Union Square Ventures recently hosted a Hacking Education session where they got a group of leading thinkers, educators & entrepreneurs to brainstorm disruptive ways to improve the US's education system. I forwarded Fred's notes from it to a few friends of mine that are in education and thought I'd share the thoughts (rant?) from one who is a teacher at a top private school. I'm all for technologists figuring out ways to radically improve 'broken' systems, but there's a real-politik aspect that my friend's comments raise that will need to be considered. But it's great to see passionate people discussing how to improve a system that we all agree needs a lot of improving.
Do you want the gut response or the more intellectual one first? (A is the gut response, B is the more studied one.)
It looks to me like a list compiled by people who have
very little to actually do with young people and have even less of an
idea of what they are like physically, emotionally, or intellectually.
From the looks of their resumes, there is almost no one who was on this
committee/board who has actually spent more than a few months in a
classroom with kids.
Most of what they came out with seems to me to be self-referential, self-indulgent, and self-congratulatory.
internet has changed education, of course it has, as it has changed
everything in the world. (Largely for the better, I think, though not
Language that talks about "the marginal cost of an incremental student" makes me very angry.
talking about how we are currently using an educational model built to
train an industrial worker has no idea about the great variety of
pedagogical methodology, as well as the fact that that simply isn't
true – and no, I don't just mean at the prep school where I teach or
its ilk. It's a fun, soundbite-ish thing to say, but it's not the case.
You can say that this country teaches as though it's 1965, but to say
it teaches as though it's mid 19th century Coketown and teachers are
"Gradgrinds" is willfully ignorant. Why willfully? So someone can
twitter about it. Technology is not a panacea.
It's fun to say "learning is bottom up and education is top down."
It sounds really cool. But yes, sadly, you still have to learn your
multiplication tables, and talking about them with the kid next to you
won't actually do that, even if you're networking your iphones. There
is no substitute for someone actually in front of students, walking
around in a circle, talking, cajoling, coaxing, threatening, promising,
advising, reinforcing – teaching.
Libraries need to be re-thought instead of packing them with books
that kids, and adults, don't read. I completely agree. But no, Jeff
Jarvis and Bob Kerrey, Starbucks does not fulfill that role. Not
everything in education is about accessibility and ease. There are
times in life when we need to bite our bottom lips and struggle.
Struggle matters. Character matters. And reading books and learning to
look up words and fight through romantic poetry with complex
metaphors…those things matter.
These are the same people who love cell phone novels. No words over
three syllables! Keep it moving – try to have a rape, a murder, two
weddings and a funeral with seventy three characters in fourteen lines
of text! (Yes, I've read one.)
This isn't elitism. This is knowledge.
The list mentions
how teachers were equated by some there as "a 1970's bank teller".
(And, incidentally, in response to Jeff Jarvis again, in which he
remarks that teachers are "newspaper reporters in the 1990's"…those
newspaper reporters changed the world in concrete, important ways.) We
discussed Edith Wharton's "Souls Belated" in class the other day.
Online education will not give students an empathetic understanding of
Lydia's plight – it's too hard, and it's too subtle, and by the time
adult education comes around and someone reads that story, the chance
to actually employ that knowledge in pursuit of a better world is gone.
I like the sentiment that we should transfer control from institutions
to individuals, but the vast majority of American and international
education is aimed at individuals between the ages of 5 and 18.
Autonomy is a process; it's not an emancipation.
is a lot of good stuff in here. For example, open curricular sharing is
an interesting thing – it has been done online for years, but the
problem is that the quality is below mediocre, and the lessons are
pitched way too low for my audience. I understand that my school is not
the norm, but it is my world and that's how I respond to it.
I am very much on-board with re-evaluating spaces for learning.
Stanford University has done incredible things with that in Wallenberg
Hall and the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning.
and measuring students work online has limited applicability in the
real world. Potential employers or colleges have neither the time nor
the inclination to wade through a student's work. Using student portfolios
rather than final exams and argumentation rather than PowerPoint (the
last bastion of the lazy student – it used to be posterboard, and once
was – sigh – dioramas) are far more effective methods.
Sorry for the rant…hope this was…I don't even know what I hope it was.