5 experts and 6 parents have answered
I only had to read the title to know what the responses would be! By far, the greatest misconception regarding home education and online learning is that a child is not socialised.
I have gone into this in some detail on my site in the post Home Education and Socialisation: Why it's not a matter of one or the other
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People are social animals. I believe we do need face-to-face and group interaction to fully develop.
I recently hired a college student, a friend's son, to do a day's work for me. He was polite and efficient, but he never looked me in the eye once, even when we introduced ourselves. And this young man is studying business! I would never entrust serious business to someone who can't even make eye contact (unless he were autistic or otherwise disabled, which was not the case with this youngster).
This is a common problem in the current generation: poor social skills. Educating students online alone will only exacerbate this problem.
EDIT (from a comment): The social dynamics of a real-live classroom involve attending to the teacher and one's peers. In order to engage, you must look and listen, wait respectfully for the right time to reply, tactfully disagree. Very little of this is required in the online classroom, where kids can ignore other kids, or submit their comments (relevant or not) at any time.
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I suppose a big one - at least the one I see the most often - has nothing to do with qualifications, lesson structuring, or any of that. It's the social side of education (whether that be primary school, high school, college, whatever) that is so important to a person's development, which is almost entirely absent in online learning. Or, at least, if it is, it's in the form of emailing or chatrooms or Facebook groups - which are all pretty great, but aren't the same as face-to-face conversations
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I concur with Tania. In fact, I believe for my child it offers more socialization. She attends full time virtual high school and has really blossomed. She no longer has to compete with overzealous children in a traditional class, she gets to interact with her peers and teachers in a respectable, technological way. The rules of engagement are enforced, for instance pressing a button to "raise your hand", and this allows each child a fair chance to be heard. The school mandates occasional collaboration lessons where the students are required to interact. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by students that don't behave in school, she now enjoys speaking her mind and meeting new friends. I have much love for her virtual school.
As for other issues, my biggest concern was an easy curriculum with teachers that think they've got it easy. I couldn't be more wrong. The teachers truly seem to be invested in my daughter's success and the workload is much heavier than in traditional classes. She is expected and encouraged to do her best. AND the teachers know if she's doing so...she's not just another kid in a desk. The smaller class size allows a more relaxed environment and more access to teachers if help is needed.
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Yes , I agree with Tom entirely. That aspect of face to face learning is hard to match. Thus I argue that online learning should be adopted at a higher class. The reason that comes to my mind is that the older students can find alternative ways to maintain social contact by forming neighbourhood groups or something similar.
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Unlike the rest of us, who I suspect don't (so far on this thread) have direct experience of online learning and homeschooling, Tania speaks with experience. And the simple maths in her excellent blog post point out how easy it is to make up for the child-to-child interaction lost from break times etc. Plus, having checked out her blog, I went on a google hunt and found this: http://www.homeschoolresourcecenter.net/articlehomeschooledkids_butwhataboutsocialization.htm
So, putting aside socialisation, what other potential issues are there with online only education? Well, my guess is that it's tough to replicate some of the learning through physical, playful means you'd hope schools should be able to give. That said, I'm already very conscious that rote learning etc. seems to take precedence over experimentation, logic etc. even for my five year old, even in a very warm, humane, good school. So we're making a lot of effort to top up on exploring the natural environment, moral quandaries and basic logic as we go outside the school gates - something presumably an online educated kid could do just as well.
I'd be curious to hear Tania come back and tell us what negatives she perceives - even her view, which largely seems very positive, must have some negative elements... I'm curious as to what they are...
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Interesting discussion. I would like to point out a few important misconceptions regarding children, socialisation, learning and online learning.
Social learning theory e.g. Constructivism, Phenomenography and Socio-cultural theories such as Communities of Practice (CoP) form the basis of learning in non-rote learning environments today. It places the child at the centre of learning where the teacher becomes facilitator and children learn through constructing their own knowledge; through discussions with their peers. A comparison between the traditional and the constructivist classroom highlights these: scroll down the page till you reach "Traditional versus Constructivist Classrooms" http://woodard.latech.edu/~kklopez/EDCI424/Theory%20Connections.htm
Traditional theories of childhood (and thus also the traditional classroom) posit that children are most visible being socialised. This view however parallels developmental psychology (Freud et al) and does not view children as active social agents living in the present. A new sociology of childhood emerged over the past few decades (1990's onwards), rejecting these traditional sociological and psychological theories. Children are actively constructing their own social lives and peer cultures and are no longer only understood through an adultocentric lens. http://magdachildstudies.blogspot.comhe/2012/03/growing-into-21st-century.html
Online learning is also vastly different to distance ed and home ed. Online ed is a systematic form of self study/independant study not under supervision of tutors and teaching behaviour is separate from learning behaviour. Online learning environments however are highly interactive and has constructivism and social learning theory as basis of learning. Whether the children are in a face to face situation; or whether they are online - they still form a community of practice means that they are learning very deep. An online environment furthermore often consists of children from various countries and backgrounds, bringing a rich source of viewpoints to any classroom discussions.
I researched the community building practice among learners in VLE's in 2007 and whilst these were directed towards adult learners, there are many parallels with childrenhttp://algcmagda.blogspot.com/p/thesis.html
People learning in online environments also engage other senses that the the traditional five senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. It is time that we all realise the magnitude of senses out there and acknowledge that online learning result in very deep learning indeed.
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Learning inside a solid structure, while sitting beside your peers is a great way to help young students understand and practice the values of respect, tolerance, listening to others opinion and proper social/professional behaviour.
I know plenty of home schooled individuals who've turned out perfect fine and social, however today's generation is unfortunately socially awkward, misbehaves more then it should, they do not value opinions nor know how to interact in new social or professional groups. I've had interns and co-op students who've been able to send me great in depth emails or interact well through WhatsApp or other messaging services, but when it came to in-person meetings or discussions they couldn't mutter a word.
I don't think that online learning is a bad or even counter social method of learning, how it is deployed and used by both students and teachers is the issue. Today the technology doesn't permit the same level of interaction as a in-class discussion would.
I personally recall the excitement and adrenalin I got when in school my business, politics or law classes would get into pretty heated discussions. Those discussions not only taught me how to listen to others but more importantly how to respond with a sharp and well formulate argument that everyone can understand. These are the skills which online learning cannot provide.
Until such a time that technology can provide the same level of interaction as a classroom can, then it will always be the underdog of learning experiences.
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Online learning is here to stay as it:
- Is available 24x7x365
- Allows for more choice, more control (i.e. students can select the type of media they prefer to work with and they can control the pacing of the delivery)
- When properly invested in, it can deliver interactive, engaging, multimedia-based materials with educational gaming mechanics built into it
- Has the potential to completely revolutionize how folks learn
Keep your eyes on the Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and what they morph into. Higher ed is getting into them and the corporate world is also beginning to experiment with them. Though they are half-baked at this point -- as it's like trying to drink from a firehose -- they will continue to get better and better. (See Disrupting Class by Chrisentensn, Horn, Johnson. It's been taking place and will likely continue to take place.) If IBM's Watson gets involved with MOOCs, look out!
However, in it's current forms/implementations, online learning requires a very disciplined learner; someone who is responsible and motivated -- a learner who doesn't need a scheduled face-to-face meeting/class to get the work done.
In my mind, if I were an employer, I'd look for the successful online learners -- as those will be the folks who will get the job done with very little supervision.
My 2 cents, Daniel Christian http://danielschristian.com/learning-ecosystems
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As someone who coordinates an online school in our district, I personally can say that online education is not for everyone. Student get the preconceived notion that when it comes to online learning they get to sleep in and do their homework whenever they want to. Although that may be true, there is a certain type of student that will excel in this environment.
In my opinion, the arguments for or against all depends on the type of child that is in an online environment. Some students love it because they do get to work at their own pace and are motivated to stay on task and work ahead. They get their social interaction through sports and other activities that they do.
On the other hand, online is not for students who think they are just going to use it as a way to avoid going to traditional school. You have to have the right environment at home and the right mindset to be successful online. At least that is my experience coordinating our online high school.
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Human interaction, having undertaken child protection training it is good to debate scenarios and actually do this face to face with other people, sometimes another person will read out something and point out key words which while we all read the same set of scenarios it is easy to mis or interpret things in your own way, the interaction helps see another viewpoint. This also happens in real time and you have a time limit to come to a conclusion.
I just find that level of interaction useful for courses such as this where you need to discuss things, other courses are fine such as heath and safety, maybe first aid courses are again where you need to role play to learn, (as in put others in recovery position)