Archives for category: Technology, Computers

This post appears on a Florida blog called Accountabaloney. The blog was started by two parents in southern Florida, a retired pediatrician and a graphic designer. They are Sue Woltanski and Suzette Lopez.

This is the planned statement I presented to the Monroe County School Board, my local district board, on Tuesday, January 26, 2015. In it, I called the alarm regarding Competency Based Education (CBE), data mining and the planned destruction of public school as we know it. Please read it, study the attached links and additional reading, and share the information. We hope it will inspire parents and educators to speak out against efforts to destroy public schools while profiting off our children.

We believe Florida’s accountabaloney system is deeply entangled in this move to CBE. Schools and teachers must be labeled as failing, otherwise there is no political will to completely overhaul them. Years of underfunding public schools has hastened their demise. Voucher programs highlight the concocted need for students to flee failing schools while nothing is done towards funding needed public school improvements. State mandated remediation programs have brought CBE and data mining into our classrooms.

It must be stopped.

Mr. Chairman, Board Members, Mr. Superintendent,

Almost 2 years ago, I first spoke to this board about concerns regarding standardized testing. At that time I quoted State Representative Keith Perry who, during a House Education committee meeting had described the current state of education as a period of “Creative Destruction” in which only by destroying our schools will we emerge in the future with something better. He called this “the American Way.” At last fall’s Excellence in Education Summit, Miami Representative Erik Fresen publicly repeated the need to completely destroy public schools (at 54:45).

“Policy is what matters… The most courageous policy of all, which is: take the entire system that exists right now and disrupt it completely. That will require policy changes.”

Today, I am here to, once again, sound the alarm and to inform you that the complete destruction of our public schools is closer than you think. It goes by the name of Competency Based Education and it has already infiltrated Monroe County Public Schools. Multiple bills are currently being pushed through the Florida legislature this session allowing the unbridled expansion of the policies Mr. Fresen needs to “take down the entire system.”

I will try to outline what is happening:

In this modern computer era, digital personal data is gold, currently being traded like currency. You know when you search for something on Amazon and Google and then you start seeing ads related to that search in your feed? That is the result of data mining.

In a video I have linked, the CEO of Knewton explains how Education is today’s most data mined industry. He explains “the name of the game is data per user.” From Amazon or Netflix they get 1 data point per user per day. Google and Facebook 10 data points per user per day. In education, Knewton gets 5-10 million actionable data points per student per day! Apparently, every sentence of every passage in digital content has a data tag and they can tell how interested a child is in a certain topic, how difficult it was, etc., etc. Ten million data points a day! This data grab is a gold mine to companies that want to market and design products. For venture capitalists, Education is the new hot commodity.

This is probably why last year’s FSA had a reading passage straight out of American Girl… Not only is this, clearly, product placement advertising on our state mandated test, which should be questioned, but, by using a data tagged American Girl passage, data can be collected to see just what parts of the story is most interesting to boys and girls and marketing strategies can be developed.

This is also why, though paper and pencil tests would dramatically reduce testing time, there is an insistence on computer based testing. On a computer based test, more data than just marked answers can and is being collected and shared.

This also explains why state approved remedial reading and math programs have essentially all been computer based. State tests can be created, and cut scores manipulated, in order to fail large numbers of students and state law can mandate each failing student participate in a digital remediation program, ensuring a steady stream of data points to third party participants.

Keep in mind that student test scores are digitally linked to personal identification data, including student address, IEP, free lunch status, health records, and discipline records and god knows what else. What if your “permanent record” went viral? Last November, a U.S. Congressional committee criticized the USDOE, exposing how vulnerable its information systems are to security threats. I encourage you to watch the proceeding. Currently, federal student data is NOT secure.

Monroe County already participates in the sharing of student data through associations with Certi-port, Achieve 3000, iReady, iStation, and more. These are vendors that are known to collect and distribute student data. Can they guarantee our student’s privacy is protected? Who are they sharing the data with? Do we know? We do not.

Last week, the Senate Education Committee voted favorably on SB1714. This bill allows for Competency Based Education pilot programs, funded by massive grants from the Gates Foundation, in Lake and Pinellas County and at P.K. Yonge. An amendment was added allowing Commissioner Stewart to expand the program to other counties. They are expanding the program before they have any data on its effectiveness. By 2022 every single school in Lake County will be converted to CBE.

In Florida, to my knowledge, There has never been a legislative workshop devoted to even discussing what CBE involves. CBE is a data driven education system that follows a set of prescribed standards and requires demonstration of “competency” before advancement. It has embedded testing within the curriculum that collects hidden streams of data via unknown algorithms. Stealth, continuous data–collected by vendors, can be shared with third parties–parental consent not needed.

The goal is to digitalize education so data can be collected and, remember, data is gold.

According to Edweek, researchers are busy developing computerized tutoring systems that gather information on students’ facial expressions, heart rate, posture, pupil dilation, and more. Those data are then analyzed for signs of student engagement, boredom, or confusion, leading a computer avatar to respond with encouragement, empathy, or maybe a helpful hint.” Creepy…

The measurement of social and emotional competencies, like grit, perseverance and tenacity, is a stated goal of the USDOE . Measurement of these non-cognitive competencies is already embedded into education programs.

Monroe has spent millions of dollars increasing our technology capabilities under mandates from the state. Initially we were concerned that all these computers were used for little more than testing and test prep. The mandates may, actually, have been in preparation for CBE.

The good news is that, with CBE, end of course exams and the FSA will become obsolete. When data on student progress can be collected every minute of every day, the “BIG” test is no longer necessary.

The bad news… teachers won’t be necessary, either. Current pilot programs include teachers as facilitators but soon taxpayers will wonder why we need to pay a professional to monitor students engaged in primarily an online education and a move will be made to hire a less expensive substitute. By then high quality teachers, stripped of all professional decision making, will have already left the profession in droves.

Why even have brick and mortar buildings for an education that mostly takes place on line?

Why even call it education anymore when it is really the harvesting of student data?

Consider this the alarm.

In hindsight, it becomes clear that this was the goal all along. We have been allowing our children to participate in this huge data gathering scheme which has the ultimate goal of destroying public school as we know it. Students need face to face interactions with humans. No computer algorithm can allow and encourage the creative mind. America has prospered because of creativity and ingenuity. We must fight to keep that in our schools. We need to stop participating in the system designed to destroy our schools. This is not about accountability and it is certainly not about what is best “for the kids.” What is best for the kids is that everyone stands up and says “our children are not data points for you to profit from.”

Competency Based Education is NOT the answer for the type of quality public education I want my children to have. It IS the complete destruction of public schools that Representatives Fresen and Perry have envisioned. Do not expect prestigious private schools to institute it. CBE is designed for “other people’s children” and it has already infiltrated our schools. And it will make a few people ultra rich.

SB 1714 allows for CBE expansion without any evidence it even works.

It is the start of a Brave New World and we need to keep it out of Monroe County until and unless long term data from these pilot studies demonstrates its effectiveness.

In the meantime, I ask that you protect our children from the data grab. Achieve 3000, iReady, iStation, and other CBE data mining programs are already being used throughout Monroe. There should be significant discussions regarding whether their risks outweigh their benefits.

The alarm has been sounded. Please heed this warning.

Thank you.

ADDENDUM:

While asking for input in writing these remarks, these two remarks were particularly worthy of repeating in full:

From an Electrical Engineer by training, Information Security Professional by career choice and Software Engineer, having developed many commercial applications. He has first hand experienced developing applications for education – and has witnessed the “lure of data data data”:

Your definition of CBE is far too generous and idealistic. Let me just say that CBE and CBT crap has been around for a very, very long time.. The essence of it really comes down to nothing more than one long series of IF THEN ELSE statements preprogrammed to provide the illusion that you are advancing or retracting.

In other words this is just a three letter word that represents a profession (teaching) being codified into a linear progression of computer steps.

There is far too much faith that this will somehow magically create a more learned student than what a dedicated human being can. CBE and CBT are all about removing the need for professional teachers — fast forward 20 years…

If we let them use our kids to perfect this technology: teachers will look and act more like electronic librarians or proctors. All the courses and supporting standards will have been written I eve, debugged (at the cost of your children’s education) and shrink wrapped into a tidy downloadable virtual machine. Going to school will look a whole lot more like Startreck the search for Spock when Spock was brought back as a boy and forced to relearn a lifetime of knowledge downloaded into computer based CBT and CBE.

This stuff will make a lot if people very very rich, but until it’s fully functional we will loose generations of children to poor education through this grand technological dissection of the educational process. Computer Programmers are quite prone to being godlike – in commanding and getting their own way – after all they are creating their own alternate reality through their profession. That is CBE and CBT – a codified alternate reality that we won’t know if it’s good or bad until we put a classroom if kids through it !

From Peggy Robertson (www.pegwithpen.com)

People truly are not getting what is happening because mainstream media is keeping this very very quiet. Look at Colorado. One of the advanced states. Consequentially, CBE “advanced” states will also be the fastest to move towards alt. certified/fake teachers who stick around for a couple years. Because…… when you have 150 kids on computers and the computer creates the curriculum and the computer assesses students daily and plans for the next day’s instruction, well, golly, it seems there’s no need for a teacher in that picture. All that is needed is facilitators and a teacher here and there when it’s necessary to round up the kids for a computer lesson that the COMPUTER decides a human might actually need to teach. Don’t believe me? Check out Teach to One Math. Check out Carpe Diem. Check out Hickenlooper’s executive order for badges and Relay’s current foothold in Colorado. Check out my blogs that discuss this at http://www.pegwithpen.com. Check out the ESSA which GIVES FUNDING TO MAKE ALL THIS HAPPEN. And they will sell it as inquiry project/performance based that allows children to move and advance at their own pace – and let me tell you what it will really be…..mundane, skill,drill instruction that is tied to standards that will have many many data tags that will be used to track and manage children and make changes within the curriculum based on the shifts and demands within the market – NOT based on needs of children. If they want to, they can tell the public that suddenly we need a flood of pharmacists (for example), they can direct students into this profession via online classes, flood the market, therefore knock down salaries and benefit the corporate regime. Don’t think for a second that this was ever about the common good.

Peggy

ADDITIONAL READING:

The first four are “must reads” but really you should read it all, and more. They are talking about profiting off the total destruction of public school.:

CBE Online is Neither Personalized Nor Higher-Order Thinking!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/11/12/the-astonishing-amount-of-data-being-collected-about-your-children/

The Business of Badging and Predicting Children’s Futures

http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2016/01/personalized-learning

http://emilytalmage.com She documents CBE which is being instituted in Maine Schools

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/01/07/new-student-database-slammed-by-privacy-experts/

In top performing nations, teachers – not students- use technology. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/09/22/study-students-who-use-computers-often-in-school-have-lower-test-scores

https://epic.org/2016/01/epic-warns-education-departmen.html

http://kcur.org/post/missouri-auditor-finds-student-social-security-information-risk#stream/0

http://missourieducationwatchdog.com/data-breaches-and-ostriches/

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/10/internet-companies-confusing-consumers-profit

https://www.facebook.com/notes/alison-hawver-mcdowell/a-troubling-scenario-cbehigher-edindustrystudent-debttechinternet-providers/415669021959739?hc_location=ufi

How to Foster Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance: An Educator’s Guide

Are Monroe County’s Chromebooks protected?

“Google’s Chromebooks as used in schools also come with “Chrome Sync” enabled by default, a feature that sends the student users’ entire browsing trail to Google, linking the data collected to the students’ accounts which often include their names and dates of birth. Google notes that the tracking behavior can be turned off by the student or even at a district level. But as shipped, students’ Chromebooks are configured to send every student’s entire browsing history back to Google, in near real time. That’s true even despite Google’s signature on the “Student Privacy Pledge” which includes a commitment to “not collect student personal information beyond that needed for authorized educational/school purposes, or as authorized by the parent/student.”

This is important: Google becomes school official if Chrome books used in classroom, meaning that FERPA rules do not apply. http://www.local15tv.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/Google-Becomes-a-39-School-Official-39-if-Chromebooks-Used-in-Classrooms-248827.shtml#.VqLG8sdYfSc

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2015/12/30/google-a-school-official-this-regulatory-quirk-can-leave-parents-in-the-dark/

The Baltimore Sun published an article today about the need for guidance in screen usage in school. This echoes what Roxana Marachi wrote in a post earlier today about the potential dangers in overexposure to screens. Like Marachi’s post, the Sun article contains numerous references to scientific data.

 

 

The National Educational Technology Plan, released just weeks ago by the U.S. Department of Education, encourages more computer use in the classroom. However, it makes no mention of any health risks to students, even though the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office has safety guidelines that limit screen time, as does the American Academy of Pediatrics. The state’s lengthy guiding documents, such as the Maryland Educational Technology Plan, also promote additional computer use at school while failing to mention any health risks to students. Since the health warnings are ignored by the educational leadership at the national level, it’s not surprising that state and local leaders also fail to protect students.

 

Perform an online search for the phrase “Computer Vision Syndrome” or “digital eye strain” and you will learn how well documented the dangers of screens are: nearsightedness, blurry vision, dry eyes, headaches and neck and shoulder pain. And the way children use screens makes them particularly vulnerable to complications: They stare at them for long periods without taking significant breaks; computer work stations often don’t fit them well; and they don’t complain about blurry vision because they don’t realize it’s a problem that will just get worse.

 

If your child is having trouble sleeping, school assignments that require computer use in the evening could be the cause. Blue light emissions reduce melatonin, which is needed for sleep. Additional issues arise when a child isn’t rested, including behavioral problems, irritability and the inability to concentrate. A child glued to a computer also isn’t exercising, which contributes to childhood obesity, another major concern of the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children’s eyes may also absorb more blue light than adults from digital device screens, according to a recent study, putting them at greater risk for premature retinal damage risk……..

Benjamin Herold of Education Week reports that students who took the PARCC test online got lower scores than those who took the test with paper and pencil.

 

 

“Students who took the 2014-15 PARCC exams via computer tended to score lower than those who took the exams with paper and pencil-a revelation that prompts questions about the validity of the test results and poses potentially big problems for state and district leaders.

 

“Officials from the multistate Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers acknowledged the discrepancies in scores across different formats of its exams in response to questions from Education Week….

 

“It is true that this [pattern exists] on average, but that doesn’t mean it occurred in every state, school, and district on every one of the tests,” Jeffrey Nellhaus, PARCC’s chief of assessment, said in an interview….

 

“In general, the pattern of lower scores for students who took PARCC exams by computer is the most pronounced in English/language arts and middle- and upper-grades math.

 

“Hard numbers from across the consortium are not yet available. But the advantage for paper-and-pencil test-takers appears in some cases to be substantial, based on independent analyses conducted by one prominent PARCC state and a high-profile school district that administered the exams.

 

“In December, the Illinois state board of education found that 43 percent of students there who took the PARCC English/language arts exam on paper scored proficient or above, compared with 36 percent of students who took the exam online. The state board has not sought to determine the cause of those score differences.”

 

There are many fine journalists at Education Week. I count on EdWeek to be the K-12 paper of record.

That is why it is distressing to learn that the Gates Foundation gave Edweek nearly $2 million to cover technology. Gates has supported EdWeek for years.

“Date: October 2015
Purpose: to broaden education digital media capacity in the U.S. to share analysis, best practice, and current innovation in public education
Amount: $1,998,240
Term: 36
Topic: College-Ready, Strategic Partnerships
Regions Served: GLOBAL|NORTH AMERICA
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Bethesda, Maryland
Grantee Website: http://www.edweek.org”

I wish the billionaires would keep hands off the independent media. Can EdWeek be independent of the man and the industry that underwrites their coverage?

Emily Talmadge, teacher-blogger in Maine, warns that the long tentacles of Bill Gates are infiltrating the Opt Out movement.

 

 

Why would America’s leading test autocrat join arms with test opponents? Well, it turns out that Gates and his buddies see the end game for the Big Standardized Test. What they are now planning is embedded assessment, where students work online and the instruction and assessments are intertwined and embedded. Testing is no longer a single event but a daily, continuous process.

 

So it makes sense for the technocrats to bury the stand-alone test and usher in the insidious embedded assessment. All-time, nonstop testing, adjusted to every student. Personalized, standardized, individualized, customized, mechanized.

Leonie Haimson tells the story here about her discovery that the New York City Department of Education was about to award a multi-million dollar contract to a tech company that had been previously been involved in scandal. When you read this account, you will understand the importance of citizen vigilance. Who else but Leonie Haimson would lounge around on a lazy Sunday afternoon reading the list of DOE contracts due to be voted on that week? That is why you should contribute to her organization, Class Size Matters, which operates on a tiny shoestring (I am a member of the board) and allows Leonie to play an outsize, unpaid role in the city, state, and nation. That shoestring is so small, it wouldn’t be enough to close an infant’s shoe. Help Leonie continue to fight for students.

 

 

She writes:

 

Last February, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I was perusing the list of DOE contracts due to be voted on that week by the Panel for Educational Policy. Among the long list of contracts, I noticed a proposed contract for equipment and internet wiring worth $1.1 billion over five years, extendable to nine years at two billion dollars. I had never seen a DOE contract that large before.

 

She googled the name of the company:

 

I was astonished to discover that this very same company had been involved in a kickback scheme, robbing DOE of millions of dollars just a few years before, according to a report from the Special Investigator’s office. This widely reported scandal subsequently sent Ross Lanham, a DOE consultant, to jail.

 

I immediately blogged about my discovery, and promptly alerted Public Advocate Tish James and Council Member Helen Rosenthal, as well as members of the media.

 

On Monday, the very next day, DoE officials started getting lots of calls from reporters. Later that day, the PEP Contract committee was due to meet at 5 pm at Tweed, the DOE headquarters. I was sitting with a bunch of reporters in a room in Tweed, waiting for the meeting to begin when the reporters began getting emails from the DoE officials, announcing that that in the last 24 hours, the contract had somehow been “re-negotiated” and reduced by nearly half a billion dollars – with no change in the terms.

 

It was still going to be a ridiculously high $635 million over five years, extendable for four more years at over $1 billion. The fact that nearly $500 million could be cut out of the contract over night was even more evidence of how inflated the contract had been. When the Contracts committee met, surprisingly few members asked any questions about it, except for Robert Powell, the Bronx appointee and head of the committee….

 

Juan Gonzalez in the Daily News provided even more details about the original scheme that had defrauded DOE of millions. He pointed out that the company being awarded the contract had been the high bidder among three companies, and that the man who was still CEO of the company, Gregory Galdi, had set up a real estate company with Ross Lanham that was dissolved only after Lanham’s arrest.

 

At the subsequent PEP meeting on Wednesday evening, Helen Rosenthal and I pleaded with Chancellor Farina and the PEP members not to allow this unconscionable contract to be approved. The Chancellor was obdurate that “due diligence” had been done and that awarding the contract would allow NYC kids to be “put in the future” while now they’re “struggling in the past.”

 

The DOE official in charge, David Ross, argued that the contract had to be rushed through in order for the city to have a chance of winning $100 million in federal E-rate funds – without mentioning that the DOE had been cut off from this program for the last five years because of the very same scandal that had sent Ross Lanham to jail.

 

I made this point when I had my two minutes to speak , and argued that by awarding a contract to this very same company, the DOE was almost sure to be barred from any reimbursement from the feds. I also said that with a fraction of the amount, the DOE could double the number of schools to be built and significantly relieve school overcrowding.

 

Laura Zingmond, the Manhattan PEP member, responded that there was “plenty of money” to go around for both building more schools and awarding this contract. Though some members expressed reservations, the PEP approved the contract 10-1, with only Robert Powell, voting no. More on this disappointing vote in my blog and in Schoolbook….

 

Then in March, a few weeks after the vote, the city cancelled the Custom Computer Specialists contract, the first time this has ever happened in the history of the DOE. Possibly officials were concerned about how the NYC Comptroller and other oversight agencies would have questions about this egregious contract….

 

 Juan Gonzalez reports that after DOE rebid the contract and broke it into several smaller parts, the same work and equipment will cost city taxpayers far less: $472 million over five years, $163 million less than the renegotiated amount and $627 million less than what Custom Computer Specialists was originally supposed to receive before Tish James, Helen Rosenthal and I protested. Assuming that the city is also now far likelier to receive $100 million in federal E-rate funds, we may have helped save the city $727 million.

 

 

Peter Goodman blogs frequently about education in New York. In this post, he explains what “competency-based education” is and why it is a problem.

 

He writes:

 

“A decades-long cyber revolution has been changing the face of education – sort of. Assignments are online, papers and homework submitted online, distance learning allows class participation from anywhere, Skype, Dropbox, cyber tools abound; however, every new cyber tool, hardware and software, has to be monetized, turned into dollars. Will the cyber tools ultimately substitute for the instructor? Enhance the effectiveness of the instructor? Increase student learning (defined as scores on tests aka assessments of learning)?

 

“Is the future of education a tablet with a student tapping away and the teacher, as an adjunct assisting the student in using the cyber tools?

 

“A description of Computer Adaptive Testing provided by I-Learn, a vendor,

 

‘There is growing interest in computer adaptive testing (CAT), where students answer questions online and a computerized algorithm tailors future questions based on correct or incorrect answers. The key difference between an adaptive assessment and a fixed-form one—which is often taken with paper and pencil— teachers can better understand the root causes of skill gaps spanning back multiple years as well as identify where to focus instruction next. This helps them differentiate instruction and meet the needs of all learners, including those who are below, on and above grade level.’

 

“Questar, the newly hired creator of the next generation of New York State grades 3-8 tests also is a proponent of competency-based education (CBE). Content can be divided into discrete packages; a Questar blog describes the process,

 

“… eliminate the one-to-many teaching approach. Students can’t receive personalized instruction and personalized learning when a teacher has to teach to the most common denominator. We can solve this problem with technology by giving every student a tablet device that wirelessly connects to adaptive software in the cloud.

 

… seamlessly integrate assessment with the instruction presented to each student on his or her tablet. Educators know that best-practice teaching involves instructing for five minutes, asking students a few questions to determine if they’ve understood the material, backtracking if necessary, and then moving on to the next topic … With tablets and the right software, this approach is possible on an individualized basis: after every five minutes of individualized tablet-based instruction, students would be presented with a brief series of questions that adapt to their skill level, much as computer-adaptive tests operate today. After that assessment, the next set of instructional material would be customized according to these results. If a student needs to relearn some material, the software automatically adjusts and creates a custom learning plan on the fly.’

 

“Does this competency or adaptive learning approach agree with what we know about how children learn?

 

“The last decade has seen an explosion in brain research, and we know that children learn through interactions with adults and other students in challenging environments, these interactions lead to increased learning….

 

“We are not Luddites, the world will continue to change, we just have to make sure the changes benefit the needs of children not line the pockets of entrepreneurs at the expense of our children.”

 

 

 


Now that the titans of the tech industry, in alliance with the U.S. Department of Education, are committed to increasing the use of technology and ignoring the loss and shortage of teachers, they would be well-advised to read this OECD study.

 

It found that students who use computers in school moderately perform better than those who use computers rarely. Those who use computers heavily perform worse than both of the other groups, even after demographics and social background are taken into account. A heavy investment in technology has no appreciable effect on academic performance.

Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates should read this study. They both promote “personalized education,” which means every child using a computer with his/her own adaptive testing. This is machine-testing, not personalized education.

 

At the very least, this study should give pause as entrepreneurs push harder to invest in technology and discount the importance of teachers and human interaction between students and teachers.

Personalized education should involve interactions between two persons,not interaction between a student and a computer. That’s impersonated education.

 

 

 

 

 

Leonie Haimson, parent activist who fights for smaller class size and student privacy, has strong reservations about Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s decision to devote a considerable share of their vast fortune to “personalized learning.” She wonders whether he is making a mistake that has even larger consequences than the $100 million he squandered in Newark, led along by Mayor (now Senator) Cory Booker and Governor Chris Christie.

 

Haimson points out that some leading corporations in the technology industry have been data mining students and invading their privacy. That’s bad enough. But a recent OECD study concluded that the students who use computers the most in the classroom have the lowest scores, even when demography is taken into account. Zuckerberg has already funded a chain of for-profit private schools that rely heavily on computer instruction. But the history of such schools is unimpressive.

 

This is not a research-based approach to improving education, she writes. Some studies show that computer-based instruction actually widens achievement gaps.

 

The truth is there are NO good studies that show that online or blended instruction helps kids learn, and the whole notion of “personalized” learning is a misnomer, as what it usually signifies is depersonalized machine-based learning. All software can do is ask a series of multiple choice questions and then wait for the right or the wrong answer. It cannot read an essay or give feedback on how to improve an argument, or help extricate a child from a knotty math problem. It cannot encourage students to confront all the various angles in a controversy, as happens through debate and discussion with teachers and classmates. In fact, learning through computers reduces contextualization and conceptualization to stale pre-determined ideas, the opposite of the creative and critical thinking that we are supposed to be aiming for in the 21st century.

 

One thing is sure: Zuckerberg’s initiative will be good for the industry. Not so clear that it will be good for students.

 

 

 

 

In an earlier post, one of our readers asked whether it was appropriate for the United States Department of Education to endorse commercial products. The product that won plaudits from federal officials, paid for with our tax dollars, is called Edgenuity. As you might expect, it is a computer program that replaces teacher-student interaction. The U.S. ED wants to solve the high cost of teachers by funding Teach for America and technology that replaces teachers.

 

Is Edgenuity a great product? Evidently not.

 

A blogger described what happened when his school district adopted Edgenuity.

 

He writes:

 

Students have expressed quiet and loud frustration; parents have also complained. To find compromise and rest the restless, a Digital Learning Committee was formed consisting of teachers, students, and concerned parents. Complaints center around concerns surrounding the implementation, the quality of education, student/computer over-use, and lack of teacher/student interaction. Some students are not only unhappy with the system but they are feeling as though their education is being hindered and many parents are feeling uncomfortable with the system, as well.

 

Students are not happy with the loss of a real teacher:

 

Some students have been concerned about the quality of education they are achieving through the Edgenuity system. Hazel voices this concern when she says, “I’m not a strong supporter of online learning in general, but I realize that it is useful for elective and language classes. However, it is only useful if the classes are of high quality, which Edgenuity has more than proved itself not to be. The lectures are not lectures at all; rather, bland Powerpoint style screens read by a talking head who clearly knows very little, if anything, on the subject…Do I think that Edgenuity is improving my education at Kenny Lake? Overall, no. It is a constant, daily source of frustration for me and my peers. I am not graded fairly. How can anyone’s intelligence be judged by multiple choice questions and virtual teachers?… Some courses, like government/economics, are completely unnecessary to have online since we have great, real teachers already willing to teach them. Many are wrought with factual errors, so what is the point of having them at all?”

 

With the addition of Edgenuity and other online learning courses is the sudden end to most student-teacher interaction. As Hazel said, the days were once filled with “…banters with teachers…” and “…thought provoking group discussion…” which are now replaced by long silences with nothing but the clacking of fingers on keyboards, while the teacher stands and paces in the classroom without much input or excitement. In fact, there is no excitement in the learning and no passion in the teaching. “The program wasn’t designed to be used in conjunction with an actual teacher,” Patty says. “Where I would see a compromise, like I said, is where it would be used for classes that aren’t available and where there isn’t a real live teacher.”

 

Most devastating is the blogger’s conclusion:

 

In general, Edgenuity has not been well-accepted within the Kenny Lake community. Many appear to be against it or at least in support of a modified version of it. The program itself adopts an industrious attitude that leaves much more to be desired (“Education is not an industry,” Hazel notes). There is no passion and no heart in the teaching – a listless and boring system that repeats a monotonous cycle. If this is the future, the future is a place of tedium: a place where learning is no longer embraced by schools enthusiastically: a place where we are fed information, instead of inspired by knowledge. Hopefully, next semester will be one with less strife and all the kinks will be worked out.

 

No passion. No heart. A listless and boring system.

 

Who could ask for anything less?

 

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 166,998 other followers