May 5, 2018
What is a Full-Time Online School?
The structure of a school has changed over time. First, there were one room school houses, where the youngest students sat in the front row, and the oldest sat in the back- and they all had the same teacher. Then, as populations increased, the number of students attending school increased, and the number of school buildings increased. Now there are multiple schools for multiple districts all over the United States, and more importantly, the world. Along with the brick-and-mortar schools that are still standing, there are also Full-Time Online Schools. But, what is a full-time online school?
Full-time online schools are exactly what they sound like: schools where students do all of their learning online, from the comfort of their own home, or wherever they are. With online schools, all instruction and interaction is completely electronic; students are not required to go to a building for 7 hours a day. Many online schools are available for grades K-12, with all the core subjects as well as electives available.
Full-Time Online Schools have grown in popularity in recent years, because they have a lot to offer. Online schools offer all kinds of personalized learning. With online schools, students have the opportunity to take any type of course they want, all the way from honors and advanced placement to remedial and summer school classes. Each program is specifically suited to the individual learner’s needs. Online schools allow students to learn from anywhere. Many times when people hear about online learning, they just picture a student sitting in his house all day on the computer. But, online schools allow students to learn from anywhere in the world, as long as they have an internet connection. This is a great opportunity for parents who travel for work; it allows them to take their children with them, keeping the family together, traveling the world and making sure their children are getting a solid education. The accessibility of online school is limitless.
One main setback with online schools is the social interaction. Social interaction is a key component of a child’s educational experience, especially during the primary years. If younger students are not experiencing those interactions because they are attending an online school, they are missing out on those interactions that help them develop problem-solving and communication skills. Technology has been said to desensitize people’s ability to interact with each other, and the same can be said for online schools. Online Schools also require students to have a lot of time-management skills. With online schools, there is a lot of self-directed work, meaning students have to watch the lectures and complete the assignments on their own time. At any age, strong time-management skills are hard to obtain. It does not matter where you are- whether you are in your house or traveling the world- people can become easily distracted, especially in the comfort of their own home. This distraction and lack of time management can cause procrastination, which can ultimately make more work for a student than if she were attending class every day.
Full time online schools are a nice innovation, that has allowed education to adapt with the times of the world students live in. While there are benefits to online learning, there are also concerns that still need to be address. When considering the future of education in terms of online schools, one also has to consider the role of the educator, because that also changes. Online schools do not just change the environment, but also the types of jobs that are needed to run the school. Like many other areas of technology and education, I believe that online schools should be taken at a case-by-case basis. For some students, online schools are the solution; but that does not mean they are the solution for all students. And truthfully, in 10 years or so, I guarantee that full time online schools will be the, “old school” way of learning and there will be new method that has students, parents and teachers alike taking a hard look at the relationship between education and technology.
May 3, 2018
How Much Screen Time is Too Much?
When working with technology, one tends to use a screen. As a kindergarten teacher, I am constantly battling the use of screens versus hands-on interaction. A constant concern of parents is that their children are spending too much time in front of a screen. So really, how much screen time is too much?
When thinking about technology and the use of a screen, one has to look at it from different angles: time, type, and intake vs. output.
When children work with screens, time is always a big concern. Spending 15-30 minutes a day is a time frame that is thrown around a lot. Another one is that the screen time is not consecutive; break up the 30 minutes with 5 minutes of movement and activity. In terms of time, it is tricky. On the one hand, it is important to limit the time; no human should spend hours in front of a tiny glowing screen. But on the other hand, if the time is spent being productive working on a project or creating and developing, then it is hard to limit the work time. For my students and I, I like to limit the time. I typically only let students work with screens for about 10 minutes. And when working, my students are completely supervised. Whatever they are doing, there is an adult present to guide them to the most productive route. By working with the students, they get a chance to see how productive time is spent. Having this knowledge will hopefully translate in the future, when they are allowed to be using screens for longer periods of time. If they know how to use the screens in a productive manner, then it will not be such a waste of time.
When students and technology are discussed, the term screen time is tossed around, but what does that actually mean? Screen time is very general; there are screens on cell phones, on iPads, televisions, movie screens, computers, etc. So when people are concerned about screens, which ones are they concerned about? In my experience, people who are concerned focus primarily on small individual screens (iPads, tablets cell phones, etc.); the items that children can shove right in their faces. There are studies that show children develop stronger mental capabilities if they are not exposed to any screens during the first two years of their lives. But again, I believe monitored moderation is the key. If the adults in charge are aware of how much children are using screens- and monitor and limit it- the negative side effects are not so strong. It is when the students are unsupervised that the screen time can become unsafe. Also being aware of what type of screen is being used is essential. How students interact with Smartboards is different compared to computers, which is different compared to tablets, which is different compared to cell phones. Each device needs to be taken at a case-by-case basis; create a pro/con list and take a look at how the device can be used.
When looking at the use of screens, for me the last area to consider is the final product; is the end result something that is being consumed by the student, or are the students creating and developing a new product? If the students are solely consuming what the screen is providing, then that is more of a concern. But if students are working and creating a new product, then the screen time can be seen in a more beneficial light. It becomes even more valuable if what the student is creating can only be done so through technology, such as coding.
At the end of the day, screen time is like anything else- it is best in moderation. It is important to take into consider how long and in what ways the screen will be used. But ultimately it is up to the parents and the teachers to teach students the benefits and the dangers of technology and screen time. And the best we can hope for is that students learn and understand and use smart, safe digital citizenship with their screen time.