Online Learning at the Elementary Level

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Online Learning at the Elementary Level

Internet Links* focus of this article is on the benefits that exist due to online learning. A potential benefit of online learning according to the article is increased access to high-quality teachers anywhere in the United States or even in the world. Another benefit is that students are able to receive instruction at their own pace and it provides students with greater flexibility in when and how they learn. This article also states another potential benefit is that online learning provides for more accurate feedback on the student’s progress and it allows parents to be able to monitor their child’s progress better. Finally, another benefit described in the article is an improved flexibility for teachers as well.* article focuses on the pros and cons of the virtual elementary school. Some of the pros of the virtual classroom that the article states is that it offers a variety of ways to learn, it offers a tailored curriculum to fit a students’ academic needs, and it allows for immediate feedback and assessments to be provided. The article also states some cons of the virtual elementary school. One of the cons of the virtual classroom is the concern that is causes isolation and lack of social interaction for students. Also, a concern is that students will not develop a strong relationship with their teacher. Some online schools, according to the article, are rising to this challenge by offering to link students and teachers for field trips or social activities.

Overview:As discussed previously, the digital world is here to stay, and it has expanded into education. Once thought to be for the non-traditional student going back to school to earn a degree, on-line learning has expanded from higher education, to high schoolers taking an on-line college class, to full-time k-12 virtual schools. And, it's not quite as new as you might think. Some on-line k-12 schools have been in existence since 2000. But, with any new technological phenomenon, there is great debate about its effectiveness as a primary means of learning.

Online Learning at the Elementary Level

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Across the US, K-12 on-line schools offer free public, often accredited, programs with certified, highly-qualilfied teachers. These schools provide loaner computers and printers, as well as, manuals, books, and materials for hands-on learning (like rocks and dirt), shipped right ot your door. They even offer stipends or reimbursement to cover costs of internet, copy paper, and printer ink. These schools provide primarily 'blended learning' at the K-8 level - a combination of on- and off- line instruction at home, as well as meetings with teachers and classmates. Reasons for such programs are as varied as the programs themselves. In Manassas, VA, a shortage of pre-k slots for 100 children resulted in a bilingual app for access to all pre-k children In San Jose, CA, state-wide fiscal issues support a desire for online schooling. In NC, it is considered to be the right thing to do in order for students to be ready for college. For virtual schools in PA, FL, and Chicago, simply to offer an alternative to traditional learning is reason enough.

In researching several articles, much of the concern about on-line ("blended")learning revolves around effectiveness and cost-efficiency - getting the "bang for the buck." As Manassas, VA may become a model for VA pre-school, UVA education professor Amanda Williford challenges that "it would be really hard to have an app that's a good substitute for real-life, high-quality pre-school with a really good teacher." Manassas superintendent of schools counters "If I'm able to get the same results working with them half-time, then I can reach more children with that money." And Footsteps2Brillilance app founder believes her app "levels the playing field and narrows the achievement gap,"(Manassas City Is Out of Space for Pre-School. Is Software the Solution?, The Washington Post, May 29, 2015). In San Jose, Ca. at the Rocketship Charter School, a non-cetified, non-degreed mother monitors 43 kindergarten and first grade childern in a computer lab "dispensing help and order as the moment requires." Decreased housing values mean less tax income (education funds) which means doing more with less. As technology becomes more productive, it becomes more cost-efficient, but it is believed that on-line learning will not grow more widely until you see results of excellent student performance (Education Next - Future Schools, Summer 2011, volume 11, #3). The Florida Virtual School Full-Time (FLVSFT) had a report conducted in 2007 by the FL Tax Watch Center for Educational Reform and Accountability, evaluating its effectiveness. The report found that "FLVS gets solid student achievement results at a reduced cost to the state," [Overcoming Doubts About On-line Learning, Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), November, 2009]. They out-perform peers from traditional classrooms on state tests. Another concern with on-line learning, particularly within full-time, K-8, is the fact that someone needs to be at home to monitor instruction. It is estimated that by 2019, only 10% of K-12 population will be enrolled in a full-time on-line learning program (The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning, Horn & Staker). One can't help but wonder how this closes the achievement gap. As previous research dictates, the families of those 10% are more than likely educated and affluent, contributing to a digital divide.

In perusing some of the on-line programs, it could be concluded that there is not a substitute for early childhood phonics instruction. In the Chicago Virtual Charter School program, in demo'ing a phonics lesson on the "sh" and "th" blends, you could not clearly hear the 2 sounds for "th," as in "this" and "thumb." With early learners and non-English speakers, there is no substitute for visually teaching the "tongue between the teeth" and the proper "blow" for vibrations in teaching the correct "pronunciations" of those 2 sounds. It was also noted that in the Rocketship School in San Jose, they preferred using computers for basic skills instruction, and classroom teachers for critical thinking and re-teaching/remedial instruction. One could immediately equate this with the outsourcing of tax returns to India (basic, rote work) and life-long financial planning (hands-on, critical thinking) to the CPAs in the US. They are in effect getting more bang for their buck for their teachers (CPA), and paying minimal fo the mother monitoring students on a computer (India outsource). US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan states in several of these articles that the "new normal" is doing more with less, and blended learning plays a vital role in re-thinking structure and delivery of instruction. It is a "disruptive force" that will transform traditonal learning into a student-centered, highly personalized and more productive model with better results at the same or lower cort. In summary, the biggest benefit to on-line learning may come from the blended learning model, "combining online learning with brick and mortar schools with teachers where students can learn at their own pace so that they can optimize individualized learning." Because after all, "the world we live in today is not about paper and pencil, but computers," (Christensen, "What Is Blended Learning?" short).


  • MaralSarah 4 years ago

    MaralSarah's avatar

    I really appreciated your bit on blended learning. I've always thought that introducing online learning to students starting from a young age can have its benefits since they are growing up in a technology dominated world. Of course face to face interaction with their teachers and peers will always be important, especially for young children, it is also important for them to be able to learn the skills for online learning because as they grow older they will be facing more of this type of learning. While creating my glog on online learning in higher education, I found that researchers believe blending is typically the best way to teach classes even for adults. Everyone has their preference for how they like learning information, but I do believe incorporating online skills into the curriculum can do wonders for children.

  • MaralSarah 4 years ago

    MaralSarah's avatar

    Last comment posted by Sarah Alpaugh

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