The Beginning of the End?

The Jester thanks his alter ego’s high school computer science teacher, Mr. Ron Dirkse, for forwarding him the following story from the New York Times: In Florida, Virtual Classrooms with No Teachers. The story relates the experience of some secondary school students in the Miami-Dade Public School system (generally considered very good — the Jester has firsthand experience!), who found to their surprise that they were enrolled in classes equipped with PCs for online, self-paced, distance education, and no teachers. Apparently, there are 7000 students enrolled in these “e-learning labs.”

If there’s consolation for the Jester, it’s that the story is careful to note that the labs are not completely supervision-free, and it also emphasizes the potential downsides of the program (including its use as a cost-reduction strategy!):

“A ‘facilitator’ is in the room to make sure students progress. That person also deals with any technical problems.”

“None of them want to be there,” [one student] said, “and for virtual education you have to be really self-motivated. This was not something they chose to do, and it’s a really bad situation to be put in because it is not your choice.” (Emphasis added by the Jester)

“The way our state is dealing with class size is nearly criminal,” said Chris Kirchner, an English teacher at Coral Reef Senior High School in Miami. “They’re standardizing in the worst possible way, which is evident in virtual classes.” … “I think there should be learning on the computer,” Ms. Kirchner said. “That part is from 2:30 p.m. on. The first part of the day should be for learning with people.”

“There is no doubt that blended learning can be as effective and often more effective than a classroom,” said Mr. Moore, who is also editor of The American Journal of Distance Education. He said, however, that research and his experiences had shown that proper design and teacher instruction within the classroom were necessary. A facilitator who only monitors student progress and technical issues within virtual labs would not be categorized as part of a blended-learning model, he said. Other variables include “the maturity and sophistication of the student,” he said.

“Despite some complaints about the virtual teaching method, administrators said e-learning labs were here to stay.”



One Response to “The Beginning of the End?”

  1. Tweets that mention The Beginning of the End? « The ICT4D Jester -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kaleem Rahman. Kaleem Rahman said: "The beginning of the end… of teachers?" ./via @ict4djester #ICT4E #Edutech […]

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