Online Learning: Making It Too Easy To Pass?

This is a guest post from longtime Oklahoma City teacher John Thompson, who writes on the Huffington Post and is working on a book.  What do you think?:Trip

The title of Trip Gabriel's New York Times article
on the potential value and dangers of virtual schooling, "More Pupils
Are Learning Online, Fueling Fears on Quality," provides a concise
summary of the issues. At its worse, online credit recovery becomes the
"click, click" quest for a free lunch.  My students derided credit
recovery as "exercising your right click finger," even as they often
succumbed to its easy way out.  As a teacher explained to Gabriel,
students have "a strong desire to pass," and they have an equally strong
desire to succeed.  If adults send the message that technology is a
cheap way to make pass rates look better, the kids will respond
accordingly.  If adults show they care enough about students' learning
to teach them how to properly use digital tools, young people will rise
to the occasion.  In the long run, I am confident that we will learn how
to use these digital miracles, but in this time of shortcuts to meet
accountability mandates,  computer systems are more likely to be
abused.  The initial reactions of commentators who do not want to heed
those fears about abusing online technology, here, here, here, and here, make me even more pessimistic in the short run.

- JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.

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  • In the last three years I have had two special education cases at the Chicago Virtual Charter School, CPS primary on line school which also does require students to be on site part time. Since parents of students with disabilities do not come to me when they are happy with services at a school for their disabled children I generally see only the negative side of schools in such situations. But here is my impressions of the school based on the two cases I have been involved with.

    The curriculum is very rigid and is fairly aggressively paced; it is very difficult for students with learning disabilities to keep up. In the one case I had the parent of a middle school student was working literally hand over hand with the student to complete assignments. The student was on independent testing slightly over two years academically behind. I did not believe that the program was appropriate for the student. But the parent enrolled the student out of frustration with traditional public schools and ultimately the student was placed in a private special education day school at the expense of CPS.

    In the other case I had the student had a significant psychological disability and the parent was tired of numerous suspensions and parent conferences related to the child. Academically the program was not a problem for the child, but the isolation that this student experienced dramatically reduced the student

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