K-12 On Line Learning: Not Easy, Not Better, but Survivable.

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This is one of those posts I write to show people later when they get something wrong, something that lots of people get wrong, over and over again. Thus the post so I don’t have to repeat myself or, worse, allow someone to be wrong on the Internet without comment.

First, let us clearly establish that there are many ways to learn, and many ways to teach. Let us further establish that when I, or any other educator, uses the word “teach” it does not ever imply a student sitting there and getting taught at. It is just that there are people who are professional educators, and when they are doing the job they do, the applicable verb is “to teach” and they are called a “teacher.” I digress, but that is just because one in ten readers will be thinking thoughts that needed to be addressed by that comment.

One way to teach and learn in in a classroom. Another way is with distance learning materials, which in the old days were usually sent by mail, but these days are accessed on line. Another way is in an on line classroom setting of some sort. In class teaching and learning is replaced today, in many instances, by a mixture of these two, owing to the Covid-19 Pandemic. (If you are reading this in the far future, we are having a huge pandemic, you may not have heard about it, but it started in 2020, which in the old system, was a number referring to the year.)

Here are the two things that I want to address, that people often get wrong. Usually it is Republicans who get this wrong (“Republcian” was at one time a political party in the US, for those of you in the future) because they hate education and therefore are blindingly stupid about it.

1) All you have to do to create an on line learning system that will work perfectly well is to throw a bunch of lectures, and handouts that teachers are using, on the internet, and it will pretty much take care of itself. This is cheaper, requiring fewer tax dollars, and teachers if they really cared would just do that and then kill themselves and go away. It is easy.

2) On line learning is at least as good as in class learning for everybody, so why don’t we just do it all the time? The Teachers Union, probably, and Libtards in the city that are trying to get our kids into public schools so they can be indoctrinated in things like the arts and literature. Everything people really need to learn can be put on line in a few lectures.

The main fallacy with this first point, I think, is that turning classroom learning into something on line is either very simply, or even, less work than what teachers were doing before. The proof that this is not true is that every single teacher doing their jobs right now is spending about twice the amount of time doing this than they were doing thier work the old way. Much of that time is because this is new, so each of these courses had to be, in large part, redesigned to be on line. It takes a couple of years for a teacher, or a small staff of teachers, to get a new course deployed, and up to speed. If all the courses are going through this transition, that is a disaster. If on line teaching keeps going for three or four years (which it won’t at this level, but if it did, hypothetically) teachers would be able to settle back into something more doable. It is not know if this will take more or less time, or be more or less difficult, than in class teaching, once all the courses are redesigned and run through the paces a couple of times.

So, to summarize that point, the idea that this is somehow easier than what was being done before is absurd. Insisting that it is, well that would be an ignorant ass-hat thing to say. Insulting, and you look like a moron. So maybe don’t do that.

The second, closely related point, is that somehow we can magically assume that all online teaching is as good as or better than classroom teaching. This is not true for so many reasons that I don’t have time to go into it, but the number one piece of evidence is the roughly doubling of class failure rates in many schools that were already stretched too thin on resources. Some schools aren’t seeing this, but before you adduce that as evidence of your rightness, investigate further. The school districts that are not being hammered with high failure rates right now are doing some amazing things. I live in one of the top public school districts in the country. The district is taking direct action to make sure that every family has goo internet, even going so far as to hand out better wireless connectors. Every kid has had an iPad in this district for a while now, so that part of it was already covered. And so on. Everybody is working harder, so point 1 is obvious here, but some of that work is in order to avoid point 2 from being manifest here. But it is being manifest in other districts.

So, there, now you don’t have to be wrong about this any more. That is all.

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