Virtual Schools and Colleges Newsletter - May 2012 Issue

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Welcome to the May 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.


10th Annual Conference of the Estonian e-Learning Development Centre

The 10th annual conference of the Estonian e-Learning Development Centre entitled Learning and Teaching in Digital Age Myths and Reality took place 12-13 of April, 2012 in Tallinn, Estonia. This two day international conference featured among others keynotes from Steve Wheeler, Allison Littlejohn, Arthur Harkins and Stephen Downes as well as a captivating set of parallel sessions and engaging workshops. During the event VISCED leaflets were distributed between 180 conference delegates.

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Highlights from the Framtidens lärande or Future Learning Conference in Sweden

Mats Öström from Ross Tensta in Sweden and partner in VISCED took part on May 15/16 in Framtidens lärande, one of the largest conferences in Sweden addressing IT in schools. Mats provided a summary of what for him were the highlights of the conference. During the starting debate of this conference, participants discussed the degree to which we are facing a borderless society. While arguing about the extent to which the school building itself is disappearing, it was generally agreed that society may not yet be ready for the removal of the school building. Recognising the importance of meeting face-to-face, participants also agreed on the importance of the school building for smaller children.

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Call for papers to EFQUEL Innovation Forum extended

The organisers of the EFQUEL Innovation Forum 2012 which is taking place in Granada on 5-7 September have extended their call for papers to 31 May. This forum focuses on the following questions:  how can we turn our traditional educational institutions into (r)evolutionary leading organisations? and how can innovation be stimulated? At the same time the conference will observe and analyse how open innovation can be used to transform today's educational institutions. Find out more from the conference website.

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Swedish event focuses on innovation in schools

 Mats Öström, from VISCED partner Ross Tensta Gymnasium in Sweden took part in the SETT Conference on April 25-26. This event targets teachers in Sweden and includes a large number of seminars aimed at helping teachers succeed in the classroom and advising them on how best to use different tools. This event provided a good mix of theory and practice and was accompanied by an exhibition area where you could find several providers of LMS, tools for scheduling, publishing companies and other companies that make tools for education.

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The keynote presentation given by Paul Bacsich in New Zealand during the recent DEANZ conference featured some of the latest work carried out by the VISCED team. This biannual conference attracted about 150 participants and is the premier conference in Aotearoa New Zealand for leaders and practitioners involved in open, flexible and distance learning. The 2012 conference theme was 'Shift Happens' with three themes of resilience, relevance and reform. Paul's presentation entitled "Towards the Multiversity? An integrated view of where we are in the

Major conference on ICT in Education takes place in Finland

The Interactive Technology in Education (ITE) conference is the largest conference in Finland related to information and communication technology in educational use. The conference started in 1990 and took place this spring for the 23rd time. the conference was organised in the Hotel Aulanko in Hämeenlinna, Finland and was opened by the Minister of Education and Science Jukka Gustafsson. One of the keynote speakers was Professor Eric Duval, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium (presentation).

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Open and Social Technologies for Networked Learning - conference in Tallinn

Tallinn is hosting an IFIP open working conference on "Open and Social Technologies for Networked Learning", 30 July-03 August 2012. Tallinn University and University of Tampere (FI) are jointly organizing the event. Open and social technologies play an increasingly important role in many educational settings. Social technologies are entering primary, secondary, and higher education, blurring the boundaries between formal and informal learning. Social technologies have also entered the workplaces, connecting learners and bridging the boundaries between individual learning and the organizational knowledge processes.

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Innolukio to inspire upper secondary schools and students in Finland

This week the Innolukio project was launched which is targeted to all Finnish upper secondary school students. Innolukio is a learning platform that aims to increase interactivity, create connections between students, enterprises and universities and to exploit students´ creativity as a national resource. The project also works as an accelerator in developing upper secondary schools and raising their profile.

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Georgia district implements virtual-world technology

eSchool News reported in March on the introduction of virtual world technology to schools in the US state of Georgia. The purpose of this project is to help engage students which will begin by offering a 3D virtual-world environment to every classroom teacher in the 35 schools of a school district. The name of this project is “NOBLE” which stands for New Opportunities for Better Learning Experiences. NOBLE offers the ability for enterprise-level account management, school groups, and tools and procedures that make for a secure online environment for students. read the full article.

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Focus on the disruptive nature of innovation in schools

Michael B. Horn recently writing in eSchool News argues that the extensive news coverage in the USA on the value or otherwise of virtual schooling has failed to address 2 critical strands of discussion at the background to these news stories. These are understanding how a disruptive innovation evolves and the role of public policy in shaping it.He makes the point that online learning is a disruptive innovation—an innovation that transforms a sector by making it simpler, more convenient, and affordable. Disruptive innovations have transformed many parts of our society, everything from computing to how we do taxes. But disruptive innovations don’t transform the world overnight. Read the full article.

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Advice on Virtual Schools to US Policy-Makers

Nora Carr writing in the eSchool News in March makes the argument that the success of virtual schools in the US is posing a challenge to policy-makers. In this article, Nora refers to various actions in the US taken at state-level to introduce new rules and policies in an effort to keep up with the rapid increase in virtual school interest. She argues that virtual learning is here to stay and makes the point that the key for school officials is to think through how to manage this transformative new opportunity wisely and well. Read the full article.

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Lots of interest in first virtual charter school in New Jersey

In the midst of quite some discussion in the US about virtual schools in general, the first charter school in New Jersey is having a lot of success in enrolling students for its first roll-out in September and has enrolled more than 300 students in its first week. The New Jersey Virtual Academy Charter School (NJVACS), operating under contract with the for-profit online education company, K12 Inc., has begun advertising its New Jersey program through traditional press releases, email blasts and informational events. Read more about this success in this article in the South Brunswick Patch.

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Poland launches significant digital school programme

The Polish Council of Ministers has adopted a regulation concerning the implementation of a „Digital School” programme for the computerization of Polish schools and for raising ICT competences.  A piloting phase of the project aimed at 380 schools in Poland will  equip them with hardware (tablets, computers for students, additional equipment). Also digital and free (under Creative Commons Attribution or compatible) textbooks for grades 4-6 in primary schools (K4-K6) will be created (45 millions  PLN - approx. USD 14m -  is assigned for textbooks). This is the first major government project in Poland which creates Open Educational Resources especially textbooks. You can read more here.

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The History of Finnish educational reform

"Finnish Lessons" is written by Pasi Sahlberg and recounts the history of Finnish educational reform and describes how the Finnish strategy and tactics differ from those of the global educational reform movement and of the North American reforms in particular.This book also addresses the role of teachers as well as the links between education reform and other sectors of society, and how smart education policies serve to raise a nation's prosperity and reduce poverty.

Rather than proposing that other nations follow in Finland's path, Finnish Lessons documents how Finland achieved success without going through the arduous and controversial process of implementing competition, school choice, and test-based accountability.

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Mapping Digital Competence: Towards a Conceptual Understanding

This report by Kirsti Ala-Mutka and published by the Joint Research Centre - Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) last November reviews needs for digital competence, different concepts used to describe and understand it, and related policy approaches and measurements. Based on these, it suggests a conceptual model with the following main areas: 1) Instrumental knowledge and skills for tool and media usage; 2) Advanced skills and knowledge for communication and collaboration, information management, learning and problem-solving, and meaningful participation; 3) Attitudes to strategic skills usage in intercultural, critical, creative, responsible and autonomous ways.

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UAE launches smart learning initiative for schools

Public schools in the United Arab Emirates are being upgraded to include significant online opportunities. This initiative is described as being part of UAE Vision 2021 which sees the development of education as being essential. The inititaive aims to transform classrooms as well as integrate teachers, students, parents and administrators into a single e-platform and is being  introduced in four stages over five years. A pilot of the project, which will include 18 schools covering students from grade six to grade nine, will be launched in September 2012. Read  more here.


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Swedish search service for learning resources

Spider is a Swedish national search service for digital learning resources. This service, which uses learning resource metadata for searching, connects a number of Swedish Learning Object Repositories and offers a single point for searching digital learning resources. The Spider search forms can easily be added to any web page or LMS using one of the Spider Widgets. By combining the Spider search service with the WILD Curriculum Cloud Service it will soon be possible to dynamically link digital learning resources to the national curriculum and syllabuses using Semantic Web technology. Version 2.0 of the Spider service will be released in May. Find out more.

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Project news

European Virtual Schools Colloquium gets off the ground in Sheffield

This one day colloquium brings together practitioners and researchers involved in virtual schooling from around the world. The programme for the day includes presentations of different virtual schools from Europe and North America and discussions about quality and critical success factors for virtual schools. Sustainability, regulatory frameworks and pedagogy will also come up for discussion during the day. Recordings of many of the presentations as well as interviews with many of the people involved will be available on this website shortly.

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Paul's Blog

The VISCED project is now in its second and final year. We are now finishing off many pieces of work so that we can begin the major task of creating the VISCED Handbook on virtual schools. This means that by the middle of the summer we have to have a list of all the virtual schools in the world (for ages 14-21) which is as complete as it can be within our resources. (With the exception of the US - numbers there are still growing fast.) Since the VISCED project is wiki-based, we shall continue to collect virtual schools right up until the end of the project but it will not be possible to include data from these latecomers in our analyses.  We are hoping that you, our readers, can help us by "crowdsourcing" new virtual schools in the next 6 weeks.

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.