Is this the first "hybrid" kindergarten?

Amazing news from the Pittsburgh–the Post Gazette reports 4-5 year olds are being eased into schooling through primarily cyber-means.  After I catch my breath, trying to comprehend this total paradigm shift for kindergarten (now “out of the bricks and into the clicks” one of those quoted might say), I can see its logic.

The bulk of the kid’s learning is done one-to-one w/computers, working at home. [There must be stay-at-home parents in the Charter Cyber School].  Since mom or dad is increasingly transacting business that way everyday, this only makes sense. To build on the tools, and to use the communication platforms that these kids will be using anyway, and use them for educational ends seems a no-brainer.  Otherwise its all bad entertainment–why not deliver good content through the new media?

And how expensive is it to pay a kindergarten teacher and principal to be there when many of the activities can be done with the child one-t0-one with a computer? Think of the savings in public expenditure.

One thing I like about the PA Charter Cyber School is that parents–and hopefully as they grow later the children–are given choices:

Parents of PA Cyber children will be able to select from a menu of daily activities, choosing any or all, while still having all the regular online activities for their children at home.

Activities will be offered in time blocks from 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and will include some that are academic in orientation as well as lunch and playtime in the gymnasium and on the school’s playground. Parents can bring their children for the day or for specific programs.

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One sees later in the article, with relief, that important non-academics and group learning are still mandatory, and that special needs are accommodated at the regularly visited “Learning Centers.” Kids still presumably do fine arts, sports, and other healthy experiential learning in this “hybrid” setting. As readers of thewikiness know, I have observed how “hybrid classes” can succeed, although that has only been in a graduate school context. When the bulk of the learning is one-to-one,  hours-long sessions with a computer, hybrid classes always benefit from significant F2F (face-to-face) time.

I foresee these “Learning Centers” (where kids gather for required group and guided learning) as the schools of the future. The buildings, which will have large learning spaces like wifi parks and spacious libraries, would allow learners to disperse as well as convene easily; they will have the latest technology in their fine arts, digital arts, science, and learning laboratories and classrooms. The LC’s won’t be as numerous as schools are, but might be distributed among communities as hospitals and clinics are now. And, as has happened now with private, for-profit enterprises running hospitals, corporations will assume some of the public burden of education.  And teachers will be like medical staffs at rehab centers or hospitals–ready to take care of your emergent problems as they arise, able to place you in the appropriate ward where specialists can help your successful healing/learning.  As shown on TV, these medical staffs are overworked and stressed, but the public at least respects them.  Come to think of it, I don’t think they’re unionized, either.

Our economy is such that cost-saving lurches are inevitable.  As digital devices have vitiated other traditionally human human resources (bank tellers, postal workers, grocery store clerks), I think they will break up the schools. Public administrations are firing record numbers of public servants this year. Why should teachers be any different?

Do you see this as a feasible framework for public education going forward–a move toward a “clinic-school” that stands as a hub in a community, serving diverse learners who attend regular (but not constant) meetings in its walls, its practitioners like the hospital workers depicted on “ER”–respected professionals who are essential to the public’s health? And if it is the future, what unintended consequences might there be? Would you feel safe sending your child to a “hybrid” kindergarten?

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