Monday, July 16, 2012

Chapter Three E-Demand Around the Globe

The focus of this chapter was on the demand and growth of online courses and programs being offered by a range of educational institutions. I found the history and statistics about the soaring number of students of all ages taking online classes interesting. I had the opportunity to attend a session on OpenCourseWare while at the technology institute. There is a huge push for free online education. Universities are putting their materials and lectures online for the public which has also opened opportunities for completely free online classes. Huge numbers of students have signed up for these free classes, and this is what I find to be the truly neat consequence of all of this, students began organizing themselves into online study communities on their own. The pursuit of life-long learning in its finest hour. Students pursuing knowledge without anything to gain besides the knowledge itself. The goal of every teacher to instill a love of learning realized.

The themes that the students and teachers credit the online learning experience with are self-initiative, communication, organization, empowerment, creativity, self-expression, meaningfulness, and individuality. Not to mention all of the benefits of crossing the country and the world to a variety of cultural and geographic perspectives. Looking at that list makes me think of the qualities I would want any of my students to walk away from my classroom with to continue learning for the rest of their lives.

Bonk writes, "There is no one best technology and no one best instructional approach." I feel that education often latches on to the newest fad, the program with the best promises, the newest catch phrases, and of course anything with an acronym. I think that it's easy to become blinded by the next shiny thing that emerges. It's easy to use technology as a replacement, rather than a tool. Instead of handwriting that paper type it. Instead of using the dictionary, look it up on your computer. One of the teachers that Bonk talks about, Yong says, "When we start something new, we should try innovation instead of fixing the old." I'm not sure that we can fully imagine the scope of what we are capable with through online education. Bonk shares the story of the young girl who goes on a sailing trip with her family and how she is able to incorporate authentic learning experiences with her online course work. How many times have we modified our curriculum work when our students approach us with those life experience opportunities? How valuable is it for our students to be able to reach for those materials and courses with just a couple clicks of a mouse?

The chapter discusses many successful schools that have implemented extensive online opportunities for their students. The Florida Virtual School is one such instance offering K-12 online education. The president and CEO, Julie Young, had a fantastic quote about the role of the educator in the online world. "Part of my passion as an educator is to help other educators understand how vital it is that we be willing to pioneer within this new "open" world on behalf of our children... We have to be willing to provide the maps and the compass so that when they get out into this new world of instant access, they will have guideposts, warning signs, and even a moral compass to keep them on a productive path." As Bonk also says later "Online, a teacher is a teacher is a teacher."

Also a quick plug for since it was mentioned in this chapter. My students love the format and concept of this website. I encourage them to use it in their free time and they love answering the questions while knowing they're contributing to a cause. Education, entertainment, and a way to change the world all rolled into one :)

Resources OpenCourseWare


  1. Where can I find the OpenCourseWare that offers free online courses? (I know I could Google it but am wondering what was recommended at the session you went to at the tech institute).

    The quote from Julie Young about providing a map and compass for students using the internet reminded me of the tech institute workshop I went to about digital citizenship. There is a comprehensive digital citizenship curriculum online at Common Sense Media that looks very good: another site I intend to look at more - so many resources, so little time!

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    2. I added a link to some of the resources from OpenCourseWare in my post. I hope those are helpful!

    3. Wow, thank you so much! These are very helpful!

  2. "Better models of learning include Choice, empowerment, creative, expression, meaningfulness, and individuality"

    It is interesting to note that schools are NOT set up for this.... for example how do you teach creativity when you don't allow students to make mistakes since they are always testing to regurgitate the right answer, which according to the test there is always only ONE correct answer?

    I loved the term, Learning Optimists.... push learning just beyond the reach of the latest attacks from the critics. Potential online Learners are EVERYWHERE.

    But again Schools/Admins/Unions/Staff = Safekeeping selfs suppress our risk-taking selves. I agree with Jess... education is always looking for the "Golden Ticket" Magic computer, or software or ability.... that will poof fix it all. Notice how many outside programs / speakers that come through education to "reform" it that never happen. They keep forgetting to reform the setup... we get new buildings, new technology, new programs, but remain in same Industrial Model of Bells, Blocks, and Boredom.

    "So many Parents and educators today are willing to throw up their hands and say that they just aren't good at technology or change their teaching.... this would be like the pioneers sending their child out alone to forge a trail to the West ahead of them...." Julie Young

    An online Textbook is still a textbook. It can be a "better" textbook with audio, video and web links, but it is still just a textbook.

    Online Courses that just put the worksheets online.... are still the old NON-working model just "prettier"

    It is the adage.... You can put lipstick on a pig..... but it is still a pig.

    If you want to see a Maine based Online program my brother is creating one

  3. Hello,

    I agree with your main points. Our technology has allowed us to teach and learn in ways we could never dream a few decades ago. Like any new tool (to cite some good examples for the book) there is fear of that change and those that do not grasp how we can use these tools. E-Learning and virtual learning environments are going to become more and more the norm, especially with the increasing numbers of digital natives we see each year in our schools.

    I think the comment “..prepackaged curriculum is dead. Instead, workers of today need just-in- time and on-demand learning.” is so true today. So much of the materials provided by publishing companies seem so forced and lack authenticity. I find that its often more useful to use the web to find resources that are relevant to the topic and task at hand.

    I think the increase in online learning courses and seminars combined with rich, diverse online learning resources is the way we have to go.....Choice for the learner and instructor. Choice of time. Choice of topic. Choice of delivery method (including games, video, animations and so much more).

    The concept for NotSchool ( exsitiing for students who find the traditional educational experience a poor fit is a wonderful example of how technology helps more and more of us to be successful. The traditional classroom setting is not ideal for all students (or even very realistic), but organizations like this are one way to meet their needs. Motivational and authentic learning (just in time as well) can benefit all students.

    I would also like to comment on Illich’s three purposes for a good educational system: 1) Unlimited resources for any learner at any point requested, 2) allow learners to share knowledge and expertise while finding those like them, 3) allow all who want to present an idea, issue or resource to the public can do so. Can any traditional classroom setting ever meet these requirements? I think not. E-learning and open online classrooms are the only way we could accomplish this.

    There are so many teacher that rely on the same instructional strategies that they have used for the last twenty years. Tired on old curriculum. The web opens up this to a wider set of topics and instructional methods.

    Lastly FreeRice. I have not played it but it something many of kids will play when they have free time on the computer.

  4. I was talking with some of my varsity soccer players just the other day about online college course credits. Some of them are currently taking classes at our school and will be receiving 6 college credits for the year long class. It's not an AP class, so they won't need to take the AP test at completion. I spoke with them about how great of an opportunity this was for them, and teaching at a really low income school recognized how much money they will be saving in the long run for their future. They were excited at the idea that there may be "virtual" opportunities for them to engage in e-learning!