Will my son see the inside of a high school classroom?

Or will this be what his classroom looks like?

Will Richardson blogged recently about a conference he attended where he heard Andy Ross, vice-president of Florida Virtual High School speak. The quote does not need much lead-in, so here it is:

Finally, I think the conversation that most blew me away was the one with Andy Ross, the VP of Florida Virtual High School. They’ve got almost 1,000 full time staff now and over 20,000 kids on their waiting list to take classes. They can’t hire teachers fast enough. Kids can take their entire high school curriculum online without ever meeting a teacher face to face, though there are plenty of phone calls and e-mails. Andy said that their research shows that those kids do better on the standardized assessments than kids in physical schools, primarily because of the deep alignment of the curriculum and the programmed delivery.

Will’s reflections got me to wondering about where my son will be attending high school six and a half years from now. Sure, if it has four walls and a physical teacher, it will be White Oak High School. But, if it is a virtual environment that he excels in for whatever reason, then that is an option he will obviously have available. Texas has already started down that road, albeit years after Florida took the lead. Our own East Texas Virtual High School via SUPRNet has been ahead of the game (and the rest of Texas) on this as well since they visited Florida in the beginning to help get started on the right track.

Yet, we are talking 6.5 years from now. That’s like 30 years in tech life. How far along will we and our technologies be by then? Will Cisco Telepresence be the home solution? Or will it be like CNN’s holograms or more like a real hologram?

Regardless, consider the technologies we use and take for granted today, and think back five years. Yeah. Tremendous, huh? My son has some awesome times ahead of him. Will Texas public schools be ready? Will TCEA be a part of that preparation? Florida already is. They even have openings for Texas elementary teachers to work from home. That means they are taking OUR kids out of OUR classes and OUR teachers from OUR students. Now. How far behind are we?

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach mentioned at a conference recently, “We are preparing kids with the end in mind, and we don’t even know what the end is.” She’s right. But let me take that one step further. We are planning, prepping, and funding our schools with the future in mind, and we don’t even know what the future holds. Can we even begin to plan keeping unimaginable learning environments in mind? Is it possible for us to get out of the mold where we expect 100% of our students (K-12) to arrive for learning on a bus instead of in their pajamas?

I’m not sounding the Armageddon Alarm for public schools. I’m just saying, if we all think the trends we are seeing in places like Florida are either going to pass us by or fade into another realm as the pendulum swings back, I think we are making a huge mistake. What are we doing in our state and school districts to prepare for this paradigm shift?

Facing reality might be a good start.

4 thoughts on “Will my son see the inside of a high school classroom?

  1. Guess I’m old fashioned, but if I’m ever asked to teach 100% from home, I think I’ll be looking for a new career. I didn’t become a teacher to have “virtual students”.

    The power of technology is in the relationships that it allows us to create that would otherwise be impossible. But I think we’re going down the wrong path if we think these relationships can ever be completely without the face to face human element.

    I want to look into my students eyes and detect confusion or comprehension. I want to celebrate with them when they reach their goals and I want to experience this first hand.

    Right now, my most meaningful online relationships are with people whom I have had and hope to continue to have real life connections. With the virtual friendships I am developing where we have never met, I hope we can someday meet in the real world.

    I think the best models will be a hybrid situation with some virtual learning and some face to face opportunities as well. I’m not saying 100% virtual is impossible or even unlikely. I’m just thinking about what is best for humanity. But I might be quickly becoming an antique. Now where did I put my vinyl Elvis LP’s?

  2. Bill,

    You are a man after my own heart, I think. It is the same issue I am conflicted with in this. I started to put a few other paragraphs in this post but took them out and started a new post. I hope to have it ready today or tomorrow. It has bits from Dean Shareski and Gary Stager as they challenge my thinking on this subject.

    I do know that a full online course should be an option for some. I did my entire Masters online from University of Texas at Arlington. It was the top rated program in the nation when I enrolled. It was the hardest work of my entire education career, but I loved it. I did go to UTA for the last class because there was one option that was only offered on campus and fit with my literacy training background. It was a perfect ending to that degree.

    Yet, what I got from that was that both of the types connections I made during that year and a half (f2f and virtual) were powerful and long term. For instance, I decided to go to the graduation even though it was a three hour drive. While we were getting placed in alphabetical order, they called my name to be seated. All of a sudden a woman ran over, gave me a big hug, and whispered in my ear that she would not have made it through the degree had it not been for some of the things I wrote during our virtual conversations as a class. Later she clarified that she was confused much of the time because there was no one there to ask F2F, and she was too scared to ask herself. As most know by now, I’m not much in the scarred category, so I asked questions. Lots of them. When we did not receive answers from the professor or a TA, we came to a consensus as a group and stuck to the plan. Virtual leadership was a first for many of us. What I got out of that encounter was that the environment is not made for everyone and participation in it fully by everyone involved is important.

    I appreciate you commenting on this. It validates my own struggle of moving away from f2f to virtual completely. The hybrid model Shareski uses with his students seems to be the best option for many of the students. Now, we have to figure out a way to prepare our schools for all three types of students or else we risk losing them.

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