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Are Traditional Teachers Obsolete?

There are those who maintain that nothing can ever replace the need for a flesh-and-blood teacher in the classroom ("The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher," The Atlantic, Mar. 25).  But the fact is that technology is already marginalizing the teacher as the center of learning.  The only question seems to be how long the entire transition will take.

Professionally- produced free videos offering 100,000 interactive lessons on various subjects are now available.  According to Forbes, more than 500,000 teachers around the globe use them, and they have over 500 million views on YouTube.  Clearly, this is not just a passing fad.

When I was teaching English for 28 years in the same high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I must admit that I would have welcomed such resources toward the end of my career. Teaching five classes a day with a minimum of 32 students in each class became increasingly difficult as the backgrounds of students underwent dramatic changes.  Lesson plans that were surefire successes with former students often flopped.  In that era, however, there was nowhere to turn for help except for amateurish films turned out by the district.

Yet I wonder in this new hi-tech world if anything can ever really replace what inspired teachers bring to the classroom.  I'm referring now to the personal relationship that invariably develops between teacher and students.  I don't think that the concept of teacher as facilitator captures this unique bond any more than the best videos can ever take the place of the inspiration that a coach provides players. In short, I see the technology as adjunctive rather than as substitutive. 

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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