Redefining “school”: A case study of an Internet charter school
Rebecca Ray Jaycox, Ohio University, United States
Ohio University . Awarded
Dissatisfaction with public education has resulted in a national movement promoting alternatives to traditional schools. New technologies have enabled families and educators to merge methods of schooling that were once separate—home schooling, distance learning, and public education—to create a new vision of school, the internet charter school.
This study, a qualitative case study of one internet charter school, was guided by two broad research questions: Why does this school exist? How does the school operate? While focusing on the human element that constituted the school, this study was conducted from the perspective of the constructivist research paradigm and the theories of ethnographic portraiture (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Davis, 1997). Research for this study was conducted over a full school year. The data collected in this study prompted reframing of the foundational question, “What is school?”
The study is grounded in literature critiquing the modern system of compulsory schooling. This critical literature reached two general conclusions—that traditional public schools are often harmful to children and that such schools are not the only places where learning can take place. This study provided empirical support for these claims, as well as the claims that traditional schools isolate children from families and communities; that many people value education but not schooling, preferring to emphasize independent thinking and creativity; and that distance learning and internet schools can be as good or better learning environments than traditional schools.
Specific findings from the study suggest that: (1) many children are able to structure their own learning; (2) parents' attitudes toward their children may be more important than their direct involvement in promoting school success; (3) the physical presence of a teacher is often unnecessary in order for children to learn; and (4) internet schooling makes meaningful learning opportunities available to many students for whom traditional public schooling has not worked well. These findings support the recommendation that policymakers continue to encourage educational innovation through the development of a range of alternatives to traditional public schools.
Jaycox, R.R. Redefining “school”: A case study of an Internet charter school. Ph.D. thesis, Ohio University.
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