For most students, summer school may not be the most glamorous way to spend the treasured sun-drenched days of the long-awaited summer vacation. But, summer school classes provide enrichment opportunities for many students, as well as crucial remedial instruction for students who have fallen behind during the school year.
Unfortunately, according to the New York Times, schools increasingly have to cut summer school funding to make up for budget shortfalls. In some districts principals and teachers have offered to work without pay, while other schools have shut down summer programs altogether.
The Times recently hosted a debate among school leaders to discuss cost effective ways to give students the instruction they need during the summer so that they don’t lose ground between school years. Roger Prosise, superintendent of Diamond Lake School District near Chicago, proposed structuring summer school around fieldtrips instead of classroom instruction. He argued that in terms of cost reduction, fieldtrips would require fewer teachers on the payroll because, after teachers completed the fieldtrip planning, paraprofessionals (who earn lower salaries) could handle the day-to-day supervision. He also suggested that to reduce transportation costs, schools could bring in special programs.
I like Prosise’s thinking (why not center summer school around experiential learning—way more exciting than sitting in a classroom all summer!), and I think telepresence could add a whole other dimension to his suggested plan. Telepresence technology, the installation of which could be a one-time expense for school districts, can take students to museums anywhere in the world, back in time to experience different ways of life, and even to another planet. No transportation required. The telepresence technology could be multi-purposed during the school year to advance learning in all kinds of subjects.
Beyond cost-effective virtual fieldtrips, telepresence can connect students to the content and skills instruction they need, even if their regular school cannot directly provide the class. Telepresence already connects students to courses taught at other institutions, enabling teachers to reach any number of students outside of the physical classroom walls.
Can you think of other ways telepresence can help keep summer school instruction in beleaguered schools?
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