Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Technology/Teacher Replacement

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Can teachers be replaced by computers?

Education is not replacing the human teacher, but rather replacing the location of that teacher. Rather than having a teacher stand in front of you in a traditional classroom setting, students will have access to their teachers and lessons through computers. With the rise of continuing education and distance learning programs offered at community, public, and private colleges, the idea of having these same programs to benefit students in elementary and secondary education is now here. Technology today is going to make school easier for the teachers and the students. The No Child Left Behind Act is using virtual school to help students that are unable to transfer to high performance schools due to overcrowding or lack of transportation, an option of online learning. It will also bring relief to students because they will not be limited to the information in their classroom, but have the option of going beyond what they have learned in the classroom and receive credit for it from their home school. So what does this say for our aspiring and veteran teachers? Take as many computer courses as you can because it will greatly benefit you and your students.

How does this work?[edit]

Well, for starters, instead of having a teacher standing in front of a chalkboard or beside an overhead projector writing down the class work and homework for the day, students will access their lessons by a computer or watch their instructor televised live from another location. “In February 2004, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance specifically defining virtual schools as a legally acceptable way to create additional capacity for students wishing to transfer… as long as the virtual school is a public elementary or secondary school and has not been identified for school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring.” (B.S. Hassel, M Terrell 2004). The NCLB Act has three options for students. The first option is an off-site virtual school where students will access their lessons, homework, etc from the site of their choosing. The second option is a “school- within a school where students will eat lunch with peers, have music and art classes, etc. but the core academic instruction would be provided online in a different room or structure located on the school site” (B.S. Hassel, M Terrell 2004). The third option is an “offsite facility in conjunction with a nonprofit organization, such as a community center. A teacher or administrator would be onsite to help monitor students; however, most instruction would be online” (B.S. Hassel, M Terrell 2004). With the growing number of virtual schools, teachers are not being replaced in fact; they are in high demand for highly qualified teachers.

Virtual Dissection vs. the Lab[edit]

Dissections have been done in schools for many years. They provide a way for students to learn about the internal and external anatomical structures of animals. By taking a hands-on learning approach, students can get a real sense of the relationships between the structures of organisms.

There are some students who are disturbed by dissection. Online (virtual) dissections provide the means to experience actual dissections without the mess. There are online video dissections where the student just watches the video of a dissection, and there are other virtual dissections that provide the student visual images and step-by-step instructions on how to conduct their own dissection. Other online dissections provide diagrams and pictures that display certain anatomical structures (firstmonday.org).

Traditional dissections, done in traditional classrooms, are a very social activity. Students generally work together in groups during dissections. Doing dissections in groups means that the students must learn how to work collaboratively. This requires a degree of teamwork allowing students to share in the responsibility of conducting a dissection. Students working in groups in the traditional lab are often encouraged to examine the other specimens in the class to observe the differences in sex, differences in muscle tissue, organs in different places and so much more. There are considerable differences in the social atmosphere between physical and virtual dissections.

There are many differences between actual and virtual dissection. For instance, when students take part in a virtual dissection there is usually no teamwork involved. Virtual dissections usually focus on the student – computer interaction rather than the human to human interaction. Virtual dissections provide an alternative exercise for students as well as provide review material for students prior to test.

Although dissection simulations may provide the capability of examining both male and female specimens, at least for study of the reproductive system, they do not typically allow users to explore other types of variation. Virtual dissections replace everything including the specimen, the textbooks, dissection manual, and maybe even the teacher. In contrast to a real frog, the virtual frog can be taken apart in any sequence. The student can start with the digestive system and then put back together again. This new “digital” frog requires no scalpels, probes or offensive smelling gases. It just requires a computer. The three-dimensional simulation is a valuable tool in the teaching of basic anatomy and physiology. The “digital” frog can also be rotated and viewed from any angle. These virtual alternatives to dissection are less expensive than the real thing because software and three-dimensional models, unlike the animals, are a reusable resource.

There has always been a controversy over the dissection of animals. There are some students who are refusing to dissect for humanitarian reasons. Some say they will not participate in dissection due to their religious beliefs. At least eight states now have policies allowing students to opt out of dissection, according to the Humane Society of the United States. They include Florida, California, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Maine. Such policies, in the form of state law, allow students to learn anatomy and physiology by other means, without a penalty. In a recent survey of 5,000 biology teachers conducted by the Humane Society of the United States, two-thirds of those polled indicated they support student choice on the issue of dissection (lists.envirolink.org).Virtual dissection may be the best alternative for these students who find it offensive, uncomfortable or too disturbing.

Over the past decade, interactive software and online simulations have made it possible to study the inner workings of animals without actually cutting them up. These virtual dissections are cleaner than the actual in lab dissections and require less materials, tools, textbooks and time. Changing the classroom from one where students dissect with a scalpel to one where students dissect with a computer mouse requires nothing more than an available computer, a CD-ROM or downloadable software, and, of course, the computer mouse itself. What it offers, however, is the promise of an exciting, innovative, and stimulating educational experience.

Students using virtual dissection programs can still work together in groups. They can take turns clicking on different parts of the anatomy and can share in reading the corresponding text to learn about each of these parts and their functions. Studies show that students learning frog anatomy just by using the virtual dissection programs did just as well, if not better, on their exams in comparison to their peers who learned frog anatomy by doing actual physical dissections.

There is a wonderful Museum in Newport News, Va. that has a Virtual Frog dissection station where visitors can learn about the anatomy of a frog via a touch screen computer. Children are fascinated by this.They are thrilled to learn about the inner workings of a frog via this computer program. When a student experiences the actual in-lab dissections, they smell the formaldehyde, and possibly get an animal’s insides squirt all over them when they use the scalpel. For some students it may not always be a pleasant class in high school, nor might it be any better in college. Nonetheless, it is something that the student will never forget. The whole experience of actually learning in the lab will stay with the student for years to come.

Virtual dissection should not be the sole method of learning about the anatomy of an animal, however it is an effective supplement to it. The whole experience of working together with your classmates, the pungent smell that hits you when you carefully peel back the wrapping on the specimen and the squirmy feeling of touching and consequently cutting through an organ is valuable. Using both methods in conjunction would prove beneficial to the student and would most definitely enhance their learning experience.

More Teachers?[edit]

Virtual schools are actually in need of highly qualified teachers. Aspiring and veteran teachers that want to become an online instructor must complete “an approved professional development curriculum ensuring their competency as online instructors. They should demonstrate design and implementation knowledge necessary to deliver quality instruction to students in the new school. Also, personnel policies need administrators of virtual schools to have a specific skill set and professional development training which includes; leading a teaching staff that may itself be completely virtual” (B.S. Hassel, M Terrell 2004). Retired teachers’ can also become online instructors because they will not have to move to another county or state to do their job. However, teachers are going to be required to complete extensive computer training if they have not already done so, to become highly qualified teachers for virtual schools.

Teacher/Student Communication[edit]

There are many communication devices that are used for virtual schools such as discussion boards, e-mails, online presentations, microphones at off-site facilities and more. Yet, one thing that virtual schools cannot replace is the one-on-one attention given in the traditional classrooms. This type of interaction helps students to understand their teacher’s personality and teaching styles as well for the teacher to observe their students in the classroom and understand their personality and learning styles.

Conclusion[edit]

As you can see, there is no need to panic. Students will still interact with their teachers, just not in a traditional setting. The NCLB Act has even set guidelines to ensure that schools meet specific requirements in order to host virtual schools. Since there are a growing number of virtual schools, more teachers are in demand as online instructors. Aspiring and veteran teachers must be highly qualified to become an online instructor by going through extensive computer training to show competency in online education. Although there are many communication devices, it will never take the place of one-on-one attention that is in a traditional class setting.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

Ms. Greene has taught ninth grade journalism for 12 years. She has been told her class would be televised during her journalism lesson to another high school. She does not feel comfortable about being on television. What could she do to ease her discomfort?
A. Quit.
B. Have another teacher help her to feel comfortable by practicing in front of a camera.
C. Have another teacher teach her class.
D. Take public speaking-courses.

B.Have another teacher help her to feel comfortable by practicing in front of a camera.

2.The principal of a high school wants to establish a virtual high school for his students/staff. His schools' accredited with warning. What should the principal do?
A. Just concentrate on the schools accreditation.
B. Send a proposal to the school board while working on the accreditation.
C. Go on strike.
D. Work for a school that has a virtual high school.

B.Send a proposal to the school board while working on the accreditation.

Mr. Croft is an online instructor who lives in Virginia but teaches students in Ohio. He has noticed that his student’s online quizzes are low. What could he do to help his students?
A. Send harsh e-mails to his students.
B. Forget about it. His students will catch on later.
C. Set up a virtual chat room at convent times for the students and allow all the students to discuss what they do not understand.
D. Mail a letter to his students and ask them to fill out a survey about how the courses can improve.

C. Set up a virtual chat room at convent times for the students and allow all the students to discuss what they do not understand.

Brandy is a motivated seventh grader who likes to complete her assignments ahead of time and is bored waiting for others to finish. Her teacher has suggested to her parents that she may enjoy virtual school. Her parents do not own a personal computer. What can her parent’s do?
A. Purchase a computer because it is a long-term investment.
B. Give Brandy an office assistant job to keep her from being bored.
C. Find an off-site learning site that has computer with a class monitor.
D. Use her friend's computer.

C. Find an off-site learning site that has computer with a class monitor.

Virtual classes are going to begin at a local middle school next fall. What can teachers do to help there students prepare?
A. Set up a time in the school’s computer lab for student is to practice on a computer.
B. Have parents pay for their students to take practice computer courses.
C. Wait until the classes are available then learn how to use the computers
D. Tell students that they do not have to participate in the virtual class unless they want to.

A. Set up a time in the school’s computer lab for student is to practice on a computer.

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal sample responses.

Communication between virtual teachers and students are not as personal as traditional class settings. Would posting an online learning style assessment be beneficial to all students? What can teachers do to understand their virtual students learning styles?

There are different ways to communicate to the students to find out there learning styles. Teachers can obtain a class roster and send a letter or an email to each of the students asking them to tell them a little bit about them selves and their learning style. Just placing an online assessment about learning styles will not be completely beneficial to students because online assessments may not include all of the details in the questions to help understand the students. Another suggestion would be to have students meet at a site and have live televised interaction between the students and the instructor. By having all the students meet at a site, they could develop a student support group. You may find that some students may speak different languages and may need their assignments translated into their language. Most bilingual students would like to choose which language they want to work with. Not all students that have just begun taking virtual classes may be able to buy computers or update their hardware or software right away. Just by using, a simple means of communication shows the students that the teacher cares about the students and if they pass or fail there class.


Virtual classrooms are an attractive alternative to in-class lecture sessions. Virtual classes are becoming more and more popular with students all over the world. Virtual classes are so convenient. Though it is true that virtual classes do not offer the personal aspect of getting to know one's teacher, peers, or students there are still a few options available to us when it comes to getting to know one another. For instance, an instructor/teacher could offer online assessments through which students could respond to various questions. They could allow for a portion of that assessment to be in an essay format where the students could write freely about themselves and their learning styles, likes , dislikes, etc. Another alternative to that which I have found to be beneficial to me is the web-conference. There are online web-conferencing programs that students can download through which they can communicate with their instructors/teachers at a set time. Some web-conference programs are video enabled so that the students and teachers can actually see each other during the conference. They also offer sound where the instructors and students communicate through their built in microphones in their computers. If students don't have that capability, they can type in there responses to questions or can contribute to the discussion taking place. It is amazing at what can be done now thanks to technology. Even though we may not be physically in the classroom with the instructor there are still opportunities to make our virtual experience a more personal one. We can literally bridge the distance gap between teachers and their students. For a student that is traveling during a virtual class, web conferencing can make the difference in being counted absent or present. There are some classes that are considered hybrid classes which mean that they may be virtual but also offer in class (on campus) sessions and offer the web conferencing option. All of these options make it so much easier to be a part of the class. As technology develops it is certain that there will be new innovations when it comes to virtual classes. —M. Johnson

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