Towards The Tutored & Blended Schoolroom
[Taken from speech text]

My Purpose Here Today: Provide Some Background Prior To APEX Learning Presentation
In a few minutes this session’s principal speaker, Cheryl Vedoe, will tell you about a school that uses online instructional services from her company, APEX Learning. It’s a school that is not really what we call a virtual school, but is a real school in which students master their subjects in a self-paced online learning environment. I want to give you a little history or evolution of how we arrived here, before Cheryl tells us about the here and now.

A More Complete Presentation Is In The Handout, “Igniting Student Success”
We distributed a handout that covers a little more territory than I’ll be able to talk about. Brevity demands that I not discuss all of the points contained therein. Instead, I’ll focus on a few areas of particular interest including one or two in which I had first hand experiences. (Please use our contact page to email us to request the "Chicago" handout.)

Starting And Ending Points Of The Relevant History
We start in an era where students had no alternative but to learn at the "knee" of the teacher. We start in a time when books were very expensive- prior to the printing press. Students, except in rare cases, could not learn from a book in a location remote from the teacher. Anywhere was not there. Anytime was not there. And the things to learn were limited to the teacher’s knowledge. Thus, Anything was not there either.

We now live in a time where students need not have a teacher present, need not learn at the time when the teacher teaches, and need not be limited to the knowledge of just one teacher. We live in a time where there are many vehicles to help students learn. Not only do we have the means to make learning an
Anywhere, Anytime, Anything process, but also the cost of doing so is becoming affordable and sometimes signifcantly less expensive than the status quo. Our focus today is on the Anywhere being a schoolroom in a brick and mortar school located here in Chicago. The vehicles for children learning here, in this blended learning environment, include the Internet alongside more traditional means that include tutors and hardcopy books.

The History Before 1950
The history of education that is relevant to our topic, is really one of applying the technologies of each era to the instructional needs of the time. We start in 1460. That was shortly after Gutenberg invented the printing press. Though not cheap by today’s standards, books suddenly became available and affordable to many. It allowed students to study away from the presence of their teacher; it introduced a degree of Anywhere to the learning process.

Beginning in the 16
th century, the Protestant Reformation, with its emphasis on the laity reading the Bible, increased the demand for education. The only cost effective format was group instruction, because traditional tutorial instruction would be far too costly. I mention group instruction, because it is nearly universal today and yet has within it problems, such as social promotion, that until recently were difficult to remedy.

The explosion of technology in the 19
th and 20th centuries, led to many educational innovations. Correspondence courses, conducted through postal mail, became fairly widespread in the late 1800’s. With the development of motion pictures, educational films became almost a staple in schools- though they were never used to cover anything but a small portion of the curriculum being taught. The inventor of the motion picture projector, Thomas Edison, was so confident in the technology, that he predicted the obsolescence of books “in ten years.” Those tempted to predict that now, should at least consider a longer time horizon. Books are here to stay, particularly if one regards the Kindle, the iPad, etc. as members of that species.


My Testimonial To Television Distance Education
In the 1950’s a number of institutions began pilot programs to use television to deliver an entire course. Let me focus on the television physics course taught by Berkeley Professor Harvey White. His group produced 163 films each of 30 minutes duration, which were broadcast in many U.S. cities in the 1957 – 58 school year. I was one of over 100,000 students taking that course. I took that course right here in Chicago, at Lane Tech High School. The classroom teacher only worked ten minutes out of each 40-minute period. In retrospect he really had become a tutor who helped the students one on one. Not only did I later become a physicist, but I also have gleaned two facts from the experience:

1.) Rehearsed, polished, and compelling content could be presented to thousands of students at once.

2.) The labor productivity of the teacher was up almost a factor of four if the instructor's downtime was used wisely.

An important development, often overlooked, occurred in the 1980’s with the increased and widespread access to video tape recorders. This meant that a course presented on television could be recorded for later watching and repeated watching. With that the
Anytime aspect of distance education was enabled for video. As such it put them on parity with books that had always had that feature.

Computers And The Internet
Before the use of the Internet became common, computers began to play a role in education in a number of different areas. They became another device on which content could be presented, but they also enabled interactive drills, testing, and analysis of students’ progress.

Before the Internet, educational content could be loaded into a computer from a floppy disk, from a tape drive, or from other kinds of existing storage media. There was no easy way to add content from remote locations other than having it shipped.

With the Internet and its rapidly growing bandwidth it soon became practical to access content from computers and storage facilities worldwide. That’s brought us
Anywhere on steroids. Computers are inherently asynchronous devices, which means that they can be used on demand Anytime. Being connected to everywhere also suggests being able to access Anything (more kinds of information).

As Cheryl is sure to tell you, her company has developed many different kinds of computer tools to help students master their subjects. Also, the computer can perform some tutoring chores- but not all.

Online learning is inherently self-paced and thus there is no longer the need for group instruction. Children can master courses on their own schedule, receive certification for doing so, and then move on to other subjects/courses. Though mostly associated with home schooling, online learning is also a better format for classroom learning. Structured properly, it cures social promotion. This means that many fewer children will be left behind. In other words, not so many will be moved ahead before they’re ready.

APEX Learning CEO Cheryl Vedoe
We are happy to have Cheryl Vedoe, of APEX Learning, here today. Her company is providing online instruction in a Chicago High School and she is here to tell you how it is faring.

Cheryl has played a number of roles in the rapidly growing computer industry. She was a software engineer, a marketer and an executive in a number of well-known computer companies, DEC, Apollo, Sun and Apple, before she led other companies. For the past 8 years, Cheryl has led APEX Learning as CEO. I’ll now move aside and let her tell you “the rest of the story.” Cheryl-