Here’s a great story (shared on the Huffington post) about a student who is attending his school remotely, through a robot. Watch the video below.
The robot has become a proxy for face to face communication, and this family considers face to face communication so important, they are ignoring other, probably easier, solutions for his education. Lyndon could be going to a virtual school and learning remotely through initiatives like the Khan Academy, but he’s not. Instead he and his parents have chosen to send a robot in his stead, which Lyndon controls via his computer.
In any blended learning model, it’s important to remember stories like Lyndon’s and remember why we would use blended learning over pure e-learning. Although e-learning has the potential to allow for a much greater degree of personalization of learning, it is a poor substitute for face to face interaction. The ability to quickly communicate a lot more than just the course content is a critical aspect of face to face learning. Lyndon has joined this school virtually because he wants the emotional contact with other people his age. He’s not just content "knowing" stuff, he wants to know it through other people’s eyes as well, hence his comment on "the other student’s point of view."
As educators, we do this too. Although we have a thriving community on Twitter, many of us will jump at an opportunity to see each other face to face. We’ll spend collectively spend vast sums of money on going to conferences like Educon and ISTE, or spend hours planning local unconferences. The online interactions are great, but nothing beats a face to face conversation.