The first girls-only online school is slated to open this fall, launched by a consortium of private all-girls schools.
Called the Online School for Girls, the venture plans to offer two Web-only pilot courses for high schoolers during the fall of 2009 and four courses the next spring. The consortium is made up of the Harpeth Hall School, in Nashville, Tenn.; the Holton-Arms School, in Bethesda, Md.; the Laurel School, in Shaker Heights, Ohio; and the Westover School, in Middlebury, Conn.
“To see a school at the caliber of Holton-Arms move in this direction, to me, is really an indicator that online learning is becoming mainstream as a way to expand options for their students,” said Susan D. Patrick, the president and chief executive officer of the Vienna, Va.-based International Association for K-12 Online Learning.
Larry Goodman, the director of strategic planning for the Laurel School and a co-director of the Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls, said the online school will leverage the aspects of technology that work best with girls. Although experts say the ways boys now use technology are changing, Mr. Goodman said boys have traditionally seen technology as “a toy,” while girls have viewed it more as “a tool.”
The development of Web 2.0 tools—which allow users to collaborate and connect with one another—dovetails with the way girls tend to learn, added Ann Pollina, the head of the Westover School and the president of the board of the Concord, Mass.-based National Coalition of Girls Schools.
“It’s all about connection, all about communication,” Ms. Pollina said.
Some experts, though, question the arguments for the girls-only approach for the online school.
Dr. Leonard Sax, a physician who is the executive director of the Exton, Pa.-based National Association for Single Sex Public Education and the author of the book Why Gender Matters, said that collaboration and connection are aspects of technology that engage boys in technology just as much as they engage girls.
“There are dozens of first-person shooter games out there,” he said. “What makes World of Warcraft so popular [among boys] is precisely the fact that it is collaborative. You can go online and collaborate with real boys.”
A version of this article appeared in the July 15, 2009 edition of Education Week