Rethink future San Joaquin elementary blended program

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Element 5 Digital

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The coronavirus pandemic has brought a crisis in public schooling, as school buildings sit empty and many educators struggle to teach lessons, give tests and convene online class meetings

The Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) will be opening a San Joaquin K-6 Blended Learning Elementary School for the 2020-2021 school year, in which students will meet weekly with a teacher at Greentree Elementary and complete the rest of their studies online. Currently, IUSD has shifted its public schools to Emergency Distance Learning (EDL), having teachers communicate through online platforms. This sudden shift to EDL reveals the major weaknesses of online learning. With problems arising, the plans for the San Joaquin Elementary Blended Program should be reconsidered.

A key issue with the online learning portion of blended learning is the introduction of distractions. A 2019 study by Kent University found increased multi-tasking—such as texting, using social media and off-task internet surfing—during online instruction. One must remember that this school plan is for elementary schoolers. By allowing a portion of learning to be virtual, the needed structure in learning is removed at a time when structure and focus should be emphasized, but instead poor habits are created.

A blended learning program limits the amount of in-person interaction. During one’s childhood, social interaction is vital. Paul Schwartz, a professor of psychology and child behavior expert states that in-person relations significantly contribute to the development of social skills, such as being sensitive to another’s viewpoints, learning the rules of conversation and collaboration. While a blended-learning program offers weekly interactions, it still greatly diminishes the amount of interactions, and may impact the social development of the children.

Introduction of increased online use into the everyday classroom also brings up more credibility issues with student work. Currently, student grades are increasing drastically, with students utilizing online answers and communication with other classmates during individual assignments and assessments. With answers a click away, young students would similarly be unlikely to resist the temptation to cut corners and seek assistance with their fellow online peers. Even with use of plagiarism checking tools such as Turnitin and programs which limit internet access, it is too easy to bend the rules.

Many argue blended-learning increases flexibility and allows students to adapt their schedule to their lifestyle. However, the new school is for grades K-6; at this point in their learning experience, independence and flexibility should not be prioritized.  The IUSD website even states blended learning requires a high level of personal responsibility, as the learner must take the initiative to complete and master assignments individually. The purpose of these first six crucial years of every student’s educational career is to establish a strong schedule and work ethic that will carry them throughout high school and beyond.

The plans for a blended learning school for elementary school students should be discouraged. The fact of the matter is that elementary school is more than just an education. It is a time when students learn to interact with each other and learn how to learn. Yet, by pushing a portion of the experience online, both social interactions and a solid structured learning setting is disturbed.