In March 2020 the world went mad. A new virus called Covid-19 started spreading rapidly among humans and by the end of that month most countries were engaged in a horrible new way of life called lock down. As with many other countries, lock-down in South Africa started with the closure of our schools.
The schools were given a minimum period of four business days to prepare for lock down and, in the case of my sons’ school, a home school programme. Fortunately, their school had seen the way the wind was blowing and had started preparing for a potential closure period earlier in the month. Even so, the teaching staff were not afforded much time to get themselves ready to go completely on-line with teaching.
On Thursday, the 18th of March my sons started on-line learning. It wasn’t badly implemented, despite the short timeline, and they had had Google classroom meetings hosted by their teachers, on-line assignments, YouTube video sessions and a lot of other help with all of their subjects.
At the end of March their school closed for the holiday and the teachers worked diligently to make improvements to the on-line programme. School reopened on the 6th of May and my boys continued with their on-line learning until the closure of the second term on Friday, 31 July. They even wrote examinations for two weeks under lock down conditions.
A few weeks ago, a good blogging friend of mine, Jim Borden, a university lecturer wrote this post https://jborden.com/2020/07/19/can-what-you-do-be-replicated-by-technology/. One of the questions he asks in this post is the replacement of teachers by Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and on-line learning likely. A most interesting question, especially in light of the current scenario where millions of children have all been testing out this theory. So what do I think after my 11 week baptism of hell with home schooling? Does it make sense to replace teachers with AI?
My answer is a resounding NO! There are some advantages to an on-line learning programme. It would be much cheaper. There would be no need of large buildings to accommodate students and all the related furniture. There would be no need for cleaners, caterers and caretakers.
It would also be easier, I wouldn’t need to sit in traffic every day taking them to and from school.
It would also be far less time consuming as there would be no distractions in the form of socialising, team sports, individual sports, debating, chess, clubs and the numerous other things that fill up a child’s school day. It has also been proven statistically that children retain more information that they learn through on-line learning than in a classroom [personally, I’m not completely convinced about the correctness of this particular statistic].
So why then don’t I believe teaching works as well on-line as in the classroom?
I believe that all children, from the youngest to the oldest in our school system, need the human interaction with a teacher and their peers in order to stay emotionally balanced and motivated. People are social animals and they find isolation very difficult. My younger son has told me repeatedly that he misses his friends and the routine of the school day.
Even my older son, who is highly motivated and diligent has found it difficult to stay focused and disciplined during the lockdown period. The lack of routines and contact with other learners and teachers makes it feel a bit purposeless, even if it isn’t.
I also believe the children learn a lot from socialising. Working and life isn’t all about output and sitting at a computer on your own all day. It is about learning to work in teams and motivate others to deliver to deadlines. It is also about brain storming and working together to problem solve. These are all life skills that you cannot learn alone in front of your computer.
I am not going to go into the benefits of sport and extra curricular activities here, but they are numerous and the lack of these past times over the past five months has been has been very trying for children, and adults too.
Of course, there are also the other more basic issues that make on-line learning difficult. Many children lack access to the technology required for on-line learning, including a reliable internet and a computer. No everyone has these, but even if they did, it would not change my view on the relevance of teachers and teaching in a physical situation.
What do you think? Do you think teachers could be replaced by AI and on-line learning programmes? Has your view on this changed over the past few months? Let me know in the comments.
I made a Covid-19 memories cake recently which caricatured the nursery rhyme, The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. I created a young mother with a washing basket full of clothing outside her shoe home. Her many children are all sitting, socially distanced, home schooling. They all have laptops and headsets.
About Robbie Cheadle
Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with seven published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.
I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.
I have participated in a number of anthologies:
- Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
- Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
- Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
- Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.
I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.
Find Robbie Cheadle
Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram
Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books
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