If teachers only present facts without context or connection, then yes, the internet CAN replace teachers. Of course, GOOD teachers provide context and connection, tying facts into an intricate web of lifelong learning and exploration, integrating facts with the PROCESS of learning and exploring creatively. This can be done in so many ways, but legal and practical limitations tie the hands of teachers and administrators. I am not a “teacher” by vocation (although everyone else in my family had that formal training), but I am an actively engaged parent who considers herself a teacher and volunteers both in my kids’ classrooms and in the school as a whole.
Dave wonders if simple exposure to facts causes development of “the skills and literacies they need” to “desire to engage with ideas, combine them and make new ones.” I do NOT think that simply exposing learners (old and young alike) to facts causes them to develop these literacies, or we wouldn’t be so concerned as an educational community about ineffective teachers who simply lecture and pass out worksheets.
I DO think that children are BORN with the desire to learn and assimilate ideas – it’s why ALL kids are little scientists when they are very young. But for many reasons, we as a society have come to rely TOO heavily on the “desks in a row, rote memorization” pattern that, no matter HOW we wish it to be otherwise, has limited effectiveness yet is STILL the norm.
To me as a parent, the questions are not academic and distant, but very immediate: what happens in the formal elementary school setting to drive the curiosity and innate desire for knowledge OUT of children? (I watched it happen last year to my current 6th grader) How can I postpone or circumvent that situation for my kids so they can be life-long learners? How do I access and connect my kids to outstanding educators like the ones that comprise the bulk of my online educational community but are sadly lacking in my children’s local formal school setting?
Even being peripherally engaged with people who are shaking up the educational system of things, I feel a distinct and unsettling dichotomy between what I know is out there and possible and the reality of my kids’ daily world.