Tuesday, March 5, 2019

So Your Character is Cyberschooled ... Featuring Maggie Shive

I'm homeschooled and I actually hadn't heard of cyberschooling, but this sounds like a really interesting way of getting education (also it makes me think of Cyberchase which is never a bad thing).

IMaggie is an INTJ college student currently studying English and marketing. She was cyberschooled all the way from kindergarten through high school, and she loved every second of it. When I’m no she isn’t writing or blogging, you can find her curled up with a book, listening to music, drinking tea, or saving Hyrule. 

First of all, what is cyberschooling and how is it different than homeschooling?
Cyberschooling is really just a complicated term for going to school online. In other words, students attend virtual online classes with real teachers and classmates, submit assignments via the internet, and communicate with classmates and teachers mainly over e-mail or in the virtual classroom. 

It’s different from homeschooling in that the students are responsible to a teacher, as they would be in public school, rather than to their parents or a co-op leader (well, they’re probably still responsible to their parents, but the parents generally aren’t as directly involved as they would be with homeschooling). Cyberschooling varies depending on the school, but it’s typically more structured than a homeschool environment. 

How is cyberschooling different than public or private school?
Cyberschools come in a variety of forms – some are public schools that are run by the government, and others might be private schools where students have to pay their own tuition. The school I attended was a charter school, which means it received money from the government but was run by a private organization (I didn’t have to pay tuition). 

Long story short, the real difference is between cyberschooling and attending a brick-and-mortar (or “in real life”) school. Cyberschooling offers more flexibility than a traditional brick-and-mortar school does. There are other differences too, of course, which vary depending on the school – my high school for example, took a “block scheduling” approach to classes. In other words, our class periods were longer, but we would only take the class for half a year (similar to most universities in the United States). 

The most common criticism I hear about cyberschooling is that it doesn’t give students the same amount of socializing that traditional schools do, but that’s false. Students are able to interact with their classmates and teachers just as much as any student in a traditional school, it’s just in an online environment rather than face-to-face.

How do you feel about cyberschooling? Do you like it or dislike it?
I really enjoyed my cyberschooling experience! I’ll be the first to say it’s not right for everyone (for example, my brother switched to a traditional school after being cyberschooled for a number of years), but it was a great fit for me. 

The flexibility of cyberschool was a great help, since it meant my family could go on trips during the school year without having to get me excused from classes. I also got to pursue a lot of opportunities that I might not have had in a traditional school – for example, I led my school’s creative writing club, which worked really well in the online environment. I also got to pursue a volunteer experience at the local library in my senior year, since my schedule was so flexible. Finally, I got to meet some really awesome people through my school, and I still stay in contact with a handful of them!

Cyberschooling certainly has its challenges – it often requires more discipline, since you’re not in a classroom all day – but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

What is your daily routine as a cyberschooler?
I’m a bit ashamed to admit I wasn’t very good at having a routine in high school! In general, I would try to plan out my week ahead of time and make a list of assignments and when they were due. I would usually have 2-3 online classes per day, and then the rest of that time would be spent on independent reading, homework, or other activities. In my school, we only had classes Monday-Thursday, while Fridays were reserved for co-curricular activities, like club meetings or outings. I’ve heard of other cyberschools with much stricter schedules, so it all depends on how the school is structured. 

Though I tried to make that a routine, part of being cyberschooled is being flexible. I was an “asynchronous” student, which meant that I was in good academic standing and wasn’t required to attend classes all the time. I still went to most of them, but if something came up, like having to pick up my brother from school, I could skip class that day and watch a recording of it later. 

What are some stereotypes about cyberschooling that irk you?
Since cyberschooling often gets lumped in with homeschooling, we get a lot of the same stereotypes. Unlike homeschooling, however, most people are still unfamiliar with cyberschooling, which makes it harder to explain. The question I’ve been asked the most is usually something like “How do you learn anything?” (though maybe not quite as blunt as that). 

I’ve had people assume that my school friends weren’t “real friends” because I only knew them through the internet. There have also been times when people asked me what I do to socialize, which is pretty irritating. I think part of it might be that people don’t understand internet culture in general, where people maintain connections solely through the internet, but it’s still irritating. 

And, of course, there are the people who think that anyone in a cyberschool is either too good or not good enough for “normal school.”

What media portrays cyberschooling badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show? What media portrays cyberschooling well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show? Who are your top three favorite characters who also are cyberschoolers in books, movies, or shows?
Since cyberschooling is still a relatively recent phenomenon, I haven’t seen it a lot in books, movies, or TV shows. I wish there were more though! I think in general, if you want to portray a cyberschooler well, think of them like any other person their age. Some things may be different – they probably won’t get snow days, and they might have a lot of “internet friends,” but in general, we’re not that much different than anyone else. 

Thank you again, Maggie! This is such a wealth of information! Thanks for reading!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail.com.

Do you have any characters who are cyberschooled? Did this inspire you to write a cyberschooled character? Are you cyberschooled and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Maggie? Be sure to thank them!

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