I am always exhausted when returning from most conferences because of constant meetings, sessions and interactions with others in a variety of ways. Attending past Virtual School Symposiums sponsored by the iNACOL was always a highlight of my year because I got to reconnect with people I would only see at VSS, learn about the latest updates, and read about the latest policy updates via Keeping Pace. I always returned home mentally and physically exhausted because of the non-stop information sharing.
VSS12 was a little different because as an iNACOL staff member, I had other responsibilities. I arrived home in California twice as exhausted as in the past. I am thankful for the 10 hours of sleep I got last night and now have some time to reflect on what I learned from my new perspective.
First, the spirit of cooperation, collaboration and sharing continues to be the common language shared by all of those who attend in person and online. It is so refreshing to have conversations with others about ways to better reach students in online and blende learning programs rather than “if” we should have a blended or online learning program.
Second, the student panel was a highlight of the conference for me. This was a group of eight students from the New Orleans area who bravely agreed to sit on stage in front of 2000 adults and share what they thought about their experiences with online and blended learning. Students in the group ranged from third grader to a college freshman – all who have been in full or part time online or blended learning programs. The one young man talked about how he overcame a drug addiction before he got serious about his high school courses. After failing courses, he got on the right track and earned his high school diploma with the help of an online program. Another young lady shared how she enjoys doing her online work early in the morning so she is finished by noon when she can do other things like learning to cook with her mom. Another student shared if they did not understand a concept, then they could review it over and over in their online course until they get it. The students definitely reminded me of why I do what I do to promote accessibility to online and blended learning.
Third, I enjoyed presenting with Michael Horn to talk about the models of blended learning and what that really looks like for a blended learning teacher. From our conversation I learned that there is more of a change in how a teacher teaches in the flex model of blended learning than in the rotation model. The teaching pedagogy including online discussion boards, students turning in work online, flipped-type teaching are more evident in teachers who teach in the flex model than in the rotation model. I think this is where most traditional schools will eventually end up – with variations of the flex model – because with this model, teachers have to change how they deliver their curriculum.
Fourth, I enjoyed being part of the panel of the blogging online educators. It was exciting to hear the passion from online educator bloggers James Brauer, Kristin Kipp, Bekci Kelly and Joy Nehr. Each of them shared how their blogs are providing a voice for their work. And how our ongoing sharing with one another causes all of us to refine our craft and better articulate the stories of online and blended learning that occur in all of our lives every day. Hopefully, others will join our group.
In case you missed VSS or want to reflect on what you learned, here are some links that may help:
- Pathable Online Community lists the presentations and presentation handouts – it will soon be freely accessible to non-attendees
- Recorded sessions (all will be linked soon)
- Twitter feed (#vss12 hashtag) – The top tweet was: “The problem isn’t that our education system has gotten worse, the problem is that it hasn’t changed.”
- iNACOL Facebook page shows some of the pictures taken by those who attended – join our iNACOL group!
- iNACOL Flickr group page shows other pictures from the conference as well