Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Virtual school is realistically a catastrophe

By Chelsea Whitton

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Imagine you are 6-years-old. You don’t know what alcohol tastes like. It’s a Friday. Spring is coming and you can wait to go get some air before school starts. Life is good. You’re in first grade, you are missing a few teeth – but so is everyone else. You wake up, brush your teeth, throw on your favorite outfit, at this time of my life it was floral jumpers (they weren’t “cool” according to some) and your oxford shoes. Then you run downstairs, drink some orange juice, eat breakfast (in my case usually a corn muffin) say goodbye to Mom, grab your backpack filled with your favorite glossy puppy folder and homework planner and run out the door to catch the bus. Your friends are standing at the bus stop looking just about as lame as you do, and you love them for that.

Life is good, simple and everyday feels different.

Okay, now imagine you do all of this except the leaving the house part, seeing your equally dorky friends at the bus stop part and seeing that other kids have also lost teeth and as a result look like vampires part. Take away the smile as you run out of the house to see your friends or the obligatory hug goodbye from Mom.

That’s right kids. You are not in home school, you’re in virtual school, which is already in practice in Massachusetts. There is a virtual school nearby in Greenfield at the Mass Virtual Academy. So rather than being obnoxiously sheltered like home school, you’re stuck staring at a  computer screen all day, while “normal” kids with “normal” parents get sent to school to interact with other human beings.

What is virtual school you may ask? No, it’s not some “Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century” hologram teacher type deal. That would be cool compared to what virtual school really is. It’s worse – much worse.

Do you think it’s annoying to have to use Spark all the time here at the University of Massachusetts? I do. Okay, well, virtual school is sort of like being on Spark – for your entire education, or like taking an online course, for about 13 years of your life. For six or so hours a day. If I was six and was told that I would be going to online school I think I might drop out then and there. They’d be lucky if they would get open internet explorer before I yell, “I quit!”

In virtual school, you don’t have your next crush named Peter to impress next to you, you can’t go home and call up Sally and talk about how fat Mrs. B looked in that tacky red skirt, or how you wish Mr. Z wasn’t married or how you can’t tell if Mr. K really went to Columbia for the reasons he told you he did.

No matter what age you are in K-12, there are a few simple requirements that are impossible to meet if you attend virtual school.

First, there are in-person questions that exist for an in-person teacher. Yes, a human being that can answer questions may be important in developing some sort of view of the world for an uninformed youngling.

Second, the classroom has necessary resources: rocks for mineral studies, hub caps for chemical experiments, large-scale world maps for geography and so on. The classroom setting is extremely important for absorbing class material.

Third, if you attend online school, you are making no correlations with memories and events. There will be no moments during high school when you look back with peers and say, “Remember the time that Billy fell into the coy pond on the top of the mountain? (This did happen). There will be no memories associated with the crucial learning process that develop who we are and how we view the world.

It makes me sad that for these children in virtual school that there will be no Mrs. Castle telling you that she is cross with you because you don’t understand the concept that 25 cents is a quarter (such is my case). It makes me sad that these kids won’t feel the need to raise their hands in class and ask a question that they are passionate about finding the answer to. Instead they will use the internet as a human connection to knowledge, global and, most importantly, social knowledge. An elementary school is where you sit at long cafeteria tables, drink two percent milk, do your fractions on paper and sit next to classmates from your town or surrounding towns that you’ll get to become best friends with.

Virtual school doesn’t provide the documents, papers and coloring projects from that fifth grade space project you did. There is no opportunity to go to school assemblies, to star in the school play and find out you can sing and act. Virtual school, aside from minimal contact with your parents, doesn’t even involve talking. How are these children supposed to development cognitive communication skills and public speaking skills if the only language they know is html?

In an ironic way, virtual school is supposed to be hands-on, but presents itself as entirely hands-off. There is no one nagging you to finish the last math problem before the bell rings for lunch, there is no music class with Mrs. K, where 30 fourth graders think they might just have a knack for playing the recorder or dabbling on the piano.

According to a Daily Hampshire Gazette article, “Meeting Monday on Hadley virtual school proposal,” the Hadley School Committee is currently deciding on a proposal whether or not a virtual school will be implemented.

If approved, the article reports, “the new school would have 245 students from all over the state next year, 450 the second year and 500 the third year, according to the proposal. It would be called Hadley Virtual Academy of Massachusetts. Earlier, it had been referred to as the Hadley Virtual Innovation School.”

In his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama outlined that the U.S. education system needs reform. I won’t deny that. Actually, I fully support that notion. After hundreds of teachers in Rhode Island lost their jobs to a state with more than fragile economic conditions, this country needs teachers, better paid, in-person teachers, and this country owes it to our children for an affordable, high-quality education. Obama’s message, whether you agree with his politics or not, was true. This country needs to teach children, give them the skills to test better and to do better in math and the sciences.

Staring at a computer screen form the age of five-to-18 isnt’ going to teach a kid half of the necessary social skills or global awareness needed to make it in this world. I hope this virtual school crap is some new-age yuppie parent fad that will hopefully fade out or change as quickly as Apple changes their iPad models.

Chelsea Whitton thinks education is important and can be reached at [email protected]

19 Comments

19 Responses to “Virtual school is realistically a catastrophe”

  1. Rose on March 11th, 2011 11:33 am

    The scattered nature of this writing betrays the source. When someone writes about something that they know nothing about it is obvious. The author is a student and should be encouraged to do a better job next time. It is good that she considers education to be important. She is in need of it.

  2. OptionsAdvocate on March 11th, 2011 1:09 pm

    I’m typically all for those who take the time and effort to write about something that needs to be exposed. However, I find it HIGHLY offensive to read information that is completely misguiding. I’d like to offer my help.

    #1 – Alcohol and education should not even be mentioned in the same article.

    #2 – “In virtual school, you don’t have your next crush named Peter to impress next to you, you can’t go home and call up Sally and talk about how fat Mrs. B looked in that tacky red skirt, or how you wish Mr. Z wasn’t married or how you can’t tell if Mr. K really went to Columbia for the reasons he told you he did.”

    Crushes and Gossiping DO happen in virtual school. If you need more information I’m sure my highly intelligent NORMAL 14 and 16 year old who just so happen to be virtually educated could educate you with plenty on this subject. BUT, please tell me what this has to do with a proper education?

    #3 – “First, there are in-person questions that exist for an in-person teacher. Yes, a human being that can answer questions may be important in developing some sort of view of the world for an uninformed youngling.”
    Here again, you’ve been led astray. Teachers are there to answer questions — almost instantaneous. Children get more one-on-one with their teachers than ANY child in a B&M environment.

    #4 – “Second, the classroom has necessary resources: rocks for mineral studies, hub caps for chemical experiments, large-scale world maps for geography and so on. The classroom setting is extremely important for absorbing class material.”

    If you could only see the shipment of supplies that come from virtual academies for “hands-on” experiments. I would list it all, but it would take far too long.

    #5 – “Third, if you attend online school, you are making no correlations with memories and events.”

    Again, you’d be more than welcome to visit with some “real” virtual students and you’d find this comment to be false. BUT, again — what does this have to do with a good education??

    #6 – “It makes me sad that these kids won’t feel the need to raise their hands in class and ask a question that they are passionate about finding the answer to.”

    Virtual students can and do have class AND can and do raise their hands to answer those questions they are passionate about answering or finding out more about.

    #7 – “Virtual school doesn’t provide the documents, papers and coloring projects from that fifth grade space project you did.”

    Really?? I only wished I would have taken a picture of every single project that has been created by my children so that I could “show” you just how very untrue this really is.

    #8 – “There is no opportunity to go to school assemblies, to star in the school play and find out you can sing and act.”

    Our virtual school has regular assemblies, we have a drama club and glee club.

    #9 – “How are these children supposed to development cognitive communication skills and public speaking skills if the only language they know is html?”

    Mostly because the children who are enrolled in virtual schools typically have parents who are VERY involved in their lives and they can converse more intelligently and above that of their B&M peers. And no, they don’t just type — they actually converse in class with their teacher and their peers.

    #10 – “I hope this virtual school crap is some new-age yuppie parent fad that will hopefully fade out or change as quickly as Apple changes their iPad models.”

    I’m afraid that you’re going to be disappointed because virtual ed is a thing of the present and the future. Yes, it will change as quickly as the next iPad models, but that’s because it can — no need to waste trees printing the new textbook that can be obsolete in a few years. The greatest part of this model of schooling is that it can be tailored to each individual learning need, something rarely found in a B& M setting.

    I’m somewhat disappointed that you’re point of view and rational for why you don’t like this model of learning has little if anything to do with REALLY educating, but rather a social life. I’m sorry, but I do not see that as a school’s responsibility but rather the parents. Oh, by the way – virtual students are with their parents so they can learn social skills the way they were intended to be taught.

  3. Hillary on March 11th, 2011 1:17 pm

    Just because the kids in a virtual school won’t have the memories you described, does not mean they won’t have memories or school experiences. Those experiences will just be *different* from yours. And, frankly, just as cherished. Maybe they won’t resort to talking about how ugly their teachers are because they are spending their time with their friends playing baseball or making a robot. (Which will give them an opportunity to say, “Hey remember that time . . .”

    Education *is* changing. Those community building opportunities you mentioned – being in a play or going to assemblies – are ALL available to families outside of a school building. (Children’s theater, group assemblies to show off school projects, etc.) These things are happening now. Just because you haven’t experienced it doesn’t mean others aren’t finding or making public speaking and community building opportunities for their families.

    Being tolerant of others’ educational experiences – including homeschoolers and virtual schoolers – is something you might want to strive towards. Then, perhaps, you could return to this subject and make a substantive argument against virtual schooling.

    For instance, why do you think schooling should teach social skills? Isn’t the primary role of our school system designed for academics? And, if socialization is a objective then how do schools define under-socialized or over-socialized children? Is it measured? (In every brick-and-mortar school you will find children who don’t socialize well and/or who are too dependent on their peers. Is that the fault of the school?)

    You obviously care about education and have put some thought into the emotional side of your own schooling experience. Your thoughts on how virtual schooling *should* work and what social experiences should be a baseline for a child’s school experience would be very interesting article given your opinions. Just educate yourself first.

  4. Devin Lee on March 11th, 2011 2:08 pm

    Chelsea,
    I am a virtual high school teacher. I understand many of the concerns you outlined in your article. I had them too when I first considered taking the position of an online teacher. However, what I envisioned in my mind and what I experienced as the reality of the virtual school environment were two very different images indeed.

    What is life like for virtual students? It’s remarkably similar in many ways to that of students in a brick-and-mortar school.
    • They attend classes conducted by the certified content-area teacher for that subject (in an online virtual classroom).
    • They chat with students before class (via the online classroom “chatbox).
    • They ask questions of the teacher for clarification on concepts (in the “chatbox” during class, via internal emails, by phone, by Instant Messenger, and/or during scheduled office hours)
    • Students even submit pictures for and may purchase a yearbook. (An actual, tangible, print copy of a yearbook, probably much like one of yours)
    • Students join Clubs and attend meetings (in the online classrooms)

    What is life not like for a virtual student?
    • There is no bullying for looking different, having different beliefs, being academically advanced. Students are free to learn, period.
    • The school day is not confined to 8am to 3pm, Monday through Friday. Students organize their academic time around family, life, medical issues, extra-curricular pursuits.
    • There is not a lack of socialization/peer interaction. They see their friends at local area field trips/outings organized by the school and form outside-of-school friendships with their classmates as well. In addition, families participate in many other activities/organizations in which their children engage with other children.
    • It is not 6 or more hours a day staring at a computer screen. In the very early grades, children spend the majority of their academic time engaged in “offline” work guided by the parent (or learning coach). So, the student has a one-on-one teaching environment as opposed to 1 teacher to 20 1st graders who need help. In the upper grades, students do spend more time working online, but they are also:
    1. completing offline science labs with materials provided by the school
    2. creating hands-on art projects for Art class
    3. participating in discussion threads that promote higher-level thinking skills

    Although virtual school may not be the ideal situation for EVERY student, it proves to be an excellent fit for some. I have students who have medical issues that would cause them to lose credits due to attendance laws if they were enrolled in a “brick-and-mortar” school. In our school, the student may log his time around doctor appointments/ medical procedures. He’s not confined to the 8am to 3pm, Monday through Friday schedule of the local public school.
    I also have students who are pursuing their interests, such as actors, professional tennis players, gymnasts, and more. These students also appreciate the flexibility of their virtual school environment.

    The picture you paint in your article is not appealing, but it is not an accurate depiction of the life of a virtual school student. I encourage you to open your mind to the possibility that your vision is skewed by your lack of knowledge on the subject of virtual schools. We often cannot understand that which we have not experienced ourselves.

    Sincerely,
    Devin Lee
    TxVA High School

  5. Terri Guhl on March 11th, 2011 3:47 pm

    It is important that when writing an article for publication, that you research facts. I guess you were too busy commenting on Mrs. B’s dress to learn that in the school you went to. Virtual School is NOT right for everybody, but neither is a regular school where you can see your dorky friends. Today’s schools are so full of kids that are not your dorky friends, but kids full of prejudice, hate, and disrespect for every other individual in the world, that it is a parent’s right and responsibility to withdraw them from that environment. I have taught in your traditional school and currently teach at a virtual school. As opposed to you, I have actually experienced both sides of the educational system. Your arguments are totally flawed since they lack research. The students are sent science kits FULL of hands on experiments at every level. Outings are regularly organized as learning field trips or opportunities to show st udents’ talents. Just like with everything, you get out of it whatever you put into it. If a student chooses not to come to events, then that is a shame, but the opportunity for socialization is present and frequent. Even if not in person, they make online connections through chats and places to share ideas.
    It was funny that you said they should be able to raise their hand and ask questions, because in every course there is such a thing for every unit. The questions posed are answered by teachers and fellow students. We have required threaded discussions that require a student to engage in intellectual dialog in an informed and appropriate manner. I have much better discussions in this format then I ever did in a traditional school. They are also asked to write and use higher level thinking much more than I ever did in traditional school. Students in the traditional school would just “skip” the essay questions where in this school, you can’t skip it and still pass.
    There are issues, absolutely, with this type of schooling, but it is a CHOICE. A school of choice that has saved many a student from dropping out because the traditional setting was awful for them.

  6. L. Cade on March 11th, 2011 4:11 pm

    Can I just start by saying: WOW! I can’t remember EVER reading a more negative and ill informed article in my life! I am a teacher for K12, and about 99% of what you wrote is downright wrong I am happy to say! As a virtual student you do not stare at the computer all day, there is offline work. You do have a teacher to help you, and to answer those questions you has listed. K12 also provides beautiful curriculum and incredible Science materials for labs and even “rocks”. You do have field trip and outings and opportunities to meet and make friends. We have virtual classrooms where everyone gets a chance to participate with microphones(talking!). Our students are incredible, and have WAY more interaction with their parents than “minimal”! With school budgets being cut the way they are, and classroom sizes growing, and discipline issues out of control, I think the amount of attention a student gets in a brick and mortar school is so minimal, and the materials they receive so subpar you are doing them a disservice by sending them THERE at this point. Please do your homework before writing such ridiculous articles.
    P.S. STILL trying to figure out where tasting alcohol comes in here!

  7. Lisa T on March 12th, 2011 8:09 am

    Hi,

    I love people that have no knowledge on a subject, and assume (you know what the say). Apparently, you did not do your research (homework)! As a student that feels education is important (this is a civilization), maybe you should have become educated on the topic before you stated an opinion. Even in a virtual school there is still a teacher so, all your points are irrelevant. I would know my third grade daughter attends a virtual school where I am the teacher(twelve years of public and private school teaching experience and two masters two degrees to my credit). She is more socialized now that in the private and public schools she attended. In fact, while being socialized…she was screwed up and needed therapy.

  8. I Make A Difference on March 12th, 2011 9:31 am

    I am a virtual school educator. I have many, many students that have never been successful in the traditional brick and mortar that are now successful in school. These children are now happy lifelong learners. They are no longer punished by attending school, rather they enjoy it. What was a great experience for you growing up in your colorful outfit, is not the case for everyone. Virtual schooling is not the answer for everyone either. We do not all fit in the same mold as we are all individuals. How dare you knock what works for these children. How dare you generalize everyone into your category of what works, and put down their success. How dare you make the assumption that these children are not able to develop social skills. While our students school online daily, we have activities that they attend in person. You should be ashamed of putting down the option that has finally been the answer for so many special students that have emotional disturbances, been bullied so badly in school they have had bones broken and ended up in comas, learning disabilities, academically high students that the public schools fail to service because they do not have the appropriate tools to reach them, students that are competitive athletes or actors. How dare you put down their right to a quality education just because it doesn’t fit your mold.

  9. Monique Christensen on March 12th, 2011 10:25 am

    I must say, this is article must have been written by someone that knows nothing of the true reality of today’s k-12 virtual school students. This piece reflects the most uninformed perspective on the subject I’ve ever seen and presents misinformation as fact. What a disservice to readers. Virtual schools are NOT the same as adult distance learning.

    At one point, my three children were enrolled in a public virtual school. We had a quality, well known national provider that operated as our school’s curriculum provider via the internet. We were sent everything from rock and soil samples, a microscope, books, workbooks (including the supposedly elusive coloring projects!), art kits including clay, paints, brushes, full color duplicates of master’s works, a globe, maps of all varieties, musical instruments, and so many other supplies that are too numerous to mention. Their school offered clubs, art and writing contests, science fairs, etc.

    Computer time is by far, not where the majority of their learning time takes place. The content, instruction, and curriculum offered by our virtual school had a universal learning approach that helped my children comprehend material in deeper ways. Lessons are varied and offer several approaches for different learning styles. Hands on experiments, reading–both independent and group via webcam, writing, etc., and even social outings. My children knew their classmates, with the focus on positive social interactions without the negative interactions that invariably come from a room full of kids under the supervision of one tired, albeit well meaning adult. They were able to work at their own pace, accelerating through content they understood quickly, and taking longer in areas needing remediation. The curriculum was mastery based and they could not move along to the next lesson until they proved at least 80% comprehension. They took brief computer quizzes to track academic growth week to week, showing progress or identifying weak areas so their teacher could offer other opportunities for enrichment. Learning using technology can be fun and engaging. We loved our experience and it laid an excellent foundation for my kids.

    Our family is normal in every way, but needed a virtual school option. Presently, my children out grew that need and are all enrolled in traditional brick and mortar schools. One in a full international baccalaureate program where he is a popular and very normal 14 year old that is a star basketball player. My other two are in local neighborhood schools where they are confident and excel both academically and socially. The virtual school laid an excellent foundation for them and allowed an opportunity for them to grow and develop at their own pace.

    I will be forever grateful for our opportunity and I certainly hope those on the Hadley School Committee will allow this innovative public school option to be available to enrich other children’s lives.

  10. Rick on March 21st, 2011 9:32 pm

    What did somebody go on a listserve and alert all the virtual school advocates to respond to this? Some of the metaphors don’t exactly resonate with me either but, overall, Chelsea is telling the truth: Virtual schooling is not healthy and we need to maintain a community-based education system.

    There are so many experiences that are lost by not attending a physical school. I work in the mental health field and everybody believes virtual schooling is too isolative and narrow for young,developing minds. Our children deserve better. Check out my guest column in The Daily Hampshire Gazette on Feb. 4th. Also wrote a response to a letter in early March. Thanks for raising this point Chelsea.

    Rick Mc NEil

  11. AbbyG on March 22nd, 2011 5:17 pm

    You wrote: In virtual school, you don’t have your next crush named Peter to impress next to you, you can’t go home and call up Sally and talk about how fat Mrs. B looked in that tacky red skirt…

    I went to brick and mortar school. From kindergarten through 12th grade kids tormented me about being fat. The whole school social scene was absolutely horrible for me. I wish that they had a virtual school at that point so that I could have been separated from cruel and insensitive people who judged and talked about other people based on their look.

  12. Elle on March 28th, 2011 5:03 am

    Virtual school: a sad creation by someone who refuses to admit that K-12 education is there to teach socialisation skills, and any learning that goes on is coincidental. Frankly the entire education system is a trainwreck, but the idea of sequestering children in their homes in front of a computer everyday is worse.

    And the parents who defend it with themselves; “our children have lots of interaction with us, the good and loving parents, and are so eloquent and well read for their age!” That’s good, they’ll have a full vocabulary with which to discuss their lack of friends, partners and innate social coping strategies.

  13. Sarah on April 5th, 2011 2:16 pm

    I agree with Abby G. Had I had the option of virtual school when I was in Elementary, Middle, and High Schools, it would have saved me years of emotional and physical torment at the hands of bullies. I do not doubt that my academic achievements would have been higher had I had the opportunity to study, research, and learn in a healthy and safe environment. As a plus sized individual, I really did not appreciate your ‘joke’ about calling Mrs. B ‘fat.’ Please refrain from such derogatory comments in future articles…if you’re even presented the opportunity to write future articles for the Collegian after this fiasco.

  14. John S on April 25th, 2011 4:09 pm

    I am amazed at all of the uneducated RESPONSES I’ve heard from parent’s and students – Bad grammar, sentence structure, etc, what a riot haha! I’ve been in virtual school since 7th grade (I’m in 11th now) and I must say that you feel VERY alienated from having any kind of a school experience. Unless you are some privileged kid with money that can afford to get taken to every club, meet up with friends that could be on the other side of the state, and all of the other stuff these educators said, you are pretty much in the house…on the computer…all the time. The only social skills you can try to improve are those on Facebook with whatever friends you do have (as your old ones will have forgotten about you).

    Yeah, I was in public school before I went virtual (6th grade was hell, the reason I left). I dealt with horrible teachers and even worse peers…but that was because I went to facade school, later on I found out that that school was one of the worst schools you could go to, we didn’t know that then. When I left I took Connections Academy in 7th and 8th grade, and I think that’s where most of the responses are coming from as Connections is a great program. But once you leave that secure program to go into virtual high school…It’s very different. When I went into the High School system of FLVS…everything changed. Hopefully you had a decent computer already that you could use for your work. And whatever responsibility you fostered over those years (which is not much because…oh yeah, you’re not in a public environment to really gain any responsibility! Oh sh*t!) I only had (have) my teacher contacts, and my knowledge of the web and the courses they gave me. No books, no rocks, no materials, it was all me. You don’t talk to your peers on a CHATBOX before the day, you’re lucky if you can reach one for a collaboration project, they are likely as busy as you are!

    There is no push to finish, no inspiration, you have to rely on your own self, and if you don’t have some kind of a plan to work towards you’re gonna be lost, and behind. There are so many psychological afflictions you deal with when you’re at your own computer. Like the temptation to check YouTube or your Facebook, or just a general lack of focus on your subject. And If you try calling your teacher for help, you better hope that the 100+ students they deal with aren’t in a conversation with them already, cause you’ll get their answering machine when you need them most…

    So I regret going into virtual school, actually, I at least regret not heading back into the high school public school system. Luckily I’m heading back for my senior year at a good school, but for all these years, being alone and with barely any friends is a lot worse than making a few good ones and having to deal with a bully here and there. Hopefully through your experience IN SCHOOL you’d learn how to deal with it! If you withdraw, you keep your same set of social skills you had when you left unless you find some kind of place to interact with other kids (good luck with that one social skill-less person who joined virtual school)! Don’t try virtual, your home will turn into your own personal cage.

  15. Daisuki on May 20th, 2011 9:59 am

    Hello, I believe you have the idea of virtual school all wrong. Maybe you were never a computer savvy person but either way, your instructors will give you simple directions for doing the work without getting a pain in the you-know-what from frustration. I’m in 8th grade for virtual school myself at the moment and I enjoy it quite a bit. To be honest I actually learn more from my online classes than I ever have in public school. You don’t have to pay 100% attention to what a teacher says and worry about missing anything, all the information you need is in simple text. Not only that but their flash mini games that you are able to interact with are very informative, entertaining, and even addicting at times. Now about the socializing with other people thing. It’s not like you can’t interact with other human beings outside of school. I have plenty of friends that I can go and hang out with at anytime. There will be no memories associated with the crucial learning process that develop who we are and how we view the world? That’s like saying no memory is developed outside of school. Plenty of things can happen anywhere that can cause a learning experience. How do you think children learned when school wasn’t around or when school wasn’t available for many? No teacher being cross with you? Actually, it’s their job to get on your bum about doing all of the assignments. I have monthly calls with my teacher and now at this time of the year, the calls turned from monthly to weekly. I also get email notifications from them if I missed an assignment or if they are just checking up on me to see if everything is okay. In my eyes, this is much better because my instructors are paying attention to only me and make time for me. Sure they have other students, but this allows them to speak to each of us individually without depriving another child. For my courses, sometimes a meeting is called for students in a class. We can pair up into teams, talk and help each other. There is even a “raise your hand” button in case you have a question. Very useful for group projects and if you need to be insisted with a lesson if your teacher cannot be reached at the time. They do provide material for projects and other things of the sort. Your supplies can be found in a virtual lab or in simple tools found on pretty much every computer. I don’t know about you but when I went to public school we always had to get the supplies ourselves, the teachers never gave us anything. So yay more money out of our parents back pockets. High five! As for plays and assemblies, we have those too. On the virtual school front page there is a tab that says “events”. You can actually go do things with other students such as being in plays. Virtual school DOES involve communication by speaking to one another. You have to speak to your fellow students, and to your teacher. No one nagging you to finish the last problem? Well MY virtual school uses the motto “Any time, any place, any path, any pace.” So basically we are allowed to choose our own pace. I just have to turn in a few assignments for each class a week and as I said before, the instructors get on your butt about it. As for you last paragraph, I’d have to disagree with you. Virtual school has been a better experience for me. It’s easier on my parents, and even my fellow classmates enjoy doing their work. In regular public school I’d get my hair pulled, I’d get pushed and called a cracker. The teachers never did anything, and all they cared about was getting paid. I never learned much from public school, and you’re probably thinking I just went to a bad one but no, multiple students that were in different schools in DIFFERENT districts had similar issues. The virtual school teachers actually want to teach us and they are there for us. However I do think the virtual school system is not for everyone. But from my experience it’s been fantastic. I hope you give a second thought to virtual schooling. Now my question for you is: Have YOU ever been in virtual school? You may have mentioned it and if so then I didn’t see it. If you haven’t and this is just a judgement based upon a glance then your argument is rather invalid.

  16. Carla S on May 23rd, 2011 5:24 pm

    This article would make some valid points if all kids were physically and emotionally capable of happily running out the door and to the bus stop. In many cases, parents turn to virtual school because their child is having either a physical or emotional issue when attending public school. Many times (as in my case) virtual school is an excellent solution to an obstacle that the child is facing. Very ignorant and narrow minded thinking in this article.

  17. K. S. on July 7th, 2011 1:08 pm

    As a recent Master’s graduate whose primary research was in the use of technology in education, I found this article misleading. Properly done, virtual education works well for many people though not for all; but neither does traditional, brick and mortar, instruction work for all! As with traditional schooling, students are likely to be successful when they are motivated and have the support of adults outside of school who can help them navigate the hurdles. As with families everywhere, not all families can afford extracurricular activities, and not all families have substantial knowledge of content or school expectations.

    An interesting comment in the article was about extracurricular activities and getting together with friends was the assumption that students in traditional schools live close to other students. For many years as a child I lived in a rural community, with few young people close enough to visit with (and they were not my friends). Because my interests didn’t coincide with those of most of my peers, school was an isolating experience for me; in contrast, the internet and availability of online interactions provides a wealth of interactions and opportunities to get support as a student as well as for social “fun.”

    I know that my friends who have taught in online learning environments are no less dedicated or skilled than other classroom teachers. In fact, some “virtual” schools require their teachers to be available in person regularly for phone calls, video conferencing or in-person tutoring. I agree with other comments — this author should do more research, even for an opinion piece such as this.

  18. C. Marshall on June 14th, 2012 10:34 am

    Well speaking from a parents point of view. Of one who has a child for the fourth year now in a Virtual Academy, you are right on some parts.Look if you will at the points you made what do they have to do with education. Math, Science , History, Art , Music..etc. My child has friends, has a crush , has play dates, the school he attends has group functions, and your Brick and Morter school allows him to attend school functions including sports. He works at his own pace and is making all A’s. The curriculum is better then public school , you do not have children falling thru the public school cracks because it Mastery based only meaning you do not go on till the lesson is fully learned. Their curriculum is Advanced my son just finished 6th grade with scoring commended on the State required Staar Test a 99 percent in Pre Agebra and 98 in Reading with a Word per minute score of 750 . I know when he graduates he will go on to make me proud , had the choice to go to public school and he chose to stay because as he said I am learning so much here and I feel that the public school would distract me from my goal. I am going to graduate a year early and get a good job. He will be taking forensic science this fall and he will be starting his second year in Spanish..He has numerous choices with no boundaries of rules to get in his way. If you raise your child right He/She will make the right choices we need to trust in our children , they might surprise you mine did.

  19. Marc on April 30th, 2015 10:54 am

    I will say this article is the best thing I have ever read. whoever these teachers are that are saying virtual school is the best your wrong. your just hating so jump off that train and realize we need society to keep us alive.

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