This is taken from an email I wrote to a friend of mine:
I am very nervous about what will happen to education in the future. Online schools are cheaper and allow students to progress at their own pace, but they do not build relationships, improve social skills, or react flexibly/instantaneously/creatively to student struggles. Furthermore, the fact that online courses are so popular is an indictment of current schooling norms – if teachers are just information distribution centers (ie: lecture and powerpoint) then online info distribution replaces them easily and effectively. However, if teachers are actively pushing student thinking, forcing them to explain, questioning their decisions, providing real world situations and scaffolding student learning, then the online version cannot replace teachers. Unfortunately, most teachers are fact oriented rather than critical thinking oriented.
My fear is that education is too far gone from the goal of creating critical thinkers and so entrenched in a system of hoop jumping (memorize, regurgitate, repeat) that modifying those hoops for a digital world makes sense – it is cheaper and faster. Many people will say online systems can react (but usually that reaction is simply providing an easier or more difficult fact based question). A machine cannot assess true creativity/ingenuity. Others might argue that message boards or social media can allow for teacher-student interaction. True, but the economic push will be to have one teacher for several hundred students, making it impossible for anything but “hoop jumping”. Not to mention that a lack of true relationship will hinder any teachers ability to meet ALL of their students learning needs. We need to be aware of where we are going. The decisions educators make now will have drastic effects on the cultures of tomorrow. Instead of looking to technology for salvation, perhaps we ought to be asking what we have done wrong in the past that makes online education now so enticing...and what can we do to ensure the "teacher" remains a critical part of education.
I want to be clear, I am NOT anti-technology, but I AM anti-hoop jumping the curriculum.