Well yes, but actually no.
Do traditional schools need dramatic changes to improve the learning experience? YES!
Do students need better opportunities for learning in the school context? YES!
In light of recent announcements from Queen’s Park, are we on the right track? NO.
While TDSB kids were on March Break, the Ford government announced its plan for sweeping changes to Ontario schools. Though most folks were bemused by the cellphone ban, and bemoaned the increase in class sizes, there was also a buzz about e-learning.
According to the Premier’s scheme, starting in 2020-21, every high school student will have to take a course online in order to graduate. E-learning is now a requirement.
On its face, for the technologically inclined, this sounds like a step in the right direction. Leveraging technology to bring learning to learners when it works for them sounds like public, mass education is finally aware of the needs of individual learners.
Except, when you look how e-learning has been deployed across North America, the outcomes are not the best. Somewhere between 40-80%, and in some studies, 90% of students drop out of e-learning courses. Also, according to the Ford plan, these virtual classes will average 35 students per teacher. This does not seem better for kids, or for their teachers.
Is this move to e-learning really about learning, or a craven way to cut costs (and quality) by firing teachers? It’s not clear…
At ADRABA, we acknowledge that e-learning can be a valuable tool … for SOME KIDS. We also acknowledge that some aspects of the traditional teacher-in-the-classroom model are valuable for SOME KIDS too. The same can be said for any teaching practice – it works for some, but not all. (And, most importantly, there cannot be teaching practice without teachers!)
E-learning is not blended learning. It’s one blend – and there are dozens of others.
We need schools where we can accommodate difference without trying to shoehorn kids into spaces and practices that don’t fit. This practice doesn’t work in a traditional school. It doesn’t work in an e-learning setting either. (…Which is why ADRABA is neither a traditional, nor an online school!)
For us, at ADRABA, what’s beautiful and empowering about blended learning is our ability to take a group of diverse learners, start them off in the same place, and help them design and tailor their own path to achieving their learning goals. We cannot do this without tech, but we definitely cannot do it without teachers.