Thursday, February 17, 2011

Grouping ... by distance

I studied abroad for a semester in Australia back in college, so I can attest that it is a rather vast country. A bus trip from Alice Springs to Darwin took several days, much of it through a vast and strange landscape filled with rocks, some desert scrub, and not much else. Of course, as in America, people live in the craziest outposts, and they have kids. And the kids need to be educated. And some children in small towns around Australia are gifted. How can the education system meet their needs?

One approach is distance learning. An article in the Central Western Daily called "Distance no barrier for gifted scholars" discusses the growth of the xsel Virtual Selective High School. Drawing students from an area the size of Germany, they can listen to lectures, and interact with teachers and classmates.

I think this is a great development, though I know that distance learning is often hard to get right. There is something very human about feeling closer to people when we see them face to face. I would imagine it is hard, as a teacher, not to feel more attuned to the children in front of you, rather than those elsewhere. On the other hand, as virtual conferencing software gets better, it can actually be done to a point where it looks like the people really are in front of you. It remains to be seen whether better technology will trick our brains into believing we are really there, but gifted education is a great thing to start with. After all, if the children aren't served virtually, they probably won't be served at all, unless they're willing to leave home for boarding school.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

We're using a distance learning method to homeschool our 15-year-old after the public school proved practically criminally hostile toward gifted education (actual quote from the principal during child's second grade year: "Your child passes the MSAs...what more do you WANT?!?!") and the private school was a bit better but at $25k/year tuition, was not feasible long-term.

We worried about face-time, so the child is also taking a college class in addition to the distance learning high school. Our experience with it has been just fine, and definitely superior to everything else we'd tried.

Online Diploma said...

We worried about face-time, so the child is also taking a college class in addition to the distance learning high school.