Thursday, November 13, 2008

Virtual High School

Did you catch the Monday edition of the Herald? Their lead article was about the growth in attendance in virtual (0nline) high schools.
Online schools are booming. In Washington, the number of elementary, middle and high school students enrolled full-time in public, online schools has nearly quadrupled in three years to 5,666 last school year.

Nationwide, the number of students enrolled in online schools jumped 60 percent, to 506,950 between 2003 and 2005, the latest year with data, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Of course the paper edition had to feature more prominently the quote "I don't have to listen to teachers tell me what to do. This way I can site in my pajamas and still get it done." by putting it in a sidebar. That should stir some excitement in the if-it-was-good enough-for-me crowd.

It's time that education as a production line comes to an end. Students are not the raw materials of the education system and teachers are not factory workers, bolting facts onto students like an auto worker mounting a tire on a Buick. Is virtual high school part of solution?

Students don't all learn the same. People have different needs for the delivery of education. It's not that we have to do away with the existing format. Some people thrive in it, and it should continue. Many others don't, and we need an alternative for them. We can't afford to let students fail simply because we only want to teach one way. Perhaps you remember the TED Talks video from Ken Robinson titled "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" that I featured in a previous post. Take 20 minutes to listen Robinson's story of Gillian Lynne failing in the traditional school setting.

I know that we who serve on advisory boards are suppose to be thinking about about the needs of specific programs, but it seems to me that we also need to be thinking about the broader educational system. I'm interested in your thoughts. What type of people do you think would benefit from this alternative? Would an online education help prepare students for your job openings? Would you have wanted your high school experience to be all online, all in-class or some sort of hybrid?

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