Virtual education labs

Virtual schools may transform the structure of education, concludes Bill Tucker of Education Sector.

While the importance of effective teaching and learning has not changed, the Internet has enabled educators to significantly alter the experience of schooling. Virtual schools are personalizing student learning and extending it beyond the traditional school day. They’ve created new models for the practice of teaching—with opportunities to easily observe, evaluate, and assist instructors. And they are pioneering performance-based education funding models.

K-12 virtual schools are expanding rapidly, primarily to serve high school students. What research exists shows no significant difference in performance between online and face-to-face learners, Tucker writes.

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  1. wahoofive says:

    In the 1950s television boosters thought that TVs would make teachers unnecessary. In the 1970s it was computers. Now it’s the Internet. Yawn.

  2. Neil Schipper says:

    When the kind of imagination that goes into today’s (actually, yesterday’s) gaming software goes into educational software, education will be transformed.

    Many of the mistakes have already been made (show a page of text, ask some multi-choice questions, show a page of text, ask some…), and people are cluing in to the possibilities.

    The effectiveness of teachers, specifically as initial content delivery machines, probably observes a bell curve (if not some other but similar distribution). What the technology allows is that the instructional approaches of the top 2% of teachers can become available to nearly everyone.

    When a theater group in your neighbourhood puts on a play, that’s great (on a number of levels)–but they’re just not going to pull off Shrek. It’s great, again on a number of levels, if a local group of auto-enthusiasts restore some 60’s hot rods or build an experimental energy-efficient car–but they’re just not going to pull off a Toyota assembly line. The economies of scale and the availability of talent just isn’t there.

    With the right software, so many elements of a terrific learning experience become available: pace, visualization, humour, reinforcement, review. This is not equally true for all subject areas, but just like rowboats evolved into cruise ships via galley ship and sailing ship phases, this software will evolve. You build, you assess, you learn–and then you build anew.

    Yes, there are lots of limitations and preconditions. No one is saying that Grade 2 kids should stare at a screen all day. Or that hands-on activities like lab work or art will be obsolesced. Or that certain types of learners will be not naturally “take” to the new approaches.

    But what the technology offers is far too great to pooh-pooh. In a heartbeat, some 10 – 20% of all grade 10 – 12 students (self-motivated and college bound) could be learning pretty much all their math and science (excluding experiments) with software. This would free up resources for those that need remediation and pushing.

    It seems to me the writing is on the wall.