By William Mattox, JMI Resident Fellow
Posted February 1, 2012
Today marks the first-ever celebration of Digital Learning Day, and to commemorate the occasion, The James Madison Institute is shining our spotlight on Christy Box of Brevard County and Tariq McCray of Seminole County – two students who are benefitting from the digital revolution in education.  Here are their stories . . .Box Has Got Lots of Online Extras
Like many other high school juniors, Christy Box of Melbourne is involved in lots of extracurricular activities.  She’s a Student Ambassador for her school, the editor of the student newspaper, the vice president of the Future Business Leaders Association, and a member of the Fine Arts Club.But unlike most Floridahigh school students, Christy doesn’t actually go to school every day.  Christy is a full-time student in the Florida Virtual School (FLVS) and all of those student groups she participates in are online clubs for FLVS students.That Box has become a quintessential “joiner” is somewhat ironic, because she first took an interest in online schooling to escape the impersonal mob scene at her large public school.  Yet, Christy has found that relationship-building is certainly possible in a virtual school.  And she says that one of the best things about being an FLVS student is that it allows her to establish a one-on-one relationship with her teachers.  (In addition to being “high-tech,” FLVS has a “high-touch” commitment to regular teacher-student phone calls.)Having taken her “online school” with her on long trips, Christy says she “loves the flexibility of FLVS.”  She says her two siblings, both of whom are significantly older, “wish that they had had virtual schooling when they were coming along.”Box hopes to study screenwriting at theUniversityofSouthern Californiaafter she completes her high school studies.  But for now, she’s busy taking honors classes and “attending” school club meetings – much like many other high school juniors.     McCray Marches to His Own Virtual Beat
Freshman tuba player Tariq McCray of the Lake Howell High School Marching Band prepared for the fall football season last summer in a most unusual way.  He enrolled in an online Algebra class.    Knowing that the demands on his time in the fall would be great, Tariq decided to “get a head start” on his studies by enrolling in a math class through theFloridaVirtualSchool.  By starting Algebra I in June, he not only bought himself some much-needed scheduling flexibility in the fall, but he put himself in a position where he could complete Algebra I and Geometry online by the beginning of his sophomore year.  McCray hopes to enroll in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at nearby Seminole High next fall; yet, to do so, he needs to be ready to take Algebra II next fall with the other IB sophomores.  That’s where FLVS pays off – since it allows motivated students to work at a faster pace if they desire.Tariq first got acquainted with FLVS when he took a keyboarding class in 7th grade. He then knocked out his high school physical education requirement online in 8th grade, beginning that course during the winter holidays “since I didn’t have any other schoolwork.” McCray says he likes the convenience and flexibility of online classes, but concedes that virtual classes sometimes face challenges.  “Group projects get complicated online,” he says.  “They usually work better in the classroom.”  Still, McCray says he wants to keep taking online classes throughout high school – even (or especially) if it means studying during his school “breaks.”