Or will this be what his classroom looks like?
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.