Thursday, August 26, 2010

El Ed Chapters 7 & 8

I found these chapters very interesting and informative because they propose ways of using word processing in the classroom that are very different from my own experience in elementary school. In fourth grade, I did the Mavis Beacon typing class, but other than that, my only memory of using word processing was to type up pre-written reports at home. Word processing was not regularly used the classroom.
In these chapters, however, the author presents many ways to integrate word processing into the regular language arts, math, and social studies curricula, which I think is very useful. I especially like the Virtual Email activity on page 97. When I was in elementary school, we did a similar activity in which we wrote letters to historical figures. That was a very useful activity because we not only researched the historical figure and displayed our knowledge, but also practiced social activism by writing the letters and were able to hone the real life skill of letter writing in the process. I think it is fantastic that this exercise is given a tech-savvy makeover in this chapter. The children in classrooms today will most likely write more emails than letters in their adult lives, so practicing email conventions is extremely important.
I also appreciate the point the author makes about children being able to edit and embellish more easily when using word processing. Even as a college student, that is very important to me. I always type my assignments rather than handwriting them because it is easier for me to get my thoughts down then rearrange them, explain them, and correct them using a computer. I think that teaching students that skill at an earlier age will definitely be to their advantage.

Virtual Schools

This article discusses virtual schools in Oregon. While only 1% of students in Oregon are currently enrolled in an online public school, there has been much debate in the state over the place of these schools among the already existing brick-and-mortar public schools. The article explains that virtual schools "employ teachers who provide lessons online using electronic documents, videos, e-mail, telephones and Web cameras." This sounds like the epitome of using technology outside of the classroom, but members of the Oregon Board of Education worry that this development could be harmful to the existing schools because their funding is based on enrollment, so if too many children opt to enroll online, schools will lose funding. So, the questions they have been debating are whether or not they should cap the number of students that can choose that option, how the virtual schools should be funded, and how the virtual schools should be managed for quality. I, however, am stuck on the question of whether or not it can actually be beneficial for individual students to attend online schools. Maybe I'm just being old fashioned, but I feel like kids need daily interaction with people other than their families in order to develop socially. Even most homeschooled children interact with other kids ad adults through park district programs, church events, or academic clubs. Will that be the case with students of virtual schools? Also, there will probably come a time when those students attend a real school, even if it's not until college. And at that point, I imagine the students would be unprepared to work with others in a classroom, share a professor's attention, or use a regular textbook.