Reflections on Instructional Technology and Media

Coopetition December 11, 2008

I was in a meeting today where the term “coopetition” was used and immediately started thinking about all the ways coopetition makes sense within a 21st century educational environment.

What is coopetition?

The term is a mash-up of cooperation and competition and it seems to really capture the spirit of working and learning in a global economy.  In the age of web 2.0 and open source apps, we are hearing consistently about the power of collaboration and cooperation. What we create together is stronger than what I may be able to create alone.  Yet at the same time the nature of capitalism is competition. How do we prepare our students for this dichotomous world?

Coopetition has taken hold in the gaming world – especially where you are gaming online with others around the world. In order for you to experience personal success, you have to cooperate with others to make sure your team succeeds.  Talking with a middle school principal about this today she says that middle schools have been operating under this premise for years, they just did not have this particular term for it.

In some ways, my work in the e-learning environment is a form of coopetition as well. As a state virtual school, we are dependent on the cooperation of the face to face schools in our state. We need them to be successful. In order to be competitive with other state virtual entities and other software and content providers, we have make sure that our team approach with face to face schools is a success.

This term just really sums it up well – as any good vocabulary will do. Thanks for expanding my personal dictionary.


Web Filters – A Poem April 10, 2008

We have a web filter
We are compliant with CIPA
We do not block applications
Needed by our teachers
To teach students
In the 21st century

Our filter blocks categories
Determined by a committee
Of teachers
And technology specialists
And media specialists
And district leaders

We block sites
To protect our children
Not to block instruction
When a teacher needs access
To a site that is blocked
We Unblock it

Requests to unblock sites
Are sent to an instructional leader
Not a technology hardware manager
Who is not grounded in
But is more concerned about
The network

We allow web 2.0 apps
Like blogs
And wikis
And podcasts
And video streaming
And social networks
And social bookmarks
And anything that will prepare
Our students to learn
In the 21st Century

We believe that a web filter should
Allow for creative learning
Not restrict it
We understand that students
Will sometimes encounter

Sites that are not appropriate
I would rather have students encounter
A small number of questionable sites
If that means they have access
To the tools they need to learn
Rather than having inadequate access to learning tools
In order to never encounter risky sites

I believe that students
Need to be taught
How to navigate the web
And all of its glory
And all of its dangers
If they are never exposed
How will they learn to be
Digital citizens

I am sad that there are students
In our state
In our country
Who cannot collaborate
With other students beyond their classroom
Because their school leaders
And district leaders
And teachers
And parents
Are scared

We have a web filter
We are compliant with CIPA
We do not block applications
Needed by our teachers
To teach students
In the 21st century


A Laptop for the 21st Century March 31, 2008

I finally got to see the eeePC this morning and man, is it cool!  Here are some of the features:

  • 7 inch display -small, but that is part of what I like about it
  • Linux OS – I do not have a lot of experience with this, but the desktop and navigation are incredibly user friendly
  • Comes loaded with Open Office and a link to Google Docs – ready for 21st century collaboration. No need to load lots of apps
  • Built in web-cam and speakers for online collaboration
  • Small HD – 4 GB (can get 8GB) – but not an issue if you have network storage or store all your docs online!

We are opening a new elementary school in August and this small laptop would be great for the students! And at $399 it is highly affordable. The one big complaint I see online is that some users do not like the small keyboard and display – but I am thinking this is a benefit for Elementary students!


Choosing learning enviornments to meet students’ needs August 9, 2007

About ten years ago I came to terms with the fact that I needed to lose some weight, my college years had finally caught up with me, and wanted to join a program to help me do so. After looking around at the different programs I discovered that there are real differences in the way programs approach weight management. I needed to choose the one that matched my needs at the time if I was going to be successful. Notever having needed to lose weight before, I knew I would need a lot of hand holding and therefore chose to join Jenny Craig. This program was a little more expensive, but it had a lot of structure to it – I had to buy their premade meals, but that took any decision making out of the equation. I needed this level of rigidity to learn about portion sizes and such. I was very successful on this program.

However, a few years after I got married and enjoyed cooking for two a bit too much, my husband and I decided to join Weight Watchers together – not because Jenny Craig wasn’t still a great program, but because our needs had changed – we now needed to be able to eat any foods, but the right amounts. Again we had success.

There are an increasing number of online learning environments available for our students today and they vary in how much support is provided to a student and how a student is able to pace their learning. Just as no one diet plan is right for every person, no single online learning environment is right for every student. When deciding whether to put a student online to learn there are several factors to consider:

  • Acceleration vs Credit Recovery: we have students who want to take courses online in order to get ahead. These students are typically good candidates for an online Virtual School. NC now has NCVPS and so far I have seen our students taking courses for acceleration see success. Virtual schools are great for students taking a course for the first time. There is a real teacher on the other end who can answer a student’s questions and provide additional support as needed. Online Learning Applications that are precoded with the lessons and tests often require the school to provide another teacher to be present to provide that kind of support. This person may not be a subject area expert in the course the student is taking. However, for a student needing credit recovery and having already been exposed to the material once, these online learning applications can be ideal.
  • Pacing: What kind of pacing does the student need? While virtual schools do not have a set time of day when they meet, there are deadlines for assignments and participation. They have a beginning and ending date to the course. This works well if you have identified the students at the beginning of the year or semester, but not for students who need help after the year has already begun. For those students, one of the pre-packaged online applications works well. Students can begin the course at any time and can actually pace themselves. Those who need to go at a faster pace can do so and those who need more time and practice have it. These packages also work well for students who do not need the entire course, but perhaps a unit or two for additional support.
  • Interface: We had been using an online learning application that was well know but very heavily text based. The students and the teachers were really unsatisfied with it. Tonight we are hoping our school board will approve our conversion to a different online learning application that is multimedia based, providing students with audio and video support to the content. We have piloted this product with great success. Contact me and I will give you the name of the product. I was asked by our leaders why we need to purchase this product when our students have access to NCVPS for free. My answer was that one was not enough to meet the needs of all of our students. See all of the above for why 🙂

Distance Learning January 29, 2007

I really like being a part of the NC Virtual Public School advisory board. At our first meeting on Friday, we got to learn about a study they have done on the online courses currently being offered to NC students. Some were good as is, some need a little fixing, and many need to be thrown out and re-created from scratch. I like the rigor being applied to the analysis of what will be offered to our students.

The rationale I keep hearing for creating an online school and developing these courses is to offer learning opportunities to schools and students who would not normally be able to participate in classes because of low enrollment in their current schools. I buy in to this. It makes sense that a wide variety of AP and honors courses should be offered to students across the state regardless of whether there are enough other students in their geographic region who wish to pursue the same studies.

However, I work in Chapel Hill – we are fortunate enough not to have the same needs for these courses as other districts. Our need for them typically stems from scheduling concerns rather than a lack of face-to-face offering.

A few months ago, I read a statement that charged “every student should participate in an online course before graduating from high school.” WOW – what a thought. What if our students took these courses, not because they are not offered in our system, but because they need to learn how to be students in an online environment? 

Think about how many people are now enrolled in some kind of online course, whether it is through a college/university or for professional growth purposes. I teach online courses for two area universities and typically have at least one student who is completely unprepared to be an online student. How I have wished that they had been able to be in a class online before that taught them the skills they need to be a succcessful online learner. I have seen plenty of lists of suggested traits of good online learners – but never on how we can teach our students these traits so that they can participate in the online edusphere.

What do you think?


Throwing Down the Gauntlet

I have the privilege of serving on the Advisory Board for the NC Virtual Public School. We had our first meeting on Friday and I had the pleasure of meeting fellow edu-bloggers Dave Edwards and Joe Poletti face to face. My excitement quickly turned to good-old red-faced shame when Joe called me out on my recent blogging inactivity.

“You got off to a great start but I have been waiting for you to update!”

OK Joe – no more excuses about time. If I want my teachers, technology facilitators, and administrators to join the web 2.0 world, then I really need to set an example. I am going to set a goal of at least one post per week. It is such a good way to work through my thoughts that it can only help me think about what I do and to DO it better.

On another note, the three of us discussed trying to do a monthly podcast reflecting on hot issues in educational technology. Hopefully more to come on this…