My Teach is an iPad

Paul FennerEducation Planning

I’m always interested in new trends in education probably because I have kids of my own now but also due to my interest of finding more efficient ways to learn.  Education for me didn’t end after undergrad and has just continued with me.  I’m interested in how to retain more information and what tools are available to do so in the most efficient manor possible.  

This article in the WSJ My Teach is an iPad explores the new realm of alternative schools specifically online and the impact it has not only on the individual students, but parents and the school districts themselves.  I personally believe that any form of schooling is what you make of it weather your sitting in an actual classroom and staring at a computer device.  You have to have some drive, ambition, and probably most important interest in what you are learning about in order to make your educational experience the most rewarding.

Here are some highlights from the article

  • In a radical rethinking of what it means to go to school, states and districts nationwide are launching online public schools that let students from kindergarten to 12th grade take some—or all—of their classes from their bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. Other states and districts are bringing students into brick-and-mortar schools for instruction that is largely computer-based and self-directed.
  • In just the past few months, Virginia has authorized 13 new online schools. Florida began requiring all public-high-school students to take at least one class online, partly to prepare them for college cybercourses. Idaho soon will require two. In Georgia, a new app lets high-school students take full course loads on their iPhones and BlackBerrys. Thirty states now let students take all of their courses online.
  • Nationwide, an estimated 250,000 students are enrolled in full-time virtual schools, up 40% in the last three years, according to Evergreen Education Group, a consulting firm that works with online schools. More than two million pupils take at least one class online, according to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, a trade group.
  • A few states, however, have found that students enrolled full-time in virtual schools score significantly lower on standardized tests, and make less academic progress from year to year, than their peers. Critics worry that kids in online classes don’t learn how to get along with others or participate in group discussions. Some advocates of full-time cyberschools say that the disappointing results are partly because some of the students had a rough time in traditional schools, and arrive testing below grade level in one or more subjects.
  • The growth of cybereducation is likely to affect school staffing, which accounts for about 80% of school budgets. A teacher in a traditional high school might handle 150 students. An online teacher can supervise more than 250, since he or she doesn’t have to write lesson plans and most grading is done by computer.
  • In Idaho, Alan Dunn, superintendent of the Sugar-Salem School District, says that he may cut entire departments and outsource their courses to online providers. “It’s not ideal,” he says. “But Idaho is in a budget crisis, and this is a creative solution.”
  • Other states see potential savings as well. In Georgia, state and local taxpayers spend $7,650 a year to educate the average student in a traditional public school. They spend nearly 60% less—$3,200 a year—to educate a student in the statewide online Georgia Cyber Academy, saving state and local tax dollars. Florida saves $1,500 a year on every student enrolled online full time.
  • For individual school districts, though, competition from online schools can cause financial strain. The tiny Spring Cove School District in rural Pennsylvania lost 43 of its 1,850 students this year to online charter schools. By law, the district must send those students’ share of local and state tax dollars—in this case $340,000—to the cyberschool. Superintendent Rodney Green, already struggling to balance the budget, cut nine teaching jobs, eliminated middle-school Spanish and French and canceled the high-school musical, “Aida.”
  • In the end, virtual schooling “comes down to what you make of it,” says Rosie Lowndes, a social-studies teacher at Georgia Cyber Academy. Kids who work closely with parents or teachers do well, she says. “But basically letting a child educate himself, that’s not going to be a good educational experience.” The computer, she says, can’t do it alone.