Technology: Online Learning
Virtual Academies Exploding Everywhere
seems to be moving online these days. Is it the same thing with K-12 education?
Yes, definitely. But as with
everything else, there are good things and bad things about this trend.
Good things include more
convenience and freedom of choice for students and parents to match the
subjects to the students. When a subject is of high interest to a student,
results tend to be better than when the subject is considered booooooooooring.
It's also beneficial for the
student and parents to be able to select, design and create how the learning
will be accomplished. Online course work is particularly helpful for students
in special situations: those living abroad in military families; those who are
elite athletes and not able to be in the classroom regularly; performing
artists; chronically ill and homebound students; those who have been suspended
or expelled, and so forth.
But on the negative side, the
trend has frightening potential for brainwashing, if the government-controlled
computer becomes the teacher in charge of the content instead of countless
school boards and educators who are individual human beings. It also suggests
the continuation of the achievement gap between the "haves," who can afford
"boutique" learning experiences, and the "have-nots," who cannot, unless their
public school district pays for it, and often, those districts are under
extreme pressure to cut spending, not add to it.
Another down side is that as online
learning becomes more widespread, it suggests huge future problems for social interaction, if many
students learn online and become less skilled or even averse to human
interaction away from the technology.
Nevertheless, online learning is
a multi-billion dollar enterprise that is here to stay. Online schooling that
is Web-based can be called "the virtual classroom." Not limited to four
physical walls, an online learning experience typically uses text, images,
animation, streaming video, and audio. It might take shape as a wiki, a
podcast, a blog, an ePortfolio, a digital collaboration, a discussion board,
even a digital blackboard.
The lay of the land:
-- Independent online learning
companies, chiefly www.k12.com, offering
full- and part-time online courses in a wide range of subjects, from elementary
school through high school, and available for at-home purchase by parents for
full- or part-time homeschooling . . . or for purchase by schools for
individualized learning within the public-school setting . . . or for purchase
by schools for entire classrooms, for either supplemental or full use.
-- Independent, subject-matter
expert online courses, such as http://www.powerspeak.com/demos.html
for foreign languages.
-- State-sponsored online
charter schools, offered free to any residents under age 21, usually, who for
whatever the reason don't want to enroll in a regular building. They tend to
open and fill up very quickly. They are often supplemented by telephone
teaching and computer help. For a partial list, see:
-- Public school districts or
state education departments, as well as private schools, might offer "global
academies," which are virtual schools available on a tuition basis to
non-residents. For a look at the Florida Virtual School's offerings, see:
-- A growing number of
supplemental online learning academies are springing up to serve special-needs
populations, including students who need math tutoring, want summer learning
experiences, or want something to do after school. For an example, see:
forecast what's coming to elementary and secondary education by looking at what
is going on with online learning in higher education. For example, see www.guidetoonlineschools.com or