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Why online school works better for this Madison family

Published: Oct. 24, 2020 at 6:38 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The switch to virtual schooling has been a challenge for many families, but one Madison family has been doing it for years. They say virtual learning works better for them.

Ian Santin is a 12th grader at the Destinations Career Academy of Wisconsin, an online school. After attending middle school in the Madison Metropolitan School District, Ian made the switch five years ago. He said his ADHD made it hard to focus in the classroom.

Amy Santin says her son is a better student now, due to more flexibility in his five to six hours-long day. She said, “We can provide an environment that’s conducive to him. He can take movement breaks. He’s just a lot happier, and he’s actually started to enjoy learning.”

But it took time to get here. Amy said, “In our experience it did take probably a year or even two to really get fully immersed [and] get things down to the point where most of our days work like a well-oiled machine.”

She described the learning curve. “I initially expected Ian to be a lot more independent than he was, [thinking] ‘I’ll let him do his thing.' Well, it turns out, he wasn’t doing it. So it really became a kind of partnership between the teachers and with the online school.”

Amy said the school expects students to have a “learning coach,” and as a stay-at-home mom, Amy takes on that role. What’s most helpful for her, she described, is the online platform parents can use to access class recordings and other information.

Richard Halverson, a professor at the UW-Madison School of Education, said the technology used now by many districts, are effective learning tools. Platforms like Zoom and Google Classroom, he said, can show students' progress.

“This is a second best and maybe even a third best option,” he said. “But it is an option. So when I hear people criticize the online learning spaces, my sense is that we should be really grateful that we have them because it’s not as good as in-person learning, but it’s a whole lot better than completely asynchronous learning.”

Halverson added that the online tools used during the pandemic have created new ways of thinking and learning, which he anticipates will help educators in the long run.

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