No physics teacher? Emerging solutions

You’re a rural principal and you don’t have a physics teacher. What do you do? Eduwonk posed this prompt yesterday.

The simple solution is to offer an online course. There are solid offerings in most states (but it does depend on state policies; there are a dozen offerings in some states and none in others). These courses are a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous virtual learning with teachers carrying a load similar to or slightly heavier than a classroom teacher.

There are also new long form video course offering including thousands of iTunes U courses. Academic Earth provides free Ivy League lecture series online aimed at AP students. It’s most likely that these video resources would supplement onsite instruction.

There are some interesting developments in adaptive content libraries. Guarenteach has 20,000 math videos that can be strung together by level and learning modality. eduFire provides video turoring (and recently switched from long form to short form).

Several $99/month colleges offer a teacher free approach. Motivated students slog through first gen content on their own but have online access to tutors when they get stuck. A couple of these companies will soon offer high school courses.

By the fall of 2011 we’ll see some second generation physics courses that incorporate adaptive content libraries with smart recommendation engines, online tutoring, and social learning platforms. And it gets really interesting when schools combine these resources with engaging interdisciplinary project-based learning.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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