Another dot in the blogosphere?

Wrong vs actual dichotomy 

Posted on: October 6, 2021

There is a long-standing argument that has been pushed to the front during the current pandemic: Should schools and universities conduct classes face-to-face (FTF) vs or go online (e.g., home-based learning or HBL)?

It is simplistic to just focus on the mode of teaching and learning, and then take one side or the other. A lesson can be simultaneously both, e.g., teachers and students can be in classroom using online tools. To avoid either label, someone called that blended. 

Neither mode is necessarily better than the other in every possible context. Both can share the same weaknesses, e.g., teacher talk can dominate in a FTF and an online classroom, and this can stifle student voice and choice. 

Being FTF provides immediacy, but this might also push slow reflection out the window. Being online requires greater discipline and independence, but this is not optimal for those that need more guidance or those with special needs.

A FTF classroom might favour the socially dominant or comfortable. An online classroom might enable social wallflowers to bloom. So what logic is there to first define classrooms like this and then choose between the two or force one mode to operate like the other?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

FTF vs online is a false dichotomy because they are facets of a complex object we call teaching and learning. You can try to force other facets into either FTF or online, but you will find elements that fit both, e.g., teacher talk, learner indifference.

The actual dichotomy is an inflexible vs a flexible mindset. The former seeks neat but lazy concepts. The latter embraces nuance and stays open to critical ideas.

A flexible and logical mind can see how being FTF and online operate in the same single reality we call modern teaching and learning. It is not an argument of one or the other. It is about leveraging on both.

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