Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an early childhood education expert who taught for many years at Lesley University in Cambridge, writes here at Edsurge, a tech website,explaining why online preschool is a truly rotten idea.

It is a terrific article, and it begins like this:

The recent growth of online preschools, already in existence in at least eight states, gives states an inexpensive way to deliver pre-K education. But it is a sorry substitute for the whole child, play-based early childhood education that all young children deserve to have.

Cyber schools have been increasing over the last twenty years, and most programs are marketed by for-profit companies. The more recent emergence of online preschool programs opens the door for cyber education businesses to cash in on the estimated $70 billion per year “pre-K market.”

In an education reform climate that has redefined education as academic standards and success on tests, online pre-K programs are an easy sell. Parents are ready to buy into computer-based programs that will get their kids ready for kindergarten by drilling them on letters and numbers. The programs teach discrete, narrow skills through repetition and rote learning. The truth is that for children to master the print system or concepts of number, they have to go through complex developmental progressions that build these concepts over time through activity and play.

Young children don’t learn optimally from screen-based instruction. Kids learn through activity. They use their bodies, minds and all of their senses to learn. They learn concepts through hands-on experiences with materials in three-dimensional space. Through their own activity and play, and their interactions with peers and teachers, children build their ideas gradually over time.