in the detail as the initiaters get to grips with the specifications and requirements of real learners, can they move beyond the superficial to provide really effective learning resources?  start the journey here on the brand new TED-Ed YouTube channel..

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UK teaching schools now supported by New Technologies Advisory Board

UK teaching schools, a key element in government education policy, now have their own support organisation for ICT, the New Technologies Advisory Board (NTAB). The NTAB’s inaugural meeting has just been hosted by one of the first teaching schools, Sheffield’s Notre Dame High, one of the three schools which will take part in the VISCED pilot project.

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Schools in Malta adopt a common online learning platform

The Malta Independent reported online recently that all Maltese state schools will start launching a new eLearning platform from April onwards. This new platform, called iLearn, will provide students with a range of opportunities to learn in their own time and at their own pace. Essentially, iLearn provides a virtual school building where teachers can easily upload any material they may need to share with their students. It also serves as a place where students can communicate in a safe environment. This launch is in line with the country's Smart Learning Strategy which was launched in 2008. Read the full article.

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CNN Report on the growth of Virtual Schools in the US

This short video clip begins with a report on the experiences of an virtual school student and then moves on to raise different opinions as to the overall value and worth of virtual schooling. While for some students, virtual schooling offers an important alternative, there are some negative voices, like the National Education Association, a teachers union in the US, which questions whether learning online full time is the best approach. Watch the full report by Athena Jones from CNN

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Large scale impact studies raises questions about the impact of One Laptop Per Child

In 2007, Peru announced it would distribute tens of thousands of XO laptops from One Laptop Per Child to children in rural schools across the country, and expanded the programme every year since. Almost 1 million laptops later, the program is now the largest XO deployment in the world. Large impact studies of this initiative have shown that effective implementation of the One Laptop per Child program was not enough to overcome the difficulties of a design that places its trust in the role of technologies themselves. Visit the Educational Technology Debate website to read more about these studies and the questions raised by their findings.

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Guide to communicating research for evidence-based policymaking available from European Commission

This practical guide is aimed at researchers in socio-economic sciences and humanities and identifies the most important stages in the development of a dynamic communication strategy and which will ensure that projects funded by the European Commission make a real difference in enabling policymakers to respond to the significant challenges we face. Divided into three parts – Concept, Policy Briefs and Practical Means – this guide is intended to help exploit research concepts into genuine policy action.

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Book on Advanced Learning freely available online

Mats Öström from Ross Tensta school recommends the book "Advanced Learning" edited by Raquel Hijón-Neira at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos. In this book, different authors study and discuss a variety of tools related to Web 2.0. The aim with the book is to help the educational community use the web effectively in their teaching and learning activities. It covers a variety of different topics from games in education to semantic web.

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Learning in Context workshop organised in Brussels

The Stellar Network of Excellence is organising the learning in Context workshop on 26-27 March. It will examine current innovative practices on the use of mobile learning and research from the domain of Technology Enhanced Learning.  Contextualized learning will be addressed from different angles, including:

  • Case-studies from industry, Higher Education and Secondary Education
  • Current and future Research issues, and
  • Visions for the future of applying mobile learning in education and training.
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Featured Virtual School Initiative

Virtual School Project linking schools in Canada, China, Korea and Philippines

The KFIT International School Project (KISP) was initiated to provide teachers and students with an opportunity to expand their local boundaries and collaborate with other groups internationally in developing inter-cultural projects. The project connects schools from four countries (Canada, China, Korea, Philippines) to engage in project-based learning locally and internationally. The project was formally launched on 5 March 2012 at UNESCO Bangkok through an online meeting and video conference of all collaborating Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs) and schools (teachers and students who will take part in KISP), held via Skype.

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Emilia Romagna region launches the initiative [email protected]

The project addresses schools located in the mountain areas of the region and adopts innovative learning technologies to improve the educational offer in the mountain areas. Practical reasons often hinder kids from reaching a suitable school, leading to a situation in which kids of different ages have to stay in the same classroom. Funded by the Emilia Romagna region (300 k euros), [email protected] is coordinated by an interinstitutional committe grouping policy makers and providers. The project will last two years and address 156 primary schools, 86 lower secondary schools and 35 upper secondary school. During the first pilot year (2012/2013) 14 schools will be involved.

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European Schoolnet launches community of practice called inGenious

inGenious, a FP7 project coordinated by the European Schoolnet has recently launched its first community of practice. The aim of the Technology Community is to a) share ideas and information about the use of technology in education, b) inspire teachers to explore new ways of teaching with technology and c) raise questions and seek answers about technology and education. Teachers have a chance to share ideas or raise questions in a debate guided by the inGenious experts.

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Paul's Blog

I've been in New Zealand only 5 days and have not yet visited any institutions, but I have had the benefit of being hosted by Professor Niki Davis at the College of Education, University of Canterbury. In addition to her US and UK experience she is now working with several of the "networked schools" consortia in New Zealand. The conclusions that follow are, I stress, my own.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This website of car loans 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.