An Edsurge blog asks, “Can Blended Learning Solve the U.S. Teacher Drought?” Basically, the issue is more about technology replacing people, in this case fully qualified teachers. As a technologist, I fully support the integration of technology in curriculum and lessons, when deemed appropriate by the teacher. Taking it a step further, the blended level is a decision that would be made at the school or district level and consequently dictated to the teachers.
There are obvious advantages to a blended learning model, most having to do with reduced cost or technology filling vacant teacher positions. Neither of these advantages, on the surface that I can see, would have a positive effect on student achievement. Another advantage, that of facilitating differentiated learning, has the potential of going some way toward increasing achievement, at least of certain students. One disadvantage–the need for a larger support staff. Supposedly, the number of support staff would diminish over time as faculty were trained, curricula rewritten, and elearning courses prepared. Reducing face time with experienced teachers, at least at this stage in our technology, can only drive down achievement overall. That is a major disadvantage. One master teacher with one “apprentice” teacher (read less expensive) in a blended learning environment could theoretically
teach manage a class of 50 or 60 students. I believe that to be neutral, until I see results.
Will we always need teachers in the classroom? The inroads technology has made into education, in spite of the fact that studies are inclusive regarding value, indicate that technology will, at some point, be the definition of education. Virtual intelligence is already on the cusp of replicating many humanistic characteristics. How far away is it away from becoming a high-quality teacher? A quote from the article: “For example, a computer cannot, as of yet, teach deeper learning and critical thinking.” [Emphasis added.]