Thursday, May 19, 2011

Teachers and Their Effect on a Child’s Learning Environment

Adults remember their favorite teachers.  A particular teacher can be a source of discovery and encouragement for a child in the learning environment.  Now, with more technology being introduced in the classroom, there are some high school classes that are functioning without a teacher present in the room. 
In an effort to keep class sizes manageable in Florida, the Miami-Dade County Public School district implemented a program where high school students do their coursework on computers with a facilitator, not a teacher, in the classroom.  The facilitator is there to address any technical problems and ensure that students are working on their academic subject matter.
These virtual classrooms are known as e-learning labs and students are taking courses on a computer in the lab.  These labs were set in place last August as a direct result of legislation called Florida’s Class Size Reduction Amendment.  The amendment restricts the number of students who can be in a classroom. There is no limit to the number of students who can be independently working in the e-learning labs.
About 7,000 Florida students returned to school this past September to find they had been placed in e-learning labs without any notice.  Instead of starting the school year with a smile from a teacher students were assigned to a computer in the lab to begin to work on core curriculum subjects. 
The online instruction is provided by Florida Virtual School and has been used in the public school system for students who are home-schooled or those wishing to complete extra courses.  The problem for many students is they lack the self-motivation that is in the intrinsic nature of home-schooled students or traditional learners who voluntarily take on added coursework.  
Many education advocates for the e-learning labs think this concept is the future of education and the goal is to adopt the theory of virtual learning combined with teacher focused instruction.  It is a practice described as “blended learning” with the students balancing both learning styles.  The manager of the e-learning program was quoted in a national newspaper stating she believes this program is just the beginning of a wave that will roll across the state of Florida.  Is this the most effective way to reduce class size and create a successful student teacher ratio?  It does bring about another question; if you decide to replace a teacher with a computer what happens at the Parent/Teacher conference?      

Be well, 

Alice Knisley Matthias
Education Writer

photo by Doriana S at



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