Today I was accused of being a 'lazy teacher'. Amused, bemused, I asked why. The response, "I walked past your classroom today and your students were just busy talking to one another and you weren't lecturing them. It looked like you were doing nothing." I felt rather thrilled at the characterization.
We know that brain-study tells us that my lecture (as absolutely riveting as it would be) just won't be retained. Rather, my extensive planning to set up the 'learning experience' (and here I fear I might dive into recent cliches about education) had obviously been successful. And that was true of a few classes today, classes where, in collaboration with teaching colleagues, we'd set up PBL (project based learning). There's little as rewarding as being sought out. I know I have the "right" project when the kids can't wait to be allowed to 'get on with it', when the students seem to know exactly what they're doing when you go around at the beginning to ask, "What are you working on today?" And they can tell you, in detail. And they seek help ("I want to X, but I don't know how to do that.") You know you have the right project when they email you at 10pm and say, "Could you look at this? I'm happy with A, but I feel B needs work. What do you suggest?" In short, the right assignment means the students tell you what they need to be taught. It's natural differentiation.
So, as our students change, I think it makes sense that our teaching practices changes. They request help from 'afar' and online learning is a natural repercussion, an addition. Having done one site-based Master's, and now working on my third, but second site and distant-based Master's, I have seen the strengths and weaknesses of both, and can't help but agree with Shor, Butto and Roch, that online work is an essential part of learning. Learning must be accessible 24/7 and online is logical. Similarly, our practice must extend beyond our common preps (for those of us lucky enough to have them; here I'd suggest that Google Wave looks to be an excellent collaborative space -- and collaboration has done nothing but refine and improve my personal practice and, of course, the student experience.
More radical, perhaps is Sampson and de Lorenzo's argument that we eliminate grade-based groupings and allow students to graduate "at the drinking age" or after puberty, as performance suggests. Radical yes. Ready, I am not. Yet, I cannot help but agree that the rigid system to which we adhere currently -- well, "the center cannot hold." Redefining how we do so is essential.