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One fish. Two fish. Old fish. New fish. Everyone likes a good Dr. Seuss story. They are simple and they tell a simple story. If I could tell educational researchers one thing, it would be that it is time to tell a new Dr. Seuss story about online education. Over the last 18 months, we have repeatedly seen the same story, the same points, and even the same data set that is several years old. Even Dr. Seuss knows that we’ve told the ‘One Fish’ story too many times. The one fish story has been told and has over time morphed into the old fish story of eSchools.

Iterations 

I lived in the Silicon Valley for several years and one thing I picked up on was this idea of iterations. The first time you try something new, the tangible product is never as good as it was in your head, nor is it as good as it will be in the future. It is however important to get the idea to market and then immediately continue working on the next version. The idea behind this methodology tells us that if we were to wait to get it perfect, it will never get to the people who need it most. Online education falls into this bucket. We, as eschool educators, launched our ‘One Fish’ and proved the concept. We know that online schools are good options to have in the marketplace of educational options. Was everything perfect, or even how we wanted it? Absolutely not, but that shouldn’t stop us from innovation and opportunity.

We have seen reports published that have told the story that we already knew about virtual schools. You can find the works by June Ahn, Ph.D. here, and here. As well as the CREDO report here. Since I’m a big proponent of seeing both sides of the story, make sure you check out the responses to the previously mentioned works herehere, and here. Many students who choose to enroll in virtual schools come from credit deficient, lower income, and higher at-risk situations. These reports needed to be published as they provide valuable insight into the story of where virtual education has been. There is however, a problem with the “new” reports that are still telling the same stories—They aren’t providing a contemporary account.

It is now the fall of 2016. That means we have data from the 2015-2016 school year. We also have data from the 2014-2015 school year that we have had time to review, create actionable items from, and apply to virtual schools’ academic plans. Moving another year back, we have data from the 2013-2014 school year that we now use to compare to the previous school year’s, find trends, and prove results from decisions made years ago. In the ever changing technology world in which virtual schools live, changes made from the 2013-2014 school year data are now known as historical decisions. My question remains, “For the love of all the fish out there, why are current reports still telling the story of the 2012-2013 school year fish?!”

There is a big difference between online schools’ world of real-time data decision making and the slower moving pace of the rest of the often antiquated education world. We get data, make decisions, and then get to work on our second iteration. Many others in the education industry are still doing reviews of data from many years ago.

In an effort to let my point across more clearly, allow me to use the illustration of the iPhone, since I’m assuming many of you are familiar with this device. If you were to compare the original iPhone, circa 2007, to the iPhone 6s+ of today (and possibly iPhone 7 depending on when you’re reading this post), you would find only a few years difference, but a profound metamorphosis in capabilities.

Features

Original iPhone

iPhone 6 Plus

Release Date

June 2007

September 2014

Weight

135g

172g

Build

Aluminum plastic

Aluminum

Display size

3.5”

5.5”

Resolution

480 x 320 – 163 ppi

1920 x 1080 – 401 ppi

FaceTime camera

Not available

1.2 MP

Back Camera

2 MP

8 MP

Battery

1,400 mAh

2,915 mAh

App Store Apps Available

Not Available

+2,000,000

RAM

128 MB

1 GB

Mobile Data

2G

4G LTE

Touch ID

Not Available

Standard

Starting Price (on contract)

$500

$300

Starting Price (no contract)

Not Available

$750

I highly doubt Steve Jobs and Apple ever wanted to stop innovating after releasing the original iPhone. Honestly, they were probably already working on iPhone 2 and possibly iPhone 3 by the time the original iPhone hit the shelves. The original iPhone didn’t even have the app store, perhaps one of the biggest innovations of handheld devices! Each time a new iteration was released, it got better. There is no reason to doubt then, that as virtual schools continue to grow, we find areas for improvement and continue to see students educated more effectively than the previous iteration. Why then are virtual schools still being held to the lower standards of their past, instead of the current progress that they’ve achieved?

 

Current Stories 

Moving forward we should not continue to rehash the One Fish tale, but should progress to articulate the story of Two Fish and of New Fish in the education world. Let’s talk about the Persistence Fish, the Mobility Fish, the Closing-the-Gap Fish, and all the other fish out there that have amazing stories of possibility and progress. Let’s change our focus from what eSchools were to what eSchools will be by iteration Two Fish 6s+.

And while we’re digging for some new fish stories, we must take the time to learn why too many students are arriving at online schools already behind? What isn’t working for them at their previous school and how can we (all schooling options) better serve these students?

About The Author

Chase Eskelsen

Chase Eskelsen has worked in many capacities within virtual education, including student enrollment, state testing, operations, and academic policy. Prior to joining the K12 team, he was a communications director for a recording studio and radio station. He helped launch a non-profit, Engage International, that seeks to create opportunities for displaced peoples around the globe. Chase earned a bachelors degree in pastoral theology/religious studies from a private college in the Silicon Valley and a Masters of School Administration through an online graduate program based out of Northern California.

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