A Cork In The Bottle

As a Virtual High School member, our high school hosted an information session for those area high schools looking to possibly sign on with VHS. Our gracious and spirited principal invited VHS to come in and “pitch” their game to administrators and interested district personnel. (Note: our school has been a member of VHS for two year. It is an extremely popular program and our kids love it.)

The audience was intrigued with the possibilities that online learning offers students, the cost-effective means to expand a high school’s course offerings by over 200 (without the overhead of salaries or bennies), and the anecdotal evidence provided by some of our VHS students. But then there were – as their always is – those that just cannot let go of the fear, the unknown, and the old.

Some prospective VHS customers were voicing (what I consider) absurd concerns regarding the prospective trouble with virtual schools and online learning. It was obvious to any thinking person that these administrators were not looking for answers, but looking to raise doubts and fears about online learning.

It is pretty clear from these that there is a cork in the bottle. Unfortunately, the cork is not teachers, IT people, or parents… but administrators.

These administrators were afraid and seemingly unwilling to accept that learning has changed, that the means of providing a quality, thorough, and efficient education has changed. They were exhibiting their need to control students’ education, their students’ learning, and their students’ access to information. hence the problem was not really the technology, but their phobic reaction to it’s absolute necessity in the lives of students… a phobia born of the fear that much of what we do is irrelevant and outdated.

Our administrative minds were contemplating all of this today when I had a moment of clarity. I realized that education (particularly public education) is the last bastion of the old way. Where schooling was once provided by those who were the most educated, learned people with the wealth of information and knowledge, the age of accessibility has quietly ripped the fabric of what school was all about; go in, get fed, learn something from the sage, apply it where you can, come back for more, you get what you were given. Web 2.0, virtual schools, connectivity, and the wealth of readily available information has invaded the institution. The moat can now be crossed. The kingdom is up for grabs.

Questions: So what to do when the cork is us and not those whom it is so convenient for us to blame (i.e. teachers)? Who suffers when the sages refuse to impart or allow their students – or faculty – to access to new knowledge and information? What happens when our desires to control, our tendencies to mistrust, or our fears of new schooling cloud the visions we have for the future?

Answers: We have meltdown. We have disenchantment. We have dis-connectivity. We have no progress.

Visual fodder for fighting the phobic and fearful:

Author: Michael Parent, Ed.D

Father, husband, school administrator in NJ. "Education cures poverty".

2 thoughts on “A Cork In The Bottle”

  1. Mike,

    I spent some time at the Florida Virtual School last year to see how they gained traction and got teacher buy-in. What I found was that there model would not work well in New Jersey, as our unions are too strong to support the type of contract and the requirements they put on the teachers if they taught in a regular school and online simultaneously.

    How are you doing it in your district? We would love to get some of our course offerings available online, but we want to make sure we don't create grievable situations.

    You make some interesting points about the ownership of education. What we are seeing is a shift away from traditional power relationships with regard to content knowledge. My one concern, however, is that our students be trained in how to interrogate online sources to determine their validity. Bad data doesn't replace good teaching.


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