Over the last couple of days, I have been thinking about the impact the Web is having on the student - teacher relationship. My emerging conclusion -- given the importance I think a positive emotional state has on the human ability to absorb information at a fundamental level, I am struggling to find it in myself that the Web will replace this relationship. Facebook hasn't replaced friendship -- it supports it. So, I expect the technologies we develop for education will do the same...I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts

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hi Jonathon, this is something that I think about a lot - I teach fully online courses, and have been doing so for five years, and much to my surprise my relationship with my students has become much closer than it was in the classroom, because I have much more one-on-one interaction with the students than was ever possible in a classroom setting. this was a very nice surprise for me: I am very committed to my students as individuals, and it is really nice to feel like I am able to be even more supportive and helpful in this online mode than was possible in the physical classroom, limited as it was by space and time. so while I definitely am a believer in the future of online education, I would never want to diminish the importance of the teacher's role in the success of those online courses, precisely because we provide a lot of support, guidance, encouragement, etc. for students in the online classroom.

Laura - I'm in the same situation. I've been teaching online for six years now and the relationships that I foster with my students are much closer than anything that I was able to do in the classroom.

I would argue, and please take this as lightly as possible, that the "relationship" that is fostered in the traditional classroom is one of power and control and isn't 1) much of a relationship to begin with and 2) isn't conductive learning (other than the information that can be answered by filling in a bubble-sheet).

Not having walls, desks in rows, or place in front for me to stand has helped to change these old functions of what school is. Going from being a teacher to a "facilitator of learning", or "anti-teacher" if you will, causes more authentic relationships to form (in a Freire sort-of way) because you have to slow down and change your focus from the curriculum to the student.

It's not about Facebook, it's not even about Web 2.0. It's about forming true connections between people. These are just some of the tools that allow this kind of learning to happen.
Having gotten my MLIS entirely on-line, I have great regard for on-line classes and I agree with Laura that often there are relationships that can grow on-line that would be difficult if not impossible in the traditional classroom. Both the student and the teacher can respond at any time to questions and concerns. Private discussions can last long after the end of the class. As Laura also suggests, the teacher still has a huge responsibility because it is also very easy for the poor teacher to neglect to reply to student inquiries--even blaming the technology for the question/answer disconnect. The times when we tried to put all 30+ students in a chat at the same time were often more chaos than useful. So, the on-line classroom is much like any other classroom in that the teacher has to know how to use the situation to best advantage for all concerned. There is no place for complacency (and, yes, I saw this with some professors) and assuming that because it is all on-line that little more is needed from the teacher.

Let me add, that I think that face to face is much more important when working with younger students--probably more so the younger you get. It scares me when I hear people suggest that we should do more and more remotely for all ages. When I was "interviewing" library schools one of the ones that claims to be the best in the nation proclaimed how wonderful it will be when all libraries are on-line because then "librarians will never have to deal with muddy feet and the loud children who bring them to the library." I did not choose them for my library school education.
Hi Jonathan,
It doesn't seem to me that there's any "replacing" going on; rather, Web 2.0 offers tools for increased--and different--social contact. Nothing will ever replace a teacher's or classmate's warm smile, shared laughter in the same room, working together on meaningful projects in real time and space.
But the emotional learning can extend outwards through the vehicle of 2.0. Kids can post videos they've created to share with other kids around the world, for instance, and get some heartfelt responses and projects back. (Check out Ginger Lewman's Distance Collaborations group, for instance, http://classroom20.ning.com/group/distancecollaborations)
Yes, a positive emotional state is very important. You are right to point that out. There's an article about that in Educational Leadership's Summer Online edition (probably better for you to google that than for me to leave the mile-long link) called The Neuroscience of Joyful Education by Judy Willis. It's good reading, and a fine article to share with people who think classrooms need to be less exuberant!
Thanks to everyone for feedback on my first post to the group :) And if you don't mind, I'd love to push on this harder. Some of the greatest "learning" I have ever done happened outside of a formal educational context while I was on the job. I would watch my bosses, my peers, even my subordinates do things that I couldn't yet do. In observing them working, I would learned how to feel intuitively the difference between "good" and "bad" work. Call it the apprentice approach to learning. I found this so effective, and have always wondered whether Internet tools and approaches might make this kind of learning more widely available. Look forward to any feedback.
I think the learning by watching approach absolutely applies to online learning as well. Blogs, wikis, podcasts, uploaded videos, and posted comments have taught me A LOT about what I do and do not want to incorporate into my own teaching ideology, and practice.

As Laura and Glenn have said, web based learning can still allow for an emotional connection. I have been on the other side of web-based learning having just completed an online Master's program. I made an emotional connection with some professors, mentors, and classmates. With others I did not. The difference, just as with a face-to-face situation, is whether or not the individuals involved make an effort to make that emotional connection. You can't spit/type out information. You have to include some of yourself as well. For many people, that effort will be a little more difficult in a web environment where anonymity is often appropriate.
Even though this is the Classroom 2.0 community, I love the fact that so many people have either delivered or attended classes online. I have watched the "distance learning" stats trend up over the years, but somehow I was always slightly dubious about how real they were. One thing I would love to know from those of you that have been involved in online education is are there numeric limits on how many students can engage at once. In the "real world", conventional wisdom has it that the possible "connection" between student and teacher drops off when the number of students approaches 30. Does a similar limit hold online, or does it make it possible to dramatically expand the number of people that a single teacher can connect to?
In my case, the technology supports the relationships I have with my students and their families and I feel the web is helping to create bonds and connections that were not achievable before the "net". Using the web, I have interacted more with my students and their families than ever before, and using our class website, our class blog and even e-mail, has made my job easier than in years past. Conversations, we've had in school extend way beyond the school day and even past the school year. The web makes us more connected and even today, in the middle of summer, I approved 3 blog posts and received some e-mails from my former 5th grade students. That makes me happy. :)
Your experience is very close to mine; the web has extended our contact and increased our sense of community.



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