An online teaching surprise

Online teaching may encourage student-teacher interaction, writes Dan Willingham, with surprise, on The Answer Sheet. Online teachers told him they know their students better than when they taught in conventional classrooms.

For younger students, a caretaker (usually the mother) is on hand, and so the teacher does not need to do a lot of prompting to keep the child on task. For older children, the chief distraction of the classroom—other students—is not present.

If there’s a webcam connection, teachers get to see the student’s home environment. Younger children’s “mothers are usually present and so teachers get to know them much better than they ever did in a traditional classroom.”

Third, teachers tell me that older students were more willing to share their personal lives than they were in a regular classroom. Perhaps because there are no classmates to overhear the conversations, teenagers seem less reluctant to open up.

Of course, the online teacher is working one on one. But I wonder if an e-mail-only connection encourages the same teacher-student interaction.

In Illinois, a fifth grader recovering from surgery is Skyped in to his regular classroom.

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  1. The question I have: is it possible that student to student interaction can be negative in a classroom setting? The social and classroom dynamics of highschool may actually hinder learning?

    As a homeschooler, I do see that we may miss out on quality discussions due to lack of classroom peers. As the teacher, I work hard to interact with my kids to give them feedback, but I wonder if the quality of our conversations about literature, history, and other subjects would be enhanced with more students interacting.

    But, but, but… I also have more control and can better direct the discussions without wandering off into pointless tangents. Our conversations and my instruction is student specific, customized for the kid.

    My kids cannot rely on others to raise their hand to answer questions they don’t know, do the lion’s share of a group project, or distract the teacher with irrelevant conversation.

    Perhaps this is similar to online learning??


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