Friending your online classmates
Online education is forcing a rethink of entrenched education ideas—from seat-time requirements to class-size limits, from teacher training to the definition of a classroom. It’s also raising questions about what it means to have “friends at school.” In a full-time digital-education setting, kids might only interact with their classmates electronically: see each other on a screen, chat over Skype, play video games online. This loss of daily physical contact has some parents worried—especially as digital education pushes harder into the middle- and elementary-school spaces. To allay concerns, full-time virtual-school programs are taking some lessons away from cyberspace and back to face-to-face. So far, most of these socialization activities are educationally based. Field trips to local museums or neighborhood visits from high-tech mobile classrooms allow students to engage, in person, with both the content and their classmates. Still, some activities, like back-to-school picnics and prom, branch out into the social world. These programs seem to be successful. A study of both traditional and full-time online students in grades 2, 4, and 6 found the social skills of online students to be on par or better than those of traditional classroom students. Parents worried about your children’s social and emotional growth, go ahead and help yourselves to a slice of this magnificent virtual-education cake.
“Cyber Students Taught the Value of Social Skills,” by Michelle R. Davis, Education Week, January 7, 2011.
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