The success of your virtual school may very well depend on how you implement technology and how well you engage your community. Technology is a critical part of your virtual school’s success. Depending on your school model, your virtual school may be entirely run online. It is perhaps obvious, then, that technology is a critical component, but the importance of people and community might be less clear. In our experience, both of these matter and can make a difference between a successful program and a good effort. Below we boil this discussion down to two components to consider for these areas of utmost importance.
Everyone loves a checklist, but for a virtual school leader, there aren’t many to be found. So here is a short one: Know (and empathize with) who you are serving Identify your critical team members Develop your instructional model and school processes Calculate your costs Clearly this “30,000 feet” list isn’t all encompassing, but it should serve as a foundation to getting things rolling.
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Running a virtual school is hard. I like new beginnings. They bring hope and excitement for the future, the good things that are yet to come. Great beginnings start with a vision for what can better in the future, and by looking back at the past. So as I think about the future of virtual schools, I want to start with, and respond to, some of the negative comments about virtual schools that surfaced in 2015. One report from CREDO stated, “Attending a virtual school is literally as if the kid did not go to school for an entire school year.”
Inspired by the articles on education models in Forbes and Quartz. Two of my middle school students hard at work into the evening at a 3-day entrepreneurship event, building a mobile app that is one day set to compete with Google calendar for the benefit of students, teachers, parents, and their learning community. I will never forget the time in my short yet sweet teaching career when I got to teach “morning math,” a series of 45-minute, optional classes that started at 7am on a school day. I had just begun teaching middle school math after spending numerous years in the petroleum and biotechnology industries as an engineer, and I was finding myself increasingly agonizing over how ‘boring’ my math classes were becoming… even to me, the teacher! The world’s fast-moving out there, yet here were my middle school students, suppressing all of their creativity in a math curriculum from that (tried but) didn’t provide them with connections between learning and what it can do in the real world. My students thought my background in industry was cool and often wanted to hear about my experiences; however, they couldn’t think on their feet about how they, too, might one day work in interesting fields. Their textbooks weren't made to spark their curiosity. I started thinking a lot about how to change this environment. When did I first find true love and purpose for learning subjects like math and science?
“Scrum in teaching? Duh, why haven’t I thought of this earlier!” When I came across the thought-provoking article on EdSurge by Gayle Allen describing how Scrum can be applied in k-12 education, this was my very first reaction (I highly recommend reading her article before reading this blog if you’re not familiar with Scrum methodology). After spending many years in engineering and project management, I spent the next few school years as a middle school math teacher. Those two separate experiences have led me to Education Elements - a company that helps districts design and implement personalized learning - as a platform project manager, utilizing both skillsets to impact the world of education. Given my background and my current role, I can’t believe I didn’t think of scrum in teaching sooner!