Parallels between jury duty and high school

Last week I read a blog post that resonated with me and many others, and then unexpectedly had an experience that brought home the author’s point in a memorable way.

The blog post, titled “A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned,” describes how an experienced teacher at a private high school shadowed two students for a day each, to better understand the high school experience from a student perspective. Her key findings include:

1. “Students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting… students move almost never. And never is exhausting. In every class for four long blocks, the expectation was for us to come in, take our seats, and sit down for the duration of the time. By the end of the day, I could not stop yawning and I was desperate to move or stretch.”

2. “High School students are sitting passively and listening during approximately 90% of their classes…It was not just the sitting that was draining but that so much of the day was spent absorbing information but not often grappling with it.”

When I read the post I thought—yes, that sounds like my high school experience. I suppose not much has changed in some schools in the decades since I was a high school student. I also compared the experience being described to some of the blended schools that I have visited, in which students are much more engaged because they are actively learning in a variety of ways that limit the amount of time in which the teacher is lecturing to the entire class.

The next day I began a three-day experience that brought home just how stultifying a day of simply listening can be, and how much more engaging the alternatives can be, when I was called for jury duty.

The first morning of jury duty was somewhat absorbing, as the judge and attorneys asked jurors to reflect on their life experiences (so that they could determine who would be struck from the jury, with or without cause). We weren’t just listening, because we had to be ready to answer a question to the entire jury, or to answer a possible cold-call question.

Then we moved into two days of opening statements, witness testimony, and closing arguments—and all we did was listen. We were barred from having any discussion of the case with anyone on or off the jury. We were not allowed to look up any information about the case, press reports, or legal terms. Our time was controlled by the judge, who told us when to arrive, when we would take breaks, and when we would be done for the day.

The case was compelling. It included felony charges related to a domestic violence incident that involved three Mexican nationals, so in addition to the seriousness of the charges for the defendant, it included implications for US citizenship and/or deportation for at least three people.

And yet…by the second half of the first afternoon, all of us on the jury found ourselves struggling to concentrate, and to track all that was being described, charged, and defended. It wasn’t for lack of trying, as we all recognized the seriousness of the case. But our ability to ask questions was severely limited, and we didn’t have the time or the option to grapple with the information. It was a tidal wave of testimony that overwhelmed us, and left us exhausted at the end of the days.

The closing of the testimony, and beginning of deliberations, immediately changed the demeanor of the jurors. Now we were in (partial) control, and everyone on the jury dug into the discussion. We wrestled with legal definitions, assessed credibility of witnesses providing different accounts, and weighed contradictory evidence. It was hard work, and on that third day we kept at it for 13 hours, ending near 9:30pm with a verdict.

Part of the reason for the dedication, I’m sure, is that everyone recognized the ramifications of the charges for all involved. But I was also struck by the change in the group as we went from at first being forced into passive listening, and then subsequently into actively working with the details of the case. We examined evidence, shared notes, traded ideas, and argued the various points. Nobody ended the deliberations with the same set of views that they had started with.

The portion of the trial that resembled the blogger’s description of her high school from a student’s perspective was tiring, deadening, and stultifying. The portion of the trial that looked like a good blended school was hard, lively, and engaging.

Examples of success in blended learning: survey deadline extended

We have received a strong response to our call for examples of blended learning success. We have also heard from quite a few schools requesting more time, so we have extended the deadline to the end of the day (midnight PT) on October 26.

The survey is available at http://ow.ly/Cldag. Most surveys are taking between 15 and 20 minutes to complete.

As we explained in our previous blog post:

We believe that proof points will help practitioners who need to demonstrate to a variety of stakeholders that blended learning can be successful in a setting that the stakeholders are familiar with. We intend therefore to publish case studies that collectively will cover a variety of elements including different geographic areas, school/district sizes, and urban/suburban/rural characteristics.

Specifically, we are seeking:

  • Examples from regular traditional public schools and districts, not including specialized schools or charter schools.
  • Blended learning implementations that can demonstrate improvements in outcomes based on student achievement as determined by assessments, course grades, or other measures.
  • A range of implementation types, geographic areas, student populations, grade levels, and subject areas.

We will review all submissions, and through evaluations of the survey responses and follow-up interviews, determine the best examples that represent an assortment of blended learning successes. Case studies will be developed based on these examples. We will invite the schools that are selected to be featured in the case studies to co-present with us at the November 2015 iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium. Evergreen and Christensen will pay a portion of expenses to defer travel costs.

KP 2014: Growth in students in fully online schools appears to be slowing

We have completed writing and editing of Keeping Pace 2014, and will be releasing the report at the iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium in Palm Springs during the first week of November. In the next few weeks we will highlight some key findings here on the blog.

Every year in Keeping Pace, we look at the status of online schools that enroll students from across multiple districts in a state, and may attract students from across the entire state. We count the number of states that allow these types of schools, and the number of students attending these schools.

Our count for KP 2014 shows that thirty states have fully online schools enrolling students from across the entire state*. For school year (SY) 2013–14, we estimate that about 316,000 students attended these statewide fully online schools, a year over year increase of 6%.

Many of these schools are charter schools, often authorized by a state-level authorizer. Some of the online schools are run by districts that attract students from other districts across the state. Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Arizona are the states with the most fully online schools and students in absolute numbers. No state has more than about 3% of its students attending fully online schools, and states with relatively high percentages of students in such schools (between 1.5% and 3%), but lower absolute numbers, include Colorado, Nevada, and Idaho.

Why is growth slowing? Several factors appear to be in play. First, fewer states are allowing these schools to open for the first time, or often are doing so with restrictions (e.g., limits on the number of online schools that may open, or the total number of students who may attend them). We counted 30 states allowing these types of schools in 2011, and while some states are now allowing fully online schools that didn’t three years ago (e.g. Maine and New Mexico), other states that used to have a small number of fully online schools no longer do (e.g. Missouri and Virginia).

Second, in most states that have had online schools for a decade or more, and have the largest online student populations, growth in the number of students attending these schools is slowing.

It’s possible that some of the growth is shifting from statewide online schools, for which enrollment numbers are found relatively easily, to single district online schools, which are very difficult to track. In addition, students may be moving to single district blended schools that have some required onsite component, instead of attending a school that is entirely online.

* Technically, California does not allow any statewide online schools, because of its requirement that schools enroll students only from within contiguous counties. However, for simplicity we count California as among the states with online schools statewide, because at least one fully online school is available to all students in the state.

The Evergreen Education Group and Christensen Institute launch project to find and publicize examples of success in blended learning

If your public school or district fits the criteria below, please visit http://ow.ly/Cldag to fill out the short survey telling us about your success.

Today the Evergreen Education Group and Christensen Institute are launching a project to find and publicize examples of success in blended learning.

We believe that proof points will help practitioners who need to demonstrate to a variety of stakeholders that blended learning can be successful in a setting that the stakeholders are familiar with. We intend therefore to publish case studies that collectively will cover a variety of elements including different geographic areas, school/district sizes, and urban/suburban/rural characteristics.

Specifically, we are seeking:

  • Examples from regular traditional public schools and districts, not including specialized schools or charter schools.
  • Blended learning implementations that can demonstrate improvements in outcomes based on student achievement as determined by assessments, course grades, or other measures.
  • A range of implementation types, geographic areas, student populations, grade levels, and subject areas.

We will review all submissions, and through evaluations of the survey responses and follow-up interviews, determine the best examples that represent an assortment of blended learning successes. Case studies will be developed based on these examples. We will invite the schools that are selected to be featured in the case studies to co-present with us at the November 2015 iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium. Evergreen and Christensen will pay a portion of expenses to defer travel costs.

The survey is short and will take no more than about 10-15 minutes. If your program fits what we are seeking we look forward to hearing from you! The survey will remain open through Sunday, October 19.

Evergreen Education Group and Christensen Institute seeking examples of success in blended learning

Early next week we, along with the Christensen Institute, are going to be launching a survey that will seek to find examples of blended learning success in traditional public schools. Based on the survey results and subsequent research and interviews with selected schools, we will be publishing a set of case studies demonstrating a range of blended learning successes.

Why are we doing this? It’s our belief that proof points showing blended learning success will help practitioners who need to demonstrate to a variety of stakeholders that blended learning can be successful in a setting that the stakeholders are familiar with. We intend therefore to publish case studies that collectively will cover a variety of elements including different geographic areas, school/district sizes, and urban/suburban/rural characteristics.

If you run a blended learning program in a traditional public school and have evidence of success, we hope you will take the time to fill out the survey (it won’t take long). If you are with a content, technology, or other provider, we hope that you will pass along the survey to your colleagues and clients who are demonstrating success with blended learning.

Look for the formal announcement, and the survey to go live, on Monday October 6.

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