More than 1 million U.S. elementary and secondary students now take all or part of their class load online, according to The Sloan Consortium. That is twenty times the amount from 2000. Forty-four U.S. states offer online education to elementary or secondary students, and experts predict that in 10 years, half of all classes will be online.
That is why author Lisa Gillis is providing insight and advice for parents who are raising children in this new, unfamiliar environment in her new book “Virtual Schooling: A Guide to Optimizing Your Child’s Education” (Palgrave Macmillan, $15.95). Gillis is the director of government affairs and school development for Insight Schools, Inc., the leading network of tuition-free online public high schools in the U.S., and she has drawn upon her twenty-five years experience teaching and parenting produce a practical guide for parents who wish to navigate the virtual educational complex surrounding them.
The new theme that technology brings to education is the same one it brings to everything else: personalization. We now have a wealth of varied educational options available to us from our homes, and as always with the internet it’s just a matter of us taking ownership over the chaos of options out there, educating ourselves (as painfully redundant as that is in this context) and making the appropriate choice.
Gillis, a mother of identical twin boys, has some experience with the challenges of childhood education. While her one son Stephen excelled in school, his brother John fell behind due to significant congenital vision challenges. After exhausting herself with traditional school programs, Gillis decided to adopt an individualized learning program for John, and she would like to share the success she had with other struggling parents out there.
This will be helpful in today’s complicated educational environment; an environment which increasingly brings to mind certain science fictional notions of children, and imagining what it was like to all gather together in a great hall of learning. I wonder if Gillis’s book will be the one that Tommy and Margie find.