Forcing Totally Online Education

online education

Forcing Totally Online Education is a Disaster for Both Teacher and Student

The most grievous example of what totally online education does not do is the Piaget principles of “assimilation” and “accommodation” in children’s learning. According to Piaget, assimilation and accommodation require an active learner, not a passive one, because problem-solving skills cannot be taught, they must be discovered.

In other words, if I’m an online instructor, it is impossible for me to create a “discovery motivation” inside the student. The world of “images,” which is the world of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get), is the world of online learning. This image world goes against the child’s personal desire to learn and uncover the solution on his/her own. True. If the child learns best alone, then the online image world can be a fertile land of discovery. However, since each of us establishes what Piaget called a “schema,” or idiosyncratic method of retaining information and new ways of discovering how this information applies to the world, the teacher must have the flexibility to apply whichever method of allowing that student to discover his/her schema.

Some students discover solutions by discussion with the teacher and other students in a live and active setting. Online chats or Zoom meetings (or the equivalent) can duplicate this structure, to a certain extent, but they do not come close to the live interaction in a classroom. The child is locked into the visual and auditory mode of learning, and, unlike in a classroom, where an instructor can discipline and motivate with other spontaneous techniques, the teacher is also locked into the same mode.

Other students must mechanically “act out” a process or theory to discover and then demonstrate their solution to a live audience and teacher in a live classroom situation. In my classroom, I did this by having my students preparing, researching and “acting out” discoveries in most of my “lessons.” However, when I tried to initiate the same activity online, the drop-off of interest and performance was quite drastic. Students and teachers need the flexibility to learn in the environment wherein they can thrive, in order to establish their personal schema, and then retain and apply what they’ve learned to both peers and the instructor.

Being forced to be completely online, students are forced to assimilate new information in a much more constricted and narrower way. It’s like an artery in your body being clogged with cholesterol. There’s a learning “heart attack” waiting to happen in many of these students (and the teachers!), until the relief of a more flexible and freer environment can be established.

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