More than 2,000 educators, school administrators and education policy leaders met in Indianapolis this week for the three-day 2011 Virtual School Symposium (VSS) hosted by the International Associationg for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) — although a board member told me he thought the event should be called BOSS, the Blended & Online School Symposium.

The conference was three days of forward-thinking speakers and ideas, the release of iNACOL’s new study, and the announcement of the iNACOL awards.

Kicking Off the Event

Susan Patrick, President of iNACOL, kicked off VSS in Indianapolis with a great analogy about online and blended learning. She looked at our current traffic laws and structures to point to ways that online and blended learning can help students navigate learning.

Roundabouts and expressways as opposed to stop lights and back roads can improve the flow of traffic by allowing drivers to safely move at their own pace. Blended learning models do the same for students, allowing each student to move safely at a slower or increased speed in learning.

Exploring Blended Learning Around the Globe

Patrick spoke about the growth of blended learning across the globe as reported in iNACOL’s recent study, Online and Blended Learning: A Survey of Policy and Practice of K-12 Schools Around the World.  British Columbia, China, Scotland and London are developing new models for optimized online learning blended with face-to-face time.

Online and blended learning increases competency-based learning, providing students with increased opportunities for real-time assessment, personalized learning, and experiential-based learning opportunities.

Defining Blended Learning

INACOL also recently published New Models Using Online & Blended Learning, a new diagram that looks at teaching, assessment models, and curriculum content. When you introduce the DNA of blended learning models, it fundamentally changes the structure of the classroom, says Patrick.

Blended learning models introduce new environments that allow for individual work, group work and one-to-one tutoring. Current schools like VOISE Academy and Khan Academy present great case studies to new learning environments in blended learning.

Outlining Elements of Digital Learning

Tom Vander Ark and the Digital Learning Now! team spoke about the 10 Elements of Personal Digital Learning and the Roadmap for Reform, outlining the ways that personal digital learning can transform education and learning.

Michael Horn discussed The Rise of Blended Learning and the four categories of models (down from six): rotation, flex, self blend, and remote.

Recognizing Leaders in Blended Learning

Wednesday night, iNACOL recognized six education leaders for their achievements and innovations in K-12 online and blended learning in honor of its Online Learning Innovator Awards. The awards and winners include:

  • National Online Teacher of the Year
    Kristin Kipp, an online English teacher at the 21st Century Virtual Academy in Golden, CO
  • Outstanding Individual Contribution to K-12 Online Learning Award
    Julie Young, president and CEO of Florida Virtual School in Orlando, FL
  • Outstanding Research Award
    Julia Carpenter, a senior instructional systems designer at General Dynamics Information Technology in Orlando, FL
  • Innovative Online Learning Practice Award
    Quakertown Community School District Cyber Program
  • Outstanding Service Awards
    Steve Baxendale and Todd Hitchcock, founding board members of the Board of Directors at iNACOL

“It is an honor to present the Online Learning Innovator Awards to some of the most dedicated, inspiring and innovative leaders in our field,” said Susan Patrick, President and CEO of iNACOL.  “As online and blended learning programs continue to grow, with more than 4 million K-12 students enrolled in programs in the US, these individuals and the organizations that we’ve presented the awards to have played a key role in ensuring that every student is given the opportunity to succeed.”

For more information on iNACOL’s Online Learning Innovator Awards, please visit inacol.org/events/awards.php. For more about the iNACOL VSS conference, visit virtualschoolsymposium.org.

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