Virtual schooling? Don’t make me laugh!

It used to be the case that bankers would lend money only to those people who didn’t need it, ie the ones who could easily pay it back. Something Di Brooks said last night got me thinking: is the same sort of logic true of virtual schools?

Di was giving a talk on Life Without Connectivity, looking at the ways in which the earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, affect the community, economy and education. Her talk and photographs brought to my mind the disaster movies we’ve probably all seen, in which there is devastation everywhere. Of course, in the movies there is always a superhero (cue good-looking actor) to sort things out.

The reality is rather different: the “superheroes” were the neighbours, friends and even strangers who all lent a hand and helped and supported each other as well as they could. The situation included lack of electricity, making it hard to keep smartphones charged. Digital phones didn’t work: the old analogue ones did. Lack of electricity meant lack of TV, which meant that gossip and phone calls from friends and relatives elsewhere were the main sources of news. Lack of electricity, water, fresh food, sewage: these were the realities.

And lack of transport: Di told us of a woman who had to leave her car on one side of the river and swim across because the bridge was down, and then run the 10 kilometres home in order to reach her children.

Schools were closed, so what about virtual schools? Di’s response was something along the lines of: “We were concerned with our survival; education was the least of our problems.”

Does that mean that, although virtual schooling ought to work in such circumstances, in practice it only really works when it isn’t really needed? In other words, it’s a great idea when everyone has electricity etc etc, but when none of those things we take for granted are in place, when a virtual school that would not only keep kids being educated but keep the community informed would be wonderful, there’s not much chance of it happening.

Some interesting, and heart-warming, developments emerged in the context of blogging: listen to the recording to find out what!