Education Policy: When Will Learning’s Tomorrow Come?–My Critique

Education Policy: When Will Learning’s Tomorrow Come?

What enables you to read this blog post? Your desktop PC? A smart phone? A tablet computer? However you’ve stumbled across this, odds are it was not in some printed binding of The Huffington Post’s latest blog entries.

You probably do much of your reading on monitors and touchscreens, and that makes complete sense. [Not really. Even some of the young do not get on the Internet. I still prefer books.] It’s 2013, and though we’re not where popular science fiction of the 20th century had us (Skynet has mercifully not become self-aware… yet), our capacity to access and disseminate data has experienced two decades worth of revolution in growth of scope.

As much makes Sugata Mitra’s TED Prize wish — that we build a school in the digital cloud, a “Self-Organized Learning Environment” (SOLE) in which children can teach themselves and each other — a completely reasonable, and important, goal. [OMG, just to use a current idiom, Children are NOT small adults. They need to be told what to learn. Graduate school is more your choice and a Phd is even more your choice of what to learn. K-12 should not be like graduate school. I am actually tired of people trying to rush kids into and through college.]

The potential of collaborative, technologically-driven learning environments to drive success in education lies in their capacity to create community. [Why the need for collaboration at K-12 level?] Dr. Mitra’s formula of broadband + collaboration + encouragement and admiration is an effort to create a community for a student that is highly favorable toward and supportive of learning. [Education need not be supportive. Stop coddling kids. Just present the information and have the kids understand. It is what school has been for 100s of years.] Education research indicates that such environments can have a positively significant impact on a student’s education outcomes than any other factor. [You cannot guarantee outcomes. You should not even try for outcomes, again, just present the information and let the kids understand it. KISS. You are so worried about their psyche that you fail to teach them much. In a recent PISA test US students were asked their opinion on well they did and they said they did great, but of course, they hadn’t.]

What concerns me as an education reformer about Dr. Mitra’s aspirational position is just that: it is still highly aspirational. Why, when we have such incredible technological resources at our disposal, have we been so slow to implement technology in many of our schools? [We had the nuclear bomb and were quick to use it. I feel it was a mistake. Again, just because we can does not mean that we should.]

The barriers vary. In some areas, especially poorer and more remote ones, funding and infrastructure are a challenge that must be overcome. Here, where we have an abundance of both those things, a very different barrier exists. It’s one that should be beatable and yet remains a serious obstacle to any education reform, technology-driven or otherwise: fear of change. [For me it is NOT fear of change. It is more that the change has not been proven to benefit students. It has not gone through a cost/benefit analysis. What ‘proof’ there is, is short term and small sample sizes. It is usually a company that says their software is the best. It is more of an advertising ploy, like much of the Internet. There are no honest to god white papers. It is foolish to run off a cliff like the rest of the lemmings. Until you can prove to me the cost/effectiveness compared to traditional methods I will be against this. I am actually a technologist that is against the over use of technology in general, and in K-12 education, specifically.]

Much of the claims made about this were and are being done without computers. So, it is nothing new.
Dr. Mitra’s assertion that our school system is out of date rings especially true in the United States. [It is only out of date because you say there needs to be all of this technology. Finland does NOT use computers in their classrooms.] As much shows in our slipping global education rank; according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, we now treat our students to the 17th best education in the world. Among OECD countries, our math testing scores dipped to 25th out of 34 countries in 2009. Those are not terribly impressive numbers for a global superpower. [Once in the 1990s we were number 10 in either math or science and we have not been in the top 10 since, in either. God, you know we still have way more than other country of those who scored high on these tests. It is these people that should be and hopefully, will be the future leaders of our country, not the average joe blow. The rankings only show averages.

The relationship between education of the masses and the economy is tenuous at best. We became the World’s largest economy in about 1880, when almost nobody was graduating high school. Even when we became a superpower, in about 1945, we had way less than 50 % of our population with a high school diploma. During the Great Depression and slightly before we had the highest high school graduation rates in our history, up until that time and yet we had massive unemployment for about 15 years. The spoils of war got us the great economy we enjoyed for maybe 50 years. This booming economy (to feed and rebuild Europe and Japan) allowed us to educate more of our children and adults. Most jobs actually did not need this education though. So, where did education have any impact on the economy? We now have more educated people then ever in our history and yet our economy is bad, more people unemployed than a the height of the Great Depression. At the height of the Depression there was a 25 % unemployment rate of about 100 million population. Recently, we had over 9% unemployment rate of about 300 million. This is equal to over 27% of 100 million, in terms of sheer numbers. Yet we have 90% of adults have either a high school diploma or GED and about 44% have a college degree, in other words, the best education population probably in human history and yet millions unemployed. WHY? Education of the masses has very little to do with the economy. Education works in the micro but not macro. College was important about 100 years ago because so few had college degrees.]

In spite of this, we remain largely committed to an education model implemented during the Cold War. Students come to school for 6 or 7 hours a day. Teachers talk at them. They go home. While lectures have their merits, this environment hardly mirrors the modern working world, of which technology usage is often a major part. [Technology has been around for over 100 years. Why now? Radio was supposed to revolutionize education circa 1900 and tv circa 1950. Neither did and now it is computers? This model has worked for over 100 years. It is up to people like you to prove the need for change. Not just state as some kind of fact.]

Many American students use computers and smartphones daily. Exploiting these technologies in the learning environment — technologies with which today’s learners almost innately engage — is vital to the construction of the learning environments Dr. Mitra aspires to create. [This the digital native argument which has been debunked. Again, I was raised on tvs and I did not expect them to be in schools and be taught using them. Again, why now? The fact that technology is so pervasive and computers, etc, so easy to learn to use, they need not be taught in school. We have never trained our kids on the latest technology, such as phone or radio, etc, again why now?] Some states, like Florida and Utah, have embraced learning technologies and seen them flourish. In 2010-2011, the Florida Virtual School served over 148,000 students. [So what? They are fools. Just because they do it means you must do it too? Lemming mentality. 148,000/ 2,587,554 is about 5.7%. This is hardly wholesale involvement in this technology. Proponents are quick to show something positive even if it is only a small fraction of the state’s student body—again a small sample size. Most kids can learn no matter the environment or methods used but again it does not mean we should be doing it.]

Other states have been slower. In Texas, where I’m from, we have been hearing that learning technologies are the future of education for a decade. Yet efforts to expand such technologies are frequently met with so much caution from members of the education establishment that the inertia becomes too much to overcome. [Great! You are aware that the new high school in Round Rock ISD, Cedar Ridge High School, the one with all of the networking, etc, is the only high school in the district that was rated as Academically Unacceptable. It is almost funny that the proponents of CAI say that the technology was NOT used correctly when it fails. This is circular logic.]

While caution is necessary in any decision that affects the education of our next generation is important, so is boldness. The idea that students can use technology to self-teach is bold. [This is dangerous.] The notion of a network of educators working together to bring high quality learning opportunities to children worldwide is bold. The SOLE [ Self-Organized Learning Environments only talks about kids 8-12 years old.] is the kind of idea our education communities should be embracing to modernize global education. [Education is better when localized not internationalized.]

The wonderful thing about technology is that it can work fast. [Or not all, even when installed.] Dr. Mitra’s idea, with enough buy in from the education community as well as those among us who might have knowledge worth sharing with today’s students, could be implemented quickly. Quickness to embrace such ideas, to use the technology at its disposal, has not always come easily to the education community, especially in the United States. A willingness to do so, to be bold, will be key in the execution of Dr. Mitra’s vision. A vision with the potential enhance learning opportunities for students the world over.

“What they saw was kids from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process learning how to use it and how to go online, and then teaching each other.” < > Exactly they see it as a toy. This is different from having a teacher led class with computers. The kids have some choice but not unlimited choice like the ‘hole in the wall.’ This for these kids the computer was a novelty. This is like what little research that was done back in the 80s, that suggested that computers in the classroom were good, was because of the novelty of it. It is no longer a novelty for most Americans. Also, it shows that they can learn to use a computer on their own and that teaching it in school is NOT necessary.

One of biggest comments I have is – Just because we can does not mean that we should. Just because we can teach using computers does not mean we should.

“To prepare for the realities of the future workplace and the rapidly changing technological landscape, it is critical for educators to invite kids to get good at asking big questions that lead them on intellectual journeys to pursue answers, rather than only memorizing facts.”

Why? Where does it follow that rapidly changing technology must necessitate kids asking big questions? Or even adults? We do not have control over what companies do. What kinds of questions can 8-12 year olds ask that aren’t taught through normal class and that do have answers? They could be wasting their time and probably even give up if their question is not answered, immediately, not only now but for their whole lives. Any time spent on playing on the computer will not be spent memorizing facts. Without facts what is the kid going to question? If he does not what is right, how is he going to know what is wrong? If he does not know the facts, how is he going to know what is false? What is a kid going to do with their life—search the Internet? Most jobs do not require access to the Internet nor researching anything.

Ethical considerations yes but paradoxically with the increased use of the Internet, privacy has been reduced to almost nothing. We could ask the questions dealing with ethics and we should but again we do not control the Internet. Most people just acquiesce, unfortunately.

I have read this web site and I disagree with most of it. What happens when the freedom is taken away from them in Middle School (or in my case– Junior High School)—when they are forced to learn what the teachers want them to learn? If this is applied all the way through high school then they are in for a shock in either college or the workplace. It is probably best never to start it.


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