Thank you for having me here. My name is Julie Young, President and CEO of Florida Virtual School. I am honored to have this time to talk about how technology has already personalized learning. I am excited about the positive changes I have seen in the last 15 years—changes that have created entirely new learning environments that give students unprecedented flexibility and customization options. I think we’re on the right track, and I’m eager to share today a few of the exciting new that I see ahead.But it might help to briefly take a glimpse back in order to provide a little context. When Florida Virtual School first started as a small grant project in the late 90s, K12 online learning programs were rare—almost non-existent. We were encouraged to create something entirely different—something that students didn’t already have. So we started our journey by imagining.
We wondered: What if we reinvented the classroom instead of just reforming it? And if we put it online, what would it take to make it work? As you can imagine—a great deal of thought, discussion, arguments, and homework went into answering those two questions.
We started in 1997 with just 77 students. Now, as the largest public K12 online learning program in the nation, we expect to serve more than 100,000 students with more than 200,000 enrollments in the coming year in Florida alone.
When we first began, we really wanted to offer something to a broad population—but we didn’t want a “one size fits all” program either. We hit upon a principle very early that has been our mainstay: Online learning benefits students tremendously when you aggressively tap into the individualization it provides, especially if you protect the elimination of time and pace restrictions. JUST LISTEN TO THE STUDENTS--
I love hearing about what online learning means to these kids. We get comments and letters on a daily basis that reflect the thoughts you just heard from these families. Over the years, Florida Virtual School pioneered radicallynew concepts to K12 public education for one reason—we wanted to give students a real choice for a different learning environment. We didn’t want to duplicate what they already had and just put it online.Today, in order to take an online course with Florida Virtual School, students can register any day of the year. Once enrolled, they log in any day or time, anywhere with Internet access. Teachers are available until 8:00 in the evenings and on weekends, and they proactively reach out to students students via telephone, texting, instant messaging, and online conferencing. Teachers speak with parents or guardians at least monthly—often more, and parents often express surprise at the frequency and quality of contact they have with their child’s teacher.
For the first time, students and teachers have the ability to adjust the learning pace as needed—for an entire course, or even just for a particularly difficult lesson. The teacher plays an important role in guiding and helping students maintain an overall healthy pace towards completing a course, but teachers no longer have to keep all students on the same page. We all know, as educators, that students don’t all learn at the same pace, but for the first time, we now have the tools and a structure where we can actually accommodate varying paces.
It’s also no secret that all students come to the table with different knowledge and experiential backgrounds. There are students who may have already mastered certain concepts that other students are still struggling to learn. Today, we can use upfront assessments to determine what students already know. Through adaptive release technology, content is released for each individual student based on the results of pre-course assessments. Students gain remarkable flexibility and personalized learning in this environment.As the world of learning objects continues to evolve, that reality will only increase. Let’s just imagine what that might look like.
Meet Joe. Joe thinks he might want to be a veterinarian on day. What should he study in preparation?Today, Joe might have to take “x” number of English classes, “x” number of Math classes, this many science classes, that many foreign language credits, etc. In fact, Joe’s requirements may not really be all that different from any other student. But what if we could customize a program of study to give Joe both the broad knowledge he needs, as well as some specific skills and knowledge to prepare him for veterinary studies? Could Joe’s history teacher, for instance, tap into Joe’s interest in animals by customizing the history lessons around a study of animal husbandry throughout the ages? Using his own interests and passions, could Joe even pick some of his own content from a bank of lessons, simulations, games, or reviews?
What if, instead of a list of courses to complete, Joe had a list of, say, 300 standards to master by the time he graduates in order prepare himself for pre-veterinary studies? Even better, what if Joe could actually see this list and watch as his teachers checked off his mastery of specific standards?
Imagine his sense of accomplishment as he moved from 300 standards down to 200, 100, 50, 10, then 1. Joe wouldn’t have to sit at graduation and wonder,
“Will I ever use this stuff?” Instead, he would know that he has learned the skills and knowledge he needed in order to be ready to pursue what he loves. What if all of Joe’s teachers could view Joe’s list and design learning experiences that build on the skills Joe has already mastered while adding new challenges at each step—across multiple disciplines?
For example, let’s say Joe mastered the art of paragraph writing in his science class. Check! His English teacher can build on that by pulling together some learning objects to design a learning experience that takes Joe’s paragraph-writing skills and adds the skill of writing transitions to tie one paragraph to the next.
Maybe Joe mastered the concept of defending a thesis in English. Check! The science teacher, who will know this by looking at Joe’s master list, can move on to challenge Joe to take a position on a topic and defend it.
As Joe obtains more and more knowledge and skills, he can group himself, or be grouped by teachers, with other students who are working on similar skills or areas of knowledge. He may interact with Lisa, for example, who wants to be an art teacher. Her history lessons view history through the eyes of artists through the ages. They each may study the same time period through different lenses, but their collaboration will give them both new perspectives they wouldn’t otherwise see.
Diplomas of the future may be less about the number of courses a student passes and more about the standards and skills a student masters. We may see increasing differentiation in the types of diplomas students earn. Perhaps there will be one for the student who is an artisan, one for the student with particular types of technological expertise, another for the student who chooses a traditional academic path.
Students will be less likely to ask “Why do we have to learn this.” if they see the standards as part of the skills they need to obtain for their specific goals…they will know why.
In other words, the learning experience is slowly becoming more relevant to the student—to his or her interests, learning strengths, and goals. While it will pull content from multiple disciplines, it will become increasingly possible to customize content according to individual student needs or goals.Sound familiar?
It should. That’s the “I” world we live in now. From the iPhone to the iPod, this generation of learners is growing up in a world where they are already customizing content and their web experiences according to their own interests. Our kids live in the world of texting, blogging, content sharing, and networking. Ironically, though, while they may live there, they don’t always go to school there. And schools actually often have rules against this 21st century world—rules that inadvertentlyserve to widen the gap further between a student’s school life and his or her personal life. Our strategy is to reverse that way of thinking to instead engage students right where they are toconnect them to healthy learning and growth experiences within those environments.
While I’ve been referring to online learning and the trends we see coming there—we are also seeing an ever-growing trend towards blended learning. In fact, our partnerships with schools are increasingly focusing on ways to blend online and traditional environments. I see at least three reasons for this trend—and I’m sure you’ll relate to all three.
Though access issues have changed quite a bit over the years, there are still students who don’t have Internet at home or don’t have a home computer. We’ve been able to use local libraries as one resource. We’ve also worked with schools to set up learning labs, and I’ll tell you more about those in a minute. Before we go on, though, I will just add here that Mobile learning is likely to blow the access issues out of the water eventually. I’ll talk more about that in just a minute as well.
Some students simply need that face-to-face support, so our goal is to work in close tandem with local counselors and lab facilitators to support students as needed. We worked with one school in Nevada whose students were mostly former drop-outs or at-risk. Many of them worked full time. This program offered online courses, but students could also drop by the learning center at any time during the day to get further one-on-one assistance, and there were certain days that students were required to attend. These kids just needed that extra support for reasons that went beyond academics.
Finally, as dollars dwindle and educational challenges rise, schools and districts are desperate to offer their students more choices. Blended and online courses widen the choices significantly without adding an undue financial burden to the district.Blended learning also offers students the changes to vary their learning environment, even while attending a traditional school. Last year, we introduced a new suite of game-based courses. Students can access these courses anytime, but they can also be used in a lab environment at a local school.Take a look…
Right now, we serve students in one of two ways: We either teach them directly, or we act as a resource provider to a local program. Both sides of our operation are growing considerably. I already noted that our direct enrollments will likely reach 100,000 students this year. As a resource provider, we now provide management and resources to 27 franchises in Florida.We provide the courseware, training, and support, while districts provide instruction and daily oversight. The Florida franchises alone served almost 20,000 students last year. We also serve schools and districts all over the country in a similar capacity.
I mentioned learning labs. We work with dozens of schools across Florida in lab environments, whereby we provide the instruction, but local facilitators and school personnel provide that face-to-face support. Students who use these labs typically come to the lab for just one or two courses in a school day.In Miami-Dade alone, we expect to serve over 8,000 students this year through these local labs.
You are looking at pictures from a new school in Miami called iPrep Academy. We’re partnering with this school to provide all of their math and science courses. It’s a high school, believe it or not. It uses a blended learning environment that maximizes technology-based learning. They’ve created a very low-key, café-style gathering spot for students. Students can work on their studies at home as well, and you can see here that they are even incorporating things like Wii games into the school day.I believe we will see more schools moving in this direction as game and gesture-based learning increases and as educators design learning experiences that integrate mobile and blended learning tools.
As we move from old school models to new ones, I believe we will see a few changes in the way schools are designed and used—and to gain a picture, we may need look no further than higher education.
Just as students in higher ed attend classes at all hours of the day, I believe that the facilities of the future for K12 are more likely to be used at varying schedules, particularly for high school. Designers will think more and more about the multiple populations that might use the facility for flexible and extended learning opportunities—and they will increasingly combine face-to-face with distance learning in the form of Mobile and Internet-based content and delivery of learning experiences.
Again, college classes are now being offered all over the place. It used to be the case that you had to commute or even move to go back to college. Today, there are online and blended learning options galore for busy adults. Likewise, more colleges and even traditional universities are building or leasing space to provide smaller satellite campuses, thereby offering even greater flexibility—and adults love having choices.Our kids are just as busy—sometimes even more so! They (and their families) want options too, and schools that think outside the idea of limiting facilities to one, centrally located campus will likely be more attractive to students and their families.
There was a time when being retrofitted for Internet technology was the big push. As wireless technologies developed, some undeveloped countries actually leap-frogged ahead of more modern areas, simply because they skipped the wires and went straight to wireless.Cell phone technology is about to change everything again.
According to a recent CNET report, “On a planet with around 6.8 billion people, we're likely to see 5 billion cell phone subscriptions this year.” The ramifications for delivering learning content are enormous. The most forward thinking schools and learning designers will be those who design with the idea that mobile, blended, and online learning—or, you might say, “un-tethered learning”—will grow in popularity. Those who design everything from lesson plans to school buildings will do well to keep this reality in mind.
We have developed several mobile learning apps—and our goal is to offer entire courses soon. We have also developed a suite of game-based courses, and we are experimenting with 3D, augmented reality, and gesture-based technologies. With the launch of the iPad, mobile learning is particularly poised to be the next wave of online learning.
We are so honored that we had an opportunity to create a sustainable and thriving model where none existed before. Our passion for high quality, standards, supportive frameworks and for continuing to create innovative learning environments all stem from one motivation: It’s all about the kids. They don’t all fit into one mold. And now they don’t have to.Thank you for your time.
Dc 320 young
Unleashing Technology to Personalize Learning<br />Julie Young<br />President and CEO<br />
What if…<br />…we reinventededucation?<br />What will it take?<br />