Computer-based learning programs show promise

A Southeast D.C. school with a homeless student population of nearly one-third is making news with the success it is seeing with a computer-based learning initiative. Ketcham Elementary School saw an 11 percent bump in math proficiency this past spring and a 4.5 percent rise in reading proficiency after less than two years implementing a computer-learning model that combines face-to-face teacher instruction with personalized online learning paths for students. To put those numbers in perspective, other test scores in the District barely moved in the same time frame.

Advocates of these blended learning models say that the computers are not meant to replace teachers in any way, but instead to complement them. Teachers are able to set up one student on a customized learning task on a computer while working one-on-one with another group of students, for example. The blended learning allows for more personalization that is strengthened with educator insight.

As a former public school teacher, this trend both excites and frightens me. Though proponents of blended learning say that it will never replace actual in-person instruction, I worry that too much reliance on technology could actually lead to students who skate by but do not actually comprehend what they are learning. A computer can never replace the insight an educator gleans by working directly with a student.

I also realize that teachers simply do not have enough hours in a school day to meet the individual needs of every student and technology can help bridge that gap. On that level, I think blended learning programs can make a positive difference when it comes to students getting more practice in areas where they need it and on an individual level.

What are your thoughts on computer-based blending learning initiatives?

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