Technology is not always the answer

14th March 2003 at 00:00
It was with interest that I read your article on a teacher teaching up to 90 pupils at the same time via a computer link (TES, February 28).

Having taught in London schools for the past six years, I have seen the difficulties in recruiting staff and observed the detrimental effect on pupils who lack a permanent teacher. The article suggests that a form of video-conferencing might provide the solution.

Except that children do not learn that way. Children need their ideas to be challenged. It is a personal experience, involving interaction between real people. It requires relationships based on trust, respect and shared understanding. How can any teacher know the learning needs of 90 pupils and challenge them appropriately?

In the short term it might be better than no teacher at all. In the long term, however, pupils will be exposed to an impersonal learning environment where interaction with the teacher is infrequent and short. Their misconceptions will go unchallenged and any learning that takes place will be superficial and short-lived. The danger is that it could be seen as a permanent solution.

The shortage of staff is a real and damaging problem in almost every school in the country. Papering over the cracks with cover teachers is a solution that pupils and parents can see through.

I hope that everyone involved will regard this technical fix as equally damaging and demand better for their children. The real solution is more teachers, not fewer.

Ben Rogers

43 Milton Road

London E17

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