Skip to main content

Face-to-Face Learning Has Value, But Needs To Offer What Online Cannot

     I have begun to ask school leaders and edu officianados this questions: Since all students K-12 could theoretically choose to go to online school tomorrow, what are you doing at your school today/and or tomorrow that would make them still want to come to a Face-to-Face learning environment?
     In other words, what are any schools doing that cannot easily be replicated online? Naturally, things like direct instruction, assessments, readings, activities can be easily conducted online. Heck, even collaboration and projects can be done digitally right?
      However, we may want to acknowledge that FTF environments could offer some advantages to students in terms of their skill development, experiences and real world preparation. Here are a few things that schools may want to consider maximizing if they hope to keep students coming and attending their FTF environments:

Pro Gear / Equipment / Technology / Resources: Consider things that would not probably be available at home. Although things like 3D printers are becoming more affordable and available for home use, what about welders, plasma cutters, high-end cameras, studios, specialized software, maker spaces, STEAM/STEM labs and so much more? Schools should be seeing what is happening both in industry and the real world and offer students that access at school. All of our schools need to have pro labs in a variety of areas that cannot be found at home or online. If not, they may not see the value or relevance.
Industry Partners / Work-Based Experiences / Community Networks: Community and work-based projects and opportunities are not only powerful, but necessary to the future of our students’ skill sets for future careers. Schools have the ability and the capacity to forge partnerships with employers, industry leaders, non-profits, community groups and so many others that individual students cannot necessarily facilitate on their own. The more professional relationships and partnerships schools can foster for their students, the more value they will have.
Power of the Cohort: online communities can be highly collaborative, personalized and meaningful. But students are still highly attracted to social experiences and environments that are engaging and meaningful. We can’t just fall back on the automatic socialization of the traditional comprehensive high schools, but rather can we create FTF opportunities where students can be individually and collectively involved on teams, collaboratives, groups and partnerships that have a common purpose and collective experience? Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and our desire to belong. All of us, students especially, have this innate desire to belong. Our role is to create meaningful opportunities for all students to belong to something that is relevant to their future and engaging to their souls. Right now, there are lots of students coming to school only for their participation on athletic teams, performance groups and others. Our challenge is to bring that experience to our educational programs. Things like Career Technical Education, Project-Based Learning and others done right could go along to do this.
Relationships / Mentoring: Again, one can have quality relationships online and in one’s own PLN. However, nothing may be more powerful than a highly engaged teacher-student relationship. Teachers have to see themselves as mentors maybe above all. Students are starving for positive and meaningful relationships with positive adults outside their family or social structure. All students need a PPM (Personal Professional Mentor) or three. They need someone who is going to truly shepherd them through the complexities of career exploration, social interactions, life choices and more. Traditional high school counselors work to do this, but have hundreds of students on their caseload. In the world of Career Technical Education and Project-Based Learning, students can become part of smaller cohorts and teams that provide them that consistent adult leader, guide and mentor. Too many of our high school students go through our schools without this experience or guidance. Online networks and digital communication is powerful and necessary, but personal contact with a teacher/mentor over time with a collective purpose is life-changing. If we ignore this fact, more and more students will opt for something other than coming to FTF school. If we embrace it, and create systems around it, they will flock to our programs.

Creating The Challenge / The Situations. Online communities have the power to do this and do this quite well. We need to bring the gaming mentality to our FTF programs. Students are looking for (although they may not articulate it the same way) opportunities to compete and respond to real world challenges. Whether it be contests, competitions, challenges or others, we have the power to create and facilitate situations for our students that are real world and include interaction, recognition, competition, feedback, socialization, networking and growth. Again, areas such as Career Technical Education and Project-Based Learning do these naturally. We can’t leave the challenge or competition to the electives or after school activities. All students need this in all of their academic endeavors. If we don’t bring this mentality and intensity to all of our school programs, more will choose to opt for the online schooling choice where they can at least get this through gaming and other digital means.
     There is nothing wrong with students doing online school exclusively. However, we need to be able to articulate to students what FTF school can offer them that they may not be able to get online. And as more and more students opt for online school, our FTF programs will have to maximize those unique strengths their programs have in the above areas or more.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Five Ways To Make All Students Into Lead Learners (Teachers)

It has been established long ago that the highest form of learning is teaching. When one is put in the position to teach others, one learns the content and concepts at the highest applied level in order to successfully communicate it to others.
     This reality has led many educators long ago to turn as much of the instruction in their classroom over to students through student presentations, projects and more.
     That being said, too many students still never have this opportunity to become Lead Learners - where they learn at the highest level by having the responsibility of teaching others. Here are five ways all educators can expand the opportunity for all students to learn at the highest level by all becoming teachers:

STUDENTS AS PROFESSIONAL PRESENTERS      Again, students have been giving presentations in many cases for years in certain courses. I suppose even the early years of Show & Tell were intended to have every student present, or tell a story. Well, we need to ch…

8 Lessons From The FFA For All Of Education

I was never an Agriculture or FFA student. Indeed, I have never been an Ag or FFA teacher. I have never taken an Ag Science or Ag Elective class. Actually, aside from eating food produced by the Ag industry, I’ve never even done much of anything related to the work that the Ag Community does.
     However, as the former principal of Minarets High School, I got to witness and be a part of the great work that the FFA does, and has always done, that we can all learn from.
     In fact, it seems that much of what we are trying to do with 21st century education and skill development, the FFA has always done. When it comes to what industry and the economy seems to be demanding from our students, the FFA has seemingly incorporated all of it from day one.
     When I became the principal of Minarets High School (Minarets High School) in 2008, the school did not exist yet. We were tasked, among other things, with having a dynamic Ag Science & Natural Resources Pathway. With that in m…

If We're Banning Phones, We Won't Connect Our Students To The Future

For those of us that follow the news, especially education news, we don’t have to wait very long for an educator, or educators, to give us the excuse for a blog post. This week’s winner goes to the principal and staff at Korematsu Middle School in California’s East Bay Area.
     They were recently featured, and apparently heralded, by an article in Ed Source (http://bit.ly/EdSourceCellPhones) for their recent compliance and control upgrade that bans students from using their cell phones at lunch and during their free time.
     According to principal Matthew Burnham, they tried to let the 7th and 8th grade students use their cell phones last year during these times and it was, according to them, an abysmal failure. The school claims that due to the students being “glued” to their cell phones, no one was talking and interacting with one another. And after watching the movie “Screenagers” and drinking from that proverbial firehose of biased information, this school was trying to …