by Eric Barajas, Open School staff
March 22, 2021
For the majority of people, friendships are formed with people who live within their proximity. These are people they meet at school, work, community events, recreational activities, or social gatherings. For friendships to grow and develop, people must be in frequent contact and communication, and doing enjoyable things together facilitates that.
With the exponential growth of the internet and social media platforms, people are now able to communicate and engage with each other virtually with high-quality video and audio from all parts of the country and even the world. This has helped bring people of similar interests and values together, especially when these interests and values are not popular or common within their proximal communities. Via the power of the internet, the Open School’s Virtual Program has been able to bring a democratic, self-directed education to students whose communities do not offer such an experience, bridging learning and friendships that otherwise would not be possible.
For a handful of generations, the schools people went to were based primarily on geographical location. Depending on your age and where you lived, you were eligible to attend a specific set of public schools. Of those available to you, you had to pick one. People could also choose to attend any variety of private schools, but these were also chosen in terms of proximity. Even with the current advancement of transportation, it is not feasible on a day to day basis to attend a school hundreds of miles away from you. This means that people have always gone to school with people in their surrounding communities.
For smaller towns and suburban areas, many of the people you are likely to meet will have fairly similar cultural, political, or religious backgrounds, which further limits the diversity of ideas, experiences, and people you are exposed to. This also limits the types of schools students have access to, and depending on the area, there may be little to no variety, preventing students and their families from finding an educational setting that suits their needs, values, and interests.
This is where The Open School’s Virtual Program comes into the picture. Its beginning arose from a necessity to continue The Open School’s operations virtually during the advent of COVID-19, and over months of modification and trial-and-error, it has become the first ever virtual educational program offering a self-directed learning experience. This is an incredible opportunity for students from all parts of the world to become agents of their own education within a supportive age-mixed community, building skills in personal responsibility and accountability, leadership, collaboration, critical thinking, effective communication, and many more — all done remotely from the sanctity of their home.
We rely on these skills in most, if not all, of our everyday interactions, whether it be in the workplace, at home, or in social settings. They are the building blocks for emotional and intellectual growth, which foster healthy and cohesive work, social, and familial relationships. With the ability to meet other students from all kinds of cultural and geographical backgrounds, students are able to find people that share their interests and values, allowing them to work on each of these skills with people that understand them.
This can translate into spending hours on end playing a game, engaging in an intellectually stimulating activity, or having an entertaining conversation together despite being thousands of miles away from each other or being in a completely different time zone. These friendships play formidable roles in our development as students, people, and members of our community. Actively developing these skills while following one’s passions and making friends is definitely the best of both worlds. That is all possible at The Open School.