Category Archives: Social Studies

K-12 Online Schooling-Focus on the Students!

The main focus of current research for K-12 online learning and online schooling involves the administration of online schools and legislation affecting this field.  Some proponents of K-12 online learning and online schools propose funding online schools adequately, expansion of online schools in the name of school choice and altering or eliminating teacher certification for online schools (Chubb, 2012).  Others suggest that the most effective online schools have been able to convince policy makers to shed old ideas and paradigms regarding schools and school funding. These old paradigms mainly address the fact that virtual schools require little physical space, a vast change from budgets heavily weighed down by physical building needs (Watson & Gemin, 2009).  Another large portion of research has been devoted to the de-localization of school control, advocating for greater state control, especially in the realm to online learning (Chubb, 2012; Patrick & Powell, 2009). State led online learning initiatives for K-12 students would implement the state as standard-bearer, allowing for equitable access and opportunity to online course work and schools.  With control over online education granted to the state, all students within that state will have the same educational opportunity regardless of resident district.

Unfortunately, lost in the shuffle of policy formation, implementation, control and legislation are students.  K-12 students should be the focus of online learning policies. More research should be conducted looking at age-appropriateness and appropriate developmental needs for online learners.  Current research focuses on the suggestion that online learners should be self-regulated, motivated and reflective (Kim, et. al, 2012).  While many agree these attributes are advantageous for any learner, how can professional educators teach and model them in an online setting? Can professional educators teach persistence, motivation, reflection and deep thought?  If so, can any student, regardless of age or development level learn them in order to be successful?

Much more research needs to be conducted to understand the many facets of online learning- especially as it applies to K-12 students.  A developmentally appropriate, differentiated education should be available online as it is in most traditional schools.  It remains to be seen if an online or blended learning model is appropriate for all or most learners, just as it remains to be seen if traditional schools are appropriate for all learners.  Regardless, the focus of K-12 online school research needs to shift from policy to students in order to ensure current and future students benefit from this educational movement.

Chubb, J. (2012). Overcoming the governance challenge in k-12 online learning. Creating Sound

Policy for Digital Learning, Retrieved from

Kim, P., Hisook, F., & Karimi, A. (2012). Public online charter school students: Choices, perceptions

and traits. American Educational Research Journal,49(3), 521-545. doi: 10.3102/0002831212443078

Patrick, S., & Powell, A. (2009). A summary of research on the effectiveness of k-12 online

learning.International Association for K-12 Online Learning, 1-11. Retrieved from

Watson, J. & Gemin, B. (2009, July). policy and funding frameworks for online learning. Promising

practices in online learning: International Association for K-12 Online Learning, Retrieved from


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Movies Make Me Think! Using Historical Inquiry and Film in the Middle School Classroom

All too often, history classes look like this:

Parents grew up with history classes that resemble the iconic Ben Stien giving a dry lecture; some may have been the young man sleeping on the desk! With this paradigm solidified, the concept of a dry, Stein-like history classroom are passed to their children, who become our students.

Adam Woelders, an IB teacher at the Pacific Academy in Vancouver, British Columbia challenges this assumption using the same tool presented-Hollywood films-and a historical inquiry based method to his classess.

Woelders starts with the premise that showing clips of films in a history classroom is a beneficial activity.  An acknowledgement is also made that Hollywood films are, at times , inaccurate.  In an action research project, Woelders, studied “how historically themed film can be used to scaffold activities that encourage middle school students to conduct inquiries of the past and critically evaluate feature films and documentaries”.

The historical inquiry based method is rooted in essential unit questions.  While using the film, Joan of Arc, Woelders poses the question, Who was Joan of Arc ? A simple, yet focused questions.  Woelders proccess first has students complete a K-W-L chart on Joan of Arc, after which clips from the movie are shown.  Students then must formulate an answer to their question using primary and secondary historical sources, comparing the information they gather to the movie. This approach allows for student inquiry, information finding and meaning making centered on historical figures and events.  It brings history to students, not students to history.

This approach also allows for critical and creative thinking by students.  By evaluating multiple sources and considering multiple perspectives, students will gain an appreciation for history and historical context.   Woelders research also speaks to the power of essential questions, graphic organizers and comparing Hollywood with what really happened, a skill that is needed in our society.

Woelders, A. (2007). “It makes you think more when you watch things”: Scaffolding for historical inquiry using film in the middle school classroom. History Teacher40(3), 363-396.


Filed under Pedagogy, Social Studies