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In Florida, Virtual Classrooms With No Teachers

1. MIAMI – On the first day of her senior year at North Miami Beach Senior High School, Naomi Baptiste expected to be greeted by a teacher when she walked into her precalculus class.

2. “All there were were computers in the class,” said Naomi, who walked into a room of confused students. “We found out that over the summer they signed us up for these courses.”

3. Naomi is one of over 7,000 students in 54 Miami-Dade County Public Schools enrolled in a program in which core subjects are taken using computers in a classroom with no teacher. A “facilitator” is in the room to make sure students progress. That person also deals with any technical problems.

4. These virtual classrooms, called e-learning labs, were put in place last August as a result of Florida’s Class Size Reduction Amendment, passed in 2002. The amendment limits the number of students allowed in classrooms, but not in virtual labs.

5. While most schools held an orientation about the program, some students and parents said they were not informed of the new class structure. Others said they were not given the option to choose whether they wanted this type of instruction, and they voiced concern over the program’s effectiveness.

6. Under the state’s class-reduction amendment, high school classrooms cannot surpass a 25-student limit in core subjects, like English or math. Fourth- through eighth-grade classrooms can have no more than 22 students.

7. Alix Braun, 15, a sophomore at Miami Beach High, takes Advanced Placement macroeconomics in an e-learning lab with 35 to 40 other students. There are 445 students enrolled in the online courses at her school, and while Alix chose to be placed in the lab, she said most of her lab mates did not.

8. “None of them want to be there,” Alix said, “and for virtual education you have to be really self-motivated. This was not something they chose to do, and it’s a really bad situation to be put in because it is not your choice.”

9. School administrators said that they had to find a way to meet class-size limits. Jodi Robins, the assistant principal of curriculum at Miami Beach High, said that even if students struggled in certain subjects, the virtual labs were necessary because “there’s no way to beat the class-size mandate without it.”

10. Some teachers are skeptical of how well the program can help students learn.

11. “The way our state is dealing with class size is nearly criminal,” said Chris Kirchner, an English teacher at Coral Reef Senior High School in Miami. “They’re standardizing in the worst possible way, which is evident in virtual classes.”

12. While Ms. Kirchner questions the instructional effectiveness of online courses, she said there was a place for them at some level.

13. “I think there should be learning on the computer,” Ms. Kirchner said. “That part is from 2:30 p.m. on. The first part of the day should be for learning with people.”

14. But Michael G. Moore, a professor of education at Pennsylvania State University, said programs that combine virtual education and face-to-face instruction could be effective. This is called the “blended learning concept.”

15. “There is no doubt that blended learning can be as effective and often more effective than a classroom,” said Mr. Moore, who is also editor of The American Journal of Distance Education. He said, however, that research and his experiences had shown that proper design and teacher instruction within the classroom were necessary. A facilitator who only monitors student progress and technical issues within virtual labs would not be categorized as part of a blended-learning model, he said. Other variables include “the maturity and sophistication of the student,” he said.

16. Despite some complaints about the virtual teaching method, administrators said e-learning labs were here to stay. And nationally, blending learning has already caught on in some areas.

17. In Chicago Public Schools, high schools have “credit recovery” programs that let students take online classes they previously failed so they can graduate. Omaha Public Schools also have similar programs that require physical attendance at certain locations.

18. Julie Durrance, manager of the e-learning lab program, said the virtual school planned to work more closely with district schools to ensure success. She said virtual school officials wanted orientations to be mandatory in schools with labs.

19. “I truly believe this will be an option for many districts across the state,” Ms. Durrance said. “I think we just hit the tip of the iceberg.” (730 words)

4. Scan the article for key words. In pairs, compare your results. You probably have 10 words or so. Do you have any words which are synonyms? Which ones?

5. Now read the following variant of the main idea (thesis). How many of your key words can you find in it?

As a result of a new regulation limiting the size of traditional classes, large virtual labs with no teachers but computers and technical facilitators have been introduced in Florida’s public schools, which raised conflicting opinions in the community. (40 words)

6. Read the following outline and put down the numbers of the short ‘paragraph’s from the article (1-19) compressed in the outline of 7 points. Check the numbers with your partners.

1. ( 1 - 3 ) Last August some 7,000 high school students in Florida found they were enrolled in classes with only computers and technical facilitators but with no teachers.

2. (____) These virtual classrooms, called e-learning labs, appeared as a result of Florida’s Class Size Reduction Amendment adopted in 2002, which limits the number of students in ordinary classrooms where core subjects are taught, but not in computer labs. For some students this move came as a surprise, and some have doubts about the effectiveness of this arrangement.

3. (____) According to the amendment, high school classes have an upper limit of 25 students in core subjects, like English or math. Alix Braun, a 15-year old student, says that there are from 35 to 40 students in his virtual lab. He also says that not all students like it because you have to be to self-motivated to benefit and because the students did not have a choice.

4. (____) School administrators say that virtual labs were the only way to solve the problem with the class size though some teachers criticize this change as an unsuccessful standardization. They say, however, that computers help but there should be also learning with teachers.

5. (____) Mr Moore, professor of education of Pennsylvania State University, refers to his research which shows that the combination of virtual educations and face-to-face instruction, in other words, blended learning, could be effective if there is an appropriate course design and teacher instruction. He says that other factors are important, such as how mature and sophisticated the student is.

6. (____) In spite of some criticism, e-learning will develop further. In some schools blended learning proves to be useful as those who failed before can take blended courses to graduate.

7. (____) According to Julie Durrance, manager of the e-learning lab program, they have to work more closely with district schools to guarantee success. She says this is just the beginning of the development. (336 words)

Read the summary. Note that the starting point of the thesis is used in the first sentence of the summary. All personal names are omitted. Similarly, many unimportant details are excluded. The original article has 732 words, the outline has 336 words, and the summary has 180 words.


The article describes virtual classrooms, called e-learning labs, which appeared in Florida schools last August as a result of Florida’s Class Size Reduction Amendment. Legally, the number of students in ordinary classrooms is limited to 25 students, but not in virtual classrooms, where the number of students in computer classes with no teacher but a technical facilitator could reach 35-40. The author states that this type of learning caused some criticism not only among students and their parents, but also among school teachers who believe that there should be some teacher instruction in virtual classes, too. A research shows that the combination of virtual educations and face-to-face instruction, in other words, blended learning, could be effective if there is an appropriate course design and teacher instruction. The research emphasizes that there exist other factors of success, such as the student’s maturity and sophistication. Nevertheless, school administrators are sure that e-learning has a potential. They believe that blended learning has advantages though they realize that a lot has to be done to guarantee success. (180 words)

8. Study the summary carefully and write a shorter variant (80 words). Exchange the first drafts of your summaries with your partner. Evaluate your partner’s first draft using the assessment scoring rubrics. Suggest some areas of improvement(e.g. by adding a transition word between two sentences or joining two short sentences in one.)

Text 6.

1. Skim the report about a recent Cross-Cultural Business Communication Conference for gist. What is the main issue discussed at the conference?

Date: 2015-12-24; view: 865

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