Defending the family

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Teachers Union: DO NOT READ THIS (kids and parents sneaking schoolwork online)

Kids live on the Internet. Why aren't they learning online too?

Katherine Mangu-Ward from the August-September 2010 issue of Reason magazine says:

I know a 3-year-old who's a master of online multitasking. Give him an iPhone, and he'll cheerfully chat you up while watching YouTube cartoons or playing an alphabet game. In 2010, toddlers start consuming digital information not long after they've started consuming solid food.

Now take that kid, tack on a handful of years, and drop him into a classroom. A child who was perfectly content with a video stream, an MP3, and a chat flowing past him is suddenly ordered to sit still, shut up, and listen while a grown-up scrawls on a blackboard and delivers a monologue. And school is even worse for the older girls down the hall. The center of their universe is on social networking and chat sites, so spending six hours a day marooned in a building with no WiFi is akin to water torture. The same pre-teen who will happily while away hours playing Scrabble with her friends on Facebook dreads each Thursday afternoon, when she will be forced to laboriously write out a list of spelling words in silence alongside two dozen peers.

During the last 30 years, the per-student cost of K-12 education has more than doubled in real dollars, with no academic improvement to show for it. Meanwhile, everything the Internet touches gets better: listening to music on iTunes, shopping for shoes at Zappos, exchanging photos on Flickr.

Even with school hours offline, kids are logging plenty of computer time. A January study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids spend an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen. The knee-jerk response is to lament those lost hours and hatch schemes to pry the kids' hands from their keyboards. But that's the wrong approach. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em: Let kids stare at a computer screen until their eyeballs fall out, but add more educational material to the mix.

A growing number of kids and their parents are figuring out ways to sneak schoolwork online.

More than 1 million public school students are enrolled in online classes, up from about 50,000 a decade ago. In Florida, nearly 80,000 kids take classes in the state-sponsored Florida Virtual School.

Virtual charter school companies such as K12 Inc. provide full-time online education to 70,000 students in 25 states. Hundreds of small, innovative companies are springing up, vying to combine learning with the power of the Internet. Nationwide, 17 percent of high school students report having taken an online course for school in the last year; another 12 percent say they took a class on their own time. Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, co-author of Disrupting Class, a seminal 2008 book about online education, estimates that half of all high school courses in the United States will be consumed over the Internet by 2019.

Much more at Reason