By Michelle VanBueren
It should come as no surprise that the internet and accessible information through modern technology has impacted education.
Technology has caused a maelstrom of debate over the creation and utilization of Virtual Charter Schools.
“In 2010, over 4 million K-12 students participated in a formal online learning program. This includes
217,000 students in cyber charter schools.”
Those who oppose virtual schools argue that virtual charters take money away from traditional public schools. These traditional institutions are “already on shaky financial ground in many states.” Opponents argue that on-line schooling is a form of home-schooling for which the tax payer is footing the bill.
Another concern is lack of socialization. Traditional schools provide opportunities for students to learn, practice and hone social skills. There is a fear that sitting in front of a computer screen will prevent the mental stimulation that involvement in classroom discussion would create. They question the ability of on-line discussion and interactions being able to take the place of live, face-to-face contact.
There are also questions of accountability and regulation. Opponents and supporters alike don’t want the virtual “classroom” to run willy-nilly. Federal and state education agencies are attempting to oversee these charter schools.
Advocates for virtual schools claim this alternative provides students with a personalized learning program. An advanced student needn’t wait for the rest of the class to catch up before moving on. A struggling student isn’t left behind while the majority of the class pushes ahead. The advantage of the virtual school is allowing the student to gain mastery of the subject at his own pace. The student can get assistance in subjects that are more difficult and move on as soon as he is ready.
Those in favor of on-line learning argue that traditional classroom teachers spend too much time dealing with behavioral issues in the classroom and not enough time on instruction. The reality of gangs on campus, bullying, and chronic disciplinary issues in the classroom makes the safety of learning at home via the computer a palpable option.
In this 21st century, parents are interested in finding the education method that works best for their student. While the traditional brick schoolhouse is in no immediate danger of vanishing, the virtual school isn’t either.
This is just one more option available to parents as they seek the best educational opportunities for their children.