I just read that Indianapolis has okayed the opening of 19 new charter schools based on the concept of “blended learning.” The schools will lean heavily on technology to reduce the teaching staff and save money while promising higher test scores.
Embedded in this approach is the belief that computers do a better job of teaching basic skills than live teachers. Or that vast sums of money can be saved by dividing instruction between computers and teachers.
The article includes claims about test score gains that resulted from blended learning. Was there more or better test prep? Do the students have the knowledge and skills to think critically, to read thoughtfully, or just to pick the right bubble? It will take a while longer before we know.
But in the meanwhile, there was a major study of technology in education by the federal government that has been almost completely ignored. The bottom line: There is no evidence for blended learning as a superior approach to education. Maybe there will be some day, but there in none right now.
My old-fashioned brain says that what matters most in a classroom is a teacher who engages in a deeply human way with students: to encourage them, enlighten them, inspire them, teach them. There is a place in every classroom for technology. I use it every day. And certainly students can use their computers to do research and writing and explore.
But in the current environment of high-stakes testing, computers are geared to passing the tests.
And that’s not teaching. That’s testing. The end of education is not to pass tests, not even to get higher scores.
The goal of education is to lead us out from our ignorance; to develop our humanity; to give us the tools to take control of our life.
For that, a teacher is still the best of all technologies.