What are we teaching?

Recently, I have been reading and seeing lots of articles still debating the idea of online learning vs. classroom, teacher led instruction vs. self-paced instruction and students wanting more online learning over traditional classroom. Many of these articles tout the benefits of online instruction and that more and more students are heading this way.  Many bemoan the idea of students learning without a teacher to give them the information.  Why does it have to be an either/or?

If a teacher’s job is seen as teaching facts and spoon feeding information to student, then why can’t students go online to learn.  Given what is available to them via ebooks and the websites, students can look up information and regurgitate it online just as easily as they can on a xeroxed worksheet.  They don’t need an adult standing over them or sitting at a desk in front of the room to work in this manner. In this case, online/self-paced instruction is not a bad idea.

However, if we are focused on teaching students skills, finding and analyzing/applying information, coaching them through tasks, and guiding them in their learning, then yes, a face-to-face component in some form is needed.  These are the redefined job description of teachers be it in a classroom or online for I do believe online classes can have these same components and the face-to-face interactions can be produced via webcams, Skype, etc.  Is it the ideal, no? Is it something our students may need to learn to handle?  I believe so. Our world is becoming more interactive and yet, distances between places have not changed.  However, technology enables us to reach others across the globe.

These arguments then should not be viewed in terms of either/or.  Rather students should have both worlds: to help them become the life-long learners we all profess we want them to be and to give them skills needed beyond the time they are in our care.


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