Socializing the virtual student

Virtual schools are adding socialization to the curriculum, reports Ed Week.

Students enrolled in Commonwealth Connections Academy, a cyber charter school based in Harrisburg, Pa., spend most of their days doing classwork on a home computer, devoid of up-close interactions with other students or teachers. But two or three times a week, a recreational vehicle converted into a science classroom parks in a different Pennsylvania neighborhood, and students from the school have a chance to get in-person lessons from their teachers and meet fellow students.

Equipped with computer workstations and microscopes, Internet connections, and interactive whiteboards both inside and outside the vehicle, the RV takes Commonwealth Connections’ lessons from cyberspace to face-to-face.

The school also offers clubs, field trips and service projects. Some virtual schools have organized proms.

The online education company K12 Inc. commissioned an independent study by Interactive Educational Systems Design Inc. The May 2009 report compared full-time, online students in grades 2, 4, and 6 with students in traditional schools.

. . . cyber students were rated significantly higher by both parents and students themselves in various areas of social skills, though teacher ratings for those students did not differ significantly from those for students in traditional public schools. Problem behaviors among online students, as rated by the parents, teachers, and students themselves, were either significantly lower or not significantly different when compared with national norms.

Homeschooling parents usually get their children involved in sports teams, church choirs, art classes or other activities. I suspect parents of cyber-students do the same.