Remote teachers are no match for traditional teachers

With growing shortages in science, math and special education in all states and the District of Columbia, many school districts are relying on remote instruction beamed into classrooms (“In More High School Classes, the Teacher Is on a Screen,” The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 26).  When designed well, such instruction can be effective.

But I submit that even then, remote teachers are a poor substitute for traditional teachers because of the role that personality plays in learning.  Although it is fiction, “Dead Poets Society” is an example.  The impact that John Keating, who was played by Robin Williams, had on his students can never be duplicated, let alone surpassed, by a remote teacher.

Years after subject matter is forgotten, students remember the way their favorite teachers instilled in them enthusiasm for their subjects.  I’ve made it a point to attend the class reunions of the same high school where I taught for my entire 28-year career.  The students still vividly recall how they were inspired by certain teachers.  No electronic lesson can ever leave that kind of indelible impression.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

6 Replies to “Remote teachers are no match for traditional teachers”

  1. Completely agree. But, I wonder if today’s students — who started playing with smart phones and tablets before they could even walk — might be more receptive to remote instruction than older generations. Of course, the opposite might be true. That is, students who from infancy have been watching exciting digital content might be completely turned off by remote instruction that did not have the pure entertainment value of non-instructional digital content. Possible, today’s students might find that real live people teaching a class is more exciting than seeing something on a screen.

    Of course, remote instruction raises all kinds of practical problems — how to ensure students are even sitting in front of the screen and/or paying any attention to the screen + testing/cheating + monitoring how much the students are understanding as a lesson progresses + what happens when one or several computers malfunction.


  2. Labor Lawyer: There is indeed a generation gap, but I think all students can still profit more from the connection they form with an actual teacher than what they form with a virtual teacher.


  3. As seems to be the rule at Ed Hed, Walt harkens back to the Good Old Days and Labor Lawyer re-focuses on the real problems obtaining in the present.

    What has changed are the demographics and economics.

    50 years ago in California middle class taxpayers supported their children’s schools, both financially and in direct involvement with the PTA. The teaching profession was an attractive option for idealistic, intelligent collegians, especially for smart women whose career options in law, science, management, etc. were yet to be realized.

    Now, in California, the top percents of taxpayers fund the schools state-wide, and their children attend pricey private schools or top-rate public schools in wealthy suburbs. The middle class is vanishing, and the poor populate the deteriorating urban and rural schools.

    What is the incentive for a prospective teacher today? Why go into debt for a degree and credential from a college that mandates social justice code compliance, with watered-down standards to accommodate unprepared high school grads? To accept state and federal curriculum requirements filtered through lock-step textbooks from a few politically-savvy publishers. To work in a classroom where student attendance and discipline are not enforced, so rarely practiced. To belong to a weakened and disrespected teachers’ union, unless opting out of dues or joining a non-union charter school.

    Stressed, underpaid, indebted, micro-managed, disillusioned. Can they afford rent and car payments? How’s their health?

    For over 20 years educational technology has been the proposed cure for dismal academic performance, especially to redress the Achievement Gap. What Walt blithely refers to as remote instruction is half right, remote. The recent L.A.U.S.D. iPad fiasco should be fair warning to any latecomers to the situation. It was doomed from the start. Billions wasted, plus the opportunity cost of thousands of students going backwards, only to be awarded devalued Credit Recovery diplomas so that administrators and politicians could declare victory.

    Remote instruction is the last resort, after a succession of failures. Pay top dollar for some award-winning academics to deliver their magical instruction on screens across the country. The schools and vendors will promise dramatic improvement, then make excuses or cheat when their funding is threatened by critics of their still under-performing schools.

    Demographics and economics.


  4. Lancer to Bruin: I started teaching in the LAUSD in 1964 before Prop. 13. Public schools were funded better than are today. I’ve written often about low morale among teachers and what I see as a bleak future for the profession. The disrespect shown teachers at virtually all levels alone is enough to dissuade the best and the brightest from making teaching a career. There will always be some college grads who are so dedicated that they ignore the new realities of the classroom. But I agree with you that the vast majority see little reason to become lifetime teachers.


  5. “REMOTE TEACHERS” are an insult to the teaching profession. To me, money is the main reason systems use this technology.


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