To the Editor:
William J. Price is indeed a neo-Luddite, and, like his predecessors, will not be able to stem the tide of technological advances that will revolutionize 21st-century learning. But his dirge for “The Impending Death of Face-to-Face Instruction,” to quote from the title of his June 11, 2008, Commentary, misses the point.
In a world where education will be customized to give each child the best opportunity to reach his or her potential, nothing will prevent some children from following curricula that involve conventional relationships with teachers. In fact, one should think of education in the future as a continuum, ranging from traditional schooling delivered in a brick-and-mortar setting to a modular, individualized curriculum delivered entirely online.
In between, there will be myriad combinations based on the strengths and weaknesses, interests, age, and circumstances of each child. The great advantages that technology provides include the ability to convey facts in a consistent, timely, and adaptive manner, and to enable children to reach competency and beyond at their own pace through persistent practice. The role of the teacher will be transformed into one of a guide who oversees the process, essentially helping children identify the information needed to solve a problem, find that information, evaluate it, and then apply it.
Critics of online learning invariably point to the lack of socialization and the isolation it involves. But because customized learning is more efficient, it requires less seat time, freeing children to engage in all kinds of extracurricular activities available at community centers and through organized sports. In these settings, socialization occurs, but outside the academic realm where children currently face many negative experiences at the hands of their peers and, sadly, sometimes their teachers.
The world has changed; our schools have not. It’s time reboot learning.
San Francisco, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the July 16, 2008 edition of Education Week as ‘Neo-Luddites’: Wake Up And Reboot the Learning