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Online in Ohio

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Ohio is broke, but it's possible that despite the financial status of the state that for some Ohio kids, things will get better. Learning is about to become more engaging, more personal, and more productive.

Learning Unbound, a Columbus conversation about education, dealt with the perplexing "GM moment for education" when, according to keynoter Bob Wise, the situation demands better outcomes with lower revenues.

Imagine a YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, NatGeo, Linux, and World of Warcraft for learning. They are all here, at least version 1.0. A flood of entrepreneurial activity and investment over the last few years has yielded a crop of Web 2.0 learning tools that make possible a generation of Web 2.0 schools.

Former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise, Alliance for Excellent Education, kicked off the conference by making the case that online learning is the only way to close the achievement, teacher, and fiscal gaps. Gov. Wise joined Gov. Jeb Bush in chairing the Digital Learning Now report issued in December at the Foundation for Excellent Education conference.

KnowledgeWorks sponsored the conference. CEO Chad Wick is a warrior for kids. A former bank president, Chad is working harder than ever as CEO of KnowledgeWorks. Chad and I learned together about the challenges of transforming urban high schools. We're both spending most of our time now trying to invent the future of learning.

Like most states Ohio is broke and needs to boost achievement with less money. Five strategies discussed at Learning Unbound included:

1. Let the students decide: if students have the option to take engaging and well-supported online courses, many of them will. If the state allows part time enrollment and conduct an request for providers, it should be able to expand offerings and reduce costs of delivery.

2. Use school improvement: with several sources of federal grants supporting school improvement efforts, Ohio should demand that schools adopt sustainable blended models.

3. New school development: Ohio should aggressively promote new blended school networks like New Tech Network and alternative schools like AdvancePath (a Learn Capital portfolio company).

4. Switch to digital: the state should encourage and support high access environments and the switch to digital content and online assessment. With cheap netbooks, it doesn't make sense to buy textbooks anymore.

5. Supported adoption: With Race to the Top funds, Ohio should support the adoption of blended models that work better for kids and are more sustainable.

Gov. Kasich has few campaign obligations and a great opportunity to lead on the historic pivot to personal digital learning. Done right, it can boost learning and save some money, and that was the point of Learning Unbound.