Virtual Education

Hi Will,

This is my fault for not taking the time over the years to ask you about your position in person. You certainly are always available. I know others who feel the same way that I do so I thought I would ask on this snowy morning to get some clarification on this issue. I can’t think of any positives for virtual education except for a few limited situations. Can you explain, or have you posed in the past your thesis on this topic? Are you thinking this will help those few who are home schooled due to medical or other reasons get access to more highly trained teachers and better curriculum and would Skype or some similar method of having personal one-on one review be a part of it?

Our daughter is taking high school honors classes with some children with some level of autism. It has been enriching for both our daughter and those children in gaining confidence and other necessary social life skills. This week the teacher assigned them to write about a group to which they belonged. Our daughter explained to us the interaction she and a class mate had with one autistic ┬ástudent explaining what friendship was, what typical social groups exist in the high school and how to recognize them. It was quite eye-opening for me and important to hear about how important mainstreaming efforts are to children such as these. I would hope that parents who are fearful would take the risk and send their children to public schools, hopefully where appropriate supports are provided for all the children instead of giving them an “out” to learn in a virtual manner. Thank you.

Mary White

Cambridge

One reply on “Virtual Education”

  1. Hi Mary, I’ve written a lot about this issue and you can see many of the writings under the “Education” link in the priorities list in the left side bar of this website.

    Here’s the big picture way to think about it: Books are a technology that allow people to consider ideas in the absence of a teacher. Online tools are a vastly richer set of technologies that also allow the exposition of ideas and do more — allowing students to test their learning, teachers to track learning progress, and allowing all to communicate more broadly.

    Most of us think that books are a good thing and want our kids to read more. But we are concerned that they read good quality books. And we know that kids need to be coached and supported by people — very few children can stay focused on learning just through reading (although there are a lot of geniuses in history who have been autodidacts). In the same way, we should welcome new tools that allow a richer delivery of content and be concerned to assure the quality of that content and to support kids well in learning. We also need to guard against social isolation, just as we need to guard against that in book learning.

    We are just at the beginning of wonderful explosion of options in learning and it is going to be a good thing in the long run although there will be some false starts. The versatility of the emerging content and communication tools is going to allow the development of a lot of new models for instruction that we just haven’t really figured out yet. But there is a lot of cause to hope that we will be able to do a much better job of meeting the individual needs of individual kids and more fully develop the potential of every child.

    Happy to sit down and kick this around with you or with a group if you are interested.

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