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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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
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!
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!
In an article recently published by CAPE- the Council for American Private Education, a meta-analysis of over 90 studies on the effects of school suggest that "attending private religious schools is associated with the highest level of academic achievement." A meta-analysis looks at studies in a specific field and, employing sophisticated statistical techniques, identifies the effect size of each study and then calculates an overall average effect size for the set of studies.
According to the article, three types of schools were included in the studies-private religious schools, charter schools, and public schools. William Jeynes, senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey and a professor at California State University, Longbeach, examined standardized test scores and found that students in faith-based schools scored 11 percentile points higher than public schools and charter schools. Surprisingly, students in charter schools scored similarly to students in public schools. These findings were summarized by Jeynes as "students who attend religious schools score at an academic level about 12 months ahead of their counterparts." He believes that religious schools "have higher expectations of students and encourage them to take hard courses...they subscribe to the notion that students are often capable of achieving more than they realize."
For more information get the full article.
Just recently, there was an article published by Regina Lewis of K12 listing the Top 5 Ways to Know if Online School is Right for You. She included a link to a free, fast interactive tutorial that families can use to determine if Online Schooling is Right for them. Be sure to check it out!
While the top 5 reasons Lewis listed may seem obvious, they are very relevant for today's student. Not only that, they are really simple questions that any parent can ask themselves or ask their child about their schooling experience. For some, the decision of whether or not to try online school can be gut-wrenching, but this short list of questions may help you keep things from becoming too complicated and give you a place to start.
1. Is your child an accelerated learner?
2. Do distractions in a traditional classroom setting make learning difficult for your child?
3. Is your child uncomfortable in his/her current learning environment?
4. Do your child's activities require a flexible schedule that traditional schools cannot provide?
5. Is your child physically unable to attend school?
If the answer to any of these questions is "yes", it may be worth your time to watch the free tutorial and discuss the online school option with your child. For many online schools, there are a number of AP and Dual Credit course options for accelerated learners, students work from the privacy of their own home so distractions and comfort level may not be as much of a factor, most of the courses are completely online and require few or no textbooks, and of course, online courses are much more convenient for students who cannot attend a traditional school.
Take the time to ask these 5 simple questions! Online school may be the simplest solution you've never thought of!
SBACS is about to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of it's very first Virtual Academy! That's right! For the past 11 months, students have been able to take online courses through an accredited organization and earn high school credit through SBACS Virtual Academy and our partnership with Sevenstar. Since summer is almost here, we wanted to make sure that all of you knew about OUR credit recovery option and how it can help YOUR students! Check out this quick video from our course provider, Sevenstar, about how the credit recovery classes work:
Summer is right around the corner and I'm sure many of you have students who will need to take some sort of Credit Recovery course. While it's no secret that some students learn better online than others, using an online credit recovery program of sorts is not uncommon, despite learning differences, because it's convenient. Students don't have to go into school during their summer, parents don't have to worry about figuring out a way to get them there, the student re-takes the course and the grade is emailed to the counselor...easy, easy, easy. According to K12, there are a number of common misconceptions that lead to mistakes when implementing credit recovery online, and when these mistakes are made, it is often the student who suffers. Let's go through some of these together...
1. Students taking an online course do not require support. In this digital world, it is easy to assume that every student is profficient on the internet and shouldn't have any problem logging in and accessing their class. Even though online courses are meant to be convenient in this sense, they are sometimes more challenging in the begining for students who are not as comfortable navigating websites. For this reason it is important that all students taking online courses have some sort of support or mentor who can help them master the art of online learning and thus succeed in their course!
2. Credit recovery is for juniors and seniors. This is a common misconception because many people associate online learning with maturity--a student must be disciplined enough to be an independent worker and self-starter. This is true, however, younger students can also benefit greatly from credit recovery. It provides them with an opportunity to make up for certain learning difficulties or skill deficits and also helps them stay on track for graduation instead of getting behind (even as a Freshman or Sophomore).
3. Credit recovery programs are expensive. There is a cost to online learning, but there is also an often greater cost to classroom instructions--especially in the summer! Just think about all of the differnt costs involved when holding summer school: teacher, utilities, extra personnel for supervision, facility usage fees, janitorial fees, not to mention the parents who incur additional costs by simply bringing their child back-and-forth to school at odd hours of the day. Online credit recovery programs have additional up-front fees, but the long-term savings far outweighs the the cost.
4. Online credit recovery courses are easy. Just because something is convenient doesn't mean it's easy. "Successful credit recovery programs use a curriculum designed to engage and challenge students to master core concepts so they can build on that knowledge and confidently move to the next level."
5. Students work indepedently, so there is no need for schedules, goals, and reviews. "A common misconception regarding credit recovery, and online learning is general is that the courses are "flexible"-meaning students can work without any clear objectives or timeline to complete the course. On the contrary, a successful credit recovery program is focused on course completion in a timely manner. This means creating a course start/completion schedule that is crafted for students based on individual circumstances and learning skills... Students meet weekly with a mentor or teacher to review their progress. When students fall behind, the schedule is readjusted and assistance is provided on the specific problem or leaning hurdle to get them back on track."
So be sure that, if you're trying to incorporate an online credit recovery program, you set realistic goals, train your staff, track student progress, offer an engaging and challenging curriculum, and don't assume that every student learns the same or has the same abilities.
For more information about sources for this post please click HERE
If you missed the Sevenstar webinar last Thursday on 21st Century Learning at Private Schools, you missed a good one! Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, spoke on the findings of the Speak Up National Research Project. The data that she discusses is extremely interesting and useful!
In the webinar you'll hear about what students and parents really find useful when it comes to technology, find out the best way to incorporate technology in your classroom, listen to discussions on effective technology usage policies that are working for other schools, and much more!
You can watch the full webinar here! Be sure to check it out!
According to American Revolution 2.0--a white paper published by GSV, "By not taking control of our educational system and career preparedness, we are losing the ability to control our destiny." Of course, ultimately God is in control of our destiny, so that statement may be slightly dramatic, but for the sake of this article, there is some truth in this statement.
To begin with, we can't sit by idly and allow the education (and future) of our children be determined by a formula. Every child is different. Every learner is different. And it is important to create and provide opportunities for all types of individuals to successively attain an education that is meaningful and lasting and offers them opportunities for a bright future.
"The fate of our future won't be decided on a battlefield. It will be determined in a classroom." -Waiting for Superman
What's been going on with US education up until now? It seems like so much money is being spent but what is the outcome? Here are some interesting facts presented in American Revolution 2.0...
A U.S. high school student drops out every 26 seconds. And...
We're spending the money-- we're putting more and more into brick and mortar schools and textbooks but the results we're looking for aren't coming. Could it be that we're not focusing our attention in the right place? Are we trying to make our students fit into one type of box instead of diversifying our offerings and letting them decide how they learn best?
"History is a race between education and catastrophe."-H.G. Wells
According to the Department of Education "students in online conditions did as well or better than those learning from face-to-face instruction." Although integrated learning models may be "non-traditional", what about society is traditional anymore? A great product isn't great if it doesn't work and ours is clearly loosing it's effectiveness. Which will win? Effective education and the bright future of it's students or the catastrophe that awaits if we continue any longer with our heads in the sand.
There's no doubt that education is benefiting from technology. Students, teachers, and parents everywhere have drastically increased their opportunities to learn more, experience more, and achieve more. And while technology alone is empowering, it can also be overwhelming--so much of it and so little time.
Teachers have been able to dramatically enhance their effectiveness in the classroom and their ability to reach all learners through technology but time to really get the full value out of these tools has always been a factor...which is why PLAYDATE13 was born.
February 9th from 9 am- 12 pm teachers in Chicago, Boston, and Portland will be able to come together to explore the vast array of online tools available to them. "PLAYDATE13 will provide resources and facilitators to make sure teachers leave with the knowledge needed to use these tools with their students and with confidence."
It's a "new type of conference"--not one where you sit and listen to lecturers and work in small groups, rather it's an intermingling of brains and technology in a focused environment. In a world where digital access is a fluid entity, constantly changing and developing right our fingertips, we must provide our teachers with a way to confidently use this tool to help our students create a brighter future for themselves.
For more information about PLAYDATE13 click here.
2012 has been one eventful year....
...and to top it all off, the end of the world is supposedly right around the corner!...
So what's next? What does the future look like? Well, nobody knows...except God, of course. But even though we don't know, we can make our best predictions--which is what Tom Vander Ark does in his book, Getting Smart: How Digital learning is Changing the World. Vander Ark is the former executive director for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is currently the CEO of Open Education Solutions, chair of the International Association for K-12 online learning, and blogs daily at www.gettingsmart.com. Here are a few of his predictions:
In one year...
"...Common Core State Standards will spark a new wave of venture and philanthropic investment in digital content, resulting in engaging and innovative adaptive content libraries and mobile apps."
In five years...
"...most learning platforms will feature a smart recommendation engine, similar to iTunes Genius, that will build recommended learning experiences for students."
"...half of states and districts will stop buying print textbooks and will shift to customizable digital texts and open education resources."
"...innovative mobile learning models used in India will be adopted by several U.S. districts."
"...blended high-tech, hands-on school models in urban areas will leverage community resources, including employers, public transit, museums, theaters, and parks."
"...fifty of the largest one hundred districts will, on a regular basis, close struggling schools and replace them with blended charter or contract schools, expand access to online courses, and embrace school networks."
"...budget woes will cause hundreds of districts and most charter networks to move to blended models, shifting to online instruction for a portion of the day to boost learning and operating productivity."
"...those learning at home through homeschooling and virtual charter schools will double to six million students, or about 10% of all students."
In ten years...
"...most U.S. students will attend a blended school where students report to a physical space and most learning happens online."
"...with a decade of data, second-generation recommendation engines will drive tutoring applications that are more effective than one-on-one sessions with a live tutor."
"...despite generally flat funding for education, the U.S. K-12 instructional materials and related technologies market will grow by more than 50%--an explosion of digital services will offset the decline of print."
Use this time to start easing your school into the use of online and blended learning models. Stay ahead of the game and adequately prepare your students for a future filled with technology.
According to iNACOL (International Association for K-12 Online Learning) the statistics show an increased movement toward online education with an emphasis on the benefit of online learning for the credit recovery sector. Schools are offering an increased number of options for credit recovery in the form of online classes. This type of online class is immensely helpful to all parties involved-the parent, student, and administrator. Since students can take the the class online, from home, parents can be involved and don't have to worry about transporting their child back-and-forth to school. The administrator simply assists students with registering and then lets the online teacher/school worry about the rest. Once the student completes the course, their grade is sent to the administrator for records purposes.
According to iNACOL:
- "The top reasons why school districts make online learning opportunities available to their students is to provide courses not otherwise available at their schools, and providing opportunities for students to recover course credits from classes missed or failed. Credit recovery is especially important for urban schools with 81% of such schools indicating this is a very important reason."
- "The types of online courses with the highest enrollments in school districts are credit recovery and dual-credit."
Beyond that, online learning in general is making great strides. Check out these statistics:
- "74% of school districts with distance education programs planned to expand online offerings over the next three years."
- "There were an estimated 1,816,400 enrollments in distance-education courses in K-12 school districts in 2009-2012, almost all of which were online courses."
-"40 states have state virtual schools or state-led initiatives."
If the option of online learning is not on your school's radar, it should be! According to iNACOL, "the current U.S. average per pupil expenditures for a fully-online model is $6,400 and for a blended-learning model is $8,900, while it is $10,000 for traditional school models." Over a $3,500 difference per student! What do you think? Is it worth it? I say yes!
While many people are realizing that integrated learning is of huge benefit to students and schools, there are still some who are wary to try out something different and would rather stick to the tried-and-true, traditional method of schooling. There is definitely something to be said for traditional methods-students have benefited from this approach for years. But that's not to say that we should ever stop trying to improve upon things. Methods get stale, society and culture changes (whether we like it or not), and something that may have worked beautifully even 3 years earlier no longer has the same affect. Imagine where we would be if Mary Anderson thought that it worked just fine for drivers to roll down their windows when it rained in order to see the road and didn't invent the windshield wiper? Imagine how many wrecks have been avoided by simply adding one more component to the automobile.
If you are part of the group who is still wondering about the benefits of online learning and questioning whether or not it's good for your school, check out some of the feedback Tom Vander Ark of Getting Smart has compiled.
"Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School in Cincinnati was converted to a technology-focused school and saw graduation rates skyrocket from 21% to more than 95%
The US Department of Education's Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies of more than 40 studies found that (mostly higher ed) 'students who took all or part of their classes online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.'
Project RED data found that the use of technology-based interventions for English-language learners, struggling readers, and students in special ed. were the top predictors of improved high-stakes-test scores, dropout-rate reduction, and course completion.
Many virtual school students out performed the public school counter parts in grades and test scores.
...and, a recent US Department of Education Study outlined nine ways that online learning can boost productivity."
It's been proven time and time again that digital learning and integrated methods bring positive results to students, teachers, parents, and schools. When will you boost your school?
Since 2002, school districts nationwide have started making the move toward online education. They recognize that many colleges and universities require students to take online classes and want to adequately prepare their students for post-secondary education. Michigan made the first move and it wasn’t long before others followed. Now 7 states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New York, New Mexico, and Virginia) have integrated some form of an online education requirement. It was 8 states until Idaho recently repealed their requirement that all students who begin ninth grade in Fall 2012 must take 2 online courses to graduate.
According to an article published by eSchoolNews, Idaho’s board of education repealed the online-learning requirement. Apparently, in the November 6th election, voters in Idaho rejected a number of technology-related school reforms . In fact, it was the Idaho Superintendent of Schools, Tom Luna, who proposed that the BOE repeal the rule that would require every student in Idaho to take at least two online courses to graduate. Since the vote, there has been discussion that technology requirements are necessary, they simply haven’t decided on the “type and number.” Board member Rod Lewis of Boise said “…If you really look at what’s happening in post-secondary institutions…it’s going to be increasingly important that we have students at the end of the day know how to take classes online effectively…”
While many believe and agree in the value of online education, they are concerned with how it affects students in rural areas. Many students who attend school in these areas do not have consistent access to the internet at home—they may have dial up or no internet access at all. So instead of pushing to make online learning a “requirement” they are trying to make it an option. If students want and are able to take an online class, they have the opportunity but it is not necessarily required in order for them to graduate.
In our world of smart phones, tablets, texting, and unlimited wi-fi, it seems to me that many students, if given the choice of the same class either online or in a traditional setting, would rather take a course online. An online course not only allows them to work at their own pace but also on their own time. Not to mention the fact that we all know how much kids love to look at screens. They’d much rather be clicking a mouse or typing on a keyboard than flipping through the pages of a book and using a pencil & paper. What do you think? I may be a bit biased since my generation was the first to really see the convenience of “the world wide web”, but I just can’t deny that an integrated education does wonders in providing students with a well-rounded education model.
According to an article by Meris Stransbury, there's more to understanding technology than simply understanding how to use a specific software or program, it's the ability to adapt. Adaptation is what makes 21st century students successful in a world where technology is constantly evolving.
Why is it that, when the newest computer program or phone comes out, our children are the ones teaching us how to use it? The younger generations are used to a world where new becomes old in the blink of an eye (basically!) and they have allowed themselves to fully embrace the belief that "getting ahead means never getting too settled." While this mantra may raise goosebumps on the back of your neck because you're wondering "why can't things just stay the same?!", it makes for a honed ability to adapt. So while the older generation is trying to slow down change (and ultimately the world...which is impossible), the younger generation has completely embraced it and, without fully realizing it, paved the way for their own future success in education.
Now, of course, our children need us. They're not doing this all on their own. Because, while they may be willing to try out the "next big thing" that comes along, sometimes they're not as discerning as they should be...which is why these 3 skills discussed in Stransbury's article "Five technology skills that every student should learn" are items that should be readily taught in our classrooms.
Online literacy: differentiating between bias and fact. "Judging quality and hidden influences in the content they read"
Critical thinking: "You might find a wife, job, or car on Google but you still have to nurture the relationship, show up with clean pants, and put oil in the thing. The skill, the tool, the 'app' aren't the final destination." (Ed McManis, Head of School, Sterne School)
Courage: Don't be afraid to experiment with something new. "Technology is there to bend to your will, not the other way around."
Now take that back to your school.