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From the ashes of education comes cyber-learning

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In the wake of declining enrollment, possible bankruptcy, and the worst drop out rates in the nation, Detroit Public Schools, along with rest of the nation’s public school systems, educators and lawmakers are in for a rude awakening: the factory school model of education has died.

What has arisen from the ashes is Westwood Cyber High School of Westwood Community Schools of Dearborn Heights, Michigan.

The visionary pioneer of this cyber-learning inititative is Executive Director, Glen Taylor, who has proudly partnered with Inclusion Trust out of the United Kindgdom. The U.K. “Not School” program, a 100% virtual learning experience, has been operational for about 9 years with a 97% completion rate.

Glen Taylor, Executive Director of Westwood Cyber High School, Dearborn Heights, MI

The Inclusion Trust of the U.K. works directly with Westwood Cyber High School, the only project-based learning online in the United States. Inclusion Trust has formed other partnerships in Ireland, Sweden, and Australia, to name a few, demonstrating a successful alternative to traditional education in the Not School program.

Inclusion Trust came twice, the last time in July 2009, to Westwood Cyber High School to train staff on how to execute the duties and responsibilities of being research mentors. The Cyber High School was originally slated to have Westwood Cyber High Schools implemented the Models of Demonstration Proficiency format in February 2009. The format is a learning effect to standard, meaning the rubrics are tailored to the learning agenda and measurement expectations to the State of Michigan educational high school requirements.

Originally targeted for a goal of 182 students with its current retention rate at 93%, expansion to capacity of 540 was authorized by the state. Staff of Westwood Cyber recently traveled to the U.K. for enhanced training to transpose the model to an increased researcher population of 1,000, authorized by the state waivers under Title I funding by the State Director of Instructional Technology, Barb Fardel (email: FardellB@michigan.gov) and Bruce Umpsted (email: umpsteadb@michigan.gov).

There are no students because they are considered “researchers”, as stipulated by Technology Mentor, Wanda Hudson. Each researcher is given projects to be completed. Projects range from generating newletters to film production. The most innovative part of the learning experience is that the research managers, referred to as Mentors (as there are no teachers in the Not School) work directly with each researcher. The mentor, then, integrates mathematics, economics, physics, history and the rest of the social and physical sciences into each research project (as there is no homework in the Not School) for the researcher to present for publication.

It is quite expected that one will ask how this is all funded and how all this technological teaching can be achieved during the academic school year.

You have to remember, this is Not School, meaning, the research year is all year long, 24 hours a day. Researchers work at their own pace, finding their optimal time to complete each research project at home. According to the U.K. program description, the Not School is crafted for youth who disengaged with traditional learning because of illness or phobia, pregnancy, bullying or disaffection, travelling, reluctance to learn, exclusion, or in care. These descriptives fall under the classification of “at-risk” youth, the target population of Westwood Cyber High School.

A unique component to the Not School format is that the research mentors have designed a system of encouragement to keep the researchers on task by having them log on everyday, and even come to the home when there is a need for greater assistance in research and personal management of their lives.

Researchers are provided the tools of IMac desktop 20 inch screen computers, HP Digital Camera, and HP 5-in-1 printer</a> to document work offline, as expected to do, and to put online. Once the researchers have completed their first 12-month cycle of research, the “researching tools” are given to the research to personally own. 

One component, I believe, that has yet to be explored is the fact that the Westwood Cyber High School has chosen keywords to describe their target population, meaning “at-risk” youth. This label of “at-risk” youth has traditionally been applied with the negative connotations of foster care, better known as a ward of the state, but now, at with Director Glen Taylor at the helm of this educational phoenix, these “at-risk” youth are greatly prepared for college, not just because they own state-of-the-art computer equipment, or the idea that they have mastered technological abilities to achieve a college degree, but for the simple idea that these “at-risk” youth may qualify for expanded opportunities for grants and scholarships.

The financial and economical benefits of this social and technological learning greatly outweigh the sunken costs of the out-dated, factory school model. Faith in the future potential of our children in the Detroit Metropolitan Area has reemerged through the reimagining of education through Westwood Cyber High Schools. 

It’s time our leaders listen to our children and to embrace the future of technology and innovation.

For more information, contact:

Westwood Cyber High School, 3335 South Beech Daly Road, Dearborn Heights, MI 48125.

Phone: 313-565-0288, or email: taylorg@wwschools.net

website: http://www.westwood.k12.mi.us/buildingwebs/cyberhighschool/index.html

 

Comments

  • Aaron Grimm 5 years ago

    This is not the only online, project based school in the US. EdVisions Off Campus High School is starting year five, which was formed from the replication of Mn New Country School. Hopefully, the two schools can connect up.

  • Beverly Tran 5 years ago

    You are correct. This is not the only online based school project, but this is the only one that is working with the Inclusion Trust "Not School" model.

    Aaron, your suggestion of linking all online schools is a brilliant concept and I encourage you to pursue the idea.

  • Pat Parris 5 years ago

    I would be interested in exploring a cyber education day in the Detroit metropolitan area. I teach at a cyber high school in Pennsylvania. I run the Leadership Center for our school. I have taken some of my students to Panama, China and Washington, DC. In each case they can continue to log on to complete their lessons from a remote location.

    I just read the Time Magazine Article on the urban blight in the Detroit area. Perhaps another cyber school could collaborate with your school to show how on line learning can provide a safe, individual, state standard meeting educational environment.

    Regards,

    Pat Parris