As I have continued to learn more and more about the education system, I have realized that there are alternatives to public school. Yes, I realized this much earlier, but I did not realize the extent to which these other options existed. I want to focus on one particular option in this blog post called blended learning.
Blended learning is the idea of learning using both in-classroom techniques as well as online learning tools to create a classroom, which can be made up of students of all ages, learning at their own pace. This technique is based on the self-direction of students within the classroom. This sort of intrinsic self motivation is the foundation and mode of the blended learning classroom.
The essential part of this schooling process is that students motivate themselves to learn. This is the part I have a problem really buying into. Do all students really have that motivation to learn? No. Will all students really take the time to set specific goals for themselves to complete within the week based on learning objectives? No. Could this program be implemented right now into the public school system and work? No. Many advocates for this program would argue that this is only because students have been taught in a traditional classroom setting for so long that they have lost hope in a schooling process that does not foster their sense of creativity. But honestly how many third grade children do you know that would be disciplined enough to set learning goals for their school curriculum? The idea of curiosity is key for a productive education, but will this sense of curiosity have enough fervor to keep students engaged over the school year?
I do like the ideal of fostering creative and critical thinking is so important for a well-rounded education. Students need the tools necessary to discuss opinions and ideas in a practical and productive manner, but that does not mean that this is all that they should be doing. Information needs to be given to students so that they are equipped with facts necessary to advance in their schooling. Having discussions is great, but learning material is also very necessary in school. Socratic seminars are very good and useful in the classroom, but students need to still have some sort of sense of information that they can utilize in their every day lives.
The Acton Academy is the school I looked at to research this type of schooling method. In their videos they talked about teaching their students how “to do” by going out into the world and experiencing situations, jobs, talking about ideas, basically learning as they go. While I still agree that these things are so very important in the development of a student as a person, they also must learn those fundamental skills like reading comprehension and math. These are things that cannot really be enhanced by going out and interning at a place of business. Some of these skills really do need to be taught to students. And if students are the ones creating their own curriculum how can we guarantee that these skills are being internalized?
The major hidden point in this idea of blended learning is the expectation of parent involvement. There is no way that a student could participate in this schooling program if their parents are not involved. These students have a ton of cultural capital associated with being of a higher socioeconomic class that allows them to participate in this program at a young age because they probably already came into the school knowing how to read, how to count to a certain extent, and how to behave within a classroom setting. These children know how to behave with an authority figure leaving them equipped to be able to participate in this program at their own pace.
Overall, it is an interesting notion that students are learning like this in the United States. It is really hard to measure the success rate of these schools because they are fairly new and there is not a lot of research associated with this type of learning. As time goes on I hope to see how these school persist and how the students do after they leave.
For more information and a look into the school I looked at: