[The Week in Education and Technology is a weekly summary of news, events, and ideas related to education.]
The promise was that computers in the classroom would allow for greater individualization and flexibility. For a more creative approach to learning, one that would allow students more control and agency.
Instead, schools, especially high schools, look little different that they did before bringing in devices, software, and networks. Still very heavily teacher directed, with a very centralized curriculum and schedule, using many of the same activities and lessons from long before.
In many ways, computers in education have largely been a conservative force. Making it “unnecessary to create social inventions, to change the system in any way”. Enabling the preservation of a traditional, formal approach to learning instead of disrupting it.
Tim Stahmer has a post this week about our traditional math curriculum in the U.S. Referencing and quoting from a Freakonomics podcast titled “America’s Math Curriculum Doesn’t Add Up” Stahmer writes:
The math curriculum that most high students in the US are subjected to was created early in the previous century and is about as out of touch with the real world as anything in American education. Jo Boaler – author, Stanford professor, and math education reform leader – explains.
The curriculum that we teach in maths1 classrooms was really designed in days that are long past. It was a long time ago that somebody in the U.S. decided to teach what I think of as the geometry sandwich — a course of algebra for a whole year, followed by a course of geometry for a whole year, and then another course of algebra. I don’t know any other country that does that, and it’s part of the problem. So, I would change the curriculum to really reflect real mathematics, and I would also change it to reflect the 21st century, because maths still looks in classrooms pretty much as it did in Victorian days.
Geometry sandwich. Love it.
Meanwhile Getting Smart has this post about 11 alternative schools that are real alternatives. Here are two examples.
Bronx Arena High School serves over-aged, under-credited youth who have dropped out or are not on track to graduate; these are typical characteristics of a transfer school in NYC. The small, relationship-based school (with no more than 200 students) partners with nonprofit SCO for youth and family services. Each student is paired with an advocate counselor, who provides guidance and support for individual goal setting in the personalized, self-paced environment.
Liberty Academy, north of Kansas City, organizes learning in six-week bursts of interest-based learning often connected to one of 100 community partners. Students set goals in about four success skills during each burst. Teachers in this competency-based school help students to document their growth weekly.
As I visit different schools in person, I’m definitely seeing an increased integration of an entrepreneurial mindset as an approach to problem-solving and ensuring that students begin developing professional skills at an earlier age.
October in the U.S. means it’s time for the annual EDUCAUSE conference and a look at what vendors think are the biggest technology needs in higher education. This year, it seems that data collection and analysis are the big winners (or at least the most prominently advertised silver bullets for higher retention and student performance).
Though each of the more than 275 companies exhibiting here at the annual meeting of Educause claimed a unique spin, the typical refrain mixed inspiration and fear, and went something like this: “Our tech system will help your students finish their degrees and save them (and you) money,” and “Oh by the way, if you don’t use something like our product, you won’t retain enough current and/or recruit enough new students to stay in business.”
Bold, half-foot tall letters on one company’s display claimed its software had helped a college bring in more than $1 million in new student revenue and led another to a 53 percent increase in new students. Another exhibit promised “no more silos” in the data that colleges routinely collect in digital form.
Whether data collection is a solution or not, there are certainly strong headwinds facing the traditional model of higher education in the U.S. One of the biggest challenges is shrinking enrollments, which has had a direct impact on the reduction in the number of colleges in the U.S. This number has now reached its lowest point in two decades. Shrinking enrollments, along with shifts in workforce demands, are also putting increasing pressure on college degrees.
How are institutions responding? Some are responding with radical business solutions such as acquisitions and mergers. Many institutions are also looking to dual-credit programs to increase their enrollment funnels, although these programs can also place an even greater strain on institutional resources. We also see universities offering (or exploring) non-degree credentials as a way to reach more students.
We have long known that providing real-world experiences and having students engage in meaningful, hands-on activities are valuable components of high-quality education. With that as context, I really like the New Tools for Real World Learning resource provided by Digital Promise. I also enjoyed this thoughtful post of the foundation that students need to engage successfully in Project-Based Learning (PBL) activities.
Of course, anyone who has spent ample time in the classroom knows that group work can be a mixed bag, particularly when it comes to quiet or introverted students. Chrissy Romano-Arrabito has a new book out on unleashing the potential with quiet kids, and one of her recommendations is the use of structured collaboration. My own experience tells me that well-structured collaboration is key to successful group work for almost any student/class, as well as for company employees and team/group projects.
Often, when we talk about AI and its potential impact on the workforce, we’re talking about it as a replacement for human workers. An alternative model is the use of AI to produce increased workplace (worker) efficiency through monitoring and surveillance.
Even the most vigilant supervisor can only watch over a few workers at one time. But now, increasingly cheap AI systems can monitor every employee in a store, at a call center or on a factory floor, flagging their failures in real time and learning from their triumphs to optimize an entire workforce.
- A network of surveillance cameras hooked up to special software can tally the seconds of each worker’s bathroom break or time each step of their work
- It can also keep workers safe, automatically detecting the absence of hard hats and gloves, for example, or people straying into the path of dangerous machines.
- In some call centers, AI listens into every conversation, cataloging every word, who said it and how, and then scoring each agent.
It’s also good to note that the popularity of non-degree credentials is growing in the workforce space. Not surprisingly, such credentials are not always well-defined or regulated, which can create difficulties for employers and employees alike.
Here also are some interesting reads in the realm if technology and finance.
- 10 Turning Points: Why It’s Time to Lean Into The Opportunity of the Innovation Age
- Microsoft wants to use AI to bleep out bad words in Xbox Live party chat
- Mark Zuckerberg: Wearables Will Soon Read Your Mind
And finally, if you’re interested in AI, machine learning, and related technologies, I recommend you check out Lucid Thoughts explainer videos channel on YouTube.