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Do we need a school?


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Do we really need schoolbuildings anymore?

With today's technology there is no need for schools to be formal institutions. Using webcams, a forum like this one etc. students can do there course work form there lazy chairs at home. If they need help a teacher is only one click away!

Or am I being too optimistic about technology? ;)

Thoughts please!

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  • 5 weeks later...

What happens to all the disaffected, dysfunctional, switched-off students who do not want to learn at school, let alone left to their own devices at home? This model seems to presume that children/teenagers really want to, and are willing, to sit at home and work in front of a computer all day.

How do we keep their home PCs on-line and working? I presume govt would have to provide and repair them?

How would students learn to relate to a whole range of real people instead of machines? Hoe would their parents like them at home all day?

How would we deal with special needs students? How do they learn routines, punctuality, respect for others, real life communication, etc.?

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Hi!

I am never so determined, but in this case I think we can, must and should perceive and understand the difference between tuition only through technology and teaching as the result of interpersonal interaction between teacher, class-mates and the learner. If technology cannot be substituted as we do need it because of its wide and complex "capability", we cannot be replaced by a PC as it would be quite a narrowing choise. The problem is that teaching is mainly thinking, accepting, changing, correcting the initial path if motivation can benefit from it.

:blink: Might it be that I didn't understand the question?

Edited by Vittoria Di Fabio
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I think it is quite possible to get a quality education away from a school building. But I think there are many other things that can and should be part of public education. These include the discipline of showing up and keeping a schedule, socialization including exposure to diviersity, and the personal contact with teachers and peers that help people understand the level of their understanding.

While I believe we need to always question and evaluate our method of education, I think we often discount important factors about formal education that don't solely relate to learning a block of useful material.

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School buildings are not the be all and end all of education but they are what we traditionally send our children into and expect the teachers to deliver and the students to absorb (willingly or not) a body of knowledge. Adult learners may or may not go to a particular building to acquire new knowledge and skills - they have the maturity to choose to be independent learners.

The age of technology opens up a whole new arena for the education of both school age children and adults but there remains the issue of maturity of choices. Perhaps there needs to be a shift towards training children to be more independent learners so that they can make use of technology as Marco suggests.

I do not believe that school buildings will ever be totally redundant - the social interactions between teachers and students, and between students can and should never be replaced. However, there is a case for the idea that at least part of the time spent in 'education' could be done remotely through technology, with teachers being the facilitators.

Regarding the reluctant learners - perhaps parents might have to take on more responsibility? :blink:

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I deplore the current trend to perceive technology as the panacea.

Oppenheimer writes:

“In 1922 Thomas Edison predicted that 'the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and [...] in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks.' Twenty-three years later, in 1945, William Levenson, the director of the Cleveland public schools' radio station, claimed that 'the time may come when a portable radio receiver will be as common in the classroom as is the blackboard.' Forty years after that the noted psychologist B.F. Skinner, referring to the first days of his 'teaching machines,' in the late 1950s and early 1960s, wrote, 'I was soon saying that, with the help of teaching machines and programmed instruction, students could learn twice as much in the same time and with the same effort as in a standard classroom.'”(Oppenheimer 1997:45)

"The cycle began with big promises backed by the technology developers' research. In the classroom, however, teachers never really embraced the new tools, and no significant academic improvement occurred." (Oppenheimer 1997:45)

Critics of the Web lament the disappearance of traditional educational environments, citing the dubious ethics of those who wish to turn our universities into "Digital Diploma Mills" - the title of a five-part series of articles by David Noble (Noble 1997-2001):

"In his classic 1959 study of diploma mills for the American Council on Education, Robert Reid described the typical diploma mill as having the following characteristics: "no classrooms," "faculties are often untrained or nonexistent," and "the officers are unethical self-seekers whose qualifications are no better than their offerings." It is an apt description of the digital diploma mills now in the making. Quality higher education will not disappear entirely, but it will soon become the exclusive preserve of the privileged, available only to children of the rich and the powerful. For the rest of us a dismal new era of higher education has dawned. In ten years, we will look upon the wired remains of our once great democratic higher education system and wonder how we let it happen. That is, unless we decide now not to let it happen." (Noble: ibid. Part I)

Other critics include Press & Washburn. The preamble to their article entitled "Digital Diplomas"says it all:

"Welcome to the brave new world of higher education, where professors are "content experts," classes are "courseware," and students are customers. But just what is a dot-com degree worth?"" (Press & Washburn 2001)

References:

Oppenheimer T. (1997) "The Computer Delusion", The Atlantic Monthly 280, 1 (July 1997): 45-62:

http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/97jul/computer.htm

Noble D. (1997-2001) "Distance Education on the Web", a series of five articles: http://communication.ucsd.edu/dl

Press E. & Washburn J. (2001) "Digital Diplomas", Mother Jones Magazine, January/February 2001: http://www.motherjones.com/mother_jones/JF01/diplomas.html

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I left the school classroom a few years ago. You could say that I am a full-time e-teacher.

Anyway, I spend my day at home producing online educational materials. The main advantage of being an e-teacher is the freedom to decide on how you spend your time. True, I do work for commercial companies. However, I am very careful about the work I decide to do. Most of the work I do is based on my own creative instincts. This is in direct contrast to being a teacher in a school where you are controlled by timetables, bells, examination systems, government initiatives, etc. Now I just concentrate on teaching and when you can do that, it’s the best job in the world.

However, I am under no illusions that e-teachers will become the norm. Schools are vitally important places for developing social skills. One could argue that the changes that have taken place in society makes this more important than ever. Teachers also have an important role in inspiring students to be interested in academic subjects.

I believe that e-learning will grow in importance. It has several very important advantages over traditional forms of education. For one, it has the potential to be a very cheap way of providing education. A talented e-teacher has the ability to teach millions of people at the same time. Another major advantage is that e-learning can provide a large number of routes into a subject. In this way students will be able to personalize their education (I am willing to go into more detail about this if requested). I predict over the next few years the classroom teacher and the e-learning provider will develop the kind of relationship that will enable a major improvement to take place in the way students learn.

Before the e-learning revolution takes place governments will need to increase its investment in both technology and the people producing online educational materials. It is of course not just about money. How you get good online educational materials is of major importance.

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John Simkin writes:

I believe that e-learning will grow in importance. It has several very important advantages over traditional forms of education. For one, it has the potential to be a very cheap way of providing education.

Probably true, but certain subjects/skills will continue to be taught more efficiently in a face-to-face context, e.g.

* playing the piano

* how to play football

* speaking a foreign language

You cannot replace a good holiday course abroad, which is by far the best way to learn a foreign language, not to mention enjoying Mediterranean sunshine, Alpine scenery, Bordeaux wine, socialising with the locals, etc...

As Uschi Felix, an internationally renowned Web guru in the area of language learning and teaching, says:

“… it takes a very special person to learn and, especially, speak a language without face-to-face communication.”

See p. 8 in Felix U. (2001) Beyond Babel: Language Learning Online, Melbourne: Language Australia, 378 pages, book plus CD-ROM, ISBN 1 876768 25 8. Available in Europe from Camsoft: http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk

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There is an interesting article in today’s Education Guardian about the future of Virtual Teaching. It gives the example of how Elliot School is using video conferencing to deliver A-level Philosophy. The school is in London and the teacher is in Oxford.

Although I can understand the economics of this solution it seems to me a very bad way of using technology. We all know that one of the most ineffective ways of teaching is for a teacher to talk to the class (recent research suggest that the Average Retention Rate is only 5% - the lowest of all methods tested). This approach will be even more ineffective when it is being delivered by video conferencing.

http://education.guardian.co.uk/egweekly/s...1159454,00.html

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There is an interesting article in today’s Education Guardian about the future of Virtual Teaching. It gives the example of how Elliot School is using video conferencing to deliver A-level Philosophy. The school is in London and the teacher is in Oxford.

Although I can understand the economics of this solution it seems to me a very bad way of using technology. We all know that one of the most ineffective ways of teaching is for a teacher to talk to the class (recent research suggest that the Average Retention Rate is only 5% - the lowest of all methods tested). This approach will be even more ineffective when it is being delivered by video conferencing.

http://education.guardian.co.uk/egweekly/s...1159454,00.html

Delivering A levels in this way has been mooted for some time at my institution. I tend to agree that is a poor use of technology - using it to deliver "lessons" in traditional ways. Far better perhaps to empower learners with well designed online courses and to use the VC facilties for discussion/seminars.

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I agree that video conferencing is generally artificial and limiting. However, I have seen it used effectively to link children in hospital with their classmates in school. In this context video conferencing seemed to fulfil inclusive practice and gave the recipients an opportunity to participate.

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Hi Forum members,

I experience that the existence of schools is a luxury that our youth is lucky to use. (Although...) At our college there is now for a couple of years a distance learning stream for those who want to be a secondary teacher and have passed the necessary access exams. We call it side-stream. But there are also expert-certficated courses and students.

These students are mainly people from 30 years and up. But I found out in e-mail talks that this is the hard way:

First is TIME; for people with normal hours it is very hard to find time to study , to work on tasks or to do practical work. As a motivator students have been asked to look for a "mate" to work along, and there is a "virtual social room" for just smalltalk. And these added utilities are very appreciated. There are also some contact days per period of six months: for students who need it ....

But mates are divorced if one of them decides to go slower or mm faster.

So SECOND there is disciplin: the motive to work on a regular basis.

I can compare that with my 18-22 y students: an ocean of time..... lots of contacts and the possibility to go for a short chat to a lecturer. And the motivation is sometimes low and driven by the year-group. Drop out is less in a socially good group.

I think it is necessary to have on line learners; there is a market.......

But I hope that schools -maybe without roster Marco :lol: - will stay.

Huub Schoot

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I probably graduated from college more recently than most, if not all, of you. I can share with you my experience with three types of teachers:

1) Totally hands on - all handouts, films, and videosno text, role playing, interactive and proactive

2) Guided Independent study - 1 4 hour introduction; 1 required paper, then pick 4 out of 5 topics; see the teacher if you need to.

2a) Guided Independent Study - 1 4 hour introduction; choose 9 out of 10 topics, see the teacher when you need to.

3) Classroom Lecturer - "I talk, you listen"; quizzes and tests based primarily on material read out of class; Final Exam: at home, open book short essays, again, based on material not covered in class.

#1 could never be replaced by non-human technology

#2 and 2a, as pointed out above, would never work with non - motivated students (ages 6 -16)

#3 is the way College was before the "Revolution" of the Sixties - I had both experiences.

I'll take #1, over #2 or #3, anyday.

My communications teacher used to tell us, "You listen to me, and pay attention to me, because I sit in the front. You have been trained by 12 years in school, and years of Television and movies, that information comes from in front of you." That wouldn't happen without a classroom.

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Guest Andrew Moore

Schools won't disappear overnight - they are too necessary for society. But we can and will change the way we study in and out of them.

Mostly they exist in their current form (all the children attend all of the time) to keep teachers busy and give cheap child-care for parents. Or, worse, to keep children from committing crimes.

I think that it is good for children to mix with others, and it may help to have a grown-up around, to keep things civilized - most young people do need some strong guidance and restraint at times.

And some things depend on one's being physically present - like various sports.

I'm an advocate of real guided independent study - but not the parody of it that happens when a teacher expects a student to work autonomously, without giving the guidance that he or she needs.

When it comes to the technology, I would agree that video-conferencing (in the old talking-head sense) is not a good way to teach anything, let alone philosophy. But there are conferencing tools - where we have real time speech, as well as text messaging, and a shared work area in which we can read, write, draw, experiment together - which can be suitable for some distance learning.

That may, of course, not be as much fun as being together at school, where we can find enjoyable ways to let the time pass.

All the things that fd10801 advocates can be done using digital technologies - whether you are in the same room or miles apart. Many of them can be done better. The teacher's or mentor's ability to evaluate your use of them can be far more acute using the new technologies, and can allow for interactions that would not be possible otherwise.

Many modern digital technologies are profoundly conducive to social interaction - that's why so many people spend hours txting friends or chatting in MSN.

fd10801 is quite right about non-human technology. But the vision of digital education that I have is of technology that helps people bring their human qualities to more learners, more of the time, and more flexibly. In a traditional classroom, I can only do one thing at a time. In a digital classroom I can be present in different ways at the same time, as many students will be using learning objects which I have prepared in advance.

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One must be careful in speculating about the future, not to bring the present with us. Michael Crichton recently commented that a 19th Century demographer might have foreseen that by the 21st century there would be 6 billion people on earth, but he would have wondered where they would find space for their horses. :rolleyes:

In the four novel series, Cities in Flight, by James Blish [published from 1955 to 1962], the cities of earth use "spindizzy" technology to head for the stars, guided by supercomputers called the City Fathers. Yet, nowhere in the story is there mentioned a personal computer, or even a hand held calculator!

If we try to preserve what is best about our current teaching methods, there might be a "cultural dissonance" with the technology of even a few decades from now. A half a dozen to a dozen students sitting on the ground around a Socrates or a Maimonides might work if the teacher is in front of a webcam, with his cyberstudents anywhere from Birmingham to Bahrain, but will our minds be prepared for that type of learning experience? And what type of person will that experience produce?

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