Virtual Classrooms

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Virtual Classrooms – Article R Essay, Research Paper Virtual classrooms: coming soon to a computer near you (consult your local teacher for instructions) John Wallin +s article, +Web-Based Education Coming of Age, + refers primarily to the prospect of on-line astronomy courses, but the pitfalls and advantages he discusses can be applied to on-line classes of every discipline. Wallin likens the current technology revolution and the changes it will bring about to the world as it was in the 15th century, when Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type and education became possible for a wider population. The major change now, he claims, is that information is so readily available that people are going to become directors of their own learning. Wallin mentions details that should

be considered, however, before a person decides to pursue knowledge by the on-line method. The problems he enumerates range from identifying learning styles to technical problems with the computer and compatibility. Each of the issues he raises is a valid consideration for any educator hoping to integrate technology into the classroom. One of the factors Wallin describes is student motivation. He believes student motivation to be most important as the student will need to drive him or her self to connect with the class. Some students tend to +feel very isolated in online classes. + Students also tend to put off assignments and therefore fall behind without a human instructor to +face + after missing a deadline. When the technology itself presents problems, a student +s

willingness to solve those problems is also a factor. An unmotivated student could simply +give up + when the network goes down, software crashes, or the hard drive fails. Teachers of the future must keep these factors in mind as they begin to +reconceptualize + their classrooms. Creating virtual classrooms which will challenge students, maintain their interest, and allow for flexible scheduling is the wave of the future. Having the time and the creativity to put these classrooms together is the challenge that lies before us. Wallin +s article raises several excellent issues for educators to keep in mind during this transition period. People are still people, and although computers seem to be +the answer, + they are not necessarily compatible with everyone +s learning style.

People also need human companionship, and limiting education to a man-machine relationship may trivialize the one aspect that keeps many students motivated: human contact. Wallin sees a great future for technology in education, but he is realistic about it as well. People speculated that the phonograph would become the +teacher + of the future as lectures could be recorded and played back at the student +s leisure. Then the television was seen as the replacement for humans. Neither of these prophecies came true, and Wallin believes that computers, too, will assist but not replace the traditional education system. Source: Wallin, John. (2001, January). +Web-based education coming of age. + Sky & telescope, 101 (5) p. 77. Retrieved 01/24/01 from EBSCOhost on the World Wide Web: