Cuts in education budgets seem to be the new normal for most school districts in the United States. Government funding for education has been dwindling over the past several years and many state and local governments fear that budgets will continue to be slashed for several years to come. Many school districts across the United States are having to scramble to afford basic necessities while some districts are even being forced to borrow money just to pay teacher salaries and basic operating expenses. We recently posted an article about how the New York City Department of Education is increasing its technology budget even in the face of massive cuts to education funding. Likewise, a charter school on the opposite coast of the United States is also investing in eLearning.
Julian Charter School, a Kindergarten through twelfth grade charter school in San Diego County, California, believes online learning is a key to success in these tough economic times. Wendy Parcel, assistant director for grades seven through twelve, at Julian Chart School sees her school as using technology as an advantage in the two largest expense areas for most schools: teacher salaries and instructional materials. Ms. Parcel feels that, “Online learning is the driving force in revolutionizing education. It can overcome demographic and geographic barriers that limit our student learning, as well as improve the quality of instruction while decreasing the cost to provide that instruction.”
Julian Charter School serves students in multiple locations by making use of eLearning technology. According to Ms. Parcel, “This allows us to place the best instructor possible in the teaching position and allows our students access to a class they might otherwise find unavailable.” Ms. Parcel also states that a lot of the students served by Julian Charter School live in rural areas that make accessing a variety of classroom settings difficult. Offering classes online is a cost effective solution to this issue. By offering classes through eLearning, Julian Charter School is able to give students access to career and technical education classes that the school would not otherwise be able to provide for their students.
Ms. Parcel also feels like the student teacher relationships that occur through eLearning are enriching as well. She states, “the relationships that students are able to develop with an online teacher are just as real as those developed in a traditional classroom setting. A mentoring relationship can occur in many ways.”
Julian Charter School is using technology in more ways than just online classes. Just this school year, Julian Charter School began using online textbooks for earth science and life science classes. Students in these classes downloaded a pdf file from a website rather than using a traditional textbook. Not only are these virtual textbooks great for portability, but they can also have useful features not available in traditional paper books such as searchable text and hyperlinked supplemental information.
If you work in the field of education and have successfully used technology to bolster your curriculum, feel free to share your experiences by leaving a comment below.