Think back to when you were in school. Or, if you’re still in school, just think back. What inspired you then? Was it the beautiful facilities? The history of the institution? The football team? A special textbook?
While inspiration may have truly come to some of you in the form of material things, most of us recall a passionate instructor. We fondly remember his style of instruction or her caring enough to go beyond the walls of the classroom to help you. Above all, we identified with these teachers because they cared. They bothered to adapt—adapt the curriculum to engage and adapt their instruction to the individual.
Inspiration in a technologically advanced world
Today, the world is far more technologically advanced than twenty or thirty years ago. Information is available in an instant, online courses are available everywhere, and adaptive learning is the rage.
However, as students increasingly isolate themselves through these technological advances, they run the risk of missing out on the very inspiration that guided many of us toward our chosen professions and livelihoods—the teacher. For all of the good that technology has done for education, it creates a risk of removing the human element associated with learning and eliminating the art of adaptation.
Since computers inherently deal in ones and zeros, they still lack the capacities for sensing, intuition, and empathy. It is critical to remember that, in order to individualize learning, one must first individualize instruction.
For example, a solid learning management system can easily show that a student failed to understand certain concepts or standards based on assessment results. However, these systems do not do a very good job of explaining why.
Perhaps, the curriculum wasn’t differentiated to the student’s learning style. Perhaps, the concept wasn’t presented clearly enough. Or maybe, the student had a soccer game the night before and simply didn’t have enough time to internalize what was presented.
We can’t replace a teacher’s influence
Online learning is changing the face of education, and doing so for the better in many cases. But, we should remember that systems and machines cannot replace the inspirational aspect of learning. Timely, engaging, and individualized instruction gives teachers the opportunity to connect learning to the real world through anecdotes, coaching, and—above all—understanding.
In a world where students (and adults) increasingly interact through 140-character tweets, and course progress is controlled by software, let’s make sure we also interweave human instructional elements into this expanding landscape so that inspiration goes hand-in-hand with education.