Educating Through Technology
Once upon a time homeschoolers might have been considered old-fashioned. This is probably because of the stereotype that homeschoolers are generally homeschooling for religious reasons, sitting around a dining room table doing copy work from historical icons, and learning to read from old public school readers. Like all stereotypes there is probably some basis in truth but today’s homeschoolers are breaking out of that stereotype.
Today’s homeschoolers are often at least as technologically advanced as their traditionally educated counterparts. Part of the reason this is true is because homeschooled students are not sitting isolated in their homes poring over outdated textbooks but are studying the latest available material by means of technology. Many homeschooled students are taking part in distance learning, self-guided learning, and online curricula.
Distance learning or distance education is a method of presenting educational material through correspondence work, or lectures presented on the internet. It allows students to have access to professors and other specialists that might not be available locally. Students generally use the internet to attend classes and are not required to be present at the school at all.
There are many different variations of using technology for distance learning. Some courses are broadcast at a certain time on the internet and all students are expected to log in, similar to an online meeting site. This type of distance learning is called synchronous or live learning. Other courses are uploaded to the internet for the students to use when they have the time. This type of distance learning is sometimes called asynchronous distance education.
Self-guided learning is similar to distance learning. Some universities offer free courses online. While the courses are usually offered not-for-credit, they still represent a large body of information. Most of these courses are online, free, and often contain both video and searchable lecture notes. An example of this type of educational material is MIT Open Courseware. By searching the internet for open course ware it is seen that a number of prestigious universities offer similar open course ware.
Another option for self-guided learning is Khan Academy. Courses available there are not offered for credit. In fact, it might even be considered free online tutoring as many complex topics in math and science are broken down into easily digestible, short lectures.
While this coursework is offered on the internet for free and is a great way for a student to gain knowledge, it is generally not offered for credit. However, there is no argument that this work is an attractive addition to homeschool transcripts and can be a great preparation for taking college entrance as well as CLEP tests.
Online curriculum for homeschool students is offered from Pre-K through 12th grade. Sometimes it is difficult to see the difference between distance learning and online curriculum. Probably the main difference is that with online curriculum most of the instruction is presented online as well as most of the coursework. This online curriculum type of learning generally does not have a “live” instructor that the student answers.
Much of the testing is done by the program in the form of multiple choice or fill in the blank answers though in higher grade there are often writing assignments that parents will have to grade for their for their homeschooled students. Online curricula can be used for core education as well as supplemental coursework. One example of an online curriculum is Time4Learning.
There are many other opportunities for homeschooled students to take advantage of technology in their educational endeavors. The internet is, in some cases, taking the place of the library. Since many families no longer buy sets of encyclopedias the internet is a great research vehicle. There are many subject specific sites that provide instructional material as well as educational games. Homeschooled students often do not have access to the same textbooks that traditionally educated students do, so learning to use technology affords homeschooled students with opportunities to learn and expand their horizons that they might not have otherwise.
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