Some online learning resources

“Learning resources” is part of this blog’s description so here are a few that I have collected over the past year. These look interesting but I have not used them myself yet. I thought I’d share out the information and recycle the papers. Full disclosure: I have no affiliation with these entities.

  • The Learning Springs offers a complete learning management system for grades 5-12. Individuals could use it to homeschool their child or for summer classes or for subjects not taught at your local school (there are several languages for instance); districts could make use of courses to supplement their in-person teaching for credit recovery or to offer a wider array of classes. I believe there is also a way for districts to put their own courses up for distance-learning use by others.
  • EdVisions Schools, a teacher-owned cooperative consortium using the model of the Coalition of Essential Schools, offers a Project Foundry(TM) for managing project-based learning. This online tool offers students an organized launch pad for working on their projects and a reflective journal to keep a record of their own experience. Mentors and parents can view student progress, participate in the process, comment on work, and assess the end result. Schools can configure the tool to their own needs and demonstrate outcomes. Tracking student work and ongoing assessments allow the tool to generate standards-based transcripts and reports.
  • If you are homeschooling, you might be interested in to help you create your learner’s portfolio and transcript in a form directly suited for presentation to a college or high school. It’s all about documentation and explicitly not designed to give you a curriculum, give grades or grading advice, nor require use of a traditional school method.
  • Explorations Academy Online offers a personalized high school program allowing learners to earn a high school diploma that meets the requirements of the state of Washington. Learners can test-drive a semester-length Exploratory Course anytime a Learning Coach is available.

_The Myth of the Normal Curve_

Did you know that the so-called normal curve, ubiquitous in grading and other education contexts, was developed to represent occurrences of random events? Do you really think human characteristics and efforts are random? I have thought before about how silly ranking is, because no matter how well everyone is doing–how competitively they are performing–someone gets the top ranking and someone gets the lowest. Likewise in my local context with thinking about Data Walls (practice recommended by Focus on Results), Value-added teacher evaluation, Healey School redesign etc. Excerpt from a review* of The Myth of the Normal Curve, a book co-edited by a BC prof….

“Valle and Gabel (Chapter Thirteen) describe the impossible expectations placed on mothers compelled to prepare their children for a life at and above the norm. “Even mothers who instinctively recoil from this kind of [competitive] thinking still engage in it because the risks seem simply too high not to do so” (p. 189). The ideology of the normal curve is so instantiated that even those trying to resist its regime get hooked on its barbs.”

Seems NCLB created the same kind of risks for school districts as those for mothers referenced above.
“Though lined with snares, pathways to resistance exist. Gerald Campano and Rob Simon (Chapter Fifteen) propose practitioner research to be instructive. Rather than chase the norm, school improvement undertaken by teachers and students on their own terms highlights the possibility in distinctiveness. Authentic dialogue about the possibilities and pitfalls in coalition among school reformers interested in race and disability is another place to begin (Ferri, Chapter Ten). The Myth of the Normal Curve offers critique of a foundational concept as it plays out in a range of contexts and locales. Challenging the utility of a model so ingrained in the ways we measure is bound to raise eyebrows. This book can easily spark the dialogue and debate Dudley-Marling and Gurn invite.”

I like the sentence about school improvement on stakeholders’ [like I might encourage teachers and students to remember they are part of a larger system/district] own terms and distinctiveness.

*REFERENCE: Teachers College Record, Date Published: February 21, 2011 ID Number: 16346, Date Accessed: 4/12/2011 10:53:01 AM