K-12 Online Education Systems

With the rapid growth of technology in the last 20 years, the K-12 education systems in the United States look far different than many remember. Laptops and Ipads for students, entire public schools based entirely online, and online forums to assist in classroom management are now becoming standard in many public school systems.

Increasingly, technology is becoming a feature in K-12 education. (Photo by Sridgway)

Online public schools are becoming increasingly common in many states and counties throughout the United States.  Commonly known as “virtual public school” or “virtual schools”, they are administered many different ways. Some states and counties set up their own virtual schools, using curriculum and technology that the school board chooses. Other counties use existing programs, like K12 or  Connections Academy, to host their virtual public school systems.  Virtual public school students still maintain easy access to their teachers, for help with everything from technology questions to science labs. Some states use online access, with teachers available to answer questions via phone or email during school hours, while other areas have “afterhours” school centers, where virtual school students can sit down face-to-face with teachers to review problem areas.

At the elementary and junior high levels, there is debate over the use of virtual schools as full-time programs or as primarily supplimental programs. Whether full-time or supplimental, though, transfering between virtual and traditional schools is generally a simple process. For high school level classes, students in various districts are increasingly able to take some of their classes at the virtual school while maintaining enrollment at the traditional schools for other classes, in a process known as blended schools.  The use of virtual public schools at the K-12 level, while clearly not the best answer for every student, has benefits. Through enrolling eligible and willing students in virtual public schools, overcrowding issues in classrooms are reduced. Also, for students with chronic illnesses or whose parents have jobs that require travel, the portability of virtual public schools can reduce missed school days and frequent absences.

The use of laptops, iPads, and tablets in public k-12 education is also becoming commonplace. Various school districts are increasingly providing each student with a laptop or tablet. While an expense for the school, the use of laptops or tablets by students allows for teachers to use e-books instead of traditional textbooks. It also allows teachers to keep students more engaged with the process of learning. Students can use the internet to research and get interested in school assignments and forums and discussion boards add an additional element to class discussions.  In some school districts, where the school does not provide laptops, iPads, or tablets for every students, students are increasingly encouraged to bring their own tablet to school. Though encouraging students to bring their own devices, the school is able to ensure that all students have access to portable electronic devices. This allows teachers to use things like email, blogs, e-book, and other forms of electronic media in educational applications.

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