Student Warns “Doing Technology” Isn’t Enough

by Rose Fernandez
Getting Smart

guest blog this week at edweek.org gave a student the chance to tell us what he thinks is important about technology in the classroom.

The perspective of the learner doesn’t often get much air time.  What this learner has to say deserves attention.

Justin Reich has his eye on becoming that rare bird, a high school physics teacher.  He is a senior studying physics at MIT.  Any child he teaches will learn from a physicist.  Already he has my ear.

Justin was in middle and high school when technology toys for teachers were introduced in to his classroom school day.  His experience as a student who didn’t reap value in his learning are poignant and should be cautionary for teachers, administrators, and parents alike.

As Justin simply says, “When it’s done right, it works, and when it’s done poorly, it doesn’t work.”

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OTHER VOICES: For some families, public online schools best suit needs

By Rose Fernandez

In the 10 years since online schools were founded, more than 25 states have allowed parents to enroll their child in a full-time public online school. Today, over a quarter million K-12 students attend public online schools. Thousands of students have graduated from public online schools and experience great success in higher education and their careers.

As a parent with children enrolled in full-time public online schools, I am writing as a neighbor to provide Iowa parents facts as they consider enrolling their child in one of Iowa’s two new public online schools. I hope Iowa parents benefit from the perspective of a parent who has been in their shoes.

Please understand, I do not contend that public online schools are for everyone. For some families, however, it is the model of instruction that best suits their child’s learning needs. I know the parents of a gifted student who was bored in the traditional classroom and needed the self-paced flexibility that an online school permits. Similarly, I have met parents of challenged learners and students with disabilities that require instruction at a slower pace. Health issues, social issues like bullying, a bad school or teacher are all reasons parents have cited for placing their child in a full-time public online school.

For many students, learning from a state-of-the-art digital curriculum works better than textbooks and chalk boards. All children are not the same, so it is unrealistic to think a traditional neighborhood brick-and-mortar school is always the best solution for every child.

Online public schools are similar to any other public school. The curriculum is state-approved, the teachers are certified, and the online school is a program of the school district held accountable to both its school board and the state department of education. Students take the same standardized tests and must master the same material as their peers in neighborhood schools. However, public online school instruction is focused toward the student, and not the class, allowing students to make progress at their own pace.

In many states, critics are concerned about funding. They believe that public online schools mean that the money will follow the student to the school of their choice. I always want to ask, “Who do you think pays the taxes for that student’s education?” The answer is the hard-working parent who is now looking for a school that suits their child’s needs.

Open enrollment is nothing new in Iowa. Based on my experience, there is no need to fear allowing students to open enroll to a public online school. Parents will choose the school that is best for their child and some will join the hundreds of thousands of American parents who send their students to public online schools every year.

Iowa parents now have a choice in public schooling. For those who need a change, it’s nice to have an option. Public online schools are not for everyone, and if they don’t perform well, then parents, school boards and the state of Iowa can hold them accountable just like any other public school. As a parent, I know I would.

Rose Fernandez of Mukwonago, Wis., is executive director of National Parent Network for Online Learning.

For full article please visit Sioux City Journal

Have you heard about the must see movie of the year?

by Rose Fernandez

“Bully” premieres on March 30.

Here’s the trailer. It brings many to tears. Just the 3 minute trailer.

It is just a movie to many of us. Most of us. Those of us who have kids who are happy in school. Those who, for whatever reason, are spared.

For many it is no movie. It is every day. It doesn’t let up. Bullying changes who children are. Parents see it and don’t know what to do to stop it.

I met such a father two weeks ago in Iowa. He came up to me and told me he thought online schooling could save his boy.

His boy is in 6th grade. He is 12. He has red hair. He is smarter than most of the kids in his traditional classroom. He is a target. He is bullied. Because red hair is different.

One of the boys in the movie is going to school in Iowa.

Iowa is opening two statewide online public schools in the fall. Parents will have a choice.

Iowa joins about 30 other states in offering statewide online public schools. Failure of the classroom to meet learning needs and bullying are common reasons parents choose this new way of public schooling.

One quarter of a million children in America learn this way. Kids just like other kids.

Some are free to learn for the first time.

One 12 year old redheaded boy growing up in Iowa will have a better school year in 7th grade. Finally.

Michigan Cyber School Lock-Out Hurts Kids

By Rose Fernandez

Yesterday, I met some Michigan families that spent the day helping their state lawmakers understand why cyber schools are so important in public education. These kids, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas traveled from all over the state to the Capitol in Lansing to ask for votes on a bill that will eliminate an arbitrary cap on seats in Michigan cyber schools.

The bill, SB619, has already passed the State Senate. A vote in the House is expected before the end the month. Michigan cyber school families are anxious to help their State Representatives understand why online instruction isn’t to be feared. So, they made visits all over the House office building introducing their children and explaining how their cyber schools with individualized instruction, flexibility not found in the classroom setting, professional educators, and rigorous curriculum make all the difference for them.

Since their kids are already in these schools holding spots others only dream of, you may wonder why they took the trouble to be in Lansing.

That’s the remarkable thing. These families know that cyber schooling turned their child’s school life from sour to sweet. They know the power of learning in the way that works. Maybe that way isn’t the same for all kids. Maybe it isn’t the way it has always been done. These parents know what letting teaching out of the classroom’s one-size-fits-all box can mean for some kids – When it isn’t working; When nothing is working; When parents are desperate to find a different way; When getting their child into a school that makes learning happen is paramount; When it is life-changing.

So, they pleaded for cyber school slots for other people’s kids and other parents who don’t even know yet that they will need a cyber school one day next year. They will need it one day when enough is enough. They will need it one day when everybody knows that the traditional classroom isn’t good enough.

There are desperate parents in Michigan now who are locked out of the public school of their choice by this onerous and baseless enrollment cap. Locked out!

Thank heaven for Sandy and Laurie and Steve and Dakota and Maureen and all the others from the Michigan Chapter of the National Coalition for Public School Options. Thank heaven for these parents who see the need, who have lived the urgency of finding a better way to learn, and who pleaded for votes yesterday…For all other Michigan families.

Michigan Families Ask Why They Must Wait

By Rose Fernandez

On Tuesday, Michigan families visited the state capitol in Lansing to ask lawmakers to abolish the enrollment cap on charter schools. They filled the steps of the Capitol with children who love their charter school and others who are locked out of that same opportunity.

Here’s some video of the event. Watch for Artavia Ceteways, a Michigan mother who took the microphone to tell about her children who are students at the Michigan Virtual Academy.

I’ve met Artavia and my money is on her and her fellow parents of the Michigan Chapter of the National Coalition for Public School Options. Look for them to make more news as they push to free the 4000 boys and girls who sit on the Michigan waiting list for spots in a charter school.

Textbooks Move Online

By Rose Fernandez

We bought hundreds of dollars of textbooks again this fall for our two boys, one in college and one in high school. A few minutes in the car line watching one high schooler after the other lugging in their overloaded, heavy backpacks is enough to make anybody wonder why we still do that to them. We all know that textbooks are over-priced, over-sized, and over-rated. The content is all too often outdated before they reach print let alone five or ten years later.

This Washington Post piece describes a move in Virginia districts near Washington, DC to convert to online content. “Many of our kids — if not all of our kids — are coming to us as digital natives,” (Supt.) Noonan said. “We should really allow our students to learn the way they live outside of school.”

Earlier this year I met the superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina where they moved to a district-wide, entirely digital textbook model a few years ago. Check out the improved outcomes they’ve achieved already.

On the Road with Isabella of Georgia Cyber Academy

By Rose Fernandez

Isabella Kessinger,a 10 year old Georgia Cyber Academy student, shares her recent family field trip and how she learned on the go all the while. It is a fantastic video about a typical online student who learns efficiently so she can share all her extra time with friends and family doing things she loves.

Isabella is amazing – a great example to those concerned about socialization when a child learns outside the traditional classroom.

CLICK HERE to watch the video report from NBC11.