spacerThe New England Comprehensive Center acts on behalf of all students in New England by working with education leaders in each state to fulfill the promise of No Child Left Behind.

Digital Learning Takes Center Stage in the Northeast

Participants converse with Karen Cator
Karen Cator

In conjunction with the New York Comprehensive Center and the Center on Instruction, NECC hosted a Regional P-12 Summit on Virtual Education in Boston April 26 and 27. Intended to bring participants up to date on P-12 virtual education in the Northeast and elsewhere, the summit provided occasions for participants to learn about current research and to engage in cross-state and in-state conversations.

Karen Cator, Director of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, kicked off the two-day event with an address on Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology before an audience of more than fifty participants from five New England states and New York State.

A panel discussion by virtual education leaders in the Northeast highlighted challenges, strategies, and successes; it was followed by state-level roundtables with the six panelists:

  • Jonathan Costa, of Connecticut's Education Connection, described the program's blended learning model;
  • Tim Callahan, of North Adams (MA) Public Schools Online Learning & At Risk Youth project, outlined this grant-funded initiative;
  • Jeff Mao, of the Maine Department of Education, highlighted Maine's success in building infrastructure and expanding virtual access to students;
  • Steve Kossakoski, of New Hampshire's Virtual Learning Academy Charter School, described launching a virtual charter school;
  • Chris Weinman, of the Greater Southern Tier BOCES, discussed leadership issues related to virtual schools; and
  • Jeff Renard, of the Virtual Learning Cooperative, described starting a state-sponsored virtual school.

Susan Lowes
Susan Lowes

Susan Lowes, Director of Research and Evaluation at Columbia University's Institute for Learning Technology, began the second day with Ten Lessons Learned from Ten Years of Research on Online Teaching and Learning. Lowes divided her lessons into concerns about the field's scant research base, what is known about effective online teachers and how to prepare them, and the characteristics of successful online students. She closed with a call for detailed studies of online learning.

Susan Patrick, Director and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), offered a national and international perspective on online learning and prompted participants with a call to action. Patrick's talk, Online Learning: A Solution for All Students, outlined the current status of statewide and district online education in the context of three "looming crises" facing the U.S.—declining state revenues, a widespread teacher shortage, and rising global demand for skilled workers. Drawing on thinkers such as Clayton Christensen, author of Disrupting Class, Patrick identified ten necessary features of successful online learning.

Susan Patrick
Susan Patrick

Additional sessions featured Paul Leather of the NH Department of Education on Innovation Policies for Virtual Education and Stan Silverman of the NY Institute of Technology on Guerilla Cloud: Enabling College and Careers. A pair of concurrent sessions featured Barbara Treacy of EdTech Leaders Online, Education Development Center, and Stan Freeda of the NH Department of Education's e-Learning for Educators project, on Preparing Teachers for Online and Blended Learning and Judy Zorfass of Educational Development Center on Realizing the Potential of Virtual Education for Struggling Students.

The following video explores some of the ways in which virtual education has impacted the lives of students in the Northeast.

PDF icon Full Summary of the Regional P-12 Summit on Virtual Education

Contact: Carol Keirstead


Related initiative: Virtual Education