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How Important is Face Time?

| 12 Comments

In a the August/September Classroomtech column, Kevin Bushweller observes that the profileration of online schools is raising questions about the necessity of in-person interactions with students.

How important are teachers' face-to-face interactions with students? What value do they have? Should virtual schools have guidelines or requirements should virtual to ensure face time?

12 Comments

I am a Special Education Instructor in an urban high school setting. I realize that the potential of reaching many people with courses not normally available is the goal. However, most students, of any age, need the contact. Some need it more than others. My son took 4 courses through our university. It was how they were taught. His 3.35 grade point went down to 1.75. His IQ is 130. This is far too easy a route for institutions to take in the name of saving money regardless of how good the concept is.

For introverts like myself, online classes are a Godsend. I love interacting in the online environment, and I have taken dozens of online classes. You have to be disciplined, introspective, and diligent to succeed in those classes. My average in those types of classes is a 4.0.

In contrast, I abhor taking classes in small group settings. The constant interaction is draining, and I do not feel that I have learned as much in that environment. I often find myself resenting the slow and plodding pace of those classes. I am not a "people" person, and I would much rather interact in writing where I can think about what I want to say before I am forced to respond. Classes of this type often require long hours of focused reading and writing in an online environment, which tend to drive extroverts crazy.

On the other hand, most of my students are extroverts who crave the attention of others. They would not do well in an environment that required purely intrinsic motivation and self direction. They need the "personal contact" environment, and they have usually not developed the ability to concentrate and focus for more than 10 minutes at a time. They need "mini-lectures" instead of massive reading sessions. They need scaffolding exercises, content-related activities, and high levels of personalized attention.

From time to time, I do have a student who is an introverted and self-motivated learner in my classroom. I try to honor that personality type by structuring an independent study contract for those few. They absolutely thrive. Statistically, there are only about 5% of us in the U.S. population. That still represents a sizeable market for a university, so I can see why the development of distance learning classes is appealing.

Generally, I do not see it as an "either or" situation. Some of us thrive in classrooms, while others thrive in independent learning environments. Personally, I hope that at some point in the future the K-12 environment wakes up to that fact so those of us who prefer individualistic learning can begin to do so at an earlier age. My memories of my K-12 experience are nearly all negative with the exception of one teacher who gave me a contract. Bless him!

I am an ESL elementary school teacher in Carolina, Puerto Rico. In my country, elementary school students are not usually related to online courses. This learning strategy is most commonly observed on older learners.

However, the technological era is moving a large amount of people towards a high-technology learning environment. For this reason, educators should provide pertinent learning experiences that include both aspects: virtual and face-to-face interactions. For instance, teachers might consider the alternative to meet with her/his students twice a month, while some class' assignments may be submitted online.

What is missing from the article is that most distance learning classes offer the cooperative groups and collaberative learning, too, just like the classroom vis a vis 'blackboards', 'chats', and other multimedia medium.

In summary, there is something in distance education for everyone, one just has to be proactive in setting it up to meet his or her individual needs.

Steven Shippee
360-902-5817
[email protected]

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