Posts Tagged 'vss12'

#vss12 Reflections and Perspectives

A variety of individuals – all who care deeply about education – recently attended or participated in iNACOL’s Virtual School Symposium 2012 that took place in October in New Orleans.  More than 2000 people attended the conference and about 45% of the people who attended were new to attending the conference. Everyone else had attended at least one time in the past. There were more than 1500 tweets that occurred with the #Vss12 hashtag and a number of blogposts were written.

First, it seems like the “Toms” were some of the key bloggers who wrote their ideas about their take aways from VSS. First, Tom Vander Ark wrote about the six trends he observed including creative tools, competency based learning, educational choice, personalized learning, bring your own device and rethinking systems.  Tom Whitby, in a post entitled “The Missing Link“, shared that he believed that the VSS12 attracted some of the best of the best in online and blended learning. He found that many of the sessions he attended were presented by vendors and education reformers, and emphasized the importance of having “real classroom educators” presenting the sessions in the future.

Other trends shared included how the virtual school symposium is shifting to learning more about blended learning and teaching as shared by Education Week blogger Ian Quillen while Andrew Miller wrote about how games in virtual education is another trend. Another Education Week blogger, Katie Ash wrote about how blended learning models have developed that foreshadowed what would occur at VSS12.  In addition, Tory Gattis from the Houston Chronicle wrote about his take aways including the keynote speech by John White, Superintendent of Education in Louisiana  how Louisiana and other states are empowering schools to utilize blended and online learning, and how 46 states have adopted the new Common Core standards.  Bekci Kelly wrote about how VSS is a call to action by all who attended to share and collaborate about online and blended learning, while Joy Nehr wrote about what many considered was a highlight of VSS – the student panel.  A recording of that student panel can be found here. Finally, Roxy Mourant shared her notes from the VSS sessions she attended here.

Other reflections include:

Many of the VSS sessions were recorded which can be found here.

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#vss12 What I learned

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.

ImageSecond, 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

On the way to #VSS12

Today I travel to the Virtual School Symposium in New Orleans.  I am looking forward to seeing the people I have seen at the many previous VSS conferences and hearing about their progress.  One of the great things about VSS is that you don’t have to explain to others why online learning is important for students. VSS is a great place to relax and enjoy hearing about what everyone else is doing, to hear the same stories about start up and maintaining a program, and a chance to share with others about your own online or blended learning program.

VSS is a great place for:

  • Sharing stories
  • Learning new ways to engage online learners
  • Learning new ways to manage your time as an online teacher
  • Hearing about how online and blended learning have impacted student learning
  • Thinking about the future of online and blended learning
  • Learning new and better ways to maintain the quality of online and blended learning programs
  • Hearing about the latest and future trends
  • Learning about the things you want to learn about

Everyone at VSS is there to share ideas and to listen to one another – and to encourage one another.  There are few people I have ever met at VSS that have any kind of ego or suggest they have all the answers. This reminds me of two great quotes:

From Benjamin Franklin in the 1776: “Ay, we must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

And from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

This is what VSS is all about.

See you there.

VSS 12 or #vss12

Long before I became a staff member for the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), I attended the the Virtual School Symposium or VSS.  The conference itself has been around for longer than iNACOL because originally the conference was sponsored by eCollege before the organization itself was established.  For those interested in more history of iNACOL, you can read more here. I can remember the first VSS that was held in 2000 because I did not get to attend.  At the time, the Director of Technology and Associate Superintendent from the school district where I was working did attend.  The “aha” for them by attending that first VSS was that if a high school online course was going to be effective, it did not mean they could increase the number of students per teacher.  Many myths about online learning have been clarified by those who attend VSS.

I was fortunate to attend VSS in 2011 and many subsequent VSS conferences. At each one, my knowledge and passion for online and blended learning grew. Next thing I knew I was principal of an online high school and then working for iNACOL full time (not at the same time of course).

One of the great ironies of attending VSS in person is that some wonder why online or blended educators can’t just learn about all the things regarding online and blended learning online…I mean, after all, part of these teachers and administrators existence is with people they may never see face-to-face!  The reality is that, as humans, we enjoy and crave meeting other people face-to-face.  And while interactions online provide information in ways that you cannot do face-to-face….there are interactions that occur face-to-face that you cannot do online .  So, that’s the fun of VSS – you get to meet the people in person you have only met online for the past year.

Leading up to VSS next week, we are sponsoring daily Tweets with the hashtag #VSS12 and in particular, we will have a Tweet Up on Wed. Oct. 17 at 5:30 ET.  A new addition for VSS this year will be the use of the Social Media tool called Pathable – all conference attendees are automatic members.

And, of course there is still time to register and be part of VSS12 – along with the other 1900 people who are already registered.  I will enjoy hearing about what others look forward to while attending VSS.


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