At the heart of the plan is the use of interactive and web-based learning to make rural education for this whole area excellent, affordable and sustainable.  This is embodied in online learning centres connecting the three local secondary schools and the local vocational college to each other and the world.

The internet is opening up great opportunities, particularly for rural areas like ours, and our children need to be able to take advantage of those.  Digital literacy is now as important as numeracy and literacy in life and work, and the internet also opens up learning opportunities like never before.   Online learning does not replace good teachers.  Good teachers are the foundation of our children’s education.  But the internet is as vital a tool for the 21st Century teacher as books and blackboards were in the 19th and 20th Centuries.  And the i-Learn centres  are the school libraries of the future.

These online learning centres – as we see them at the moment – would have a central space with terminals or laptops where students can follow their own online courses guided by learning facilitators.  Around those would be smaller spaces where groups could take part live in lessons being run by the other schools, spaces for online peer group discussions, spaces for online masterclasses and tutorials, spaces through which music performances/art exhibitions in the school hall could be streamed live……

As we’ve said in the Schools for the Future vision, we want children with their roots in Pembrokeshire and their eyes on the world, and the online labs would be central to that.

This would be cutting edge in this part of the world, but far from unique worldwide, so we are looking for help and advice on how to make these digital learning labs inspirational, flexible and future proof.   In the meantime, here are some interesting views on online learning in secondary education from the USA and Australia.

In the USA online learning is used extensively in secondary schools.  These papers suggest, that far from being second best to traditional learning, it actually produces better results.

US dept education study of effectiveness of online learning 2008

US survey of K-12 online methods 2008

Maybe Old South Wales can learn from New South Wales, where dynamic and imaginative local leadership have been key factors in the uptake of online learning in secondary education.

New South wales 2ndary school experience of online learning 2011