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Statistically Significant

August 21, 2009

According to the NY Time Bits Blog, the U.S. Department of Education Report: Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in On-Line Learning states conclusively that: “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”
Wow.
It has always amazed me how schools can and do tout “technology” as a cure-all for modern day education ills, yet resist the most basic application of technology in the classroom – on-line learning. With textbooks reaching a digital tipping point (another post entirely) and schools considering staying open during flu pandemics because of concerns over lost instruction time, perhaps we should re-examine the benefits of the virtual classroom. New digital collaboration tools, webinar type chat rooms, instant messaging, Wiki’s, Blackboard and Moodle have launched new education environments that allow students to experience “learning by doing” – a more authentic way to learn than by traditional in-class instruction. And I am not talking about the widely-employed supplemental learning programs used to help struggling students. I am talking about using technology to reach the high ability student in the rural or urban classroom who may not have access to an accelerated curriculum otherwise. Having a math or science tutor visit once a week on a rotating school schedule to provide enrichment is a less effective use of limited gifted education funding than employing an accelerated math program for the same student (or group of students) who need a faster paced delivery option or higher level material. An on-line virtual classroom for high ability students modeled on the existing Talent Search programs, well, why does that have to be a pipe dream?

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