This is a place to share whatever thoughts you have about virtual schools. Just put them up here. You can always come back and edit later. Please put newest comments at the top.

-2/21 Questions put up on this Stixy board in response to the following prompt. What is your vision of an ideal school?

  • Reconnect our schools with nature. The connection of schools with the natural environment goes all the way back to Plato's Academy located in its grove of sacred olive trees. Sustainability and environmental awareness should be interwoven with all aspects of education. Our schools need to develop citizens of Earth with a planetary consciousness.
  • Minimize or even eliminate grading. Alfie Kohn is right about the pernicious effects of grading students. St. Ann's proves the case.
  • Work should be project based and individually determined by the unique passions, needs and interests of each student.
  • As much democracy as possible at all levels.
  • Technology is used to set students free to pursue their interests. Following Dan Pink, technology can be used to make more autonomy possible, facilitate the development of mastery, and allow students to use their growing mastery purposefully to make the world a better place.
  • Schools and their communities should be interwoven, with students moving freely and frequently between them. Ivan Illich provides a powerful vision of learning webs reconnecting schools and the communities that enclose them.

    The following quote is from Herbert Simon. "Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones." Inspiration for us. We are all designers!

    • slow down the pace
    • students have CONTROL over their learning
    • faculty are not just "us" adults; faculty are facilitators, and that includes the students as facilitators
    • schools, community centers, adult ed, senior centers ~ mesh it all together
    • assessment is not a tool for ranking; it is a tool for self-improvement
    • the needs of the community can help define the "school"

    Schools that adopt blended learning and digital portfolios can become learning communities with a Cumulative Curriculum (McClintock, 1992). This replaces the artifice of earning grades for practice performance with making contributions to a peer review community.

    Consider how open source communities function as a model for schools - with students at any level functioning as knowledge producers in community. "culture shapes the mind... it provides us with the toolkit by which we construct not only our worlds but our very conception of our selves and our powers" (Bruner).

-2/6 Questions put up on this Stixy board in response to the following question. What are your questions about redesigning schools to take advantage of the opportunities opened up by the digital information storms rocking our society?

  • How can we best combine the strengths of traditional schooling... caring relationships, safe environments, group work ... with the strengths of online learning ... customization, individualization, allowing students to organically pursue their interests at their own pace?
  • How can we hold our students and our faculty accountable without "preaching to the test"? (This question is, of course, more relevant to public schools)
  • How do we take school outside the building? (literally and figuratively)
  • How do we convince folks that kids do not have to be grouped by age?
  • How do we move beyond the traditional curriculum of required subjects?
  • How do we "redesign" teachers?
  • How to harness the excitement and depth of learning in lower school throughout- engaging discovery, play and learning. Lifelong learning centers. Isn't that the best of web 2.0?
  • Why do we compartmentalize learning from the very early stages? English, math science, history, art, music? Can we not show them as a whole?
  • How do we engage schools' leaders in real discussion and participation to re-imagine our school?
  • Let teachers be co-learners, not the sage on the stage. This will work as students (and teachers) take responsibility for their own learning. Teachers can teach students how to learn.
  • When will we let go of the power structure that forces schools to function in a non-collaborative way? We are all learners. I want to see us focus less on the teachers' curriculum and use tools available to differentiate by interest and need.
  • How do we stop letting college admission and the "glory" associated with getting kids into Ivy drive everything we do in independent high schools? How do we put the focus back on learning instead of on performance?
  • Why are we re-designing school rather than inventing digital learning environments based on the starfish concept rather than the spider of school. Burning Man and learning have much in common!!!
  • What are our goals? Variety? Different voices? Broader perspectives? When we bring the outside in, how do we maintain our brand, our values, and our roots in tradition and faith? Can these values be exported, packaged, and incorporated in online teaching and learning communities? What values are strengthened while others may be lost?
  • I would love to see more cross-curricular units where the goal is not only content-driven, but derived from multi-dimensional thinking and analysis. Not, the simple gathering of information to then be simply put in a PowerPoint. Original thoughts, reflection of information, and synthesis is needed.
  • Student centered learning, active role in their education. Teaching for understanding.
  • As a teacher I am always learning from my students-as they make discoveries. Agree that a more collaborative environment for students and teachers alike would be beneficial,
  • We should trust the process more than we do. Our students will become who they are supposed to become.
  • How do we make schools that are cost effective? I'm talking about a school which offers not just content or even academic skills, but adult mentoring and social growth - these inevitably need bricks and mortar. How do they compete with the idea of a striclty online education? Or is this process being "Balkanized," and we will be raising our kids to get academic learning via the computer, socializing in another venue, community involvement in another, sports in still another, etc?
  • Our example of scholarship (demonstrating life-long learning within a balanced life) is exceedingly more important than the content we select.
  • Why do we expect kids to all be at the same point academically across the board when we wouldn't think of using height or weight or other developmental standard. How can we allow students to progress in each area as they are ready instead of saying that all have to keep in lock-step just because they are in 4th grade for example? We wouldn't say they don't measure up because their growth spurt comes a bit later than a peer, but what about their conceptualizing skills and abstract thinking?
  • How do we prepare our students for the 21st century without thwarting their success in the 20th century college admission process?
  • IF schools should be designed around the cognitive functions of the brain, then optimal f2f learning centers should start later in the day and end earlier. Less time with f2f and greater social interaction with more active involvement in real time authentic tasks.
  • How do we make the school day centered around what the students need, which might challenge how we view our 'school' and our 'role' in their education?
  • Online learning has such potential, but will it work for students who are not motivated to learn? Even for the motivated student, will it work for all subjects? Or do we change our idea of what subjects are required? Face-to-face learning is still beneficial, so does that mean the answer is blended learning?
  • Is the school house obsolete ? Should we be looking at a new model of learning facility?
  • How do you think tests would change if students were allowed to communicate with each other and the world while taking tests? Is assessment possible while students are connected to the world?


-2/1 Another day of jury duty so not a lot of energy to devote to this today. Much of what Shelly Blake-Plock has been writing in Teach Paperless has been resonating with me. My plan for the first week of this design effort is to ask questions? A great starting set of questions was generated in the Educon session that Will Richardson led last Saturday, and here they are.

  • What does an educated person look like today?
  • What are the essential practices of teachers in a system where students are learning outside of school?
  • If some percentage of schooling is socialization and relationship building, how would that happen outside of school?
  • How are we going to shift the expectations for schools from all of our constituents?
  • How do we change policy to support more flexible time and place learning?
  • How does our thinking of the physical space change?
  • How do we support the changing role of teacher?
  • What is the role of the teacher?
  • Do we really need a physical space?
  • How do K-12 and higher ed have this conversation about change together?
  • What is the purpose of school?
  • How do we teach kids ethics and citizenship?
  • How do we continue to make school available to everyone?
  • Is school a resource or it something we do?
  • How do we adapt our curriculum to the technologies that kids are already using?
  • How do we ensure that every child has access to learning opportunities outside of school?
  • How do we make school fun?
  • What should be compulsory about school?
  • How do we make sure that the weakest forms of traditional schooling don't get amplified by technology?
  • How do we avoid the social justice implications of an elitist model of education?
  • How do we ensure those without privelege have equal access to quality education and opportunity?
  • How do we become better equipped, both as individuals and as systems, to deal with change?
  • What is preventing us from being adaptable to change?
  • How do we rethink the reallocation of resources to support individualized instruction?
  • Will we be creating a new class of marginalized people with these shifts?
  • What is the essential learning that schools impart to students?
  • How do public schools prove that they are commtted to education all children?
  • What risks are we willing to accept?
  • What is our obligation to collaborate with other systems going through similar changes?
  • How do we measure or assess the effectiveness of individualized self-directed learning outside of school?
  • How do you validate or evaluate informal learning?
  • How do we help students discover their passions?
  • Who is going to pay for equity of access to these environments?
  • How can we use our best resources more effectively, the kids?

-1/9 I've been thinking that retired teachers might be a great resource for a project like this. I recently watched the TED talk below and it gave me the idea that it might be more productive to retitle 'retired teachers' to 'deschooled educators'. The desire to educate is a life-long passion, and pursuing that passion after leaving the bricks & mortar school environment will probably lead to longer lives.



-12/29 EVA spaces. Warm supportive virtual spaces. Spaces with caring and knowledgeable adults supervising them. Kind of like libraries and librarians but specialized. Like librarians, role is to help students find and use information in the space, but additionally the role in an EVA space involves helping students connect with others with shared interests. Another way to envision these spaces is as virtual library like spaces surrounded by virtual labs where groups with shared interests are actively building/experimenting/creating.

-12/28 Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age - Session III. New Learning Designs
- schools/projects referenced in the above:
  • Dot-to-Dot : A Global Learning Reception hosted by IS 339 This NYC school had an incoming principal, Jason Levy, who used technology to completely transform the environment and the school from one that was failing to being rated an A.
  • Quest to Learn "a school for digital kids. It is a school where students learn to see the world as composed of many different kinds of systems." The builder of this school, Katie Salen, had the opportunity to build from the bottom up.
  • Larry Rosenstock, founder of High Tech High , also had the opportunity to build a school from the bottom up.
  • Rey Ramsey, CEO, One Economy Company , "a global nonprofit organization that uses innovative approaches to deliver the power of technology and information to low-income people...", started a small alternative school for disenfranchised kids that integrates "public purpose" with education, "connected learning environments"
Hmm, should "school" be "community school"? Who is the "community" for any given school? Perhaps the community for any given school depends upon [should include] the environment of the neighborhood, like the Harlem Children's Zone , which Katie referenced as "an ecology. It's the design of a network...working with parents, after school program, Saturday programs...feedback loops...multiple opportunities to catch kids in all kinds of spaces..."

-12/7 Thinking of using #evadesign as a hashtag for the Earth Virtual Academy Design Charrette