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Human Mediated Teaching Vs Computerized Teaching Modalities

Introduction:

Teaching is interactive, which has always indicated that the teacher and the student are together in the same classroom as the lessons are presented. However, today the trend involves the increasing use of computer technology in learning, often with the teacher and student in widely separated locations. This technology may also make use of automated computer teaching systems, interactive programs, and similar approaches to learning as the student interacts with a computer program rather than a teacher. Such changes raise many questions about the future of the school classroom and suggests to some the possibility that the teacher will no longer be required at all for learning to take place, at least not in the traditional role, vand perhaps only as a monitor for students in distant locations. With home schooling being another major obstacle in the teacher-student relationship, technology also calls into question whether teachers will be needed at all, considering if the computer isn’t the main source of teaching, the parent could be. An analysis of some of the challenges being posed to traditional methods of teaching and the new technologies that go along with these challenges may answer the question for the future of teaching.

Disruptions to Traditional Teaching Modalities:

A number of challenges face the profession of teaching today, including the increasing use of home schooling, an approach which often uses traditional teaching methods without the presence of a professional teacher; and distance learning, whereby students study from home over the Internet or by some other means of communication. Such learning also takes place without the intercession of a teacher in the traditional sense. This is not a new approach but one that has become more viable with new technologies. During the mid-nineteenth century a fundamental paradigm shift occurred as most parents believed the institution of school was a more advanced form of education than home schooling. Thus, from the mid 19th Century to the late Twentieth century, most children went to school in institutions – away from the family context.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, home education emerged again as an alternative to public schooling. According to a 1998 survey conducted by the U.S. Department, it has been estimated that there were then some 200,000 to 300,000 home-schooled children across the nation, while more recent updates show a figure of 900,000 (Duffey, 1998). According to a study by Brian Ray (1997), there may be as many as 1.23 million children being home schooled today, based on data collected from a random sampling of 5,402 home schooled students from 1994 to 1996.

The home schooling movement sees parents taking over the education of their child or children at home so as not to be required to send them to school outside the home. The format for home schooling can vary widely from semi formal flexible schedules to highly regimented. There is no “correct” way to go about home schooling and this is reflected in the variety of techniques and modalities utilized by parents and other sellf made teachers.

Between one and four percent of U.S. children today are home-schooled. In California, somewhere between 60,000 to 200,000 children are currently being homeschooled. Home schooling is a legal option in every state, and sixteen states do not even regulate curricula, testing, or parent qualifications. In the past, most home schoolers came from religious families who were not satisfied with the public-school curriculum and were not comfortable with (or could not afford) private schools. Recently, more parents state that they prefer the home-schooling option because of the mediocrity in the public-school system.

Researchers have taken special note of the increase in home-schooling, with particular attention given to learning the reasons why parents choose to home-school their children. According to Muncy (1996), the reasons can vary widely. They include the following:

  • 1. Many parents believe that children learn best when they are free to explore areas of interest in an independent, self-directed way, and only home schooling can fully provide such a setting.
  • 2. Parents believe that schools confine children's learning experiences to textbooks, classrooms and grade levels, with more concern on moving children through the system than having them learn.
  • 3. Religious parents, such as evangelical Christians, believe that religious teaching should be a key part of learning, and they thus decide to home-school so that their children may learn biblical principles and their applications to various subject areas.
  • 4. Many parents believe that the “socialization” that occurs in schools is generally inimical to learning and personal growth.
  • 5. Many parents believe that home schooling is a way of strengthening the bonds of the family.

Lange and Liu ask why parents in Minnesota choose to home school their children, and they base their study on a survey examining each of the types of school-choice options available in Minnesota. The study analyzed the demographic characteristics of families who decide to home-school their children, the reasons parents home-school their children, and the extent to which special education or the child's special needs are a factor in the home schooling decision. Those parents participating in the study home-schooled their children with at least one kindergarten through 12th-grade child home schooled in 1997. The results indicated that special education or the special needs of the child were a factor for many of these parents.

Pearson indicates that home schooling is one of the fastest growing educational options in the United States. He also points out that currently while about one percent of the total school-age population is being home schooled. Parents choose home schooling for many diverse reasons. These include: differences in religion, spiritual beliefs, not agreeing with the regimented school environment, creating a more nurturing environment and enabling space to develop their child's unique gifts.

It should be noted here that many home schooling parents hold more than one of the just delineated views. Indeed, in spite of some socio-demographic differences the commonalities comprising this theme include a concern for independent thought, a longing to strengthen the family, and a frustration with the bureaucratic limits of conventional schools.

According to home schooling organizations most of the parents who home school are Christian and, as such, many of their reasons for home schooling their children center around value differences and the moral deterioration of public schools.

Thompson considers the relationship between structural conditions and the tendency of parents to educate their children at home, hoping to determine whether it might be possible to make changes in the structural features of schools and school districts in order to decrease home schooling. In a key study homeschoolers in five US states were interviewed.

In this study, data was taken from each state and divided into two groups on the basis of the percent of home-schooled students in each of the districts chosen. T-tests for independent samples were then conducted, comparing districts with respect to the percentage of home-schooled students in the district–high or low. According to Thompson (1994), findings indicate no correlation between student reading scores and the rates of home schooling. Rural, independent, and non-rural districts do not demonstrate differences between high and low home-school districts on any of the academic measures. The only data to contradict this trend was that obtained from Oregon.

Evidence was unearthed for the argument that financial factors were a strong determinant in parents' decisions to home school their children. In Michigan and Oregans financial considerations played a key role in parents taking on the role of teacher and homeschooler.

A comprehensive review of the literature on the academic effects of home schooling was conducted by Meighan (1995). Meighan argued that home schooling results in well rounded children; academically, spiritually and socially. Meighan (1995) postulated several reasons for the strong success of home schooled students. The varied factors behind homeschool benefits included: the general effectiveness of natural learning, applying assorted modalities of discipline, adaptation to learning approaches, versatile use of curricula, economical use of your time, data access, first-hand expertise, and training.

Ray looks at the literature on the effects that home schooling may have on the cognitive achievement and on the emotional development of students. Ray finds that emotional development has been a particular interest for researchers because they feared that home schooled children would not have enough interaction with other children and adults to foster emotional growth. However, review of the literature indicated that home schooled youth scored equal to or better than their conventional school peers on measures of both cognitive achievement and desirable affective traits.

Distance Education Modalities:

Distance learning involves an alternative communication system intended to reach students in distant locations by using an electronic link of some sort between the instructor and the student. It is not a completely different mode of learning, though, for the subject matter is essentially the same and the requirements placed on the learner are about the same. Distance learning has been part of the educational system for some time, which in earlier times meant televised classes which the student could attend using UHF television or cable. More widespread distance learning became possible with the wide dissemination of the PC and with the creation of the Internet and the Net, allowing for instant two-way communication while also giving access to recordings of classes, written materials, visual materials, and more. The learner need not be anywhere near the source of the class and indeed can be anywhere in the world.

There are certain limitations to distance learning. While it can be adapted to almost any sort of curriculum, it is not as effective for classes requiring laboratory work or hands-on work. It has been criticized because it reduces human contact and lessens the social element in attending a college course in person. In the early period, instructors may have tailored their curriculum to fit the needs of the computer more than the needs of the student, which today’s schools believe should not be the case:

This requirement might preclude teaching certain subjects through distance learning. For instance, while aspects of chemistry can be taught by computer, hands-on work is needed to make the learning as complete as it needs to be for a degree, and laboratory work means attendance and access to a lab and its equipment.

A review of literature in the area of cognitive learning theory related to distance education found that, although no overarching theory of distance education exists, four attributes of effective learning process theories are applicable to the distance education concept. These four learning process theoretical frameworks are: (1) active learning and knowledge construction; (2) cooperative learning; (3) problem-solving as an approach to learning; and (4) collaborative learning (Escamilla, 1994).

Cognitive models emphasize the acquiring of knowledge and understanding as a process driven by agency, purpose and meaning. Students construct meaning from the material presented as they process it through existing mental structures and then retain it in long-term memory where it remains available for further processing and possible reconstruction. In this model involving students in developing deep understandings through grasping, creating, evolving, and organizing concepts is key.

Some learning theories emphasize learning’s social genesis and suggest the view that it is a social process that occurs more effectively through interpersonal interactions in a cooperative (versus a competitive) context. Research has found that the positive motivational and effective cognitive aspects are involved in group-oriented learning processes. Teamwork in learning extends the locus of meta-cognitive activity by providing triggers for cognitive dissatisfaction outside the individual. Team members can monitor individual thinking, opinions, and beliefs in order to provide feedback for changing the learning process. Additionally, a learner’s exposure to alternative points of view can challenge her or his initial understanding and thus motivate learning. Cooperation and teamwork can further support learning by providing social support and encouragement for individual efforts.

The idea of learning by means of problem-solving is in keeping with the view that learning is a process of building and transforming mental models, meaning that the process involves the mental representation of elements that make up a domain and their interrelationship. Such transformations involve changes in organization, structure of knowledge and primarily occur in the context of problem solving. Learning in such a scenario is thought to be expedited in challenging problem-solving situations which allow mental models to be tested, extended, and refined, making them more effective and reliable in solving that particular problem.

Collaborative learning can be defined as when multiple students work together to achieve a common goal. Under the collaborative learning approach, collaborative work results in emergent knowledge; spontaneously resulting from the interaction of the understandings of those who contribute to its formation. Group based emergent knowledge modalities lead to advanced problem solving and interpersonal skill development. Collaborative learning in higher education produces higher student involvement with the course material and contributes to their involvement with one another as they work together in small groups while performing an academic task. Technology facilitates the collaborative learning process in distance education scenarios. Working in interacting groups has been found to facilitate students’ acquisition of critical thinking skills and meta-cognitive learning strategies, such as self-monitoring and learning how to learn. It has also been found that, in higher education settings, collaborative procedures (student-student interactions) are related to higher levels of critical and active thinking and lower levels of rote memorization.

Collaborative learning procedures have also been found to be more effective than traditional instructional methods in promoting student learning and academic achievement. Additionally, collaborative learning procedures have been found to enhance student satisfaction with the learning experience. These and other research findings have led to a growing interest in use of collaboration learning in higher education as a viable and effective instructional strategy in a distance education scenario. New media technologies are vital to facilitating group interactions and learning experiences in the context of distance education.

Laboratory and field studies have shown that media technology capabilities and features can facilitate learner group interactions and improve group performance by increasing process gains and reducing process losses (Pinsonneault & Kraemer, 1990). Electronic communication channels increase the amount of information and alternatives generated by learner groups (a process gain) by providing simultaneous input channels and thus, eliminating or reducing fragmentation of member participation (a process loss). Anonymity of electronic input can decrease or eliminate evaluation apprehension (a process loss) leading to an increase in learner participation and the amount of information generated by the learner group (a process gain).

Information Technology in the Learning Context:

  
Leaders in computer use and the technologically-oriented often make grand pronouncements about the changes to come because of computer technology, predicting the disappearance of books and newspapers in favor of online versions and seeing a shift from attending classes to learning entirely by a computer attached to the Internet. Anyone accepting these pronouncements as gospel should remember the predictions for a paperless office, when in truth, the computer has increased the amount of paper generated and passed around in the office. Such predictions do raise the question: will technology and the Internet replace the need to learn in a classroom setting?

Certainly, there are advantages to computer learning and the use of the Internet to access material from libraries, databases, and classrooms, though there are aspects of the educational experience that cannot be achieved over the Internet, including direct interactions with teachers and classmates and the socialization process involved in such interactions. One of the movements that has added to the use of distance learning techniques is the rise of home schooling. A 1998 survey facilitated by the Department of Education estimated that there were 200,000 to 300,000 home-schooled children across the nation, and more recent updates show a figure of 900,000 (Duffey, 1998). A study by Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute (1997) suggests that there are as many as 1.23 million children being home schooled, based on data collected from a random sampling of 5,402 home schooled students from 1994 to 1996.

It could be argued that younger students are those most in need of social interaction as part of the learning experience, while college students are more likely to have already attained a level of social maturity. The latter would thus be better able to benefit from distance learning alone. Still, according to Dingle and Gooch (2000), distance learning is growing in importance for students at all levels.

Researchers have asked whether home schooling is as effective as face-to-face schooling, which would also provide an answer for Internet learning over the classroom. Galloway (1995) conducted research as to whether home schooling provided sufficient preparation for students going to college, asking if graduates of home schooling had the same potential for success in college as students who had graduated from conventional public and private schools. The findings showed that the only significant difference was in the ACT English subtest scores in which the home schooled students scored significantly higher than the conventional private school graduates. Based on these findings, it was determined that the home-schooled students showed similar academic preparedness for college and similar academic achievement in college in comparison to students who had attended conventional schools.

Recent predictions made by a computer newspaper in Australia hold that the school of the future will be much more computerized than the school of today, with continuous ethereal eduction operating 365 days seven days a week in the online space. However this statement is balanced by the idea that pupils will still require the interactions and experiences which only face to face learning can provide. This suggests that the visionaries have come around to the view that not everything can be taught online. What is certain is that the Internet will play a stronger role in education and in other forms of communication in the future.

First is the Internet’s size and capacity. The technology is changing and improving so quickly that in a few years, laptops and other simple computers are certain to be so inexpensive that tens of millions more users will be on-line (Goodman, 2004).

The Internet helps link all these computers together, and it is known that the Internet could handle the load of being connected to the 600 million telephones existing today. This fact raises the potential for education on the Internet, and increased use of broadband will make streaming video more feasible for more people and thus create the situation where online learning through a virtual classroom is a real possibility for all students. What is certain is that students will gather much information using the computer and that some students, especially in college, will attend more classes that use an exclusively virtual delivery. Still, classroom instruction is vital for some disciplines at least part of the time, such as chemistry, where hands-on experiments are required; medicine, where hands-on experiments are also required; other sciences that require students to handle, examine, test and probe; and the law, where students must react as if in real-world situations to mock courts and the like. Some disciplines may not need as much face-to-face instruction, such as literature, sociology, philosophy, etc. Odds are that the school of the future will have a mixture of classroom and virtual education, with some subjects grounded in the classroom and others inhabiting cyberspace. The classroom will not entirely disappear, and given the evidence backing the necessity of face to face socializing in education, that is a positive outcome.

The Classroom of The Future

There are many theories concerning the way schools are likely to develop in the future, with suggestions concerning designing the school of tomorrow. One school of thought argues that schools should be incubators for the next generation of peacemakers and world changers. Twenty first century schools are grounds for boredom, alienation, and pessimism – the majority of institutions fail to disrupt the erroneous ethnic, class, and gender assumptions embedded in contemporary life.

According to this view the curriculum and classroom practice must be:

  • 1) Grounded in the lives of our students, meaning that teaching begins with a respect for children and for their ability to learn. To affect this, the curriculum should be rooted in the experience of these children so they can relate the subject to their lives and thus be better able to understand.
  • 2) Critical, meaning that the curriculum should equip students to talk back and ask essential critical questions. Here as well the curriculum should be extended outside the classroom and into the real world.
  • 3) Multicultural, anti-racist; essentially a fundamental shift from the education of today, a place where these detrimental consequences are carried from society into the schools and back again.
  • 4) Participatory and experiential, meaning that schools should encourage student involvement and initiative.
  • 5) Hopeful, joyful, kind, and visionary, meaning that the classroom should be organized to make children feel cared for and significant, by the teacher and by one another.
  • 6) Activistic, meaning students should come to see themselves as truth-tellers and change-makers, as able to affect the world in which they live.
  • 7) Academically rigorous, meaning that the vital academic skills are not to be ignored and are instead vital if the student is to speak directly to the deeply rooted alienation of our culture.
  • 8) Culturally sensitive, since critical teaching requires that teachers admit they do not know everything and that each class is a challenge to learn from the students just as the students are to learn from the teachers (“Creating Classrooms for Equity and Social Justice,” 1994, 4-5).

The teacher today is instrumental in developing the classroom of the future, introducing computers and teaching how they should be used and deciding on what teaching programs are effective and should be implemented in a given school system. The importance of the process can be seen in the widespread use of computers in the classroom and the need for training so students can keep up with studies in other disciplines. This trend has been noted for some time, as has the fact that many students are more adept than teachers at computer use (Computer classrooms more prevalent, 2000). Computers in the classroom have also been shown to be valuable in keeping at-risk students interested by giving them real-world experience and links to the classroom that traditional education does not (Computers instill real-world confidence in Tucson students, 1995).

A recent survey shows that teachers, students, and parents all rate knowledge of computers and the achievement of computer skills highly, with students reporting that they like using the computer and believe they learn more in this way, with parents agreeing, and with teachers seeing the computer as at least a useful tool. Parents do not necessarily see their students using the computer or have anything by which to measure achievement and understanding, but they certainly have heard much about computers from the media and recognize that this is, as one parent stated, “the coming thing”. The younger generation is anticipated to become computer literate (an essential skill in the 21st Century) and in many ways are embracing emerging technology more intuitively than the older generation. Indeed, students and teachers also report similar views of the issue, seeing computer literacy as a fundamental skill for the business world and daily contemporary life.

Teachers see the computer as a useful tool, as noted, but they also indicate a concern that it often becomes a substitute for more traditional study using books that have more in-depth information, and they even report having to fend off parents who want more computer instruction and less reading because they have become convinced by all the media hype that reading is not as important as accessing data by computer. Teachers know this is not the case and constantly have to point out that if a student cannot read, he or she cannot get anything useful from a computer at all.

Parents are not sure what is missing from computer learning because they do not have the grasp of the subject that might tell them. Students hear about software programs that the school does not have and cite these as what they want in the future. Teachers also note the lack of some programs in schools and find themselves at times using computers that are older and slower than those found in business today.

With disruptive technologies emerging and evolving at an ever proliferating rate it is more important than even that the education system equips the next generation with the skills, abilities and mindset to thrive in contemporary global culture.

Conclusion:

Home schooling is still embraced by parents who feel that their children are not getting sufficient information in a school environment. But, how the teaching profession may change over the next few years is difficult to say with any certainty. It seems clear that technology will play more and more of a role in the classroom, as well as the home. Students have more access to technology, but with home schooling, their researching freedom is limited. In a school environment, students would be able to advance more technologically, with or without the teacher. This does not mean the teacher will no longer be needed, though the traditional teaching role may shift as new opportunities for learning are developed. Teaching clearly remains a key need for certain types of classrooms, notably the laboratory setting that does not adapt well to distance learning beyond the basics. In any case, teachers must adapt and learn the new technology if they are to remain relevant and necessary to the learning experience. Books will still be important in the learning atmosphere, but with technology expanding, the playing field may lean towards computers in teaching practices as well as student practices.

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