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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Jeb Bush, Andy Ford debate value of online education



Any guesses who takes which side?

Florida and many other states are looking to expand their online school offerings as a way to save money while offering choices to students and parents. Sounds good at first blush.

But the arguments over whether digital learning is for everyone, or whether it even works at all, rage on. The Orlando Sentinel has posted a point-counterpoint by former governor Jeb Bush, who now heads a digital learning consortium (among other things) and FEA president Andy Ford. Here are some excerpts:

Andy Ford — "Research is lacking as to when virtual education is appropriate or if it has potential to go beyond simply training to more complex levels of curriculum and education. Learning isn't just about the memorization of facts. Teachers understand — and you probably do as well if you remember your greatest classroom experiences — that discussion, collaboration and working on projects together as a class can have a huge impact on student learning. Students are most engaged when they work in teams and wrestle together with complex topics. Collaborative problem solving, socialization and working with other people are key to getting along in life. That's much more difficult to achieve in an online environment." (Full piece here.)

Jeb Bush —  "More than 14 years ago, Florida recognized the value of using technology to bring quality, customized education and established the nation's first online school. The Sunshine State pioneered the digital-learning movement and has made strides using these valuable new tools to provide students with a personalized high-quality education. Currently, Florida Virtual School serves more than 150,000 full- and part-time students, and last year, lawmakers passed a law allowing virtual charter schools. But implementing technology into public education can't end there. As digital tools continue to advance, Florida has even more opportunities to enhance student learning, extend the reach of great teachers and promote accountability. We need to transform current education models and use available technology to maximize our teachers' skills and capitalize on our students' interests and capabilities." (Full piece here.)

Have you experienced online education? What are your impressions? The Times has reported how difficult it can be to measure the actual success of virtual school. We've all heard tales about how students have both finally accessed cool courses their schools didn't offer, and how students have gotten their friends or family members to do their work since no one was actually looking.

Is it time to expand the options? Time to pause and reflect? Both? 

[Last modified: Thursday, April 5, 2012 6:32am]


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