Oh, please! Dept

I’m OK with some of the computerized learning programs, but why is it that almost every article about ed tech (particularly those written by NPR like this one) has this ubiquitous paragraph embedded within?

Just learning reading and math the way it was done 100 years ago is not going to prepare anyone for the future. Up to 70 percent of the tasks in most jobs are on track to be automated, leaving only the most creative, empathetic, technically fluent, collaborative work for humans. Students need to find motivation and meaning, and take a playful attitude that makes it safe to try and fail. It’s as though half the world’s children were 100 years behind on learning to walk, but everyone now needs to dance.

I agree that the future will be different than the present, but does learning to read and to do math have to be done via interpretive dance, or while learning how to use the internet, or while texting the person sitting next to you?  Computer skills are probably the one thing that kids are picking up on without any training.  Why not teach children how to speak English incorrectly, and how to write sentences without capitalization or punctuation since that’s the prevailing style?  Or, to teach children to “learn how to learn” rather than learn facts and procedures since we all know you can look up those things on Google.



8 thoughts on “Oh, please! Dept

  1. The other aspect of online learning that is never mentioned, is how it creates inequity amongst students. There’s a general misconception that all families have access to the internet, and that all kids have a smartphone. The public system professes to be all inclusive for all students, yet their zealous pursuit of technology in the classroom will only ensure a greater inequality amongst students.

    My youngest attended a school meeting last week and was absolutely gobsmacked when the School Administration said, to a roomful of parents, that in 5 years, the chromebooks that she was advocating for, would be replaced by parent funding. In her words, if parents could afford to the smartphones that students were walking around the school with, they can certainly afford to pay for the new technology!

    As my kid said, all this would do is increase school theft and stigmatize those students whose families could barely afford to pay for food, let alone a $800 iPhone. But you know what is the great equalizer in the classroom?


    Go figure.


  2. Tara,

    I hope you realize that in most states it is illegal to demand fees from parents to enable access to curricular activities. Sue, or at least threaten to sue.


    • in Canada it’s different. Education is a provincial responsibility. And those in charge of our ed system constantly whine about underfunding. There is no accountability about where the money is being SPENT (of which I’ve been privy to when I demanded a review of school records at our District Office), we are just to believe the unions et al. which always ask for more money money money. Now our School Administrators are doing the same.

      I take your point though, thanks for pointing that out.


  3. I think we can be pretty sure that the future will require greater literacy, not less. So calls for modern students to be not taught English “the old way” because it is not going to prepare them for the future is quite vexing. How we go about teaching them to read, other than by getting them to read, is beyond me. The text might be on a screen, but the actual process will resemble the past very strongly indeed.

    I’d argue modern students will need more Maths too. Computational skills will surely be less required, which is why most places don’t teach students to do trig by hand, or find square roots using logs any more. In NZ we barely ever draw graphs by hand either, since people do them all by machine in practice. We’ve already moved beyond the point where we are doing it like we did it 100 years ago — not that the “futurists” seem to have noticed. The changes from this point are likely to be less great.


  4. The fundamental question is whether these ideas are opt-in or forced. Unfortunately, educators do NOT want to drop the forced or monopoly part of the “Prussian” model of education that they now refer to as “mass schooling.” Forced does not mean mandating of schooling, but their forced control over process with no choice.

    Read the link to “Literacy Education and Math Lab or LEMA” which refers to a Brookings Report titled: “Can We Leapfrog? The Potential of Education Innovations to Rapidly Accelerate Progress.” Brookings has cataloged 3,000 innovations from 166 countries so far. This tome is a classic educator attempt to justify their pet ideas of education with no research – just their assumptions and test cases with no student and parental vote. Once again, this is only about their ideas of societal success, not individual success of content and skills defined by subject matter experts. It’s all about them and their turf, not individuals, and not about subject content and mastery of skills. The reality is that their ideas completely fall apart in high schools and colleges.

    Leapfrog does NOT refer to individual kids and how they can accelerate or learn in a non-group fashion. It refers to how educators can leapfrog away from what they don’t like pedagogically. It also does not refer to non-educator ideas that focus on content depth and mastery of skills as fundamental building blocks of education. They ignore different learning styles if they don’t fit their ideas of education. They ignore what many of us parents have done at home to create their best students.

    If they want to move away from their Prussian “mass schooling” model, then what they should have is choice and true leapfrogging with acceleration from content experts. However, it has to be student and parental choice and driven. They are the ones who have to decide on what works for their individual kids. It could be student-centered learning or not, but many educators are trying to eliminate the NOT choices with blather, not research or choice.

    That is their complete and fundamental flaw. No other options with student and parental choice. They would then find that most of their pet ideas of education fail over the long term.


  5. “Anya Kamenetz was a New America fellow. She wrote The Test: Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing–But You Don’t Have to Be, a book about the future of testing in K-12 schools.”

    You don’t have to be because getting into Yale (where she went) requires so much more when standardized testing only means no remediation when you get to your local community college. She apparently thinks there is some magic educational process that will get the job done naturally. What parents have to be are educated and/or STEM parents who ensure the proper learning at home to hide the tracking and make educators feel all warm and fuzzy. Educators are thrilled when little Suzie is the first in her family to get to community college even though she could have gotten into Yale.


  6. “In The Test: Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing — But You Don’t Have to Be, Anya Kamenetz dives into the surprising history and tempestuous politics that have led to the ubiquitous tests we see in public K-12 classrooms across the country. Beyond dilemmas about measuring the performance of students, Kamenetz also explores alternatives to the over-testing crisis in an effort to ask: what and how should we be teaching in a competitive and increasingly globalized world? And how can we best measure the progress of education in a way that allows us to hold teachers, education administrators, and policymakers equally accountable?”


    K-8 educators don’t define the competition and Yale still expects to see SAT I an II, GPA, AMC, and AP scores. Admittance is not an academic sort, but you have to be in the bucket and CCSS does not even get close to most college buckets. If CCSS is difficult, then you will never be able to pull off an acceptable college entrance essay. Most college-bound students (and parents) figure this out by high school and they are not clamoring for non-traditional or alternate paths.

    If you are a parent and see poor standardized testing scores, then you have to know that there are no “alternate” paths that make that OK. I knew when my son was in K-6 that state testing defined a minimum bar and ignored it. If state tests are not simple enough to give you plenty of time to build any sort of problem solving and understanding on top, then don’t look for an alternate route. It will never leapfrog over state test proficiency to meet all of the traditional testing and GPA requirements of colleges. K-8 educators may try to redefine reality, but their students and parents have to deal with the true reality of high school, college, and competitive careers.


  7. And, of course, this is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.

    “… leaving only the most creative, empathetic, technically fluent, collaborative work for humans. ”

    Look at job postings and requirements. Look at the experience, degrees, and skills they require. Work backwards to what vocational and college training is required. Look at what high school GPA and testing is required. Alternate high schools and colleges exist. Do they work? Unfortunately, for most students, K-8 is a fairyland forced world with limited or no choices. Ms. Kamenetz likes alternatives, but does she want to limit them and deny student and parental choice because it might show that her assumptions are wrong?


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