The Virtual School Symposium organized by iNACOL is the premier K-12 conference for online and blended learning each year. With many of our K-12 clients in attendance, the Blackboard K-12 Team, including representation from Blackboard Learn, Mobile, Collaborate, and Connect, traveled to Indianapolis to collaborate and connect with several K-12 leaders from our client community in sessions exploring trends, challenges, and best practices integrating Blackboard in online and blended learning.
One highlight of the conference was a session we organized featuring students, “Student Panel: Expanding Opportunities & Closing Gaps in K-12 Education with Multiple Online Learning Models.” Julie Young, the President and CEO of the Florida Virtual School , expertly moderated the panel. She welcomed students representing multiple models of successful online learning using Blackboard Learn products. Paul Pratt, a senior from Fishers High School from Hamilton Southeastern School District, spoke about his experiences in a blended learning environment. Nikki Kuhlman, a senior at Saint Theodore Guerin Catholic High School, described a unique blended experience at Guerin, a 1:1 initiative in which each student uses a laptop as an integral part of the daily teaching and learning experience. Jazmyn Styles, a senior from Pike High School, and Kati Gregory, a junior from Speedway High School, both took at least one fully online high school course at the Indiana Online Academy and spoke about their experiences participating in a virtual school. The goal of the student panel was to explore how multiple forms of online learning have improved their teaching and learning experiences, expanded their opportunities, and closed gaps in the lives of these students.
The students have experienced increased opportunities through integrating Blackboard Learn products into their educations through different forms of online learning. Kati Gregory, for example, is currently tied for Valedictorian for the Class of 2013 at Speedway High School. During her junior year, Kati ran into a scheduling conflict preventing her from taking the Economics course in her brick and mortar school required for the Indiana Academy Honors Diploma. Kati was able to fulfill this requirement taking a fully virtual course through the Indiana Online Academy ensuring she will be on target for the honors diploma at graduation. Jazmyn Styles is expanding many possibilities for herself through online learning. Jasmyn opts to take several fully online courses through the Indiana Online Academy each summer to free up her schedule at Pike High School during the traditional school year for “… internships, dual credit, and A.P. courses.” By completing some of her graduation requirements through online classes in the summer, Jazmyn has already earned 26 college credits already! She anticipates this progress will open even more options in her college career such as the ability to study abroad or pursue other activities, in addition to traditional classes, to help her progress in her career. Nikki Kuhlman values the opportunities she’s had to use technology as an integral tool in every aspect of her high school education and looks forward to being very well prepared to learn this way in college.
To conclude the panel session, Julie Young challenged the participants, “If you could re-invent schools as you know them today, what would that look like and how would online education or online courses play a part?” Paul Pratt described a blended learning model in which all students would learn from the very best teachers online “…really making sure that we have the most expert people in their subject areas being the ones to do the teaching” and then go into a school building and work with a local teacher on practice problems and clarification. Paul described, “…the school environment would be more where we work with our personal issues or where we do not understand a specific aspect of the course.” After giving thought to the subject, Nikki Kuhlman acknowledged the advantages of her 1:1 education at Guerin, then profoundly offered, “…I have an issue with coming up with the perfect school because not everyone learns the same way.” To which Julie concluded, “That’s an outstanding way to end this discussion!”
The Blackboard student panel was a tremendous success and was a highlight of the Virtual School Symposium this fall.