About Sarah Denham

Sarah has been a classroom teacher for eleven years and is certified in almost every subject area. She also holds a Bachelors and Masters in Social Studies and a Specialist in Instructional Tech. She is also an ed tech guru who loves blending current technologies into her literature classroom. When she is not teaching, Sarah loves books, writing, playing with her dogs, and going on adventures with her husband. Sarah loves to hear from readers and other fellow educators so feel free to contact her at @EdTechieSarah or sarah.denham416@gmail.com.

GirlatcomputerThe world of education is changing. Sounds cliché, but it is true. I am seeing that with my own eyes as I have watched my short 7-8 year career evolve from teaching in a traditional classroom with limited technology to now teaching through a virtual classroom. It is this changing world that has me fascinated with what the future of technology could be. Virtual education is something that is growing and changing education for better or worse. From flipped classrooms to fully online schools, this is a burgeoning field of education that needs to be explored.

When I talk to others about virtual education, I find that many do not know about or understand what it is. That is okay. I was there myself. I only knew of the uses of virtual education at the higher education level. Imagine my surprise when I found out that this was a growing choice for K-12 students. This is a viable option for children that have many reasons not to be at a traditional brick and mortar school (BAM). I know of students who use virtual schools because they struggled with bullying, are active in extracurricular, local programs may not meet their needs, are looking for a more structured home school environment, etc. There are many reasons. I currently teach for a virtual charter school, but I am seeing virtual academies popping up in traditional school systems across the country. I also see the use of virtual education in the flipped learning practices of my colleagues.

Yet with all of this growth, I still see a lot of myths going around about virtual education, its students and teachers, and how it works. That is why I believe there should be a dialogue about this type of education. It should not serve as a means to split teachers, but as a an extension of what we all do.

So let’s talk about some of the myths:

Virtual teachers are not real teachers: Yes, we are. Everyone I work with has multiple certifications. Many have advanced degrees. Using myself as an examples, I have 12 certifications, a MEd, and am currently finishing an EdS. We are as real as any other teacher.

Virtual education is only for advanced/gifted student: Nope. A well run program is for all students. These programs should be for all students. At my school, we run have teams for advanced students, students with special education needs, general education students, and struggling students

Virtual schools don’t follow state standards: If it is associated with a public school, system, or it is its system, it follows state standards. My students are expected to take the state test in April just like all of the kids in the BAMs.

Virtual education students do not socialize: Yes, they do. Besides the opportunities that students’ families and communities offer, many virtual schools offer many social opportunities in the form of meet-ups, study sessions, and virtual/face-to-face clubs. Many of these students create their own opportunity.

Virtual teachers don’t actually teach their students or do much work: We do teach our kids, and we do a lot of work. We all create lessons for our virtual class sessions, engage our students through activities, grade, analyze data, meet up with our students in a face-to-face setting as often as possible, and more. I know that I am as busy as I was in the traditional classroom. I am pretty sure everyone else is, too.

So why should we care about virtual education? Because it is going to be a part of how we teach for many years to come. As the needs for 21st century skills grow, students will need to have the option of some form of virtual education/flipped learning environment. The skills they use in this format will prepare them for the jobs they will have when they get older. Remember, this is a tool in our student’s backpack. They just have to use it the right way, and we have to give them that option.


Are you interested in connecting with other virtual education teachers and champions? Do you want to know more? Join us on Twitter every Wednesday at 9PM EST/6 PM PST using the #virtualed or #virtualedchat. You can also follow me on Twitter to continue the conversation at @WinchesterTeach.

Article also appears on my blog, The Instructional Techie at http://instructionaltechie.com

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