By SUSAN WAITE
In response to the column entitled “Not Yet Ready for the age of the Robo-teacher” (Progress, June 13, 2012), I was saddened by your portrayal of an online virtual education. From your description, it is clear that this type of education did not work for your student and your family. You do not say exactly which school you were involved in, and there are several in Nevada and all over the country.
I am employed by one of these schools, and I can say that the parent involvement in this type of education is crucial. Without parent involvement, the percentages of success are much lower.
For you to expect a teacher to virtually be able to teach your child everything, everyday, is not realistic. Even in my math course, just because a student is ‘logged in’ and ‘present’ in the live, online class, I cannot assume they have paper and pencil and are on task at their computer during the designated class time. I do not know if every student even remains sitting in front of the computer screen for the entire class.
Although I ask for and encourage student participation, I do not always get a response from every student. This is also true at a brick and mortar school. A teacher cannot always be sure his students, sitting in front of him at a desk, are paying attention and ready to learn.
The curriculum offered by my school is top-notch, and does allow for students to move on more quickly, or at a slower pace, within reason, if needed. The curriculum offers many opportunities and avenues for student learning and mastery, at the instructional level of each student. It is up to the parent (or designated ‘learning coach’) to decide what opportunities and how much practice is required for their particular student to achieve mastery, and then move on.
We encourage students who have difficulties with any lesson, in any subject, to get in touch with their homeroom teachers for assistance. Our virtual setting does use an interactive curriculum, with a “host of interactive, multi-media tools”. Our curriculum is provided by K-12. K-12 constantly reviews, revises, and updates the curriculum to better suit the needs of students and families.
No, these on-line lessons are not teacher-led, which is part of the beauty of our program. This allows students to work at the time of day that is best for them, and at the pace they are comfortable with. Our teacher-led lessons are thoughtful, instructional, on-line sessions based on previously identified areas of difficulty for students in a particular grade level subject. Students are given the opportunity to interact virtually, from the comfort of their own home, with the teacher and other students. Students can speak with a microphone, use the chat box to type questions or comments, and even use whiteboard tools to work out math problems, etc. right on the screen for teacher evaluation. Live sessions are recorded for students who, for whatever reason, cannot attend the session at the designated time. This allows a student the opportunity to view the lesson at a time more convenient for them.
Frankly, for you to suggest that a teacher can individually teach your child at his/her pace is unrealistic, as well, since each student is allowed to work at their own pace. This constant one-on-one instruction would be called a tutor. With 60+ students, I cannot teach every subject to each student individually, since no two students are on the same lessons and/or at the same level.
Our online teacher-taught lessons are designed to help the majority of students in the more troublesome areas. We also offer additional remediation classes for smaller groups of students, based on where teachers see the most need in student achievement. Our teachers also make themselves available to individually help students in areas requested by the student and/or the learning coach.
As far as your student being assessed and diagnosed, my particular school has several assessment tools we use to determine a student’s course placement. In order for teachers to assess and diagnose, timely commitment to participation from the student and family is necessary in required school assessments and work samples.
Again, I am saddened, and sorry, to hear about your experience. Fortunately, not all families who choose to attend a school of choice in a virtual setting have such a negative feeling as you.
This is what should be kept in mind: virtual schools are schools of choice. These schools are bound by the Nevada Department of Education by-laws concerning distance education. Our school hires highly qualified, state licensed professionals.
Personally, I resent my position as a teacher in a virtual school being referred to as a ‘Robo-teacher’ by anyone. I am a real person who strives to develop real and lasting relationships with the students and their families assigned to my classroom. I try to have open, two-way communication with my students and families and do my best to understand their needs and concerns, as well as help them have a successful, educational experience.
I do understand that this school of choice did not seem to be a good fit for you and the frustrations that come with that. I hope others realize that just because a virtual educational setting did not work for you does not mean it is not a good opportunity for another.