Are students better off without professors?

Photo: Students were collaborating with the use of their laptops for a Latin American class on the second floor of the Green Library. Photo by Stephanie Mason/FIUSM.

Ashley Valentin/Contributing Writer 

Sugata Mitra, an educational technology teacher at Newcastle University in England, posed the question of whether students are better off without teachers at the TED2013 conference this past February.

According to CNN, Mitra conducted experiments in India based on the notion of “self organized learning environments” in order to explore this concept. Here, students solve problems on their own by using the Internet, with adults supervising only to offer praise for every achievement the students make.

Mitra set up a public computer for children in a Delhi slum, and after some time, he saw that the children were able to browse the Net in English without prior instruction. Adult volunteers were instructed to contact the children via Skype and offer words of encouragement and praise.

This is because, according to Mitra, praising children helps them focus and process information better. Stress caused by exams and punishments, on the other hand, leads to the brain shutting down its rational processes, limiting a child’s ability to retain information.

Mitra’s experiments expanded, yet the results remained the same. Regardless of race, location, status, and education, children were able to effectively learn important skills by using the computer, such as English language literacy, mathematics, science and reading comprehension skills.

With this information, it’s easy to claim that we don’t need professors. It it easy to believe that since the Net is the all-knowing hub of all information, a traditional school setting with professors seems outdated.

Students find detailed histories of topics that interest them on Wikipedia and Google, instructional videos on YouTube, details of social and political events on Twitter, and enough opinions of a variety of topics on forums such as Reddit. Any person can feel very educated on a slew of subjects.

While the Net certainly provides an effective environment for students to attain and understand new information, removing teachers altogether would not be viable. Teachers provide guidance for a student’s track of learning, teaching what information is important amidst a mass of valueless material.

More importantly, a computer is not a mentor for a student. The Net is solely a source of information and cannot provide the very important role a teacher has in helping to advise and counsel a student into a career.

Instead of removing professors from the classroom, their tools for educating students should simply be expanded.

Currently, Net usage is discouraged in the classroom. It is seen as a distraction and a hindrance to the learning process. Computers are often only allowed in lecture halls for the purpose of note taking.

Instead of shying away from the World Wide Web, Net usage should be encouraged in classrooms as a learning tool instead of just a place to submit assignments on Turnitin, Blackboard, or Moodle. Not every student can absorb information through lectures, and a large portion of the time, students relearn their classroom material by doing online research anyway.

So, why not better utilize what is already working outside of the classroom? 


1. “What if students learn faster without teachers?” via CNN Opinion

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