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Learning Online - Are Traditional Schools In Danger Of Dying?
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Learning Online - Are Traditional Schools In Danger Of Dying?

Is the traditional model of schooling in danger of becoming extinct?

Perhaps a more relevant question is: what is a school? Is a school a collection of buildings? Is it a place where teachers come to teach and students come to learn? Is it a place where children can be safely prepared to enter the wider world?

Our view of schools, as indeed our views of many traditions and practices in the 21st century, is changing. This mostly has to do with the children.

Children are unlike adults in many ways, including the following:

  • they are smaller
  • they have an optimism about the world many adults lack
  • they have an open-ness that lacks the cynical edge of many adults
  • they have a desire to play, test boundaries, explore and create
  • they are present-focussed, not future-focussed.

The last point is very significant. One of the major causes of stress for adults is the worry over the future; homes, jobs, finances, family, etc. Much of the stress comes about by trying to reach the picture you have in your head about what life could or should look like and how far away the present is from that vision. Children are not like that. They live in the here and now. Stress comes from not being able to progress to the next level of a video game, dropping your ice cream on the ground or being bullied.

The other major difference is that children have grown up surrounded by technology. They are 'technology natives'. They've always lived in this environment. Lack of technology is a difficult concept for them to imagine and technology assists with so many of the things they like to do.

So this brings us back to the question about schools and what they are.

If they exist to teach content, technology can handle that easily. Students can find more content, more variety and presentation styles and more activities in 20 minutes of searching the web than they would get in an average teaching day.

If they exist to encourage social interaction, well technology does that extremely well too. Making friends, sharing information and building relationships can all occur online. Whether these relationships should be the only ones that children cultivate is another question.

Perhaps schools exist as a source of employment. Can you imagine the numbers of unemployed if all teachers were no longer required for schooling? Can technology in education actually replace the entire teaching profession?

There are times when you would rather finish an article with the questions ringing out and leave the answers up to the readers.

However I think it is worth sharing one more point. It can be easy to shift the responsibility for education on to technology, but if you ask anyone to share their best memories from their school years, I'd guarantee the answers would revolve around people. Maybe not in 100% of cases, but in most. Friendships are often lifelong or easy reconnected and there are also mentors, inspirations or role models which focussed our emerging-adult, future-centred brain on the sort of person we wanted to become. I am a strong advocate for online learning, but I also believe in the ability of one dedicated, caring individual to guide and motivate another.


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