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  • The Children Are Our Future: So Why Aren't They Learning Online?

    One component of education reform that often gets overlooked is online or virtual learning. In the August-September 2010 issue of Reason Magazine, Katherine Mangu-Ward notes the following:

    During the last 30 years, the per-student cost of K-12 education has more than doubled in real dollars, with no academic improvement to show for it. Meanwhile, everything the Internet touches gets better: listening to music on iTunes, shopping for shoes at Zappos, exchanging photos on Flickr.

    Education reformers across the nation are listening. In 2000, only 50,000 students were enrolled in online classes. Today, that number is over 1 million. Julie Young of Florida Virtual School (FLVS) set up a system to offer supplemental courses, not replace the curriculum of the public schools. Mangu-Ward explains:

    Young doesn’t use the language of reform or revolution. Instead she talks about “doing what’s right for kids.” Yet Florida Virtual School’s model is, in its own way, revolutionary. The school employs 1,200 accredited, nonunion teachers, who are available by phone or email from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. Kids take what they want, when they want.

    K12 Inc., another innovative online education company, provides full-time instruction, allowing students from kindergarten through 12th grade to do their entire school year online.

    Students in FLVS have been performing better than students in traditional public schools, surpassing them on both advanced placement tests and state standardized tests in math.

    Another benefit of online learning is that it gives students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go to school an opportunity to receive an education. For example, Dan Lips, former Heritage Foundation Education Policy Analyst , has noted that “virtual and blended-learning programs will enable mass customization in education, allowing students to learn at their own pace in ways that are tailored to their learning styles and interests.”

    Unfortunately (and at the same time unsurprisingly), the teachers unions are opposed to giving this choice to parents and students. Mangu-Ward quotes the National Education Association’s official policy statement on charter schools:

    There also should be an absolute prohibition against the granting of charters for the purpose of home-schooling, including online charter schools that seek to provide home-schooling over the Internet.

    However, as noted by Mangu-Ward, citing Tom Vander Ark:

    But “we’re a generation behind where we should be in terms of online tools, platforms and options—a state government caused market failure. Where competition is welcomed, we’ll see innovation.”

    The best solution to see improved student performance anywhere in the country is to support policy options that promote parental choice in education. Virtual learning is connecting students to a new educational experience and should not go offline.

    Michael Wille is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to The Children Are Our Future: So Why Aren't They Learning Online?

    1. Bruno Behrend says:

      There should be an "absolute prohibition" against any teacher being unionized.

      Who are these people, and why are we even giving them a place at the table?

    2. Don, Kansas City says:

      I'm sure there was a stonecarvers guild at work on the pyramids that punished interlopers severely. For centuries the "professionals" have attacked competitors using government as "legal" coercion. Now if the dinosaurs had only had a union…

    3. Tim AZ says:

      I guess you thought union leaders would be concerned with the quality of their products and services. They serve only two purposes. First the attainment of wealth for the union leaders themselves. Secondly the attainment of power for the union leaders themselves, that's it nothing more nothing less. Union members are simply useful idiots that serve as a means to the union leaders ends.

    4. Tom Vander Ark says:

      Actually think there were 6-7 million kids learning online (more like 12% total and 15-20% in HS depending on location) last semester

      * about 1.5m blending their own learning by taking at least one course online

      * more than 1.5m kids learning at home and mostly online

      * about 250k kids in charter schools

      * maybe 3m kids using CBI, mostly credit recovery

      Hoping John Watson, Keeping Pace, gives us better figures this fall

    5. Lynn Bryant DeSpain says:

      Children are not learning online, because the questions that they ask are all their own. One cannot challenge themselves with the same results from being challenged.

      What we need is less teachers and more Educators. We need people to challenge the young minds into learning and creating. Not into getting so lost in the computers that they never study a leaf or a drop of water, nor play in the snow, or a basketball game with friends.

    6. El, NC says:

      There's got to be somewhere in the middle, a place where children are excited and motivated to learn new things, but also have interaction with others kids and input from an actual person, or educator. How about 3 day school weeks, with the other 2 days on-line classes? Just trying to think outside the box…..

    7. Lynn Wilson says:

      As an educator I have to view technology as an integral part of the world my students live in. Online learning will not work for all ages, learning styles or levels of intelligence, but no method ever does. It takes a different frame of mind to consider the possibilities virtual schools can offer. The image that comes to mind of sweet little five year olds sitting alone in front of a screen all day isn't realistic. Wait, some of them already do, but we call it television.

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