Facing the Unknown in Online Learning

By Beth Purcell
Computer workAs parents that are passionate about taking advantage of the benefits of alternative learning options, we spend a lot of time talking about how virtual learning works and debunking many of the misinformed myths and criticisms of this innovative learning model.
While PublicSchoolOptions.org members often tell their story through meetings with elected officials and demonstrations in state capitols with students, teachers and parents, a California family recently welcomed a reporter into their home for a morning to help others better understand the day in the life of an online student.
As you read the Contra Costa Times’ report on 10-year-old Aiden Watson, you will realize just how familiar the daily routine is for a student who attends a virtual school.
After sharpening multiplication skills through an online game and completing an online lesson on measuring objects, Aiden focuses on a spelling book as she prepares for her spelling test. If she spells any words incorrectly, she must write them out several times before retaking the test – a task we all can relate to!
Another part of Aiden’s day is spent preparing for state standardized tests. Virtual public charter school students are held to the same accountability standards as their public school peers, and therefore, must complete all state mandated tests.
After completing a few other tasks, including checking her grade for an assessment on historic revolutions from the day before, Aiden moves from the computer to a notebook as she works on her book report.
Sometimes it is simply the unknown that leads people to question online learning. However, when they take the time to see first-hand how it works and the many benefits students gain from having engaged parents serving as learning coaches alongside certified teachers, they often become strong supporters.  As online learning grows in popularity and is offered as an option to families in more and more states, we encourage people to ask questions in order to better understand this learning model, just as they do with so many other innovative tools and technologies that are improving lives in many other ways.
Beth Purcell is Vice President of PublicSchoolOptions.org, a national alliance of parents that supports parents’ rights to access the best public school options for students.

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