Thursday, December 6, 2012

Guest Blog: Elaine Casap: Hybrid Schools

Technology has changed the way American society functions. Today we do research by using Google, learn about the news on Twitter and connect with people on Facebook. The world’s information can be available within seconds and anybody can access it. Location isn’t an obstacle anymore, the Internet is available almost anywhere. With technology being overbearingly powerful why hasn’t America’s education system changed? The education system has barely changed in the last fifty years and in most cases it has worsened. This is due to the lack of technology in the classroom. When technology is integrated in the classroom it is likely the technology is being misused. 

Many studies have been done on classrooms that use technology. The most effective way technology is used is when students individually do work with the teacher while utilizing technology. The most ineffective way technology is used in the classroom is when only the teacher uses the technology to teach with. In order for technology in education to be truly effective is when they are used together. There have been many instances where students learned on a whole other level because of the collaboration of technology 

 In the past couple years a new kind of charter school has been introduced to America. They are called hybrid schools, and they are on the rise. Hybrid schools have a curriculum that is completely online. Students learn everything based off a program and are able to learn at their own pace. Teachers still fulfill their teaching role but since they are not tied down with lesson plans and following the curriculum, they are able to give individual attention to students (Education Week). The schools still meet face to face every day. There are teachers on staff for the core subjects like: English, math, history and science. Instead of kids sitting down in a lecture the teachers meet up with small groups throughout the day and help them work with the lesson they are on (Education Week). Teachers are able to group students together based on assessments of the lesson the student is required to take. With this kind of learning experience students are constantly collaborating with each other, which is the most effective way to learn (Education Week). Hybrid schools allow students to have an ultra personalized education. Michael Horn, executive director of education at Innosight Institute agrees with the idea of hybrid schools, “our expectation is to educate every child successfully, then we need structure that is individualized and personalized. There is no way to do that in the way we have historically approached it,” (Education Week).

As a parent the idea of “online school” may be scary. Virtual school is ideal in some cases but it is hard for a parent to watch over their child. There is no secret that kids would rather choose not to work than work. That is why children have been sent to school for the last 200 years. So kids can receive an education and teachers can make sure they behave. This logic is what has allowed parents to work hours a day and not have to worry about the responsibility of their child’s education. Hybrid schools realize the importance of a formal structure for a child’s education. There is no denying that online only schools can lead to a lack of social interaction, which may be the most valuable thing about school (Education Week). Carpe Diem Collegiate High School and Middle School in Yuma, Arizona adapted hybridization. They understand the importance of technology in education and also the importance of social interaction. The school meets five times a week, like any other school. Except in the curriculum students utilize technology sixty percent of the day and have face to face time with teachers forty percent of the day (Education Week).

 One of the most successful Hybrid schools is, The School of One, in New York City (Good Magazine). Due to the hybridization every student learns at his or her own pace, there are no language barriers and no child falls behind. The entire school is organized to fit the needs of individual students (Good Magazine). The school provides eight separate programs, that means there are eight different ways the child can learn the curriculum. For example a child can be highly involved in collaborative group work and have little time involved with a teacher. Or a child can spend most their time with the teacher and a little time with individual work. Students are assessed everyday after they learn a lesson and through that assessment the teachers are able to see what works best for the student. The online program also has algorithms and these algorithms change if the student is having problems comprehending the lesson. The system will pick an entirely different way to teach the student. This could mean the student needs small group study; large group study, or maybe the student needs more visual teaching (Good Magazine).

A school like The School of One is revolutionary. The way our children are being taught through the public school system is wrong. America needs more schools like The School of One. With the tools being used in Hybrid schools, students are being more prepared for real life then ever before. They are learning how to utilize computers on their own, which is a skill set that is needed for the rest of their lives. The kids are able to learn at their own pace, allowing a child to never feel like they are not smart enough.

Realistically, the hybrid schools will never become the only method of education. However, there should be more research done to compare hybrid schools and public schools. With the data collected there could be real data to prove hybrid schools are better for the children. It would be ideal for the public school system to adapt some of the methods of hybrid schools. Public schools could start utilizing technology, teachers could recognize the importance of student collaboration and classroom sizes could become smaller. The public education should try to embrace some of the characteristics of hybrid school.

Hybrid schools are an ideal example of technology being integrated into the classroom. If enough parents see the benefits Hybrid schools have to offer the parents will demand it for their child. If there is enough demand then eventually the entire public school system will change for the better. Parents need to demand a better education for their child. A change can happen through the simple power of voting. Parents, don’t you want what is best for your child?