Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Apple Newton, Nehru Suits, and Online Learning

Not to sound like a curmudgeon but what is the fascination with the new?

Before this discussion begins I must confess that I drive a Saturn Ion, a car that is not even made any more. It is 9 years old and has 213,498 miles on it. So it may be possible that I am not the best person to be speaking about the concept of new.

However, to certify my "new" chops, so to speak, and to demonstrate that I am not necessarily anti-new, I am also the person who has owned an Apple Newton (the first PDA that had limited success), a Palm PDA, and a Palm Pilot phone. I am on my third iPhone.

I download books using the Kindle app on my iPad. I'm an Amazon Prime member.

Once upon time in the 1970's I tried to talk my parents into buying me a Nehru suit (James Bond had one - come on).

I got my hair permed once or twice.

So I am not necessarily anti-new.

Still, in the grand scheme of things, it seems that something new is typically valued and the "old," the "reliable," the "tired and true," or the "traditional" is not valued.

This seems to be especially true with public school. There has been a rush of late to suggest that the "traditional" public school is an anachronism - outdated, a relic, fit for another time and place.

What we need, we are told, is something new. Virtual schools are the new thing. Learn online.

The state of Michigan has been on this bandwagon for some time. In 2006 the then new Michigan Merit Curriculum required on online learning experience. While somewhat ground breaking at the time, it seems relatively tame today.

To be clear, I am not opposed to expectations that students can and should be expected to learn online. In fact, much of the learning that I do is done using online materials.

However, the state legislature pushed the requirement for online forward with section 21f of the FY2013 School Aid Act (see page 2 number 2 - Online learning). As a follow-up, on August 1, 2013, each school Superintendent in Michigan received a letter informing them that the state legislature in the State School Aid Act 2013 approved a provision that would allow "any pupil in grades 5 to 12 to enroll in up to two online courses during an academic term, semester, or trimester." Schools are required to publicize the online offerings beginning January 1, 2014.

Again, I am not opposed to new. I am just wondering why.

Opening this up creates a whole series of additional questions. Now that 25% of each teacher's evaluation is comprised of student data, what happens to the data for an online student? If a student takes a math class online, the student growth math data for that student should be assigned to the online company - but will it? The MEAP/MME test scores for a student who receives their content online should have to be eliminated from a school's or a teacher's evaluation - but will it?.

If a student wants to take an online class during the school day, who monitors that student? If  the student is assigned to the computer lab is the school required to staff the lab?

Will students in my district have an online experience? I believe that they will. But I believe it makes more sense to let the district and the school figure out how to implement it rather than mandating it from the state.

It seems to me that passing legislation like this is akin to mandating that everyone must wear a Nehru jacket.

1 comment:

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