Thursday, February 25, 2010

I've long been concerned that online learning will attempt to replace real time teachers in the classroom. While it may be possible to effectively deliver instruction via a computer program, I am not sold that this will completely replace all the peripheral skills learned in school. Teaching middle school students, I wonder about the self-motivation part as well - will the average adolescent truly be self-driven enough to make it through a prescribed program without teacher intervention and drive.

This week, I am experiencing up close and personal what online learning can look like in a 7th grade math classroom. My district purchased Compass Learning this school year for teachers to use for remediation and instruction. It has been used sporadically at best district wide, with little training and support as to how this tool can be used to support instruction.

Finally, I decided maybe it would be a way to grab the attention of my students, especially those driven by technology, those who tune me out, and those who are struggling wiht the more traditional approach to learning we typically engage in. My language arts partner has been using it some in her classes and has praised its potential.

For my regular math class, I chose to assign a folder of review materials, topics we had covered at some point during the year, but ones students were still struggling with. These basic concepts varied from expressions to balancing equations, but were all review. Day 3 of the experiment and I am not any clearer on how I feel about the program than initially. Student scores on the quizzes are varied, high to low. Some students seem engaged, others look like zombies staring at a screen, just clicking their way through the program.

For my prealgebra classes, I assigned them 3 folders of assignments, one of which was new material we were going to be covering next in class. The other 2 folders were practice of concepts we had already covered, but that are typically topics students need extra practice on. Students are whizzing their way through, scoring well for the most part. However, students have asked if I will be teaching these concepts are well. They don't feel like they have grasped the material adequately from the online lessons.

It started as an experiment, and I can't give the results until it is done. However, the jury is still out. I miss teaching them, they miss the interaction with me and each other, and I wonder how deep an understanding of the topics they are really getting.

Are we ready for computers to replace teachers? Are we ready for a generation educated by a machine, just clicking multiple choice answers?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think computers will ever completely replace teachers, simply because computers don't have intuition. You need person-to-person contact to make a lot of daily educational decisions - maybe computers and science can measure knowledge and strengths/weaknesses, but we also need to know *why* certain weaknesses exist in our students so we can figure out how to strengthen them. For instance, a kid can't add because they have a genuine LD, or maybe they can't add because they're too lazy to practice. No computer is going to be able to tell the difference.