09.11.11 Partnership Among Alaska Schools Boosts Virtual Education
A partnership between Alaska schools is being heralded as a way to expand virtual education in the state.
Alaska's Learning Network, an 11-school consortium, has started offering online classes. And while hopes for the program are high, state education officials say significant challenges remain, including the needs for funding to maintain and expand the program, now working under a one-year start up grant. What's more, less than reliable Internet connectivity in parts of rural Alaska also remains an issue.
But the network's director of distance learning, Woody Wilson, told the Anchorage Daily News that the program is necessary if Alaska is to improve quality of education. He doesn't argue with those who believe it's better for students to have a teacher in the classroom, but said that scenario doesn't always exist in the far reaches of Alaska - at least not with the same classes available in cities like Anchorage.
Students today are "so digital," he said, noting that many middle schoolers communicate with friends via texting and question the need for cursive writing, once a basic in schools.
The network is offering 19 web-based courses through the Anchorage and Wrangell school districts, including classes students need to qualify for Alaska Performance Scholarships. Wilson said about 140 students, from 20 schools are enrolled in classes through the network this year, even though districts received late word about the program.
One of the network's main goals is to fill the need for highly qualified teachers and rigorous courses currently unavailable in rural areas. Rural high schools are often small - ranging from a handful to a few dozen students - and have trouble attracting and maintaining teachers, particularly those qualified to teach more specialized courses like foreign languages or the various sciences.
11.06.10 Alaska Learning Network Gets Funding
The Alaska Department Education and Early Development awarded a grant to the Alaska Learning Network, a consortium of 11 Alaska school districts and two nonprofit statewide education agencies plans to develop a virtual learning network for the state.
The department awarded $1.2 million in federal education technology funds to the consortium.
The initial goal is to have high school courses serving 240 students operational by March 2011.
In the following two years, the Alaska Learning Network will expand to include more school districts and serve more students and teachers.
09.23.10 Soldotna Leads State by Expanding Digital Content Integration
The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District covers more than 25,000 square miles and about 65 miles southwest of Anchorage.
The district announced that it would expand its use of digital learning materials as a way to meet its goals.
"Our classrooms are dynamic environments that seek to engage every student, no matter their learning modality," Sean Dusek, KPBSD's assistant superintendent of instruction told THE Journal, an education technology news magazine. "Our district is committed to empowering educators not only with flexible digital content that engages all types of students, but with the latest strategies and techniques to help us meet the goals of our science and literacy programs."
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03.19.10 School Board Assn. asks State Legislature for Money to Continue Investment in Digital Education
Carl Rose, executive director of the Association of Alaska School Boards went public.
In an op-ed he wrote for the Juneau Empire, he asked the state legislature for more money to "bring the future" to more of the state's classrooms.
In 2006, the Association of Alaska School Boards created the "Consortium for Digital Learning." Using state funds, the group of 28 school districts gave more than 12,000 Alaska student laptops so they could take courses online.
According to Rose, since the launch of the program, many of the districts have reported "dramatic changes." "Students are more engaged, exhibit fewer behavior problems and show improved work habits."
Now the money is about to run out and the statewide school board association wants the state to continue funding the project.
Click here to read Rose's entire article. to read Rose's complete article. Click here to see the Project Red's
state-by-state rankings of the percentage of schools with 1-to-1 laptop technology. Project Red, (Revolutionizing Education), is a national research and advocacy group looking into how technology can re-engineer the education system.
In 2010, Alaska has launched a state-led online initiative called the Alaska Virtual Learning Network. AVLN is a consortium of 11 Alaska school districts and two nonprofit statewide education agencies plans to develop a virtual learning network for the state.
Alaska has two online schools that offer courses statewide. These school are the Delta Cyber School and the Alaska Virtual Academy. The Delta Cyber School offers classes to students ages five through nineteen. In 2008-09, it served about 350 students. It is open to any Alaskan student who does not attend public schools. Additionally, there are tuition-based course for public students.
The Alaska Virtual Academy opened its doors in 2009 for K-8 students and uses the K12 Inc. curriculum.