Teachers give emotional support and encourage emotional development
Watch any sci-fi movie and there’s a theme you’ll see time and time again: faceless, nameless robots who don’t know how to feel, emboldened by their lack of empathy to take over the Earth and shape it in their image (or some such storyline). Now, we’re not saying that this is definitely going to happen if we keep losing teachers at the rate which we already are; but like most fiction, there’s a grain of truth in there that we could (and should) learn from.
Learning, especially learning something new, is a struggle. It’s tough to encounter some new information or some new rule, internalise it and to apply it in a novel situation. That’s why children don’t always want to learn: because it’s hard, and it takes effort and perseverance. When they can, teachers do their best to help their students develop those all-important skills, and to teach them that it’s natural to feel frustrated and even angry at a tricky problem.
And on top of that, teachers play an absolutely vital role in helping their students to tackle bullies and the emotional fallout they cause. As much as we love them, VLEs can’t do that.
Teachers teach values and ideals, not just facts and figures
And while classrooms aren’t just about learning facts and figures, they aren’t just about emotional development either. They’re also for learning about culture and society, and the values that we’ve adopted as a civilisation. In conjunction with our tools for teaching online, we as teachers are tasked with teaching the values that we’ve fought for: things like free speech, the importance of standing up to bullies and ‘bad people’, and hard work and effort.
If teachers are taken from the equation, all we have left is the cold online world where, frankly, these ideals are less important. On top of that, it’s difficult to really understand why something like, say, the ideal of free speech is so important from a YouTube video or from social media. These things are a product of our society- of the people- so really, they can only be taught to others by people.
The inclusion of digital technology shouldn’t mean the exclusion of teachers: the two work best together.
Taken on their own, online teaching software and virtual learning environments are excellent for giving students a structure for their learning. We aren’t going to argue that point today. But what we do say is that if students were, excuse the pun, left to their own devices and told to learn on their own with no input from a teacher- nothing would get done.
Students need somebody to guide them through online environments, because let’s face it, especially older systems can be tricky beasts to understand, although newer services are becoming ever more intuitive and easy to mould to the way you already teach. When used properly, virtual learning environments are an amazing tool for getting your job done, and they help you to enhance your students learning.