The Virtual School Symposium (VSS) is right around the corner, and I look forward to joining the hundreds of K-12 education leaders from across the country and beyond to discuss the challenges, successes and innovations around online and blended learning.

In the midst of preparing for VSS, I stopped for a moment to reflect on this year’s conference theme, “Inventing the Future of Learning.” I couldn’t help but smile and think of Blackboard’s own vision, “Let’s Build a Better Education Experience.”  Both themes are forward looking. Both acknowledge that previous methods and tools for learning need to adapt to the needs and expectations of today’s active learners.

What is an active learner, you might ask? An active learner is part of a new generation of students, who have grown up using technology from the moment they were able to swipe open a tablet. They expect immediate communication, personalized and engaging content, and a real connection to their school community. Many schools and districts have already taken the initiative for change, and are coming up with innovative ways to meet their students’ expectations. Here are just a few examples:

  • Flipping the classroom – Subject matter is consumed by the student outside of school via videos, podcasts and other learning objects, and class time is used for practicing the new concepts with the teacher and classmates.
  • Offering different course types of the same subject – For example, a student can choose to take the same biology class as a traditional, blended or fully online course, depending on the student’s preferred learning style.
  • Bring Your Own Device – Students are allowed to use their own devices for learning at school, instead of prohibiting use or relying on district funds and technical support to maintain a network of laptops, netbooks or tablets.

One of the great things about a conference like VSS is that it brings together education leaders of all types and experience levels to share successes and failures, brainstorm new ideas and recharge enthusiasm for developing the future of K-12 education. Here are a few VSS sessions that I think will facilitate all of those activities:

  • Monday at 11:15am – Looking Ahead: A Sneak Peek at Blackboard xpLor
  • Monday at 3:30pm – Students, Parents and Teachers Speak Up about Online Learning: A 5-Year Retrospective Review
  • Tuesday at 11:00am – Expanding Possibilities with Online and Blended Learning: A Student Panel Discussion; Keeping Pace: Panel Discussion
  • Tuesday at 1:30pm – Hear from Students: Were They Prepared for College?

I hope you enjoy your time at VSS and come away with excitement and new ideas to help shape the future of learning. Be sure to stop by Blackboard’s booth #101 to say hello and share what you learn at VSS this year! You can also follow the latest Blackboard news and events at VSS by following us on Twitter @Blackboard and @BlackboardK12.

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