Friday, 19 October 2012

Lacking evidence to support the position taken

So I'm reading the ATA News, because that's something I do as a professional, and I come across this guest editorial republished from the Globe and Mail.  It's called "The teacher is the real heart of education" and it's written by a university prof, so I'm thinking it will contain a thesis and some supporting evidence.

To my chagrin, I find it's nothing more than an opinion piece.  If I were to mark it according to my grade 12 Social Studies Diploma rubric, I'd give Clifford Orwin a "limited" when it comes to argumentation and evidence. My comments to him might run along the lines of  "you have a good start, but find make sure your evidence supports the position taken.  Be careful with assumptions- your position was based on uninformed belief, and your evidence, while potentially relevant, was incompletely developed."

Professor Orwin suggests that the only way to really teach in a university classroom is when one can "see the whites of their eyes."  The whites of their eyes?  Who are you kidding ?  That is not what I see when I visit today's universities, where teachers need two large screens and the assistance of sound engineers for their voices to be heard as you'll find at the U of A CCIS building.

Furthermore, I wonder about the integrity of of my own professional association when it publishes an article about the state of affairs in post secondary education to imply that the same holds true for distributed learning in Alberta's public schools. Just as we do not have lecture halls that seat 500 students, we also do not have online classrooms with "zillions of students." As an online educator, I am not a "disembodied electronic wraith," nor are my students.  We are all real people.

Online education and teacher presence are not mutually exclusive. To suggest that the heart of a teacher does not lie in the very essence of online education is an error in logic. This assumption denies the reality of distributed learning in Alberta and denies the reality of online relationships in today's world. Online educators are the heart of their virtual classrooms, just as they are in the face to face classroom.

If I teach my students online, it's because I believe it works. That's something I do as a professional, and I expect my association to respect that.