Saturday, June 01, 2013

We Need to Be Together

Larry Cuban has a new post about online learning in K-12 education. If you aren't familiar with him, he's worth following. He was a teacher, superintendent, and college professor through the years. He's written quite a few books on education reform. (I was first introduced to his work in graduate school when I read Tinkering Toward Utopia.)

He is clearly skeptical of online learning, in general and in K-12 education.
Regardless of the quality of research on new technologies, cheerleaders continue to trumpet online learning as the “disruptive innovation” that will replace regular schools. 
While I don't always agree with Cuban about technology in schools, I think we're on the same page here. Maybe it's because I'm looking at this from the perspective of a primary teacher or even an elementary school teacher. Maybe if I taught middle school or high school I would have a different perspective on online learning.

It's hard for me to imagine my little six and seven year olds spending anywhere near half their time with online learning. Not only for the various reasons Cuban lists, but also because there is so much more to learning than content. What can be done online misses a lot of what happens in a classroom.

I fear that education is becoming solely focused on content. We are losing sight of the rest of what makes up the human beings that are our students.

In my classroom my students are learning to read, write, work with numbers, observe the world around them, share what they are learning, classify information, etc. I think that could probably all be done online (how well is still uncertain, in my mind).

My kiddos also learn to talk to other people, make eye contact, problem solve together, speak in front of a group, collaborate on projects, advocate for themselves and their needs, etc. I don't think these things can be done online, much less done well.

Maybe I'm missing something or unwilling to see the change that is coming, but it is hard for me to envision a time when face-to-face-with-peers education is gone. Time with other human beings is too important to the development of human beings.


Unknown said...

I agree, and I'm a big advocate of technology generally. I've seen my high school students work independently and be unable to make good use of online resources. I really believe that online learning right now encourages surface-level learning. What I do in class is force students to go deeper, to think critically by asking hard questions. I personally get a lot out of online courses, but I'm in a completely different place than students.

Jenny said...

Laura, Your comment reminds me that technology is like anything else - it requires support from teachers. It's amazing how easy that is to forget (or not see in the first place).