Posts Tagged ‘On-line learning’

Upbeat Article on Virtual Learning Overlooks Several Obstacles that MUST Be Addressed for it to Work Universally

October 23, 2020 Leave a comment

Freelance writer Amanda Woytus’ JSTOR upbeat post, “Does Virtual Learning Work for Every Student?“, overlooks several elements of virtual learning that are very problematic. That’s too bad because many of the ideas she presents could be applied universally if the gaping holes in her analysis were addressed. But by overlooking them, she ends up with an article that reads like it was written by a shill for technology corporations.

Roughly half of Ms. Woytus’ generally favorable analysis focuses on the benefits of the flipped classroom, whose efficacy is generally supported by research but whose applications are largely at the secondary or post-secondary level. Ms. Woytus also bases some of her analysis on the Calvert School, a 231 student private secondary school in Baltimore, MD. Finally, much of Ms. Woytus’ analysis is based on mathematics, a course that lends itself to the hierarchical scaffolding that virtual learning does best. By basing her analysis on these three elements, Ms. Woytus misses four of virtual learning’s gaping holes: teaching primary students; teaching subjects that are not hierarchical but rely primarily on interactions with other students; reaching children who are unfamiliar with technology; and reaching children who are unable to get technology.

I am learning from the experience of tutoring my 8-year old grandson in mathematics that it is imperative that the teacher be able to look over the shoulder at the work of children as they develop their basic skills. There are ways this could be accomplished, but the software being used by the schools needs to bake this kind of instruction in.

Mathematics, science, grammar, and other hierarchical content is easy to convert to virtual learning… but the facilitated discussions that result from a master teacher’s analysis of a poem, a piece of music, or a thoughtful video or movie cannot be easily replicated on line, especially if “efficiency” is the ultimate goal and, as Ms. Woytus suggests, standardized test scores are the ultimate metric. Without the opportunity to engage in discussion the learning opportunities are greatly diminished.

The inability of students to use technology easily is related to the students’ access to technology, and several posts on this blog and several articles in multiple national publications decry the lack of access to technology among rural students and poor urban students. This issue of inequity is completely by-passed in this article. I believe it should be mentioned in ANY assessment of the universal use of technology since it is an obstacle that CAN be surmounted IF funding for broadband access and computer hardware and software was a national priority.

As noted above and in some posts on this blog, the flipped classroom has promise and hierarchical content can be delivered very effectively online. Their promise of remote learning as universal means of instruction, though, can only be realized if the inherent obstacles mentioned above are addressed.

Plunging Freshman Enrollments, Challenges for Working Women = Worsening Inequality in All Levels of Schooling

October 16, 2020 Leave a comment

Today’s NYTimes education section aggregates a series of reports from various sources and they all indicate that Freshman enrollments across the country are plummeting… but especially in the schools that serve the students with the greatest financial challenges. As this article by Shawn Hubler indicates, Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported Thursday is stunned at the effect on community colleges:

Undergraduate enrollment, he said, was down in every region and at every type of institution except four-year, for-profit colleges, with first-time students accounting for 69 percent of the drop.

But the “staggering” news, he said, was from community colleges, where the 22.7 percent enrollment decline from last year eliminated what had been “one of higher education’s bright spots.” In the 2008, recession, he said, community college enrollment went up.

Compounding the problem is the fact that with no government sponsored child care for working parents, the shift to remote learning is having an adverse impact on women who work. Times reporter Jessica Grose offers this summary of the problem:

Though we can’t be sure that what’s going on is entirely because of parental status, both economists I spoke to thought the dire situation for women was related to remote learning and the lack of child care availability.

“The drop in female labor-force participation was quite dismal and not surprising with the return back to school not happening,” said Betsey Stevenson, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, as most of the biggest school districts are fully remote, and even many hybrid models provide a paucity of in-person learning….

Because of the outrageous expense of child care in the United States, even before the pandemic, “women with young kids in many cases pay to work,” said Stevenson, which is to say, they’re paying more for care and other work-related expenses than they’re making in salary.

So now Mom isn’t making ANY money… which hardly seems like a good trade off in a time when rent and credit forbearance are about to come to an end…

The pandemic is making it clearer and clearer that several agreeable fantasies the MAGA voters were sold are not true at all…. and the children in K-12 schools and those striving to improve themselves by going to college are paying the cost.

Charter Schools Are Making “Least Bad Decision”… and Staying Remote

October 14, 2020 Leave a comment

As readers of this blog realize I seldom agree with the founders of for profit charter schools. But.. as this quote from a profiteer and my earlier posts on this issue indicates, a couple of the major charter chains made the right decision this time.

Charter leaders say they’re responding to many of the same pressures facing districts, including the safety concerns of parents and staff, many of whom are Black and Latino, and the daunting challenge of teaching students during a pandemic no matter which path they choose.

“My mantra now is, what’s the least bad decision,” said Richard Buery, the president of Achievement First, a charter network in three states.

So in NYC the unions and the anti-union charter schools are on the same page: safety and caution are needed when so much is unknown and lives might be at stake.