Issues raised on exposure of high school students to online classes

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Online education specially using online videos, involving social media will definitely inviting to young learners such as high school because of the emergence of technology usage. But parents must see to it that their children will not be exposed to unscrupulous website that may put danger into their lives.

The rush to put education online amid the coronavirus pandemic in this country and around the world, from K-12 to graduate school is unprecedented. Districts that have little to no experience with it are, within days or weeks, throwing together online programs for students to learn for an undetermined amount of time. As a result, complexities that ordinarily would be considered for such a shift may not have been given much early thought.

Basic technical issues are front and center, by necessity: the availability of online devices and Internet access; how lessons can be moved from face-to-face to virtual; how students can receive and turn in assignments; and how students will be “held accountable” by grades or papers now that the government has waived federal mandates for annual standardized testing.

Other complex issues may be getting short shrift in the immediate mass move to online and distance education. Here are some of them, along with what some schools and districts are doing to address them:

Security is always a big concern in the world of online education, and it’s heightened now with most of the nation’s school children doing some form of online schooling. Even before the mass rush to virtual education, security breaches with online learning were not uncommon. Now school districts and teachers are, in some places, offering students online portals that may not have been put behind strong filters.

Online predators are aware of what is happening around the country, and they are aware that children of all ages are somehow connected, it is really unprecedented. My advice to my colleagues is to do what we have done. We have strong filters to keep out adult content. And we are allowing students access only to our portal. They have to sign into our portal with a password and can’t engage in a chat with someone that isn’t in our suite of offerings.

Ergonomics:  School districts have been providing laptops for students for years, but many of them and probably most give short shifts to the proper way children should be sitting when they use them. The same goes for how kids use their computers at home. Although businesses have been creating ergonomically correct workplaces for their employees, students are asked to sit at a regular desk and use devices without thought being given to strain on their necks, shoulders and backs.

Privacy: You may be surprised by how much data about your child is being collected by schools and their vendors when your child is online. There’s the basic information name, email address, grades and test scores but also things you may not expect. Data breaches are not uncommon, and concerns are rising with the rush to online learning by millions of students. As schooling rapidly moves online across the country, concerns rise about student data privacy

Many ed tech offerings collect large amounts of data about students and do not employ adequate privacy or security measures. Experts have found ‘widespread lack of transparency and inconsistent privacy and security practices in the industry for educational software and other applications used in schools and by children outside the classroom for learning.’ malicious use of [student] data could result in social engineering, bullying, tracking, identity theft, or other means for targeting children.’” Personal data is collected on kids at school all the time. Here’s help for parents to protect children’s privacy.

Isolation: If you ask kids what they most dislike about being forced to stay at home during the pandemic, they probably will say how much they miss their friends. It’s no small thing. In classrooms, education is a social process, with students having to learn how to deal with one another and adults in ways that allow them to learn without having to be separated or sent home and for misconduct. A student’s experiences at school are among the most influential factors in their socialization. This affects young people of all ages. Older students may suffer even more from social isolation, experts say, because friends play a far more important role in their lives.

Effectiveness: There are excellent online programs and lousy online programs, and it is difficult to paint all virtual learning with a single brush, just like it is to do for brick-and-mortar schools.

Some kids are comfortable with being online or will learn quickly and have teachers who know how to translate classroom activities into virtual ones. Some students won’t be comfortable. Some teachers just aren’t tech-savvy.

What does the research say? That, too, is complicated. Available research looks at online programs, not unexpected shifts. Much of the research comparing the effects of online education with in-person schooling shows a negative effect on outcomes. But it depends on the population of students, and online education, relative to bricks-and-mortar, is still young.

What misses from being in class is “human interaction.” “Just talking to your friends, listening to them reasoning out their answers. Why they thought this interpretation for something was this and not something else. The constant push of the teachers looking at your work, pushing your ideas. That’s all important.” By LILIBETH C. ESCALO

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