Allow me to preface this post, and first entry in our new blog series on art and technology integration, with a bit of clarification about the "virtual" aspects of The Little School Project. While technological fluency is essential in 21st Century teaching and learning, our Community Blueprint and parent-teacher professional development programs are not distance learning/digital classroom experiences. The curriculum model will be available online, however, it is not a virtual learning program. The adult-learning programming encompasses online and face-to-face interactive engagements. One of the core values at the LSP is community social impact. That requires getting offline and connecting with those in your home and neighborhood. With that said, we fully recognize that for single parent or dual income families, virtual learning may be the most viable homeschool option. We encourage you to use it as a compliment to other active and collaborative learning solutions.
Virtual learning has been in existence since it was first employed in the year 1990. What started out as a great method of distance education, virtual learning today, has become an important tool for homeschooling parents; particularly those who are time, financial, or work-homeschool balance challenged. A virtual learning program has many merits,
Though adapting a virtual learning environment for homeschooling your children might seem like a revolutionary idea, there are certain pitfalls that you need to be aware of before letting the computers teach your children.
Lack of requisite skill set
To successfully learn from a virtual learning program, one needs to be oriented towards independent learning, highly motivated, good with technology and have great time management skills. These characteristics are usually associated with adults and are rare in children. Virtual learning therefore, might not benefit the young learners as much as it helps older children. Using a virtual learning program as an extension of transferable skill development would allow you to assess how this unique platform might work for your children.
Cold and technical
A virtual learning program involves less or absolutely no human interaction. Everything from signing up for courses to submitting assignments and taking tests, happens online. Though everything gets graded and the students learn from it, the absence of one-to-one interaction with a teacher creates a gap in the learning process. Also, a really good teacher might not be an equally good online instructor. In the real world, a teacher uses a plethora of tools and resources to teach. Once the medium changes, there is a limitation, an imaginary box within which the teacher needs to perform. This translates into an impersonal, cold and very technical lecture.
The children involved in virtual learning do not get the opportunity to participate in the learning process. There is no hands-on learning, so they can read about science experiments but might not have the resources to conduct them. They aren’t able to question their teachers or put forth their doubts in person. Most of the queries are carried out over message boards and emails. Class participation shrinks to written chat messages. Effectively, the children develop less social skills than their peers in regular schools or homeschooling environments where a parent is actively involved in teaching. Are there other kids in your child's grade level also learning online? If so, organize study sessions and meet-ups where kids can take their learning offline and give it a real-life test drive.
A certain amount of flexibility in routine and learning schedule is one of the top reasons for parents to homeschool their children. However, subscribing to virtual learning programs does not guarantee this. If a particular class is scheduled, the students will need to be in front of the computers to take it. Also, the learning is constrained by the material selected by the virtual learning program which diminishes the motivation to discover different types of learning materials.
To make sure your homeschooled children are able to derive all the benefits of a virtual learning program, you would need to invest in a lot of premium technological hardware and software. A fast internet connection and a good computer is just the basic. A constant and good connectivity is the implicit requirement for enrolling into a virtual learning program.
Children are usually homeschooled to ensure they spend more time with the family, have a more interactive learning experience and do not fall into the rut of a public school schedule. A virtual learning program is helpful for the homeschooling parents when they need a readymade, grade appropriate curriculum for their homeschooled children. It comes in handy when they need all the material in one place. However, letting such a virtual learning program solely homeschool your children instead of you is not ideal.