High touch AND high tech

Dave Warlick asked a group of educators what they thought they would see if they walked into a classroom in 2015 in his blog postOur Classrooms are Irrelevant, not obsolete!.  His findings were a bit troubling though.

I continue to be disturbed, however, by the number of educators who
predict that the classroom will go away, that they will teach their
students through the networks, each from their own homes or other
places of preference. Certainly this is technologically feasible and
certainly some teaching and learning happens very well through the
digital lenses that are our computers and networks. But, is doing away
with classrooms what we really want?

However, believing that with technology, we can educate our children
without bringing them together, uses technology to separate, not
connect us.

I may just be old fashioned — a romantic. But the
electricity that happens in the eye contact between teacher and student
is what brings to life, a world of wonder and opportunity.

I’m with Dave on this one.  Technology is fantastic.  It’s a key to bridging distances and making connections.  However, it only fulfills this role in situations where face to face interaction is not feasible.

For people that are seperated by oceans, Skype is a fantastic way to communicate.  For people working in different time zones, email has become an invaluable collaboration tool.  IM is great for quick communication between people when a full conversation is unnecessary.  However, none of them replace actual personal, physical interactions. 

For the times when personal connections just aren’t possible, technology is able to serve as an adequate substitute.  But there is definitely something lost in the  translation.  It’s like the difference between being at a football game and watching one on TV.  Seeing a concert versus hearing it on CD.  Being at a workshop versus hearing the podcast of it.  TV, CD and podcast are certainly better than missing the event entirely, but they don’t capture the vibe, the buzz, the energy of actually being there in person.

And lest anyone forget, there’s is definitely a buzz in the classroom.  It’s what I was talking about when I wrote Sharing the buzz.  Teachers feel it too when they’re in professional development sessions.  Yes, they could probably get the same information through an online lesson, but there’s something about the learning process that changes when people are sharing the experience physically as well as intellectually. 

Classrooms may need to be updated to reflect the world of the 21st century, but don’t even think about taking classrooms away.


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  1. Barbara Bray said:

    Hi Steve,

    A few years ago, David Warlick created the New Century Schoolhouse – an online virtual schoolhouse where we could create our classroom of the future.

    I created a different type of classroom there that was a learning community where teachers and students were learning together, collaborating in teams on projects. Teams were set around interests or could even be on what students are supposed to know and do (standards). This classroom was a place where teams could schedule to meet in person but there was an online community with all the tools and resources for teams to collaborate virtually. Several classes could share the online space as teams – teams could be from anywhere in the world and could find each other with similar interests or tags.

    With so much to learn for so many different abilities and learning styles, how could teachers meet all that is expected of them how our schools are set up today?

    So I went back to this R&D room idea – actually this is starting to happen with My eCoach, DEN, Moodle, Elgg, and others. Only thing is now how do you make this new online environment complement today’s classrooms that are not as flexible or accomodating as we need?

  2. Joe Brennan said:

    I took a correspondence course (how I date myself!) in Spanish literature years ago with a very respected university professor. As much as I loved Spanish and as insightful as the prof was, I thought it was one of the driest and most sterile learning experiences of my life. A year later I got to take the follow-up course in person and couldn’t believe what an interesting period in literature it was! Human contact and interaction make all the difference. To quote my buddy Ken Wiseman’s old tag line, “Technology will never replace teachers, but teachers who teach with technology will.”

  3. Scott Meech said:

    There are so many predictions of the future that have been dead wrong. We should all be in flying cars the way I remember some of the predictions…

    Point being… It will be a long time before the traditional class is gone… a very long time…

    Will it look like today’s class? No… there needs to be more of a combination of aspects of the future with the present…. I am not disturbed by the possibilities presented because the reality is that best practice will win out. Thanks for the blog post!

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