Although I normally write about digital learning’s potential to
transform our education, as a Crossfit enthusiast
myself, I believe in the importance of living a healthy life with physical
the biggest misconceptions about the rise of online learning is that a
student’s schooling will be spent primarily in front of a computer, with a
student clicking away relentlessly as though she were playing eight hours of
video games a day.
couldn’t be further from the truth, however, if the rise of online learning
fulfills its potential and creates a truly student-centric education
system—which should be the ultimate goal.
traveled around the country observing blended-learning schools, the ones I’ve
been most struck by are those that give individual students the proper
flexibility so that they can have the right experience they need when they need
it to boost their success—both in that moment and in life. In the future of
education, digital learning should be the platform that facilitates each
student having a customized learning experience for her distinct learning
needs—whether that experience is online or offline.
Carpe Diem Collegiate Middle
and High School, one of my favorite blended-learning models, has no
physical education class. Instead the school has what might be described as a
fitness center with an on-site trainer who works with each student not on
random mandatory athletic units but instead on a tailored program for how to
live a healthy life. When students are growing antsy at their desks and need to
get some physical exercise to let off some steam and reboot for more learning,
they have the autonomy to go to the gym and work out.
The Silicon Valley Flex Academy,
which has several elements of what I think the future of schooling will look
like, is located across the parking lot from a Crossfit gym. The school has
contemplated a formal partnership with the Crossfit affiliate to offer the
students a Crossfit for Kids program, which, in my
opinion, would be far superior to the gym classes offered at most schools.
My biggest personal surprise in online learning came several years
ago when I learned that one of the more popular classes that the Florida Virtual School offers is online
physical education. I struggled to imagine what this might mean, but what I
ultimately learned is that the class involves a teacher working with each
individual student on her daily fitness routine (from running to lifting to
playing team sports) to realize her fitness goals and live a healthy life.
Recalling my own experience in middle school PE, I could see the immediate
benefits of having this sort of an experience instead of an awkward communal
one that teaches a student virtually nothing about living a healthy life—and
may even discourage that by creating negative associations with physical
just physical exercise that should see a healthier balance with the rise of
digital learning, but lots of activities. Many schools are increasingly using
blended learning to free teachers up to spend more time working with students
in project-based learning. I’ve been struck by how much students collaborate
with each other naturally—often peer tutoring each other—in the
blended-learning schools I’ve visited. Whereas “socialization” often appears to
me to be a negative thing in many schools, in blended-learning schools the
social interactions appear to me to be far healthier and around helping each
student improve. I don’t have hard data on this, but it’s my observation that
this is one of the exciting—and often unintended—effects of using a
end, when many people think about full-time virtual schools, one of their
biggest fears is about students in their younger years. They ask how could
students possibly have a fully online experience when they are so young. What
are the downsides of spending so much time in front of a computer? The answer
is that in the programs of which I’m aware, most of the learning for students
in the younger years is actually offline—with books and manipulatives. The
online learning mostly serves as the platform that helps the student’s family
communicate with the student’s teacher and individualizes the learning, in
addition to providing some exercises and games to build some basic skills.
In an age where the arts, athletics, and other so-called
extracurricular activities are increasingly on the chopping block in public
schools, digital learning ought to change the equation. Various blended-learning models,
for example, should create more flexibility and free up more funds so that
schools can offer an array of experiences, including physical exercise.
to Ratey’s research, that’s something we can’t afford to lose if we’re serious
about boosting student achievement. Student-centric digital learning provides a
means to make sure that it doesn’t fall by the wayside.