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Education and technology in the US. Wow… just, like… wow! July 29, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy.

Is my response to this from some months back on Slate.

There’s an overemphasis on technology in education, often to the detriment of core and invaluable subjects and how they are taught. But to see such a nakedly commercial apologia is something else. Moreover it is notable how teachers are being placed front and centre as being ‘to blame’ for blocking supposed progress.


1. Michael Carley - July 29, 2013

The guy to read on this is Jonathan Rees:


and I have had the odd bit to say about it, myself:



EWI - July 29, 2013

Duncan Black (‘Atrios’) as well.

As he’s said for several years, all this new palaver about virtual teaching (and that’s really about not paying teachers) is being promoted by grifter who flit from jurisdiction to jurisdiction as their snake-oil fails. See also; ‘Special Delivery Units’ in healthcare…


2. hardcorefornerds - July 29, 2013

wow indeed…

“Requirements for specific teacher-student ratios are tough to translate in a world where a single school day might have a student chatting with a friendly avatar online, getting tech support from an in-person teacher’s aide, and emailing with a subject-specific tutor, all while having her tests graded by a team of data-center workers in India.”

hard to believe it isn’t ironic – that this supposed revolutionary technology still means outsourcing for cheap labour, while precarious jobs are created at home for college graduates (“teacher’s aide”, ‘”subject-specific tutor”). and “friendly avatar” is just kinda creepy.

anyway, student ratios already exist for tutoring (in universities) and adapt to non-class (i.e. extra/support) teachers in schools. just because someone can’t get their head around the current system from the outside doesn’t mean it has to be replaced to accommodate their technology or ideology.

and complaining about “Long-standing rules requiring that students sit in desks looking at a teacher for a certain number of hours a day—so-called seat time and line of sight requirements” – isn’t that just an obvious formula to ensure a level of supervision? The techno-optimist version of education tends to be pretty quiet on issues of discipline or, indeed, motivation – unless it comes with a built-in panopticon of automatic inducements and powers. You can see with the pornblock proposal in the UK the attraction to neoliberals of putting in place an illiberal system which sets restrictions as default, apparently out of a deep social fear of irresponsible parenting.

clearly what that Slate article isn’t is a reasonable attempt at working out the socially disruptive aspects of technology in a way that would benefit both students and teachers as knowledge workers and society at large.


6to5against - July 29, 2013

well said.

In fact, almost all criticisms of schools and education in general tend to be quiet on matters such as supervision and motivation.
As a teacher, this can be very dis-spiriting, because it forces one into the position of focussing on these matters and this can so easily appear to an outsider to be the age-old voice of teachers complaining about their students.

I spend a lot of energy in work trying to persuade colleagues to ease up on disciplinary issues, and a lot of energy out of work defending schools for having disciplinary systens at all.


3. Ed - July 29, 2013

You’re right, that Slate article is so nakedly self-serving (on her and their parts) that it takes your breath away. But not the only example of someone being given an unchallenged platform to come out with this guff:


Several hundred words for the deeply creepy Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia to explain that universities are obsolete because he once had a boring lecturer in college. No questions about whether cyber-entrepreneurs might have some kind of vested interest in promoting online college courses at the expense of traditional university teaching; and not once is it put to him that the whole Wikipedia model is dependent on academic research (articles are meant to be taken down if they’re not backed up by previously-published articles, which means either journalism or academic papers if it’s anything serious).


4. Enya Rand - July 29, 2013

This kind of over-reliance on online learning simply doesn’t work in a pedagogical sense except for a small group of gifted students who are capable of working with little personal input.

It works only in the by now classical “destroy social fabric and loot the rubble” profit-seeking sense.

The counter-example to this kind of shameless nonsense is Finland, which isn’t afraid of new technology but bases its successful (even in the sense of dubious PISA academic rankings) system on a highly valued and reasonably paid cohort of professional teachers, small class sizes and plenty of personal contact.

Plus a comprehensive and socially equitable public system with no testing until upper secondary school – but that is another issue.


Gewerkschaftler - July 30, 2013

Don’t forget that the teachers there have a strong union!


5. 6to5against - July 30, 2013

just read this on the guardian website:


You’ll see in there that apparently serco are running some school inspections for OFSTED. The defenders of privitisation usually list publicly-run inspections as part of their defense, But what happens when the inspection system is also privitised? Are there going to be inspections of the inspectors?

How Orwellian can the world become?


6. Jim Monaghan - July 30, 2013

The Open University has always championed what they call blended learning which is a mix but does not throw out the baby so to speak.It has now developed a version of MOOC called Futurlearn. Trinity is a member of this alliance, as is Queens. http://futurelearn.com/partners/
I feel that with Coursera, https://www.coursera.org/ and https://www.udacity.com/ and https://www.khanacademy.org/ and https://www.edx.org/org-faq are bound to become a feature of Third level education. I think online is another tool in the toolbox of education. Useful but not a replacement for other forms of support. But it does has a place.
When I did engineering in UCD, I remember being amazed being in a lecture Hall with 150 others students listening to a lecturer mumble. I had read Newman and thought that university education would have something of that vision.
I would have liked something like the online stuff with access to lecturers in a tutorial system where I would have specific queries or areas which I needed extra.
In second Level I see online as offering some extras.
A kneejerk response is in my opinion not the right one. The struggle is to preserve what is valid in the old ways and combine it with the new. An unqualified defence is quite luddite.
What is standard should be available online. The extras ( needed) such as a million forms of support is non standard.


7. Tom Breen - July 30, 2013

No surprise this article took the perspective it did, given that its author is an editor at the right-wing Reason Magazine, which boasts the slogan, “Free Minds and Free Markets.” It is sort of surprising that Slate, which is owned by the Washington Post, would give an ideologue that much space in what is ostensibly a “news” report, though.


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