Online Learning for Kindergartners?

Blended and online learning, particularly in college, have become more and more prevalent in education — in fact, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Education, online universities have become the largest universities in the U.S. While Arizona State University (the most populated traditional university in America) awarded 2,075 degrees in 2011, the online University of Phoenix awarded nearly 6,000.

Blended and online learning seem to be the trends facing universities today  – but blended and online learning for elementary school students?

Programs such as Los Angeles-based  KIPP Empower Academy and San Jose-based Rocketship Education are working to provide online education for low-income elementary school students. These K-4 and K-5 programs, respectively, incorporate online tools in the classrooms, with students working on computers at their own pace or in small groups for part of the day. Teachers can keep track of student progress by glancing at a dashboard, so if a particular student is struggling with a concept, they can stop to help that particular student. Allowing students to work at different paces permits children who have mastered concepts quickly to move ahead.

If programs such as KIPP and Rocketship Education are successful, more schools may incorporate blended learning. So far, KIPP seems to be getting results: 36 percent of KIPP Empower Academy kindergartners were reading at a proficient or advanced level before implementing the blended learning program. By the end of the year, 96 percent were reading at a proficient or advanced level.

Blended learning has proven to be successful at many levels, but there will certainly be critics who will maintain that elementary school students are simply too young to be spending so much time on a computer. The idea of a bunch of kindergartners sitting in front of a computer screen for a sizable chunk of the school day probably isn’t appealing to all elementary school teachers.

Yet blended learning programs allow students to work with each other or at their own pace, allowing teachers to spend more time helping students one-on-one instead of having to explain concepts to the entire class at the same time. With the traditional lecture style, students who easily grasp concepts will inevitably become bored in class and zone out, while the students who don’t understand will get frustrated and zone out. Blended learning helps alleviate some of these challenges for teachers.

What do you think of online and blended learning for elementary school students? Sound off in the comments below!

Caity Doyle

Caity is a former English teacher and the editor of Technapex. Caity is extremely passionate about education and is TriplePoint PR's resident edtech expert. When not researching education policy and edtech, she enjoys running along the Bay Trail while blaring the Boss through her headphones, watching the Giants beat the Dodgers, and meeting fellow Italians in North Beach.

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About Caity Doyle

Caity is a former English teacher and the editor of Technapex. Caity is extremely passionate about education and is TriplePoint PR's resident edtech expert. When not researching education policy and edtech, she enjoys running along the Bay Trail while blaring the Boss through her headphones, watching the Giants beat the Dodgers, and meeting fellow Italians in North Beach.
  • Mike Kerr

    Kindergartners and first graders at KIPP Empower Academy spend roughly 8% of their school day in front of a computer.  Second graders spend 17% at most on the laptops.  I don’t think this is really that “sizable” a chunk of the day.  It allows the students to boost 21st Century skills; engage with technology that builds their reading, math, and writing skills; and allows teachers the opportunity to work with small groups (14:1 ratio or better) in reading, writing, science, and math.  Our longer day ensures students still have at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day along with hands-on math and science activities, Spanish, art, and dance. – KIPP Empower Academy     

    • CaityDoyle

      Thanks for sharing this information, Mike! I’d love to hear more about KIPP if you’d like to chat? You can shoot me an email at cdoyle@technapex.com

  • Drew

    As a teacher, I acknowledge that certain skills and concepts can be learned and practiced on a computer, and there is some great elementary-level content out there to support teachers in the classroom. About 30 minutes per day is not overkill I suppose, but over an hour per day begins to be. Also, it is embarrassing for some students who are behind their peers to be seen as such. I once had a student who refused to do a remedial computer program because he felt it was too “kiddish.” (I supported his decision and worked with parents and SPED to meet his emotional as well as intellectual needs.)

    As a parent, I don’t want my kids plopped in front of some computer at school. There is so much more to learning than the three R’s that a computer cannot teach. I prefer that they practice the emotional skills (interacting with peers, group problem-solving, etc.) that will be vital to their success in life. Computers cannot provide that for them. Although technology can be supportive, technology for technology’s sake is not the answer. We adults should be cautious when playing with our children’s education.