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.