Will School Be Out…And Virtual School Be In? – Hollyisco

by hollyisco

Back in 1972, legendary rock star Alice Cooper recorded a song that has since become an anthem for the end of the school year. “School’s Out” contained in its lyrics an old childhood rhyme in which the end of school meant no more pencils, books, or teachers’ dirty looks.

A couple of decades after, Lewis J. Perelman, who served as a strategic consultant to industry on matters of technology, published a book entitled, interestingly enough, “School’s Out: Hyperlearning, the New Technology, and the End of Education.” He also wrote a lengthy guest column based on that book for the debut issue of Wired magazine in early 1993. What Perelman touched on in both his book and his Wired column about how “hyperlearning” would replace a 19th-century based “worker-factory” model of education that, he wrote for Wired, has “as much utility in today’s modern economy of advanced information technology as the Conestoga wagon or the blacksmith shop,” is beginning to come true in the early 2010’s.

In one of my previous blogs about how one high school in my home area started replacing hard-copy printed textbooks with the same on electronic Kindle readers, I also mentioned about “virtual schools” that are being tried in practically every state in the US. Some are private, while others are public, but the purpose is the same—to provide students from kindergarten to senior year of high school with an online alternative to on-campus education, particularly when it comes to subjects that aren’t available on campus because certain schools can’t afford to bring in teachers who specialize in those subjects.

Some educators think virtual schools won’t replace face-to-face instruction, and others would argue that it wouldn’t replace socializing and making friends.  And then, there are those who would consider what students might have to put up with on school campuses these days, from bullying to criminal activity to inappropriate teacher-student relations.  It’s newsmaking issues like these for which a “virtual school” may present itself to be a better idea for a student who wants a safe learning environment. In one of the largest states in the nation, the virtual school idea has caught on with students in some parts of Texas who either want to earn some college credit or avoid dropping out. So much so that legislators are considering expanding the virtual school concept so that high school students can potentially take all their classes online.

Florence Shapiro [R-Plano], who chairs the Education Committee of the Texas State Senate, thinks that while expanding the virtual school concept would add $95 million to the state’s budget in 2013, the long-term savings would come from fewer teachers and fewer buildings. But the effectiveness of online education hasn’t yet been proven, and, of course, teachers are concerned about loss of student interaction and course quality.

It’s not easy to reconcile those issues with an idea that would be more flexible for the students and more money-saving, given that with more than 200,000 enrolled in Florida’s Virtual School, $100 is saved every time a student takes just one course online instead of in a classroom.

Given its potential to cut costs and prevent dropouts, while questions about its effectiveness remain unaddressed, do you think the traditional, classroom-based school should be “out,” while the online “virtual school” should be “in”?

Photo Credit: MMIT

About the Author

Steve Byrd Steve has worked in everything from restaurants to radio sports production, and gives a perspective that’s slightly above that of the average person about how the Internet has been an entertainment game-changer. You can regularly find Steve chiming in on a variety of online music-radio shows, as he often sits in the chat room as “information guru” during webcasts.

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