Thursday, September 22, 2011

Online Schools - A good thing or a bad thing?

As a person who believes in the integration of technology in instruction, my thoughts about online learning/schooling are mixed.  I read this article "Online Grade Schools Becoming a Popular Alternative" by Mark MacLaughlin about parents having their elementary children enrolled in an online grade school and it just got me wondering about what might be some disadvantages to this approach.

While I completely agree that it gives children more choice in what and how they learn, does it impact other important aspects of actual brick and mortar schools?  These other aspects include interacting with peers, learning 'rules' and limits (expectations of the real world), learning respect for differences and how to deal appropriately with those differences (in other students, in teachers, etc.)?  I am a proponent of online learning, don't get me wrong, but I just wonder if a mixed approach is better.  I know from my own personal experience with my doctorate course work, where I have taken several of my courses online and as independent study online that a classroom of one is a lonely place.  And, without the voices of others to help clarify your thoughts, construct arguments, try out ideas and get feedback, I know I felt often times that I may not have learned what I should have been learning. 

Just something to consider as we push more and more for online options to education.

3 comments:

CJames said...

I think the "community" aspect of school is essential to the learning process, especially when you get to the level that you need good discussion. Additionally, it seems like employers often look for 2 main things in new employees...the ability to learn the job (demonstrated by earning a degree or something), as well as the ability to work together as part of a team or group. Those social skills are vital. Do I think much of what we do in school could be done online and at a more "self-progressive" pace? Certainly. But the public education system works for many people. It does need to evolve to meet the needs of more students, but I don't think we should be abandoning public classrooms just yet.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree Curtis. Even with the online forums and such, where there a sense of community can develop, I think face-to-face interaction is crucial. As I am sure we have all experienced, online communication is frought with misunderstanding as it is difficult to convey tone. Learning such things as reading body language, interpreting sarcasm, following verbal cues and directions are all things that I think are very difficult to model in an online environment, especially for kids who are just learning these skills. Some type of happy medium can be created hopefully.

Karen Greenhaus said...

I am such a bad blogger - just finding these comments in my spam folder for some reason...

Anyway, thanks for the feedback and I have to agree. Face to face, even if it is virtual face to face, is a nice thing. It provides the ability to read facial expressions and put a name to a face so to speak. It's always easier to picture someone once you have met them in person (as Curtis and I can attest to!