‘A Better Pencil’

Yes, I interact with students via e-mail and the Web. And computers can be great for teaching when it’s difficult or impossible for students to get to a brick-and-mortar classroom. But for me, teaching involves f2f (there, you see, I’ve gone and used a computer term in a sentence). I want to listen to students talking to me, to one another, having a spontaneous conversation about the subject. It’s fun. It’s energizing. Online, I just don’t feel that kind of electricity. It’s probably just a personal preference.

But I do see some significant downsides to distance education. It’s touted for all the wrong reasons. It’s cheap: yes, perhaps, if you discount the price of the technology (it turns out that computers cost more than people, that computer techs cost more than entry-level instructors, and that software costs more, not less, than textbooks, and it must be constantly upgraded). —Dennis Barron

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