To the Editor
I’d like to comment on Doug Ford’s plan to make it compulsory for Ontario high school students to take four online courses in order to graduate. As a former teacher I have an informed perspective on this debate.
A computer is a tool like a calculator or a blackboard. Students will not understand or be able to work through a math assignment if calculators are merely thrown on their desks. Students will need instruction. They will need the lesson clarified. Online courses do convey instructions and offer help in menus; this is the good ones do. Whether all students can access the help is another issue.
In order to require students to take online courses Doug Ford assumes that all students learn the same way. This is not true. Students learn through a variety of styles. Some comprehend oral instruction the best. For other students visual representation is most effective. Other students are kinesthetic learners; they need to be physically active in order to learn.
In the ideal online course classroom there might be visual representation of the lessons on bulletin boards. The chairs might be on wheels. Students who grasp a concept would be free to move and sit with students who are struggling. Of course a facilitator would be present who could answer questions and offer help to all students. A facilitator would have solid knowledge of the curriculum.
She/he would be aware of the students’ strengths and weaknesses. She/he would also be comfortable with the online program. Who could fill this role? How about a teacher?
Doug Ford’s insistence that students take online courses ignores the present reality. Lessons taught using computers occur across the curriculum in most if not all classrooms in Ontario. Of course if he is looking for ways to save money by replacing teachers with computers he is misguided. I am sure Doug Ford would object to students using only a calculator for all math classes or being taught exclusively through blackboard notes. A computer is a tool. For students to use the tool most effectively they need help. The people best equipped to offer that help are teachers.