Online Learning Would Be Ideal–For a Few

Recently, conservatives have expressed hopes that the switch to remote learning during the time of crisis will lead to major school reform, to models that will decrease our dependence on federally funded schools. If online education approaches are improved and refined during this time of transition for schools, I wouldn’t argue against that. However, I don’t believe that this temporary switch should revolutionize the way we do education in the United States.

Students who are advanced and ready for this model will do well. However, our typical student who is struggling with literacy and other crucial academic skills will fall further behind. For example, many students have difficulty reading and/or understanding what they are reading, even in the upper grades. Their difficulties can be traced to either a lack of knowledge, lack of phonics instruction with decoding practice, or both. Technology can be a great tool to help with individualized skill practice and immediate feedback for these students; however, they will suffer from a lack of in-person instruction.

I think that individuals promoting this independent learning model may take for granted that students will be able to assimilate new information at the same rate that he/she has been able to throughout a lifetime. Unfortunately, many American kids today grow up in a home where their early verbal skills are not cultivated, and they are not provided with books or read to by parents. They arrive in Kindergarten behind their peers in vocabulary, and since vocabulary reflects acquired foundational knowledge, their learning goes downhill from there. Even for those that are given an initial boost by preschool programs start falling behind again by fourth grade. It is very difficult to overcome a home and a culture where reading and talking around the dinner table is not emphasized.

Unless very carefully organized and tracked, modeled more around traditional learning (albeit with challenging academic tasks supported and built in, including projects), many students are just going to drown in this model. It also requires self-discipline, to which many home environments are not conducive. How many of us are lacking in self-discipline at home, even when it comes to important tasks? Can you imagine what an eight-year-old or fourteen-year-old might do when asked to watch several minutes of Khan talking and writing on virtual board? They are going to find something more interesting to watch.

For me, the independent online model for your typical student is simply way better than nothing. It is not and should not be the primary future emphasis of American education.

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30 thoughts on “Online Learning Would Be Ideal–For a Few”

  1. Mate De:
    During this time where I have been forced to homeschool my kids.

    If you are “homeschooling” because the government school sent the kids home and you are trying to help the kids make reasonable progress on the syllabus that came from the government school, then we need a new term, because that is not homeschooling.

    In homeschooling you get to pick the syllabus, curriculum, resources and grade level for each subject for each child.

    I cannot imagine anything that would make education a greater failure than we already have, except what we are now doing.  We are now expecting each family to help all kids keep up with the one-size-fits-all government school curriculum.   All the disadvantages of the government schools but without the resources of the government schools.   Burdening families by making them homeschool, but without allowing them the flexibility and individualized curricula that homeschoolers expect.

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  2. MJBubba:

    Mate De:
    During this time where I have been forced to homeschool my kids.

    If you are “homeschooling” because the government school sent the kids home and you are trying to help the kids make reasonable progress on the syllabus that came from the government school, then we need a new term, because that is not homeschooling.

    In homeschooling you get to pick the syllabus, curriculum, resources and grade level for each subject for each child.

    I cannot imagine anything that would make education a greater failure than we already have, except what we are now doing.  We are now expecting each family to help all kids keep up with the one-size-fits-all government school curriculum.   All the disadvantages of the government schools but without the resources of the government schools.   Burdening families by making them homeschool, but without allowing them the flexibility and individualized curricula that homeschoolers expect.

    Don’t worry MJBubba, my kids don’t go to public school. They go to a good Catholic school ( because I know some are questionable). But I get what you are saying. I was thinking about this today when going over their work with them, is now public school parents are going to be faced with what the kids are actually being taught on a day to day basis. So this could be a good thing for education reform.

    Also I am well aware of the difference between what we are doing now and what homeschoolers do. My sister in law homeschools my nieces and was homeschooled herself. Only used the term, homeschooled because, right not they are learning at home and we haven’t come up with a word for it yet.

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  3. I would still like to get back to this discussion at some point. The day I wrote it, I apparently just decided to take the afternoon off and spend hours writing. So, now I’m somewhat in avoidance mode so I don’t get so deeply sucked in until I get legitimate time to focus on it (i.e., it’s not in the middle of a workday). I go off the clock to do it, I can at least say that much, but it’s astounding to me how consuming it becomes.

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  4. 10 Cents:
    Off topic
    sawatdeeka, how is Kay?

    I’ve been calling and texting on some days to check in, and she seems to be doing pretty well. She has enough food stored up and has had some welcome visits from family members.

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