Schools Without Walls, an innovative alternative school founded in the late 60’s in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by the Parkway Program, is a precursor to virtual schools. Conceived as a learning experience where there was no building, no classroom, no seat time, and teachers were practitioners doing their work and affording students onsite apprenticeships, Schools Without Walls blurred the lines separating the community from student development.
Students pursued their interest, studied at their own pace, and moved forward based upon demonstrated competencies. A remnant of the innovation exists in the DC Public School District. There the approach operates in conjunction with George Washington University and, like the original model, uses the City and its resources as its classroom.
Increasingly, virtual schools mirror that
approach to teaching and learning. Regrettably, too many K-12 teachers are not skilled at integrating community resources into classroom practice. Even more important is the absence of teachers skilled at teaching online content. Like books and television from previous centuries, online content has revolutionized access to information, skills, and knowledge. No profession or workplace has escaped the influence of online content.
Every college and university has, or is trying to, integrate online instruction into its standard operating procedure. Every school-aged child has been or will be informed or influenced by online content. And, every month, the quality, quantity, and accessibility of online content increase exponentially.
In every epoch technology leaves latecomers behind. The latecomers on the current landscape are education practitioners that are luddites and laggards when it comes to integrating online content into instruction. To be an effective contemporary educator one must include digital content and pedagogy into one’s repertoire.
Instruction without digital content is myopic. There are no walls, no time clocks, no fountains of knowledge, no sequences, no boundaries to teaching and learning. Teachers must require their students to study online without regard to age, sex, gender, or wealth.