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Star Trek Schools

November 20, 2012

Independent Voices today carries a piece by Amol Rajan that has really got me thinking.

He writes about the possibility of a ‘radical future for education in the digital age,’ in which classrooms are abandoned in favour of online courses. He focuses on university education.

He makes a very good point about how online education would improve quality of life for students in countries where access to education is extremely limited. As a British Asian woman with ties to Pakistan, I know many people who would have benefitted a great deal from being able to study for free had online courses been available to them.  There may even be a chance that had Malala had this opportunity, she and her female classmates could have studied in safety from the comfort of their homes. She may never have experienced the attack that has, no doubt, changed her life forever.

As a disabled person, I can see several advantages to online education for disabled children of school age, particularly those who would be, as I was for most of my life, in mainstream education.

Online education would put an end to bullying, for all children, but particularly for disabled children whose differences, far more obvious than anyone else’s in today’s physical classroom, and far more difficult to understand, would  not be obvious over the internet. Instead, students and teachers would see that disabled children have skills and abilities, too.

In online ‘classrooms,’ all children could focus on doing their work, then logging off, without having to worry about bullying, or being bullied by, someone else.  Children could choose who to meet offline based on online chats through social media about interests and skills.

If all online lessons were stored in one place at a website or portal, all children could learn at their own pace and complete tasks at their own pace. This would mean that intelligent disabled children could be fully included. Disabled children often need much more time to answer questions and complete tasks. For many years teachers have feared that this would hold up mainstream lessons, so this has been a barrier to inclusion.

Online classrooms would put an end to PE lessons, but as a solution to this, if lessons were to be timetabled, breaks could be scheduled so that those who are able could do some physical activity. For those not able, the end of PE would, in my personal opinion, be a great advantage!

Online classrooms would put an end to handwriting. No doubt, with this, those able to write neatly by hand would lose something special and often beautiful. However, those disabled children able to hold and use a pen have struggled for years to make their handwriting understood. For such children, and for those unable to write by hand, the ability to type all their schoolwork would remove yet another barrier to having their thoughts and abilities understood by the mainstream world.

There is another point in Amol Rajan’s article that I must agree with. He says that ‘for those who care deeply for the combination of teacher, chalk and blackboard, Star Trek schools sound mildly scary.’ Yes, “teacher, chalk, and blackboard” have their advantages, as does going to school. I met my best friends at nursery school, and they are still stuck with me!

Also, I’ve always said that inclusion helps both sides, as it allows non disabled children to learn about disability. This would most probably be lost if classrooms went online.

There’s a long way to go before all classrooms go online, and there are strong arguments on all sides of the debate about whether they should. However, to me, personally, so far, the idea of Star Trek schools doesn’t sound scary at all.

This post is part of the Inclusion Rules! Debate at Same Difference.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. John Hargrave permalink
    November 20, 2012 4:29 pm

    Sarah, I think this going to be the schools of the future. There will be no school buildings and no major overheads, so I can see it may be a win, win situation. It also gives children a better chance to explore cyberspace and they can probably work the hours that suit them best.

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