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Monday, March 28, 2011

Howard County Education 2.0 in the Digital Age

Everyone knows that there is a link between property values and good schools. Parents or prospective parents check test scores before deciding where to buy a house. This works to the advantage of housing in school districts that are seen as good and to the disadvantage of housing in less desirable school districts. Everyone in Howard County can tell you which county school district fits into which category. Real estate agents promote homes in good school districts and hope parents don’t look at test scores in other school districts. For persons moving to the county from out of state they check out the test scores before making a visit to look at houses. They don’t realized that in any Howard County school your child can get an excellent education that matches their ability. All they know about is “good school” scores, “bad school” scores.

In a previous blog I talked about how our educational model has remained essentially the same for a couple of hundred years with most instruction still being done in a classroom with a teacher in front of a class of 30 or more students. Teachers teach to the “average” student in the class that may have widely different abilities. Schools have tried to adjust with Gifted and Talented and Advance Placement courses but it is still teaching to the group.

We see technology changing the way we do everything. We email and cause the decline of the Post Office. We bank online and have little reason to ever go inside the bank. We buy books at Amazon and cause small bookstores to disappear. Amazon now sells more E-books than hardcover books. We read online and cause the disappearance of print newspapers and magazines.

How will this technology change the education model that has existed the past couple of hundred years? Education is now moving online. We have first seen this with the online universities like the well-known University of Phoenix and the University of Maryland’s University College. But now the online education is moving to the secondary level and that is what I would like to have everyone think how this might change the reality that I started this blog with—that school districts and housing prices are linked. Just think that you could live anywhere and have your children get the same education. Want to live in the mountains of Colorado and have your child educated with in the Howard County online system? Technology might someday make that possible.

I have a great niece in Pennsylvania who is being home schooled with a program called the Connections Academy. She is in 7th grade and gets her instruction online with other students from around Pennsylvania. What she sees on her computer is an instructor teaching online in real time. She has a headphone to ask questions of the instructor as if she was in the same room. The instructor directs students to online resources that expand on the classroom instruction. Class notes are online for students. The Connections Academy provides the computer, headphones and free high-speed connection for the family. The Connections Academy is an approved educational provider in Pennsylvania and the State pays the Academy for every student in the program. This means the State has to provide one less space in a classroom and that saves the State money. The Connections Academy is working to get licensed in more states. It is not available in Maryland right now but it is in development.

I would call what the Connections Academy is doing Online Education 1.0. It still uses the classroom instruction as its primary teaching method. What some of the possibilities with online education could envision is school instruction in almost unlimited subjects. We hear about the shortage of math and science teachers in our schools. Online schools could have math and science teachers teaching to many more students. Think of the range of classes that could be taught. Want to learn Arabic? How about having the instructor from a country where Arabic is spoken? How about a real life scientist (who knows maybe even a Nobel Prize scientist) teaching a high school science course online?

Even within the schools in Howard County you could have a teacher in one school teaching to all the schools online. With the television technology the teacher may be as big on the screen as if they were in the classroom. Students get sick—just tune into the class online. Snow days maybe a thing of the past. Summer school—as easy as turning on your computer. Having teachers going to suspended students homes or students with long term illnesses---gone! In developing the technology Howard County schools could contract with schools in other parts of the State to provide these classes to students in those counties and make money for the Howard County school system.

I would imagine some folks might be saying that this might work for high school students but not for younger age students and certainly not for students in kindergarten. I am not so sure. I have a grandson who has just turned one and I can put him on my lap and he grabs the computer mouse and moves it around the screen and clicks the mouse on the icons to make them pop up. I swear one time he even clicked on the X to minimize the icon. Maybe that was just luck but he also knows to pick up the remote control and point it at the television and push the buttons. The children today are going up with digital technology (I didn’t even mention video games) and they are going to respond to online education very differently than their parents.

As we move forward in the 21st century we might be seeing the end of traditional school building, traditional classroom, traditional classroom instruction and traditional education. Just think what states and counties could do with property taxes if they only had to provide online education and not build school building and pay for buses to transport students to schools? Better education at a greatly reduced price—isn’t that an attractive option? Even the social aspect of school can be provided on field trips and group projects.

I know that traditionalists might be thinking of many problems with these changes but isn’t that what people said with email replacing written letters when email started? Anyone want to go back to communicating by written letters besides the Post Office! How many people under 75 still write letters?

P.S. Video that all animal lovers will enjoy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btuxO-C2IzE&NR=1

10 comments:

Jessie said...

I write letters! Well, note cards. Quite a few, actually. http://americancitygirls.com/

Summer R said...

I think this is a great idea and one we need to explore. One thing that will remain an obstacle is that doing all the learning from home requires an adult to be home. For the many families where both parents work outside the home and for those single parents out there, there would still need to be a place to go and be supervised (I realize schools are not babysitters, but there needs to be some solution for this).

Other than that, I think it's a fantastic idea to share scarce resources. I can definitely picture foreign language being a prime candidate for this.

High school diploma online said...

I must say its a thought provoking idea.

duanestclair said...

Summer,
The issue of needing to have a parent home will be less of a problem when working from home because of the new technologies will be the norm.

Summer R said...

Duane,
As someone who works from home often, I agree, but some professions do not have that option (and will not for the foreseeable future). Still, it's worth it to think through how we can get around some of the existing obstacles in a new, creative way!

Mediaprophet said...

Most of us can't sacrifice an income so our kids can stay at home and facebook/youtube their classes and tweet their pop quizzes. Public school is half day care, half education. Teacher education reflects this with curricula moving toward a balance of half pedagogy and half classroom management.

duanestclair said...

Most of this technology may still take place in the traditional class room to begin but the movement will still move away from the traditional classroom as time goes by.

Nita Harris | Distance Learning Degree said...

I think the traditional schools will still be there in the distant future, but more people who want further studies will opt for online education.

duanestclair said...

Time will tell how long traditional schools will last but the trend will be more and more in the direction of online instruction. Teachers unions will try to delay the conversion because of the loss of jobs but as in other industries impacted by the digital revolution it will only delay the inevitable conversion.

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