Online education is forcing a rethink of
entrenched education ideas—from seat-time requirements to class-size limits,
from teacher training to the definition of a classroom. It’s also raising
questions about what it means to have “friends at school.” In a full-time digital-education
setting, kids might only interact with their classmates electronically: see
each other on a screen, chat over Skype, play video games online. This loss of
daily physical contact has some parents worried—especially as digital education
pushes harder into the middle- and elementary-school spaces. To allay concerns,
full-time virtual-school programs are taking some lessons away from cyberspace and
back to face-to-face. So far, most of these socialization activities are
educationally based. Field trips to local museums or neighborhood visits from
high-tech mobile classrooms allow students to engage, in person, with both the
content and their classmates. Still, some activities, like back-to-school
picnics and prom, branch out into the social world. These programs seem to be
successful. A study of both traditional and full-time online students in grades
2, 4, and 6 found the social skills of online students to be on par or better
than those of traditional classroom students. Parents worried about your
children’s social and emotional growth, go ahead and help yourselves to a slice
of this magnificent virtual-education cake.

Students Taught the Value of Social Skills
,” by Michelle R. Davis, Education Week, January 7, 2011.

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