Barb's Vision of Schools
of the Future (as written for a paper in 2005)
A Vision of Schools of the Future
To understand the possible roles online schooling could have in the
next decade, close your eyes and envision this scenario:
A student starts his week at home by logging into his computer from
his bedroom utilizing the portal set up by the district, which provides
an individualized program for him. He electronically submits his homework
and checks for the assignments that are due with his individual learning
plan. He checks the classes he will have this week, and signs up for
any hands-on activities, proctored testing, or face to face classes
that he needs to attend. His body clock and learning style are matched
to the variety of times that these classes are offered in different
schools. Transportation to arrive at those classes are planned, as well
as time in the gym for his daily workout with a personal trainer. His
physical exercise as he uses the equipment is tracked on his medical
(Holden, 2004) Smart Card which is submitted to the nurses office, and
if necessary to his doctor. In addition, he plans to attend service
activities, social activities, or sports while he is at school. The
student knows in advance the location of each of his classes, and will
not need to waste time visiting a locker, or a homeroom. The resultant
schedule is downloaded onto his PDA, worn on his wrist, or incorporated
with his cell phone for easy access once at school.
The student's PDA has tracked the location of his bus, and notifies
him when it is a mile away from the house, so that he can meet it on
time. He has no books to carry, his PDA is the only school supply needed.
The bus is tracked as it travels throughout the neighborhood, so that
administration knows where it is and which students have already been
As the student enters the school building, his PDA automatically logs
him into the wireless LAN, and identifies him on either the wireless
or Ethernet network. He text messages any friends that he plans to meet
for lunch, and makes plans for other social events.
The student's homework, submitted to his teacher, has been graded by
the computer or the teacher, as he was enroute, so that when the student
walks through the door to attend the hands-on activities for the class,
the teacher can give immediate feedback, and guides the student to the
next task. The teacher can also see at a glance, which students have
met the criteria for the task, and which need extra help or an alternative
activity to be able to master the content or process, and can plan accordingly.
Most classes will involve time to collaborate with peers in planning,
researching, and presenting solutions to authentic tasks dealing with
the specified curriculum. As classes or academic meetings progress through
the day, the student has utilized the PDA to access information through
the wireless lab from any resources, such as the local museum, or government
agency, or taken an online poll that aided the discussion in the class,
or to take notes on what is happening in the class. New assignments
are automatically loaded onto the PDA for viewing at home in a comfortable
Because the student has taken care of the reading and writing activities
at home in a comfortable environment, most of the hands-on or group
curricular activities can be completed in several hours, so the student
has finished the classroom activities, and can move to the holistic
activities, such as the social, physical, emotional, or service activities
mentioned above, after lunch. The classrooms are now free for students
who chose to complete the holistic activities in the morning, to attend
curricular-oriented classes. All students leave the building with new
assignments already loaded on the PDA, and can work on the research,
reading, and writing parts of the assignments in their own homes, while
watching TV or listening to their choice of music.
This scenario might seem like it will be a headache for administrators.
However, at the touch of a button, any student in the school can be
located, as their PDA's will have GPS software included (remember the
earlier scenario of tracking the bus). Busses, too, will always be locatable.
The computer will arrange schedules, and students will have input into
their schedule, so if they are late risers, they can choose to attend
classes in a building that offers academic afternoon classes. In addition,
all testing data, personal records, school data, and district level
data will be available for school wide decisions, or budgeting questions.
Asynchronous training modules will deliver Staff Development, as envisioned
by several researchers (James & Gerald, 2002; Treacy, 2002), giving
the administrator a well trained staff, and less faculty meetings to
attend. Delivery of faculty meetings occur in the same manner, and faculty
and administrators attend at their convenience, in their classrooms
or from home.
Teachers will be freed from record keeping because the individualized
student curriculum will be administered by the computer system (it's
all done by the database). They will be free, to do what they do best
- guide students through their own learning process by offering alternative
lessons for just those students who need them. The curriculum software
will identify and track student progress, allowing students to advance
at their own pace, without being limited to a nine month learning pace.
If a student chooses to work through the summer to complete coursework,
then that student could be finishing school earlier, thus joining the
workforce or academia earlier. This will save districts money in the
long run, since students may not need to spend 12 complete years in
While this scenario seems futuristic, and technically a distance away,
now is the time that changes could occur to lead schools as they undergo
the coming paradigm shifts. Virtual Schools may be catalysts in these
Challenge: Can Virtual Schools be Agents of Change??
According to researchers (Fulton & Kober, 2002; Eng, 2003), educators
should be asking several questions about virtual schools, including
how the schools are preparing students for life, work and citizenship.
Since current schools were formed on the factory system, which is less
prevalent today, and future workers will be utilizing the technology
and online world mentioned above, Virtual Schools could become the medium
enabling students to develop the needed skills for the millenium work
world. Isenhour (2000) points out that online learning encourages development
of planning and coordination skills not usually required in regular
classroom collaboration. While fine-tuning their curriculums to take
advantage of this medium, virtual schools could be leaders in changing
brick and mortar school curriculums and pedagogy.
Another question concerns universal access and free cost (Fulton, 2002).
Although the method of utilizing state funding for virtual students
is currently under fire in some states, utilizing those funds provides
students with access at home for students who would not normally have
the funding for access. Therefore, virtual schools can be seen as ways
to lessen the digital divide.
Developing social cohesion and shared culture in online courses can
be challenging (Fulton, 2002). The critics of Virtual Schools, who worry
about virtual students not developing social skills, voice this concern.
As the schools answer the critics, they may be developing policies that
will prevent social isolation and encourage shared cultures. Indeed,
the history of online learning in elementary schools started with such
cultural projects as those developed by organizations like Kidlink and
I*EARN, and was supported by Merryfield (2002) who called educators
to explore multiple perspectives, worldviews, and examine different
points of view on an event or topic.
Along with Fulton (2002), the United States Department of Education,
calls for public accountability and responsiveness, and identifies virtual
schools as models of reform. The USDE (2002) report calls for investment
in research to determine the effectiveness of teaching and learning
online. This investment in research needs to occur before public schools
start following the Pied Piper into that fictitious "joyous land",
now known as cyberspace!
Bell, S. (2001). Web-based Utilities for Learning and Collaboration
in the Classroom. Syllabus Magazine: Technology for Higher Education
Browning, Robert (1888). The Pied Piper of Hamlin. Edward Evans Limited.
London, England. Retrieved July 3, 2004 from http://www.indiana.edu/~librcsd/etext/piper/index.html.
Cicognani, A. (2000). Concept Mapping as a Collaborative Tool for Enhanced
Online Learning. Educational Technology & Society, 3(3).
Cifuentes, L. S., Yu-Chih Doris. (2001). Teaching and Learning Online:
A Collaborative Between U.S. and Taiwanese Students. Journal of Research
on Computing in Education, Summer 2001; 33(4), 456.
Corporation for Public Broadcasting (2003). CONNECTED TO THE FUTURE:
A Report on Children's Internet Use. Retrieved July 1, 2004, from http://www.cpb.org/ed/resources/connected/
Eng, P. (2003). Virtual School Daze: Online tech offers new choices
in education. Retrieved 9/16/2003, from http://abcnew.com/sections/scitech/FutureTech/virtualschools030916.html
Fulton, K., & Kober, N. (2002). Preserving principles of public
education in an online world: What policymakers should be asking about
virtual schools. Paper presented at the Virtual High Schools: Changing
Schools, Enduring Principles, Washington, D.C.
Hammonds, L., & Reising, B. (1998). The Virtual High School. Clearing
House, 71(6), 324, 322 p.
Holden, H. (2004). Printed Optical Waveguides: The Next Interconnect.
CircuiTree Troy, 17(2), 54, 53 pgs.
Isenhour, P. L., Carroll, J.M., Neale, D.C., Rosson, M.B., & Dunlap,
D.R. (2000). The Virtual School: An integrated collaborative environment
for the classroom, Retrieved June 2004 from http://ifets.ieee.org/periodical/vol_3_2000/a03.html.
James, J. W., & Bailey, Gerald D. (2002). Online Professional Development:
a customized approach for technology leaders. (2002 ed.). Eugene, OR:
International Society for Technology in Education.
Kalmon, S., & Watson, John. (2002). Moving Mountains to Ensure
Equal Access To High Quality Learning: Findings and Recommendations
of the Colorado E-Learning Task Force. Colorado Online Learning Task
Force for Colorado Department of Education. Retrieved 01/17/03 from
MacDonald, J. (2001). On-Line Learning: A Radical Pedagogy? Adults
Merryfield, M. M. (2002). The Difference a Global Educator Can Make.
Educational Leadership, 60(2), 18-21.
Russo, A. (2001). Online Coursework. School Administrator, 58(no. 9),
Schulz, B. (2003). Surfing the cyberwave of reform: Evaluating K-12
virtual schools. Paper presented at the E-Learn 2003, Phoenix, Arizona.
Taylor, S. (2002). Education online: Off course or on track? Community
College Week, Vol. 14(Issue 20).
Thomas, W. (2002). Virtual learning and charter schools: Issues and
potential impact. Retrieved 01/15/03 from Southern Regional Education
Board at http://www.sreb.org/programs/EDTEch/pubs/PDF/Virtual_Learn_Charter_School.pdf.
Treacy, B. K., Glenn; Petersen, Kirsten. (2002). Successful online
professional development: using community-based train-the-trainers programs,
EdTech Leaders Online is spreading online professional development throughout
the United States and learning some valuable lessons along the way.
Learning & Leading with Technology, 30(1), 42 (46).
USDE. (2002). Executive summary: Virtual schools forum (No. Draft).
Denver, CO: United States Department of Education:Virtual Schools Forum.
Overview of Virtual and Home Schools /
Our Diagnostic Tool /Benefits
and Drawbacks / A Dynamic List of Online
Programs-Virtual Schools / Our Fees
Barbara Harbula, Ph.D.
Fax: 302-678-2875 (call first)
Resume: : www.learningbyts.net/resindex.htm
Educational Software Development
Standards Based Education