Online Learning is not a new frontier in the education world. According to Peterson’s although Online Learning is a modern form of the correspondence courses beginning 170 years or more ago. It wasn’t until 1960 when the University of Illinois launched their Intranet and the Programed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations (PLATO) system that modern online and distance learning was born. By 1997 technology had advanced to allow for the creation of Learning Management Systems (LMS’) beginning with Blackboard. By 2010 D2L, Moodle, and Canvas joined the market.
Almost everyone who takes a class at Hutchinson Community College has used Learning zone, or the Hutchinson Community College Canvas site, and many area high schools also utilize Canvas (or another LMS). These LMS applications allow easy management and assessment of student submissions, as well as power the online/distance learning ecosystem.
Recently, a ‘new’ program Summit Learning has begun to make headlines across the state. Although Summit Learning was developed in 2003 it has only recently begun to gather a tiny bit of momentum in Kansas schools. Currently Wellington, McPherson, and Newton school districts have implemented the program. But what really is Summit Learning? According to the program’s page Summit Learning is “the Summit Learning Platform helps students connect their long-term goals to daily actions. Students move at their own pace to learn skills, apply those skills to learn skills, apply those skills to real-world Projects [sic] and reflect on their learning”. That sounds great right? Did I mention that Summit is free, has all the basic core subjects (English, Math, Social-Studies, and Science) and Spanish, or that it is entirely online? Yes, everything from coursework to tests and quizzes are included in Summit. Teachers are no longer required to pull together a cohesive and engaging lesson plan for students because the computer teachers them.
This is where parents in McPherson and Newton have drawn the line. It has been said that parents in McPherson have chosen to pull their children out of the Summit Learning programs and have them placed into regular classrooms. Parents in Newton, however, have not gone this far. They have however, expressed their concerns to the Newton USD 373 board of education beginning in January 2019. The reason that concerns are being given attention again in Newton are because of photos posted by a parent in a local Facebook group. These photos showed their child’s social studies assignment over Social hierarchies. The parent’s main concern was that the content was discussed in a positive manner. A way that would not have been allowed in a traditional history textbook like most students and employees of HutchCC will have used. Another troubling factor was the source credited with writing the literature in the images. At the top of the second page the source is credited as the Curriculum Manager but no qualifications (I.E History or Education degree) are given.
In all honesty, after everything that I have read on Summit Learning in Kansas after the parent post I side with the parents. Children as young as 5th grade shouldn’t be learning from a computer screen- they should have a qualified teacher helping them, or professors who have at minimum a master’s degree at least available to them through email/messaging system. They should not have essentially unknown sources providing content for them.
Silicon Valley has very minimal place in
Kansas. They have a place in smart phones and similar innovations. They have no
place in Schools and trying to innovate the learning systems that are already
working. Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, Etc. have their specific place in schools
because they allow schools to innovate and drive schools into the 21st
century. They do not force students to sit in front of a screen, learning from
questionable information etc. It isn’t organic, and it doesn’t break away from
students having severe mental health issues including suicidal thoughts.
Summit Main Site: https://www.summitlearning.org/community/stories
KWCH 12 Story on Summit Learning in Kansas