Technology ushers in fundamental structural changes that can be integral to achieving significant improvements in productivity. Used to support both teaching and learning, technology infuses classrooms with digital learning tools, such as computers and hand held devices; expands course offerings, experiences, and learning materials; supports learning 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; builds 21st century skills; increases student engagement and motivation; and accelerates learning. Technology also has the power to transform teaching by ushering in a new model of connected teaching. This model links teachers to their students and to professional content, resources, and systems to help them improve their own instruction and personalize learning.
Online learning opportunities and the use of open educational resources and other technologies can increase educational productivity by accelerating the rate of learning; reducing costs associated with instructional materials or program delivery; and better utilizing teacher time.
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Virtual or online learning: 48 states and the District of Columbia currently support online learning opportunities that range from supplementing classroom instruction on an occasional basis to enrolling students in full-time programs. These opportunities include dual enrollment, credit recovery, and summer school programs, and can make courses such as Advanced Placement and honors, or remediation classes available to students. Both core subjects and electives can be taken online, many supported by online learning materials. While some online schools or programs are homegrown, many others contract with private providers or other states to provide online learning opportunities.
Full-time online schools: The following online or virtual schools enroll students on a full-time basis. Students enrolled in these schools are not attending a bricks and mortar school; instead they receive all of their instruction and earn all of their credits through the online school.
- The Florida Virtual School – An online school that provides full-time learning opportunities to students in grades K-12. Districts can also work with Florida Virtual School to provide blended learning opportunities to students by enabling them to access online courses from school sites.
- Utah Electronic High School – An 18-year-old online high school providing a range of courses to students year round. The school can award diplomas to students who are home-schooled, have dropped out, or are ineligible to graduate from a traditional high school for specific reasons.
- North Carolina Virtual Public School – An online high school offering 120 courses to students both during and after the school day. The courses offered include Advanced Placement and honors courses, world languages, electives, credit recovery, and online college courses. The school also provides test preparation and career planning services to students.
- Karval Online Education – A public K-12 online school for Colorado residents that provides a free computer for the family to use while the student is enrolled and provides reimbursement opportunities to offset Internet and other educational expenses. Dual credit courses are available to juniors and seniors.
- Campbell County Virtual School – This school serves Wyoming students in grades K-6. Families of enrolled students are loaned a computer and receive subsidized Internet access, as well as materials including CDs, videos, instructional materials, and hands-on tools and resources to complement the interactive online elements of the program.
- Salem-Keizer Online – This online Oregon high school is an accredited program of Roberts High School in the Salem-Keizer Public School District in Oregon. The school provides 24/7 learning opportunities to students living within the boundaries of the school district and who are not enrolled in their neighborhood public school. Tuition is only required for students enrolled in summer school courses.
- Guided Online Academic Learning Academy – An online public charter high school in Colorado for students ages 14-21. The Academy offers more than 200 courses to students as well as a variety of support services, activities to support student-to-student interactions, and drop-in centers to facilitate enrollment, counseling, assessments, and other services.
Blended learning: Blended learning opportunities incorporate both face-to-face and online learning opportunities. The degree to which online learning takes place, and the way it is integrated into the curriculum, can vary across schools. The strategy of blending online learning with school-based instruction is often utilized to accommodate students’ diverse learning styles and to enable them to work before or after school in ways that are not possible with full-time conventional classroom instruction. Online learning has the potential to improve educational productivity by accelerating the rate of learning, taking advantage of learning time outside of school hours, reducing the cost of instructional materials, and better utilizing teacher time. These strategies can be particularly useful in rural areas where blended or online learning can help teachers and students in remote areas overcome distance.
- Michigan Virtual School – Michigan’s students are able to take online classes and access online learning tools from their middle and high schools via this virtual school. Michigan Virtual also provides full-time learning opportunities to middle and high school students. Districts in the state work with the virtual school to grant course credit and diplomas to students.
- Walled Lake Consolidated School District – This Michigan district’s online summer school credit recovery program was expanded to include online learning opportunities during the school year. Students can now enroll in up to two online courses each semester while continuing to attend school for at least four hours a day. Eleventh and twelfth graders may also choose to enroll concurrently in postsecondary courses via a partnership with a local community college. The credit recovery program reduced per-student costs by 57 percent and the district estimates that by offering two online courses during the school year it has been able to save $517 per student on instructional costs.
- Riverside Virtual School – This school makes interactive courses available to students in Southern California and to other students in rural schools in the state. Students in grades 6-12, including those who are homeschooled, may enroll full-time.
- San Francisco Flex Academy – This high school is a five-days-a-week hybrid school that provides an online curriculum that personalizes learning and enables students to move through courses at their own pace. These online courses are taken at the school site and are supported by credentialed teachers.
- Rocketship – This elementary charter school network in California is a hybrid school model. Each day, students attend the Learning Lab where they use computers to support their individual learning needs. These Labs do not require certified teachers, enabling Rocketship to reinvest the savings in training, Response to Intervention, higher teacher salaries, facilities, and academic deans. While students are in the Lab, teachers are engaging in planning.
- Carpe Diem Collegiate High School – Carpe Diem is a hybrid school in Arizona that offers computer-assisted instruction and onsite teacher facilitators. This model enables students to progress as they demonstrate mastery.
- iPrep Academy – This Miami-Dade County Public School offers a teacher-facilitated virtual curriculum to 11th graders. Its motto is “learn anytime, anywhere at” and at the students’ own pace. The curriculum includes Advanced Placement and honors courses, distance learning opportunities that enable students to engage with their peers from around the world, and applies real word experiences to learning.
Open educational resources: Open educational resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain and are freely available to anyone over the Web. They are an important element of an infrastructure for learning and range from podcasts to digital libraries to textbooks and games. It is critical to ensure that open educational resources meet standards of quality, integrity, and accuracy—as with any other educational resource—and that they are accessible to students with disabilities.
- Open High School of Utah – This school uses open educational resources to create an open source curriculum. To create this curriculum, teachers gather and sort through open source materials, align them with state standards, and modify the materials to meet student needs.
- CK-12 – CK-12 FlexBooks are customizable, standards-aligned, digital textbooks for grades K-12. They are intended to provide high-quality educational content that will serve both as core text and provide an adaptive environment for learning.
- Leadership Public Schools (LPS) – In each of the four LPS schools, teachers work together to utilize open-source materials to meet the specific learning needs of their students. Through a partnership with CK-12, LPS has developed College Access Readers, a series of online books with literacy supports embedded in them to meet the individual needs of students, from advanced to under-performing students.
- Khan Academy – The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit organization providing digital learning resources, including an extensive video library, practice exercises, and assessments. These resources focus on K-12 math and science topics such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and include resources on the humanities, finance, and history.
- Mooresville Graded School District – This North Carolina district launched a Digital Conversion Initiative to promote the use of technology to improve teaching and learning. In addition to the use of laptop computers and other technologies as instructional tools, the Initiative led to a shift to digital textbooks which are aligned to the state’s standards.
- Vail Unified School District – This Arizona district has replaced textbooks with a digital learning environment that enables every school in the district to take advantage of an online tool to create digital textbooks and support effective teaching.
Use digital resources well: Schools can use digital resources in a variety of ways to support teaching and learning. Electronic grade books, digital portfolios, learning games, and real-time feedback on teacher and student performance, are a few ways that technology can be utilized to power learning.
- High Tech High – High Tech High (HTH) is a network of eleven California charter schools offering project-based learning opportunities to students in grades K-12. HTH links technical and academic studies and focuses on personalization and the connection of learning to the real word. To support student learning and share the results of project-based learning, HTH makes a wealth of resources available online, including teacher and student portfolios, videos, lessons, and other resources.
- New Technology High School – At this California school, student work is assessed across classes and grades, and feedback is made available to students via online grade books. These grade books are continually updated so that students can see how they are doing not only in each course, but also on each of their learning outcomes, averaged across all their courses. Electronic learning portfolios contain examples of students’ work and associated evaluations across all classes and grades. New Tech High is part of the national New Tech Network.
- Quest to Learn – This school, located in New York, utilizes games and other forms of digital media to provide students with a curriculum that is design-led and inquiry-based. The goal of this model is to use education technologies to support students in becoming active problem solvers and critical thinkers, and to provide students with constant feedback on their achievement.