Vol. 15 : No. 11< >
AZDLA digest, Vol 1 #261 - 1 msg, Mon, 01 Oct 2001
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 16:54:26 -0700
From: Dawn Lewis firstname.lastname@example.org
The following article appeared in the Daily Sun today -- it's worth sharing because it increases some of what we have already talked about as educators and technical people who provide tools for distance learning. This would be another great start to a conversation on this listserv. Thanks.
By ROBERT WELLER
Associated Press Writer
MONTE VISTA, Colo. -- Seven years ago, one of the state's poorest school districts wanted to give online education a try. Officials thought it could earn the potato-growing valley district some badly needed money by charging students elsewhere who enroll and reach some students who weren't making it in the traditional classroom. The first students were Denver students who had been kicked out of school and wore radio-transmitter ankle bracelets so the police could track them.
Now 41 school districts in Colorado and hundreds more nationwide are offering thousands of high school students online classes that otherwise wouldn't have been available -- in some cases, even a full curriculum and diplomas.
Those who have been involved in the Monte Vista program believe in it. "Both of our daughters went through it and got tremendous scholarships at Colorado College and the University of Colorado," said Roger La Borde of nearby Alamosa.
Retired university physics lecturer Sig Kutter was bored with retirement until he began teaching online from his Breckenridge home. "This has given me a great deal of satisfaction and commitment. My students have been extraordinarily motivated," Kutter said.
Supporters believe cyberspace schools offer another venue for students to learn in an environment that encourages creativity. "It's another tool for education. It is not the silver bullet," said Tom Snyder, who set up the Monte Vista program and now runs the Colorado State Online Education Consortium.
Dan King, who runs the Choice 2000 virtual charter high school in Perris, Calif., said it is unlikely more than 20 percent of potential students could benefit from online education. "I see a lot of kids are missed by the education system for whatever reason. Online education really is for many of those, but not all of them," he said. Everyone involved says students need to be motivated.
Most online education is done with teachers and students communicating by e-mail when convenient. Most students take a class or two, Latin or advanced physics for example, which may not be available in their districts. No figures are available from the National Center for Education Statistics on the number of high school students taking online classes. "Online education is growing too fast to track. We are predicting widespread shortages of qualified online teachers," said Robert Tucker of InterEd, a consulting firm that researches education markets for colleges and universities.
Standards vary from state to state. California and Colorado require online schools to keep track of "seat time," which amounts to records of e-mail traffic and discussion logs.
King's school and the Monte Vista On-Line Academy are among the few in the nation that award high school diplomas.
Choice 2000 tries to replicate the traditional experience by requiring students and teachers to be online simultaneously. Students can hear and see the teacher, who has an icon on the desktop for each student. When students want to ask a question, they click on an icon. The teacher turns on a microphone so everyone can hear.
La Borde and his wife, Pam, both college graduates, home-schooled their two daughters after Angela, their eldest, completed first grade. They both felt public schools were too compartmentalized and ignored a student's creative side. "In my opinion, you have to be motivated to benefit from online education. I liked it partly because I didn't have to wait for teachers to answer the questions of kids who didn't understand the material. And because I could work at my own pace, it left me with more time to do what I wanted to do outside of school," said Angela La Borde.
Glenn Russell of Australia's Monash University, an online education authority, fears it relies too much on parents to supervise their children. "If you ask students to stay at home and work online, I think some at least would drift off to the nearest shopping mall," Russell said. He also is concerned that students won't get the social skills they need online.
"We hear that a lot, but our experience is that it is not as big a deal as thought. Most kids have developed their social skills by the time they reach high school," said Alan McFadden, director of the Monte Vista School District's On-Line Academy, a virtual high school.
La Borde said his daughters performed with dance groups, taught dance classes and played soccer and basketball. "I don't feel I missed anything," Angela La Borde said. "I was always involved in the dance world. I would spend 40 hours some weeks in the studio."'
Another concern of critics is the possibility of cheating. "I'll bet there is more cheating in the brick-and-mortar environment," said Snyder, adding it is also easy for teachers to check to see if students have cut-and-pasted their homework from Web sites. King's school tests students at monitored sites.
Snyder sees online education as one answer to the nation's growing teacher shortage. "We can capitalize on the talent of our master teachers who may have retired from the traditional setting."
On the Net:
Monte Vista On-Line Academy: http://monte.k12.co.us/ola/index.htm
U.S. Distance Learning Association: http://www.usdla.org
Choice 2000 Charter School: http://www.choice2000.org/