Many people–many educators–think the problem with virtual schools is that they are virtual. The problem with virtual schools is that they are schools. But I am getting ahead of myself—more on that later.
Future Learning: Just-in-Time, Mobile, Self-directed, Simulation-based
I think I can tell you what learning will be like in the future. Learning will be more mobile–that is, rather than simply the fact that mobile devices will be used for learning, the important point is that learners will be more mobile.Learning will be more informal, and self-directed–and learning will be more inquiry- or project-based. Learning probably also will be more simulation-based. Therefore, learning will be more about what the learner wants to know, when he or she wants to know it (i.e., just-in-time learning), using resources that make sense to the learner (i.e., more individualized and personalized).
Learning versus Schooling
As I said, I think I can tell you what learning will be like in the future. What I can’t tell you is what schooling will be like. In the near future–say, the next decade–I think schools will look pretty much like they do today. Teachers will be doing pretty much what they do today, and school administrators will be doing pretty much what they do today. And students? Well, today, they don’t really have a lot of say about what, when, where, or how they learn in school. Will that be the same in future schools?
Testing versus Schooling
Looking back over the past ten years, it appears educational leaders and policymakers are moving away from the things that will make learning more effective and efficient in schools. Our schools are more concerned today than a decade ago with testing, teaching, and graduating students, which are somehow equal to skills and knowledge acquired in school. Oh, and did I mention schools are more concern with testing students today than ever before?
Virtual Schools: Emphasis on Education
Virtual schools have a chance to be better in 20 or 30 years, as do all our schools. Most brick and mortar classrooms are structured for teacher-centered approaches to education, while virtual schools are structured more for learner-centered approaches. I like the idea of virtual schools because their delivery systems are set up to do some of the things now that learners crave: digital, networked, multimedia-based, and online learning with less dependency on local teachers. In fact, in most cases, less dependency on other people altogether and more responsibility on themselves for their own learning seems better to me.
As I have often said, when thinking about how virtual schools should work, the emphasis should not be on the virtual aspect but rather on the education aspect. The problems needing solved are educational problems, not specifically distance education problems. Or rather, the problems are the same. We don’t lack technological solutions for delivery of education, we lack vision for where we want education to be 30 years from now.
Thirty years from now: two generations. While I can’t tell you what schooling will look like then, I feel confident that I can tell you what learning will look like as we move toward that time. Hopefully, virtual schools will focus on the learner and learning by then.
- A National Primer on K-12 Online Learning
- Crossing the K-12 Digital Divide: Understanding and Playing in a Complex Market
- How Online Learning Is Revolutionizing K-12 Education and Benefiting Students
- Online Schools: The Changing Face of K-12 Student Learning
- Technology Counts: E-Learning Opens New Doors for School Improvement
- Virtual Schools: Planning For Success
- Virtual Schools: What Every Superintendent Needs to Know