Thursday, November 11, 2010

The world is changing, my friends

Two posts on digital learning caught my eye yesterday. "Even a monopoly like the public education system is vulnerable to disruptive forces," Heather Clayton Staker observes.
The U.S. postal system did not expect email to disrupt its business as radically as it has. Similarly, I am optimistic that new technologies will take hold among nonconsumers, and eventually even the mainstream will be hard pressed to ignore their success. I will not be surprised if online learning becomes so good and so inexpensive that community leaders will rent lovely spaces, hire caring adults, organize some athletics, and snap the online curriculum into these brick and mortar environments, allowing for the flooding of the landscape with revolutionarily affordable private schools.

Yes, the gloomy statistics about school failure abound and a perma-state of crisis seems unending. But amidst it all, disruptive technologies are starting to burst forth across the system with a momentum that might be unstoppable.

Similarly, Paul E. Peterson writes ('Let’s Teach Math to the Talented Online'):

Let’s create outstanding courses online, led by the country’s best algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus teachers, and backed up by sophisticated ancillary material. Schools could then access these materials and redeploy their (less qualified) teachers as classroom coaches that support the online instruction. Each student can learn at the level and pace appropriate to their situation.

Trying to improve the desperate situation school by school by encouraging talented mathematicians to go into the teaching profession will take too long and cost too much.

Bill Gates said the best college courses will be offered online within 5 years. If that is so, then there is no reason the best middle school and high school math courses cannot also be offered online. I hope Joel Klein -- or one of his competitors -- finds a way to get this done.

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