It’s long been a trick in this digital age of ours to plop your kid down in front of a screen. And, while yes, mainly used for entertainment and, er, parental sanity reasons, it was only a matter of time until that “earn your degree” online mentality leaked down to the toddler set.
VINCI Education has released a virtual preschool — complete with learning materials, activity guides, analytics and “homeroom” teachers via computer, tablet or smartphone. “We call it a virtual school, because we deliver the curriculum and the content and everything else through online tools,” Dan Yang, the female founder of VINCI, told Education Week. “To be honest, we haven’t had anybody who has said, ‘That’s a bad idea.'”
ClassVINCI Home is a subscription service that costs $80 to $645 annually. They deliver weekly digital books, songs, games and an activity guide for parents. Kids are expected to spend 30 minutes per week on digital learning games, parents are to do at least 30 minutes per week of work with their child, plus read the book together every day. You can also upgrade your package to include a 90-minute session with a teacher every month.
Yang told Education Week that the system is “heavily grounded in Montessori methods,” and is geared to show parents how to best interact and guide their child’s early development.
The system is giving education experts serious pause, however, with reports from “concern” from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, to “red flags” for San Francisco nonprofit Common Sense Media. In fact, experts at organizations Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation and Common Sense told Education Week that “they each recognize the need for better materials for parents to help their children learn and develop, but they aren’t sure the sample materials offered by VINCI are up to snuff.” One org even said that the “quality seemed shoddy.”
VINCI says they’ve won several awards and the materials were developed with various cognitive-development and academic experts. They have about 20 parents signed up a month after launching.
Perhaps our biggest question is this: Isn’t preschool a lot about socialization, and learning to share and play with other kids?
Would you send your kid to a virtual preschool?