No Artificial Teachers!

For the last four years I have been a critic of the advance of on-line “learning” and “virtual” “schools,” starting with  a discussion of a 2012 study showing that on-line ‘schools’ did worse at improving their students than did genuine schools. I welcome such studies but have claimed that even without them good sense could explain why they would fail and why they can’t get at the heart of good teaching. I argued that education is a humane profession not a set of processes, and that it is important for students to have real people at the core of their learning, not machines or dire transformationists.

This stance is reinforced (again) by research conducted at Stanford on the difference between on-line ‘learning’ and more traditional forms of learning. The recently released findings show that

“While findings vary for each student, the results in CREDO’s report show that the majority of online charter students had far weaker academic growth in both math and reading compared to their traditional public school peers…. This pattern of weaker growth remained consistent across racial-ethnic subpopulations and students in poverty.”  [emphasis added]

This news comes on top of the failure of California State University San Jose to implement an on-line learning program that came in with great fanfare but slunk away in ‘underwhelming’ results.

In my high-school debating team I learned to recognize ad hominem arguments—the kind that attack the person rather than the idea. Proponents of on-line ‘learning’ often say the reason teachers oppose it is that they are afraid of losing their jobs or are afraid of the unknown. Well, of course we would rather not lose our jobs, but most teachers I know offer educational arguments because they believe in them. As for the unknown: teachers don’t fear it, they face it every year on the first day of school. Skeptical readers who are not teachers are invited to manage a roomful of seventeen-year-olds and see what I mean.

I have written about undead educationist “thinking”; the stuff being talked about online “learning” qualifies as undead. It can’t be reasoned with and can’t be destroyed by research. Does anyone have a stake, a mallet, and a ton of garlic?

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