THE CLASSROOM AND THE COMPUTER SCREEN Online Education - Page 16

sympathy and fellowship. Yet this capacity—promising as it is—remains hemmed in by the limitations of fiber- optic wires, dish antennas, wireless routers and video monitors. Physical classroom spaces do not share these limitations. They can capture the embodied charisma of a teacher, the brisk hum of group productivity, the intensity of ideas forthrightly expressed, the surprise of knowledge freshly gained, the shared experience of pains and rewards that accompany academic discipline, and the personal idiosyncrasies of every individual present. These ingredients produce the sympathy and fellowship of a great education. Nothing can ever match a living and present human body. Thus, online classrooms, even at their best, will always fall short of an ideal education. Brick-and-mortar classrooms often fall short too, despite their greater capacity for meaningful human interaction. The perfect education will elude most of us, but as we consider the options we face in the real world, the principles of sympathy and fellowship help us sort through them. 16