Remember back in the ’90s when we thought the new millennium was going to be all about flying cars and silver space suits like Zenon told us it would be? Well, it didn’t exactly turn out that way (yet), but we certainly are living in a futuristic world. You know it’s the 21st century when online classes extend further than college into high school, middle school, elementary school and even kindergarten.

The Middleton-Cross Plains School District is implementing a system that allows for parents and their children to choose between a traditional classroom and a 21st century eSchool.

My first reaction when I saw K-12 eSchool was: “What the hell?” How could an online school possibly be good for kids? How could this possibly foster social skills? Is this basically home schooling with the help of a computer?

But my assumptions were wrong, and the advantages far outweigh the perceived shortcomings.

Obviously, what makes this eSchool so brand new is that it really takes advantage of the technology we have available today. It allows students to have an interactive workplace, while also creating a one-on-one relationship with a state-certified teacher. Being able to learn on a computer allows for work to be done just about anywhere an Internet connection is available. E-learning, therefore, is conducive to a faster lifestyle and allows students and parents to decide what pace of learning is right for the child on a day-to-day basis.

Of course, online work is not the only aspect. In grades kindergarten through sixth grade, computer work only accounts for about 20-30 percent of learning. The rest is done by reading books, doing math on paper or experimenting with science — all things that would be found in the traditional classroom. As the child’s skills progress, computer usage increases.

So why turn to an eSchool if the work is basically the same as in a classroom?

Through an Internet education, parents are able to better monitor their children’s social interactions. This may seem crazy, but in a world filled with miniskirts and an increase in middle school libido, this may be a viable and comfortable option for parents. This benefit is not just for the parents; students would be able to participate more freely in their social interactions by choice rather than force.

Maybe we don’t think choosing social interactions parallels real life very well, but with increases in e-communication, it is the direction we are headed.

If this still sounds better suited for late night infomercials, then perhaps the idea of a more globalized educational system is enticing. If all students were connected to a consistent curriculum through the Internet, perhaps we could avoid the terrible gaps in education achievement we see today. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but this could be a step in the right direction.

Critics might argue the eSchool would eliminate social interaction altogether. But what is extraordinary about this program is that it is still a part of the Middleton-Cross Plains School District. The e-learning can be easily accompanied (if the student and parent so choose) by art, music and physical education classes in the traditional school with other kids. E-students are also able to participate in all extracurricular activities as long as they meet eligibility requirements, which are no different from any other student.

The costs are nothing to worry about with this program, as there is no tuition, and computers and Internet access are provided. If that doesn’t get you on board, I don’t know what will.

While the eSchool has a great deal of advantages, there are still a few concerns, especially for younger children.

Even though the options for complementary classes inside the school and extracurricular activities exist, there is still a dramatic decrease in social interaction. However, this could also mean less chance for distractions in classes where that seems to be a barrier to learning.

Also, parents will ultimately be handed off a lot of control in their child’s education. This may be too much of a responsibility and it may be a problem when it comes to the teacher’s job. However, if parents and teachers can learn to work together, this could also be a positive experience for everyone involved.

Of course, there is the question of whether this is just going too far. If this is the learning model now, what will it be later? This type of learning could diminish the demand for as many teachers over time.

But it seems the advantages just keep coming, while the disadvantages are really just a few glitches.

Zetus lupetus! It seems that we really are living in the future.

Jaimie Chapman ([email protected]) is a junior and mom majoring in journalism.