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Perspectives of Online Learning: From The Classroom Walls to the Digital Space

By Mr. Jeffrey Holt:

As with most things to do with education, online K-12 learning has both negative and positive perspectives. Certainly, for students who need credit recovery, live in remote locations, suffer from medical maladies, or need multiple representations of content, online learning can, and does, create lifelines to education and training. “Although online programs and schools are growing and finding their place in the global context, these programs and schools are both welcomed and rebuffed because they demand new ways of thinking, inherently redefine place and time, and challenge traditional constructs that are predictable and accepted” (International Society for Technology in Education [iste], 2007, p. 186). Human social development has been the result of key technology shifts throughout history. It is difficult to say for certain that current interest and development of K-12 online learning is a true shift in civilizational and educational development, but it is beginning to look as though we are at the beginning of a new chapter in education and headed in a new direction. In the past, major transformations in technology changed culture, social interaction and economic situations, which in turn, created new opportunities and challenges. Generally four major developments are seen as periods of great technology breakthroughs: speech (40,000 BCE), writing (10,000BCE), printing (1600), and the Internet (2000) (Harasim, 2012). The Internet is the technology that has preceded and empowered new models of education, learning, training and knowledge-based economies.

The development of Internet based online K-12 learning has created real opportunity in education. As some of the cultural tools change, students adapt to the use of these new tools. Near constant exposure of today’s students to the Internet, computers, iPhones, iPads, and digital media has created real opportunities for educators. Students are able to use these new cultural tools to communicate at great distances with different cultures and languages. This interchange and exploration between cultures, languages, and societies has the potential to create rich and meaningful learning for students. One of the largest potential benefits of online learning is the flexibility it affords the student in choosing options that match the personal learning preferences of the student. Unfortunately, true customization for individual learners in the k-12 setting has not been fully developed yet. Too many of the programs available at the high school level are prepackaged, one size fits all, types of programs that are really more behaviorist conditioning models of education. The true individualization of education based on particular student need and innovation using online learning is something that will truly change how education occurs, but this is something that has not been fully realized.

While many benefits of online education can be articulated such as: flexibility, access to greater educational options, credit recovery, additional electives, advanced placement access, ability to constantly check progress, and individualized curriculum, some feel that real potential pitfalls are ever present (Rice, 2012). Some fear that technology may take the place of traditional classrooms and that there will be a supplanting rather supplementing situation of the educational system (iste, 2007). Others feel that credit recovery classes may have curriculum that is much too easy to bolster graduation rates (“Technology in schools,” 2011). It is difficult to make direct comparisons, but “… classrooms in the highest performing countries worldwide involve little more than a chalkboard and overhead projector” (“Technology in schools,” 2011, para. 6). Further, it must be examined that, “Finnish students start going to school a year later than American kids, and they do less homework on average. Standardized tests are rare. And yet, in 2006, Finnish teenagers ranked first in math and science among 30 countries. The United States ranked 25th” (“Technology in schools,” 2011, para. 8).

We need to unlock the potential from within the students and have them feel empowered. More interesting and powerful connections should be made between the technology that surrounds the students and their learning. All students seem drawn to technology, but we need to find a way to harness and use this attraction to drive their learning. It would seem that we are truly on the cusp of true innovation in the realm of education. Is technology and online learning really an agent of change for our students? Only time will tell, but we do not want to be in a situation of “…trading teachers for technology” (“Technology in schools,” 2011, para. 1).

“This week’s blog post was written by Mr. Jeffrey Holt who was named “Teacher of the Year” not once by twice!  His students are fortunate to have his wisdom and talent at Santana High School in California. (Dr. Dickenson, 2015) ”


Harasim, L. (2012). Learning theory and online technologies. New York, NY: Routledge.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2007). What works in k-12 online learning (1st ed.). Washington, DC: books@iste.org.

Rice, K. (2012). Making the move to k-12 online teaching. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Technology in schools: Weighing the pros and cons. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/22/technology-in-schools-wei_n_772674.html


About Dr. Dickenson

I am an assistant professor of Teacher Education at National University in San Jose.


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