Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs

On-Line Learning Going Mainstream: Parents Getting It

CJ Westerberg, January 3, 2011 2:57 PM


by C.J. Westerberg

When I decided to have my tween "opt-out" of a Spanish class mid-year to do Rosetta Stone instead, (with the school very cool about it), other parents looked at me with wide eyes and jaws-dropping.  "Wha'??  Why?  How?"  

She tried it and liked it better, plus she can continue through the summer and when she is out sick/weekends. 

When I asked my daughter what she liked about it (after more grilling from parents - not even from the same school or even state!), she said, "because I can work at my own speed. . . .going back if I need to . . . and it's not a big deal".

What a concept.   A bit more background? 

We tried it briefly this summer as an enhancement but since it did not parallel with her Spanish class once the school year started, we stopped doing it.  When there was a change in teachers mid-year, and with my observing that she was spending an inordinate amount of time memorizing spanish nouns and verbs for homework, it was a "just do it" moment.  For me, as a parent, I thought she was spending way too much time in low cognitive (memorizing and regurgitation) mode for Spanish homework when SHE wanted to spend more time writing, reading and reviewing other subjects where higher thinking skills were required (not her words, my observation).  Plus, she liked the immersive, on-demand quality better (!) at this point in her learning mix of subjects.  It was her second year in Spanish, having French earlier in school.

An experiment?  Yes, of sorts.  But is there a huge risk since it is middle school language AND her request . . . and how proud she is "taking charge" of her education?  Isn't that a new kind of motivation? 

Sounding radical?  Not really.   Education will become more and more "component-like" before we know it - differentiating to help students and teachers - with technology spearheading the movement.

Does she want to substitute on-line learning for EVERY subject?  No.
Would she want to enhance her other in-class subjects with on-line?  Probably.

The education game has changed.  Parents and educators have more options so it's a good thing to know what they are - - -

Rosetta Stone is not inexpensive nor is it free.  Also, this is not an endorsement or paid ad.  There are other available options -

Contrary to stereotypes, on-line learning is NOT just text on a page, flashcards on a screen, or
boring exercises pretending to be fun games.  We've come a long way since the original educational software from even a few years ago.

Let us know what is working and what isn't at home -

The New York Times weighs in on this free, on-line course boom with an "Education Life" special section - link here.  Excerpts from the main story, "An Open Mind" :
But just 9 percent of those who use M.I.T. OpenCourseWare are educators. Forty-two percent are students enrolled at other institutions, while another 43 percent are independent learners like Mr. Gates. (Ed. Note:  Bill Gates is a fan)  Yale, which began putting free courses online just four years ago, is seeing similar proportions: 25 percent are students, a majority of them enrolled at Yale or prospective students; just 6 percent are educators; and 69 percent are independent learners.

The backers of free courseware acknowledge the benefit of self-enrichment. Still, they say they expect open education not only to expand access to information but also to lead to success in higher education, particularly among low-income students and those who are first in their family to go to college.
The overview:

". . . .Professor Diamond is one of the tweedy celebrities of cyberspace. Videos of her anatomy course, Integrative Biology 131, have been viewed nearly 1.5 million times on YouTube, where they have been available since 2005 to anyone with an Internet connection. Some of the world's foremost scholars are up there for viewing, tuition free. From Yale, you can tune into an economics class by a professor with his own home-price index, Robert Shiller, or a course by the Milton scholar John Rogers. The undisputed rock star academic is Walter H. G. Lewin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who flies across the room to demonstrate that a pendulum swings no faster or slower when there is an added mass (Professor Lewin) hanging at the end.

A decade has passed since M.I.T. decided to give much of its course materials to the public in an act of largesse. The M.I.T. OpenCourseWare Initiative helped usher in the "open educational resources" movement, with its ethos of sharing knowledge via free online educational offerings, including podcasts and videos of lectures, syllabuses and downloadable textbooks. The movement has also helped dislodge higher education from its brick-and-mortar moorings. . . "

Let us know what you've experienced with any of these freebies . . .

Originally published by The Daily Riff April 2010

On-Line Enrichment:  A Summer School Alternative

What "Blended Learning" Looks Like:  School of One

Jeb Bush:  Digital Learning Takes Center Stage



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