District Administration - February 2011 - (Page 56)

Virtually Possible Diane Lewis busts myths as champion of Seminole County’s virtual schools. D By Ericka MEllon ianE lEwis BEgan building her popular virtual education program in a storage closet. The drab room, just big enough to squeeze in a tiny table, was her office at the headquarters of seminole county (Fla.) Public schools. she had a computer and a small staff of temporary workers. “we had pretty much no money, no people, no space,” recalls lewis, director of instructional technology for the district. “one of the myths is, if you’re virtual, people don’t think you require anything.” lewis, who managed to open two successful virtual schools for seminole county last year, has emerged as a guru of online education. speaking with the zeal of a preacher and the authority of an educator, she has traveled the world touting the virtues of technology and busting myths about cyberlearning. in 2008, the Florida legislature ordered all of the state’s school districts to start at least one virtual school; the state has been running its own, Florida Virtual school, since 1997, serving students worldwide. while the sunshine state is considered a leader in online education, the phenomenon has spread nationwide. Today, an estimated 1.5 million schoolchildren in the United states are taking online courses, and the number is expected to continue growing 30 percent annually, according to the nonprofit international association for k-12 online learning. “Virtual school is an incredibly important option for today’s kids,” lewis told a group of superintendents at the District 56 February 2011 Frank Weber/RF Photography Seminole County Public Schools’ administrators celebrate with their first virtual school graduate, Gabrielle Stutz, in June 2010. From left to right: Diane Lewis, the director of instructional technology; Deputy Superintendent Anna-Marie Cote; Superintendent Bill Vogel; Stutz; and Walt Griffin, executive director of high schools. Administration leadership summit last fall. “a lot of kids don’t fit the mold anymore of four walls and a clock.” U.s. Education secretary arne Duncan unveiled the national Education Technology Plan last november, which acknowledges the changing needs of 21st-century students. The ambitious plan, which seeks to transform education through technology by 2015, includes expanding virtual options. “To reach the goals of our technology plan,” Duncan said, “we need full-time access to digital content and learning experiences that will empower teachers in brick-and-mortar schools to enrich the curriculum and to personalize learning.” A Natural Techie lewis, 49, grew up in seminole county, a short drive from orlando, and attended high school in the same district where she now works. “The principal there now was a teacher when i was there,” lewis says with a laugh. The daughter of an air Force veteran and a homemaker, lewis gravitated toward science as a child. Her biology teacher District Administration

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration - February 2011

District Administration - February 2011
Contents
Going Out of Print
From the Editor
News Update
Technology Update
Safety & Security
District Profile
Administrator Profile
Successful Strategies for English Language Learners
Mobile Goes Mainstream
Virtually Possible
Problem/Solution
New Products
Product Focus
Superintendent’s Insights
Crisis Response
Student Counsel

District Administration - February 2011

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