Re: Digital Learning Communities

Fred Kemp (
Wed, 4 Sep 1996 17:12:32 -0600

Nick says,

>Being in the same place is really important to me, any way, even though I
>hardly ever say much that is useful, just chitchat and some farting
>around, between classes and conferences. But it sure is fun. I can't
>see being all electric all the time being like that. Not for me.

Agreed. But the point is not that digital contact will replace all f2f,
but simply become an alternative channel to doing something for those to
whom the many current f2f requirements are not an opportunity for
investigating the human condition but simply a bother. If you want to deal
with a human bank teller (and I don't particularly enjoy that), then you
can eschew the ATM and go inside. Some may argue that they are being
seduced into using the ATMs because of convenience, but....!

The people here on Rhetnet are not speaking apocalyptically, but many who
do employ the same sorts of arguments, the loss of human contact, etc.
This assumes what I once called the "replacement fallacy," that CMC will
eventually replace f2f, but that simply isn't going to happen. People who
want to meet in RL will do so and will find plenty of ways to continue
using typewriters and mailing snail mail personally in order to talk to old
Joe at the Post Office. People who, for whatever reason (and I think there
are many reasons that are not particularly anti-social or curmudgeonly, but
just the opposite), prefer to communicate online have now been given the
ability to do so.

CMC-based instruction will never totally replace f2f classrooms and
tutorial situations. All CMC-based instruction is going to do is give lots
of people who don't do well in f2f situations or have some other problem
with f2f (time, distance, money) an opportunity to gain learning outside
the age-old usual channels.

It's perfectly valid to discuss personal preferences ("I like to...I don't
like to..."), but if we are talking generic instructional practice, we have
to remember that there are lots of teachers, LOTS of teachers who don't
communicate as well or gracefully as Nick and Marcy, who in fact impede
learning through f2f pecadillos (probably about 2/3 of the teachers I've
ever had). There will be large numbers of students (not all, certainly)
who will see a formal learning situation that bypasses f2f with teachers as
something devoutly to be wished.

Fred Kemp