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  • Leaving Children Behind? It’s Time to Embrace Online Education

    It’s 2010, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the American school system. Technological advances that we all take for granted in our homes, offices, and cars have yet to fully make their way into our children’s classrooms. But online education can open doors of opportunity to children around the nation.

    In a recent Baltimore Sun piece, author Dan Lips, a senior fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Institute and a former education analyst here at Heritage, writes:

    In school, most children are being taught in the same classrooms where their parents and grandparents learned. Despite a few computers in the back of the classroom, instruction happens the old-fashioned way.

    In an age when the nation’s school system is in great need of reform, virtual education can provide enhanced educational opportunities for students.

    Online learning can enrich students’ education by providing them access to courses that may not be offered in their traditional brick-and-mortar schools. It also allows parents to tailor their children’s education, giving them the ability to choose the courses that best meet their unique needs and to learn at their own pace.

    Online learning also has great potential for helping low-income students. Instead of being relegated to failing and often dangerous schools, online learning can give students access to high-quality teachers from other districts and states and provide them with content from around the globe. Furthermore, it can free up money for struggling districts, because, as Terry Moe and John Chubb point out in their 2009 book Liberating Learning, “Schools can be operated at lower cost, relying more on technology (which is relatively cheap) and less on labor (which is relatively expensive).”

    While online education is not as widely available as it could be, some states are catching on to this innovative opportunity and finding success. Lips reports:

    In Florida, for example, 84,000 students attended the Florida Virtual School, which offers 90 different courses. In Pennsylvania, 7,000 students now attend PA Cyber—a statewide, online public charter school. Both programs have proven to be effective and popular options with parents and students.

    Lips also points to the efficacy of online learning, noting:

    A 2009 report by the U.S. Department of Education’s Center for Technology in Learning found that, “students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.

    It is time for more states to realize the benefits of online education and give their students the opportunity for better education. Instead of leaving children behind, it’s time to embrace the opportunities of tomorrow.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to Leaving Children Behind? It’s Time to Embrace Online Education

    1. George Colgrove, VA says:

      Boy, do I disagree with the premise of this article. Face to face is the ideal way of teaching. It may be that with the low performance of most teachers as of late ANYTHING is better. A computer will never recognize the talents and gifts a child has.

      Before we throw out the child with the schools, we should force the schools to compete for dollars. Competition will force the teachers to embrace excellence just to maintain their income. Rather it becomes in their best interest to provide top notch education to their customers. This is the automatic means of forcing teachers to become accountable to their customers – the kids we send to schools. I suspect even the best online curriculum would pale to the excellence I think our teachers can rise to when they are no longer allowed to be lazy.

    2. Warren Klinger, PA says:

      This article could not be more off base. Too many people are jumping on the idea that technology is cool and so it must be good for everything. Education is not one of those things. Help low income students??!! They are the most in need of a human being. No technology is going to look into the eyes of students and see if they understand. Yes, today's students love technology and would rather sit at a laptop or view a video on their phone than sit in a classroom but that does not mean they will learn better that way.

      We need to have better teachers, the technology is just window dressing. I'm a teacher.

    3. Wildcat from Dallast says:

      I wholeheartedly agree with the first two commenters. I too earned my license to teach and have taught in different brick and mortar schools of varying philosphies including the incorporation of computers with special software and/or internet service as well as "open" education, traditional classroom and a U. S. Military school after earning my TRADOC

    4. Wildcat from Dallast says:

      Part II:

      I'm using someone else's computer which added unusual unwanted challenges.

      After earning my TRADOC Certified Instructor status I was able to teach military officers. In that capacity I taught in classrooms, special laboratories and in the field. Once in the field the instructional day was 20+ hours for the Lieutenants but only about 14 for Lieutenant Colonels thru General. I preferred this one the best even though the field instruction hours can be rather long at times.

      My experience in the various public schools included schools in Pennsylvania and Kansas as a certified substitute teacher where I took assignments from one day to two weeks excluding my student teaching practicum.

      Those schools that had more of a traditional appearance with the commensurate support of school adminstators as well as parents who were NOT apathetic provided a far higher quality learning experience for the students. Their programs which included the basic 3-R's, meaningful electives and solid, well coached extra-curricular activities appeared to garner students that not only scored better on standardized tests but were better behaved and more socially prepared to enter the next phase in their place as a lifelong learner and productive citizen.

      Open education school situations produced dramatically different results as the students had a more difficult time focusing their attention on what "their" teacher was presenting. They seemed to be more into group think and group projects than individual learning and individual results. Those students routinely faired worse than their traditional classroom counterparts given the same curriculum.

      Those schools that ventured into computer applications using either special educational software (with or without internet service) failed to realize that in order for the teacher to "control" the learning environment you need to radically change the design of the room set up. Failing to do so results in students refusing to fully follow directions relative to what they were to be doing, whether or not they were to be on the internet & if so what site or sites they were supposed to be on etc. The result was a lot of inappropriate website viewing and emailing fellow students etc and not actually doing research or writing papers etc. Additionally, they had an exceptionally strong tendancy to simply copy & paste information from sources found on the internet and turn it in as their own work. Different controls need to established along with an exceptionally strong IT department to track violators etc as well as applying copywrite detection software.

      One school, a high school in rural Kansas did switch from standard textbooks to laptops. That did cost them initially but saved them on outdated books and all the associated issues with students carrying lots of heavy books around as well as classroom storage and records control issues. I have not heard of any problems since they made that transition about seven years ago.

      Having elementary, middle or even high school students do the preponderance of their "learning" on line is not the answer. Well trained teachers with the appropriate materials, combined with controlling their learning environment and supported by their administrators and unapathetic parents work best.

    5. Bethany, Washington says:

      But will the better teachers go into the South Bronx or Southeast Washington DC? No. That's been proven. But giving them access remotely to teachers who are actually capable will give them a better shot than letting them languish in schools that no parent in their right mind would willingly send their child to.

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    7. Toni, Ohio says:

      Online education is not for every child, but it is a very effective way of learning for children. In the case of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, the company I work for, we consistently see students who were failing and underachieveing at their traditional school excel beyond measure at PA Cyber. Students come to us because they aren;t being challenged enough in their current school. At PA Cyber they can choose from over 250 courses, featuring everything from Mandarin Chinese and Coversational Italian (taught by an language professor native to and living in Italy) to science courses developed in partner with Los Alamos National Laboratory, covering genetics, chemistry, energy, solar technology, climate changem, forensics, and much more. And for the second year in a row, PA Cyber has met all 29 indicators and achieved AYP status.

      The other point I would like to make is in response to Bethany, who asked if good teachers will go into the South Bronx or SE D.C. With cyber school, the quality of your education is not defined by where you live or how much money their family has. Students in the most rural part of the state, in the inner city and from the richest neighborhoods in the country are all taught by the same qualified, committed teachers and recieve access to the highest quality curriculum, thus giving everyone the same opportunity. And that's one of the best gifts you can give a student today.

    8. Toni, Ohio says:

      Online education is not for every child, but it is a very effective way of learning for children. In the case of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, the company I work for, we consistently see students who were failing and underachieving at their traditional school excel beyond measure at PA Cyber. Students come to us because they aren't being challenged enough in their current school. At PA Cyber they can choose from over 250 courses, featuring everything from Mandarin Chinese and Conversational Italian (taught by an language professor native to and living in Italy) to science courses developed in partner with Los Alamos National Laboratory, covering genetics, chemistry, energy, solar technology, climate change, forensics, and much more. And for the second year in a row, PA Cyber has met all 29 indicators and achieved AYP status.

      The other point I would like to make is in response to Bethany, who asked if good teachers will go into the South Bronx or SE D.C. With cyber school, the quality of your education is not defined by where you live or how much money their family has. Students in the most rural part of the state, in the inner city and from the richest neighborhoods in the country are all taught by the same qualified, committed teachers and receive access to the highest quality curriculum, thus giving everyone the same opportunity. And that’s one of the best gifts you can give a student today.

      You can learn more about PA Cyber at http://www.pacyber.org.

    9. Linda, California says:

      It is interesting that the first comments made were negative and by teachers. Besides thinking what a great article, I was thinking of the opposition the unions would have to the proposition of increased online learning. I can see that there could be some challenges with online learning, e.g., the classroom set up as one mentioned, but there are challenges in any classroom environment.

      Having homeschooled, I am excited to see all online technology that is becoming available. I think it offers parents an excellent way of being involved in their child's education. Not only can they help select the courses in a more direct way, they can also more closely monitor the values always follow the educational environment. Of course, parental involvement may or may not take place, but that is no different than what happens in the system today.

      It seems that teachers may have to be more of a resource in the future than the sole dispenser of knowledge. Perhaps we will see them acting more and more in the capacity of a tutor than a lecturer and classroom supervisor. If that is the case, perhaps unions will lose some of their grip on our society. Let's pray.

    10. Karla, Uruguay says:

      I currently live in what you would call a third world country…Uruguay.. but for the past two years the government has implemented the XO one laptop per child program where all elementary school children get for home use and school technology and have an opportunity to learn from other sources.

      Teachers and computers together have opened a new world to this children and have successfully achieved a better learning experience. I speak as a mother of two children that have the laptop and have seen their growth, they have test and assignments in their laptop, they can read books and stories, they learn geography playing detective games it is amazing what they have accomplished and what is still needed.

      I think both ways of teaching should complement and not necessarily take each others place.

    11. Lisa O, Phoenix AZ says:

      Online learning is definitely not for everyone, but it is definitely a wonderful option for some students. I do not see it ever taking the place of a traditional school for most students, but for some students that don't fit into the traditional school mold it has been a Godsend.

      Even more important to consider is the ability for small, rural schools to be able to offer courses that they might have been able to otherwise offer, especially in the current budget crisis that is happening across the nation. Schools that might not be able to afford to hire a teacher to offer Spanish courses, certain electives, or Honors and AP courses, can use online curriculum to expand their current course offerings.

    12. Adam Bakker, Grand R says:

      Depending on how you are defining "Online Learning" I think I interpret the Department of Education article a bit differently. The article explicitly states the one category where involving technology failed to produce any positive effects was the "Independent" category… in other words where it was not guided and there was no teacher. Additionally, immediately following the statement about online learning being more effective is this caveat:

      "It should be noted, however, that this overall effect can be attributed to the advantage of blended learning approaches over instruction conducted entirely face-to-face. Of the 11 individual studies with significant effects favoring the online condition, 9 used a blended learning approach."

      So it performed better than classes where there was no technology component at all, and the instruction was 100% lecture/face to face. I think everyone agrees that technology should be better leveraged in the classroom than it is, including implementations like blended learning… but I'm not sure this equates to as broad an interpretation of "Online Learning" as I am perceiving here.

    13. Brian Clark, Thomast says:

      Online learning can deffinitly help you or hurt you. If you dont understand material from the jump it is not the best place for u, to be online trying to teach yourself without an instructor can be difficult. Having some kind of background in the class that you are taking online is the best advice. If you dont have the background go to campus and get a instructor or you will fail.

    14. marcus grover says:

      i think with online learning you would not learn much.i say that because some lessons are complicated to some people take online like math for example.you woud rather someone teach you and go through the work hands on than to work on a computer where you have to figure out stuff you dont know.my suggestion is for somebody to go to a instructor if you want to learn better

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