Online learning – the less talked-about other side of the coin

I admit that I am (and will remain) a huge fan of online and blended learning, that I fancy the idea of flipped classrooms. Not for technology’s sake, mind you, but for the vast opportunities it brings for the benefit of learners themselves.  Nevertheless, Lee Fang’s article How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools made me aware that the breakthroughs I would like to see attributed to IT-enhanced learning worldwide were not always quite that pure, open source and openhearted.

Below are some extracts from the article:

From Idaho to Indiana to Florida, recently passed laws will radically reshape the face of education in America, shifting the responsibility of teaching generations of Americans to online education businesses, many of which have poor or nonexistent track records. The rush to privatize education will also turn tens of thousands of students into guinea pigs in a national experiment in virtual learning—a relatively new idea that allows for-profit companies to administer public schools completely online, with no brick-and-mortar classrooms or traditional teachers.

The frenzy to privatize America’s K-12 education system, under the banner of high-tech progress and cost-saving efficiency, speaks to the stunning success of a public relations and lobbying campaign by industry, particularly tech companies.

It was just a year ago that News Corp. announced its intention to enter the for-profit K-12 education industry, which Rupert Murdoch called “a $500 billion sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”

To be sure, some online programs have potential and are necessary in areas where traditional resources aren’t available. For instance, online AP classes serve rural communities without access to qualified teachers, and there are promising efforts to create programs that adapt to the needs of students with special learning requirements. But by and large, there is no evidence that these technological innovations merit the public resources flowing their way. Indeed, many such programs appear to be failing the students they serve.

And states like Florida are embracing tech-friendly education reform to require that students take online courses to graduate. In Idaho this November, the state board of education approved a controversial plan to require at least two online courses for graduation.

“We think that’s so important because every student, regardless of what they do after high school, they’ll be learning online,” said Tom Vander Ark, a prominent online education advocate, on a recently distributed video urging the adoption of online course requirements. Vander Ark, a former executive director of education at the influential Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, now lobbies all over the country for the online course requirement.

Keep an open mind. Keep going.

Belgrade Oxford Day in good company

The English Book – Oxford Day at Sava Centar in Belgrade on 5 November will bring you not only seven accredited hours, but also a close encounter with Özge Karaoğlu, Nik Peachy and Vaughan Jones. (+ a chance to listen to ME & BC reps.)


Some of us are already indebted to Özge Karaoğlu, her blog, SEETA online course “Jazz Up Your Lessons With Digital Storytelling“, and all her useful tweets. This time she will treat us to her presentation on Four Skills Challenge Through Technology.

Nik Peachey is a renowned 2.0 polymath for many two- and three-letter acronyms. Some of us must remember his online workshop for Serbian English teachers made available at the British Council in January 2011.  He is also the author of Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers and From Knowledge to Information.

Vaughan Jones is one of the co-authors of Macmillan’s Inside-Out and the sequels New Inside-Out and the New American Inside-Out (no prequels announced yet). His presentation is a must-see event, because Jones is not just a product developer and preacher – he IS an experienced teacher.

Furthermore, you also get a chance to experience how great our ELT community in Serbia is: last year there were some 1,000 English teachers from the entire country attending the event. A unique opportunity to meet old friends and embrace new ideas.

Hands-on teacher development by all-star team

If you are looking for ways to refresh your students’ project work, how to track and showcase their progress, or just feel a need to “digitally immigrate”, register for the “Електронским учењем до креативне наставе” online course, starting on 26 September 2011. The course is moderated by a team of award-winning experienced and truly inspirational teachers.

This online course also brings you 24 accredited hours plus a chance to get a fresh perspective by teaming up with not just English teachers as the usual suspects.

Overwhelmed by the abundance of available tools?

A great SEETA hosted discussion by Hanna Kryszewska is ahead: “Humanism and Modern Technology”.

We have a wealth of technological tools to choose from in delivering language courses. A teacher is like a child in a toy shop, each toy attracts but we cannot have them all. The dilemma is which tool to choose, and how to choose wisely so that its is not excessively time consuming and that the benefits are the greatest. Last not least do we tend to overlook the human being when attracted by teachology?

(Yeah, teachology’s been becoming such a nice and useful word.)

Mark your calendar and join the discussion: 14 – 25 September 2011.

Add IT to your ELT

If you are tired of sitting, yawning and gossiping at various seminars, workshops and conferences, be sure to enroll in an online course and get ready to dazzle your screenagers.

Our pick of the week includes two excellent online courses by the Novi Sad based Agencija za obrazovanje „Marina i Jovan” with experienced and encouraging expert  moderator(s):

  • Multimedija kao pokretač aktivnog učenja – Modul 1 & Modul 2  starts on 5 September and brings you 10 accredited hours, and/or
  • Alati za e-učionicu  starts on 12 September and brings you 24 accredited hours.

SPOILER ALERT: You will find yourself spending hours online, discovering your creative side, collaborating with other enthusiastic teachers, learning, experimenting, and just loving it.