Edwin Tjoe

Director of e-Learning, St. John's University

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There seems to be a push for distance learning K-12 education.Should we replace traditional k-12 education with distance learning?

Everyone's heard of distance learning for higher education, but what about K-12. There are online public and private schools that are available online. When we tried to bridge the digital divide we may have taken things too far. Some would believe that this idea is bad because there is no physical education. However some would argue that this may decrease social interaction and the amount of bullying would be reduced. With so many variables to consider: are we improving learning?

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    Jul 29 2012: I think we're widening the number of tools to teach in certain ways. E-Learning has a LOT of potential, but what it does lack is the teacher-student and student-other student interactions.

    If E-Learning is watching some videos or tutorials, this is what I think:

    + private
    + 1-to-1 teacher lecture to student
    + has versatile tools (digital animations, typography, sound, slideshows, etc.)
    + convenient (can watch video whenever)
    - may not be social enough
    - lack of real-time feedback (if you're just watching video, you can't ask teacher questions)
    - can't communicate with other students
    - hard to do group projects or activities

    There are multiple ways of telling the same story to a student, you just need to find the right method of communication for that student.
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    Jul 29 2012: Distance learning, I believe, is an excellent complement to, rather than substitute for, classroom instruction.
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      Jul 29 2012: *agreed*

      I believe that there is no one best way to teach something universally.

      There are two kids I know who are both very smart. One kid is a very private guy, he likes to read a lot. Then the other kid is also very smart, but he's more of a people person. The first kid goes to the library to read a bunch of books. The second kid goes to the library to listen to a bunch of audio tapes instead. When I showed both kids a board game that they both liked, the first kid just wanted to read instructions rather than me explaining it. The second kid wanted to observe others play before he played himself.

      While that was a little off-topic to the original post, my point is, different people learn differently. There are extroverts and introverts, optimistic and pessimistic, booksmart and streetsmart, close-minded and open-minded, etc. What I think is there needs to be multiple ways of teaching the same content to address as many of these different kinds of learners.
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    Jul 29 2012: I believe there are far too many variables to guess at an answer, but distance learning provides far too much promise the be dismissed out of hand. I think it should play a part in K-12.

    I wonder if perhaps distance learning would be positive precisely because it discourages physical education, which has always been a tremendous distraction in American education. Really, what role has physical education ever played other than as a recruiting ground for the football team? I've never heard of any child that forgot to play physically because there wasn't a class.
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      Jul 29 2012: Oh, but I have known many who would forego more than trivial physical activity were it not for PE.