For many parents, education planning for one’s children can be a maddening endeavor. Especially if lack of financial resources factor into the consideration. Hard decisions need to be made. Dependence on the public school system often becomes a necessity not a choice. As such parents shop around for the most advantageous environment for kids including small class sizes, modern facilities, and of course, top notch teachers. A recent NY Times article by Laura Herrera writes about how school systems in Florida and other states have begun to experiment with virtual classrooms also known as e-learning labs.
In essence, e-learning labs provide a loophole allowing public school systems to adhere to class size limits since technically, the virtual classrooms do not have a teacher and therefore can exceed class size limit restrictions. A “facilitator” is tasked with making sure the students progress in these labs as well as addressing any technical glitches. One could argue this individual can be described as a glorified help desk worker rather than an education professional. The online courses often will be a product of third party providers rather than a creation of the school’s teaching staff. Students will be able to email, call, or text their questions to online instructors. This arrangement places the responsibility almost exclusively on the shoulders of students.
Unlike adults who take a more disciplined approach to an online curriculum, children generally lack the capacity to focus when unsupervised. Grammar School and High School students require the direct guidance and mentoring of teachers who know them on a first name basis. Asking kids to possess the regimented structural behavior to navigate their way through a semester long online class seems misguided. I don’t completely discount the value of the virtual classroom. A synergistic approach incorporating computers within a traditional classroom setting as well as homework assignments might be the balanced approach needed to achieve tangible results.
Technology will continue to evolve playing an essential role in the lives of our children as well as future generations. Yet relying too heavily on technical innovation fuels the potential to further erode the quality of education for countless millions. Parents must cultivate a collective effort to motivate elected officials to allocate proper funding for massive hiring of competent teachers. With the advent of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, parents have the means to directly pressure key players in this ongoing struggle.
What’s your take on virtual classes for grammar school and high school students? What can be done to improve education in the United States to ensure a better future for all children?