Duke faculty reject plan for it to join online consortium | Inside Higher Ed

Duke faculty reject plan for it to join online consortium | Inside Higher Ed.

This is the best, most clearly and concisely written article on long-distance learning that I have read in years.  The author offers hope for a return to strict standards 1, subject master expertise, 2 and true learning: a reality that I have not read on the Internet until today (April 30, 2013). 

I have had the unfortunate experience of teaching with “teachers” who had “Master Degrees” obtained on-line (two of these august people actually confessed in private that they had bought the degree, and one, an Academic Dean at a Roman Catholic high school asked me if I knew where he could buy another to “fill-out” his résumé (his curriculum vita, to say the least, was sparse”).  Yet these teachers could not determine if Hitler or Stalin was in a presented photograph that we “team taught” (another worthless invention by education aficionados , coming close to the past participle in Spanish of  aficionar).  Far more frustrating was to have my lead teacher ask me to visit her classroom at the High School to teach the methodology on photo interpretation–as she, too, had no idea of who Hitler was or the era in which he lived and was responsible for the deaths of millions of people.

I teach teachers who believe that a single word can be a complete sentence.  No, that is a intensive exclamation–as a sentence requires no less than one noun and one verb.  Other teachers tell their students not to use emphatic verbs, but that, too, is incorrect: for example, note the difference between a pretty girl and a very pretty girl

The problem in Perú, where I teach, is that grammar is poorly taught (if it is even a part of the official language program), and many teachers who teach a foreign language actually teach the targeted idiom using the native tongue: Spanish is used to teach English, French, and German (frequently this is the regulations of the university, especially for schools of education) rather than immersing the student immediately and completely so that the student learns.  Last year, and this year, I have the majority of my students who are preparing to graduate who cannot, save with great difficulty, speak a rudimentary form of English–but they do listen to tapes on-line and even sign up for on-line language courses.  The problem with this is they do not get the tools to use words in their correct order and frequently think that one word’s synonyms mean the same as the word itself.  There is a difference between walk and stride or ambulate, as there is a difference between investigate and research.

When I was charged with reviewing applications when teaching in Hawaii and Texas, I automatically weed out the on-line “degrees” from the others, before inviting the on-line “degree” holder to visit the campus and present a lecture on a subject of his or her choice or a paper that was researched.  Not once did I find a presentation or a composition that met minimum standards.  When I moved to Perú, I was startled to be offered teaching positions based on a photocopy of a diploma with no concern as to transcripts or who my professors were, what publications I had published after peer review, or any similar exercise most professionals expect.  The closest that I came to such an encounter to prove knowledgeability was at Señor Sipan University, where the Directora of the Language School, asked me to present a five minute talk on the past tense of the verb to be that was to be learned by seniors who were to graduate.

I had a Director of the Translation and Interpretation department in Lima who could not tell the difference between the two disciplines.  He was adamant that translation and interpretation were the same.  No amount of protestation or offering of scholarly articles to the contrary, he maintained his stand and thought I was estupido for claiming that they were different.  Today I still teach the nuances of each word, as I do when presenting material on investigation and research.  The most difficult part as a teacher and for most students is to make certain that each knows correct word choice and word order in crafting a sentence.  Unfortunately, much is left to be desired as word order is usually ignored, and vocabularies are rudimentary. 

The Duke faculty must be applauded for calling a halt to this half-baked idea of computer-learning.  Computers can enhance learning, but computer will never replace committed teachers. It is essential to consider human psychology and computer programming not as equals, but as interactive. “3” Yes, I am old in body–but not in mind.  I will continue to insist on excellence regardless what the new generation wishes to do or undo with the language.  There are standards,”4” and standards exist for a reason: so that future generations understand what was said and what was meant by what was said in the years before they began their own careers as teachers.

  1. Pride, J. B. (1979). Sociolinguistic aspects of language learning and teaching. Oxford, UK; New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press; Valdman, Albert; Gass, Susan M.; et al (2002). Pedagogical norms for second and foreign language learning and teaching : studies in honour of Albert Valdman. Amsterdam, Holland, The Netherlands; Philadelphia, PA, USA: J. Benjamins Pub. Co.; Phillips, June K.; Terry, Robert M.; American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.; et al. (1999). Foreign language standards: linking research, theories, and practices. Lincolnwood, IL, USA: National Textbook Co. in conjunction with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages”
  2. Sangster, Margaret (2013). Developing teacher expertise : exploring key issues in primary practice. London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic Publishers.
  3. Crochik, José Leon (1998). O computador no ensino e a limitação da consciência. São Paulo, Brasil: Casa do Psicólogo; Kahn, Brian; Jorge da Silva Verissimo (1991). Os computadores no ensino da ciência : o uso dos computadores no ensino e na aprendizagem. Lisboa, Portugal: Publicações Dom Quixote.
  4. Webster, Noah (1802). The American spelling book : containing an easy standard of pronunciation: being the first part of A grammatical institute of the English language, in three parts.  Hartford (CT, USA) Printed by Hudson & Goodwin.  Joseph, John Earl (1987). Eloquence and power: the rise of language standards and standard languages. New York, NY, USA: B. Blackwell.  National Council of Teachers of English.; International Reading Association (1996). Standards for the English language arts. Newark, DE, USA: International Reading Association; Urbana, IL, USA: National Council of Teachers of English.

2 comments to Duke faculty reject plan for it to join online consortium | Inside Higher Ed


    good night teacher,it seems that hid block is very interesting, excuse me for not talking in class, is that I feel ashamed. and i want to give my opinion on translation and interpretation, i have learned that translation and interpretation were different, because are two disciplines which have become very important in modern society.
    also, because translation is a matter of understanding the thought expressed in one language and then explaining it using the resources of another language. interpretation denotes the actual product of this work, that is, the message thus rendered into speech or sign language, in other language form.
    and the different is that translation (is in written language, you can use of dictionaries and online resources, you must have writing skills and work alone) and interpretation (is in Oral language, you can notes taken, you must have speaking skills and you can Work with people, thats all. thaks you!!!

  • Sami Swan Thompson  says:

    I am very glad to see you making a stand on this issue. As you know, I have encountered prejudice because of my degree status. Before the online learning craze exploded, I had the opportunity to purchase the degrees I needed, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. (Buying a degree without doing the work is the worst kind of academic cheating.)

    Some long-distance learning programs used to require students to take tests in person at campus, but I don’t know if that’s still the case.

    I learn something every time I read one of your articles! Please keep them coming!

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