New York Times: In Florida, Virtual Classrooms with No Teachers
Okay, I’m sorry, but the greatness of technology does not mean we no longer need teachers. I find it 100% ridiculous that any classes, let alone Advanced Placement classes, would be taught only by a computer without a real teacher in the room. I can get behind teachers using technlogy to teach or practice a skill; I support the use of things like blogs and wikis in classes (I used them myself); I acknowledge the benefit to students of being able to become more familiar with various technologies. But does Miami-Dade really expect students to master calculus and macroeconomics without a teacher?! I don’t care if there is a teacher somewhere on the other end of the connection who can answer questions. That just doesn’t provide the same instruction and support as a live teacher in a classroom can!
I was trying to think of courses that WOULD work this way, and I haven’t come up with any. The closest is a history course – students could read the information, analyze texts, and participate in discussions with “classmates” via a discussion board or something. But online interaction just can’t replace in person discussions. I know from experience a few online courses myself that they are usually not engaging or challenging, and they would have to be extremely structured in order to guarantee the same level of learning that a student would experience with an in-person teacher. I don’t trust these online courses to provide that.
I’m also amazed that students apparently found themselves in these classes with no warning. This is a major shift, and students should have the option to opt out if they do not want to learn online. As a student, I’d rather be in a huge classroom filled with real people and a teacher than stare at a computer screen. As a teacher, I think it would be terribly boring and unrewarding to “teach” something that only took place online. How would I develop the relationships with students that I so treasure?
I don’t know the details of Florida’s new restrictions on classroom size, but surely it can’t have been THAT bad before. I had a class of 45 students for about two weeks, and while it was challenging, it wasn’t the worst thing ever. There has to be a better way to create better learning and teaching conditions than shifting everything to computers!