Posted by on in Online Learning
Social Media and Schools

Social Media is here to stay.  Some schools try to fight it and some people don't want to admit it, but it's just the reality.  So instead of fighting a loosing battle, why don't schools teach students how to appropriately use social media?  Employers everywhere are hiring "social media specialists" and "proficiency in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest" is now a common listing on job descriptions which means that the schools that teach their students how to use social media appropriately and well are actually providing useful job training for the future.

In an article posted by Kristen Hicks of edCetera, Hicks discusses 3 Methods schools can use to strengthen students' social media skills.  The first method is to make social media group participation part of assignments.  This can be done in a Facebook group that's specifically created for a particular assignment or class or even through LinkedIn where students can create an account and actively participate in groups created for people who are a part of or who are interested in a certain profession.  This allows students the opportunity to make connections with professionals very early on which could lead to future job possibilities.

The second method Hicks suggests is to treat websites like Twitter as a resource.  I know for a former English teacher like myself, the initial thought of this causes me to cringe just a little...Twitter as a resource?  It's almost like suggesting students use Wikipedia.  However, Hicks goes on to remind us that there are lots of notable, important, experienced people on social media platforms who can provide valuable insight into a "day in the life" of different career paths.  Even the President is on social media!

Finally, Hicks tells us to provide students with the tools they need to use social media by providing tutorials on how to use websites like HootSuite, Tweetdeck, and other post-scheduling websites.  This will absolutely give them valuable experience for the real world while also demonstrating maturity in social media usage.

For more information, check out the full article, 3 Methods to Strengthen Students' Social Media Skills by Kristen Hicks of edCetera.

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"How Virtual Schools are Changing Education"

If you don't live in the Orlando area, you might not have seen the recent article published by Julie Young on how virtual schools are changing education--Young is the president and CEO of Florida Virtual Sschool.  It was an interesting article for many reasons, but I'd like to highlight a few specific items discussed by Young.

The point of the article was to combat a recent headline out of a Washington-based news outlet that stated "Cyber schools flunk, but the money keeps flowing."  Young's defense, in generality, was that "Virtual schools are as varied in their approach and their results as are traditional schools" so if one cyber school "flunks" their students but continues to receive funding, don't assume the same events are taking place in every other cyber school.  To this I respond with a resounding, Amen!, just as any other Christian school headmaster or principal would because blanket statements are always (no pun intended) incorrect on some level. 

But from there she and I go from being on the same page, to Young proving why a virtual school like SBACS VA that offers accountability, Biblical integration, Christian teachers, and academically rigorous courses is a much better option [especially for Christian schools] than a public [free] option like FLVS.  Her defense is that 1. FLVS doesn't flunk and 2. FLVS doesn't get money unless their students succeed.  According to Young, their "reimbursement from the state is dependent on their [student] success in their coursework."  This system of only-receiving-funding-if-students-pass brings up a separate issue that is all-too common within government funded schools--higher test scores=more money.  And as most of you are aware, money is a dangerous motivator.

We all know that there are different levels of learners and that a virtual classroom is not the right environment for everyone so varying levels of success are to be expected.  But when teachers are put under a certain pressure to have students with passing grades in order to keep making a paycheck (or at least for the school to continue to receive funding), one has to wonder what morals and ethics are at risk of being called into question.  It's a dangerous line to walk.

To be fair, we do believe that the FLVS curriculum has a good base--I mean, the Sevenstar curriculum that SBACS Virtual Academy re-sells used a combination of a number of public school curriculums to form its course base before improving upon it.  ...and Young does provide that "in the 2012-13 school year, FLVS part-time students performed higher than the state average on all four state-created end-of-course exams"...but the real question comes down to motivation.

The courses that SBACS offers are not only academically challenging but are taught by Christian teachers and include Biblical integration.  Student success in the course is absolutely a goal but the teachers also care about the student's heart as well as their eternal destiny.  The mission of SBACS Virtual Academy & Sevenstar goes hand-in-hand with the mission of most Christian schools--promoting kingdom education.  Rather than the regurgitation of facts, our teachers focus on helping students apply what they've learned all through the lens of the gospel.

So while statistics and numbers are important and student success is an important goal, our Christian cyber classroom is not funded based on the number of A's our students make or their standardized test scores.  The accountability and teaching that students receive comes from a teacher who is enthusiastic about their subject area and genuinely cares about the student's heart.  Who can put a number on that?

You can read the full article by Julie Young here: Virtual Schools are Changing Education

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Posted by on in Online Learning
Important Events Coming Up!

So far, Fall has been busy for us at SBACS Virtual Academy, but we wanted to share with you some great events that will be taking place soon.  These will be extremely informative, so be sure to check them out!

The first is a FREE webinar on Tuesday, November 19th (1 pm CT, 12 pm MT, 11 am PT, 2 pm ET).  This webinar features Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart.  It is geared towards school leaders and focuses on the decisions they need to make when making the transition from digital learning to blended learning.  Tom will also discuss how blended learning is affecting schools all across the country.

We featured Tom's book Getting Smart in a previous blog post-he's extremely knowledgeable on blended learning.  This will definitely be a webinar you don't want to miss!  Register here (it's free!)

The other event is the iNACOL blended and online learning symposium taking place this weekend at the Swan Hotel out at Disney.  Our partner, Sevenstar, is also hosting a portion of this event.  There will be over 2000 people in attendance and the symposium will highlight the "cutting edge work in K-12 blended and online curriculum across the country."  Attendees will also learn about the latest trends, challenges, and opportunities in e-learning.  Click here for more information or to register for iNACOL symposium.

We hope you're doing your research and figuring out how to move your school onto the blended and digital learning path.  If you have questions about how SBACS Virtual Academy can help, let us know!

 

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Guest Post: Keeping the Faith in Summer School

As most of you know, the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools (SBACS) partners with Sevenstar to provide online courses through SBACS Virtual Academy.  Today's blog post was written by the members of Sevenstar's blogging team!  We hope you'll find this information useful since so many schools are dealing with Summer School and Credit Recovery right now.

 

Keeping the Faith in Summer School: A Christian School Solution

Every school—public or private—will have students fall behind. It is the schools that recognize the problem and find a solution that truly make a difference in education. Traditionally, when students fail a course they are required to recover their credits in summer school. Credit recovery means a student will not fall behind his or her classmates come fall. For too long, Christian schools have either avoided offering summer school or settled for referring students to non-Christian options for credit recovery. In both cases, Christian schools miss out on the opportunity to fulfill their mission with their current students and reach new families with Christian education. It is understandable; summer school is expensive, summer staffing can be difficult to secure, and of course, there is the question of access to adequate facilities during the summer.

A model for a Christian summer school

Summer school instilled with Christian values is about accountability, opportunity, and ministry.

  • Accountability. Summer school provides accountability for when a student's grades do not reach the school's academic requirements. Through summer school students are allowed to redeem themselves and recover the failed credit.
  • Opportunity. Summer school provides an opportunity for some students to get ahead academically. These courses provide a chance for a student to take required courses outside of the school year and grow academically. A Christian summer school provides an opportunity for growth. A school has the opportunity to increase its value to current families and community members by offering additional academic services to its students. Providing such a service may also attract new students, creating the opportunity to build relationships, and result in new enrollments in the school.
  • Ministry. At the core of a Christian education is ministry. A Christian school that frames its summer school program with a Christian teaching staff and Christ-centered curriculum not only extends its ministry of Christian education to current students, but also opens the door to connect with new students seeking options for the summer months. A recent survey of Christian schools who partner with Sevenstar showed that 40 percent of summer school students enroll full-time at their school.

The online summer school  solution

The pros outweigh the cons when Christian schools offer an online summer school program. Until now, implementing a summer school program has been challenging for Christian schools. Because of staffing, finances, or space concerns, students often are sent to a public summer school. This gap in a Christian education can be filled with online learning. With online learning, Christian schools have found that they can quickly, easily, and cost-effectively deliver a summer school program that raises the academic bar, improves school competitiveness, and expands the ministry of Christian education.

The benefits of online learning for Christian summer school programs

  • Online courses require fewer faculty resources.
  • Online classes can be taken whenever a student has free time, at home, during school, or on the road.
  • Online credit recovery is adaptable. Students will not waste time reviewing skills they have already mastered.
  • Online learning now integrates Christian values. As online learning has emerged to prove its need in the classroom, Christian educators have merged faith with this technology.

Let SBACS Virtual Academy and Sevenstar help you provide more summer school options for your students without adding additional costs to your budget!  Contact us today!

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Did You Miss Our Webinar on Credit Recovery?

SBACS Virtual Academy recently hosted our first webinar!  The topic--Credit Recovery and SAT/ACT Prep.  The webinar offered a plethora of useful information including who can benefit from our CR courses, what a student can expect in a CR course, and how to enroll in CR courses through SBACS Virtual Academy!

In addition, we discussed two great classes that students can take online over the summer for advancement-- SAT & ACT Prep.  The webinar provided insight into how our SAT & ACT Prep courses help students raise their standardized test scores through various, student-specific methods.

If you missed the initial presentation but would still like to watch it, you can view the recorded version by clicking on the link below.  Stay tuned for more FREE webinars from SBACS Virtual Academy!

Webinar: Credit Recovery and SAT/ACT Prep with SBACS Virtual Academy

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