Looking Ahead (Nationally) - Part Two, Personalized Learning

I've already written several times about "personalized learning" (here's the latest post that I wrote.)

But let's see how personalized learning will play out within a Trump administration. 

1) More choice.  Apparently "choice" is some word that most of us missed in the Constitution but apparently is what Americans are all about.

If there are more personalized learning opportunities, that will allow more parents to home-school.

2) If there are more personalized learning opportunities, you will need fewer teachers.  (Most personalized learning involves "facilitators" who don't have to be certified teachers because the kids are "teaching" themselves via the software.)

Fewer teachers means cost savings for districts AND a weakening of the teachers union which, for conservatives, are both great things.

3) Personalized learning opens up many opportunities for software companies and their sales people and guarantees the expansion of the use of laptops/tablets for use in classrooms.  (So that savings on teachers evaporates in the face of how much this buying and upkeep will cost.  In fact, I suspect this may drive the end of school libraries and librarians.  To note, librarians are not shelvers of books but, in today's world, are the keepers to the keys to the research kingdom.  Being able to Google a topic is not the same as knowing how to do real research.)

4) Those opportunities also extend to investors
 Investors have shifted their focus to smaller companies that have carved out niches in the K-12, ed tech, and continuing education and corporate training sectors -- examples are, more sophisticated testing and measurement tools, better data management processes and meeting other specialized educational needs.
Register now to Meet More Than 20 Private Equity Investors & Other Experts -- Gain valuable insights as our 20 conference speakers assess the outlook for education investing when you attend The Capital Roundtable’s all-day conference on “Private Equity Investing in Education-Focused Companies” on Thursday, January 26, 2017, in New York City.
  1. Learn which niches -- e.g., pre-school, K-12, testing, technology, and specialized training -- offer the best opportunities.
  2. Understand how venture capital and private equity investment dovetail in the education industry, and how VCs are generating deal flow for PE firms.
  3. Determine where the new federal administration will take the education industry over the next four years and how investing in the sector might be impacted.
I recently read a book from 2012 called Abundance: the Future is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler.

Putting it simply (and perhaps simplistically), technology will save us, we are all way better off (especially Americans) than we have ever been and, it's all good.  Oh, and trust the people with large amounts of money.  Those people will always have the best of intentions and their ideas are the right ones.

Their chapter on education is fairly short but it pushes digital learning in every direction.  I think that could be a great idea but when I have done research on personalized learning, it's one student, one computer.  The ideas they have come from research in India where a 4-person group of students sit together with one computer and push each other along. 

And while I believe in technology as well as the power of positive thinking (which is a big key to their insights for the future), the lack of adult perspective is startling.   I liked this sentence:
If boredom is the number one cause of truancy, then our new education system  needs to be effective, scalable, and wildly entertaining.  In fact, wildly entertaining might not be enough.  If we really want to prepare our children for the future, then learning needs to become addictive.
But here's the game changer that I believe Trump will embrace:
But for digitally delivered universal education to be truly effective, we also need to change the way progress is measured.  

"A video game is just an assessment, " continues Gee.  "All you do is get assessed, every moment, as you try to solve problems. And if you don't solve a problem, the game says you failed, try again. And you do. Why? Because games take testing, the most ludicrous, painful part of school and make it fun."

Even better is the data-capturing ability of video games, which can collect fine-grain feedback about student progress moment by moment, literally measuring growth every step of the way. 
Along with that come all the many, many issues around student data privacy.

As one reviewer on Amazon said:
It assumes away all of the difficulties of development and simplifies complex issues into a very palatable set of solutions. No need to change consumption or power structures, just let technology solve it.
From the NY Times review:
To be sure, Diamandis is both very bright (he studied molecular biology and aerospace engineering at M.I.T. before getting an M.D. at Harvard) and well informed. Moreover, he’s not the kind of optimist who will merely see the glass as half full. He’ll give you dozens of reasons, some highly technical, why it’s half full. Then he’ll explain that your cognitive biases are tricking you into seeing the glass of water in a negative light, and cart out the research of acclaimed psychologists like Daniel Kahne­man to prove his point. Finally he may suggest you stop fretting: new technologies will soon fill the glass up anyway. Indeed, they are likely to overfill it.
Technology cannot save humanity.  And any kids need more humanity in their lives.

What is also interesting about the Trump administration's picks is that many of them are from Jeb Bush's own education group.  One thing that many of them do agree on is no one likes Common Core. From Education Week's blog:
Josh Venable: Venable worked with former Gov. Jeb Bush at his non-profit education organization, the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Trump's education secretary pick, Betsy DeVos, sat on the board of that organization until recently. Bush, of course, is a prominent backer of the Common Core State Standards, and Trump wants to see the common core gone. DeVos has made it clear she's not a supporter of the standards

Lauren Maddox: Maddox served as the assistant secretary for communications and outreach at the Education Department under President George W. Bush. (That's the job Matt Lehrich holds right now for President Barack Obama.) Before that, she worked on communications for House Republican leaders. Currently, she's a principal at the Podesta Group, a government relations organization. (The organization was started by Tony Podesta, the brother of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman.) She's said to be helping the education transition team with communications. (We haven't gotten any press releases from her yet though.) 

Terrell Halaksa: Halaksa worked as assistant secretary for legislative and congresssional affairs in the Education Department under President George W. Bush. Before that, she worked on education issues—including early-childhood education—for the White House Domestic Policy Council.
What's fascinating is that Trump doesn't like Common Core and ditto on DeVos but Bush's people do.  Many conservatives wonder what's the point of vouchers if those schools have to follow Common Core?  


Watching said…
Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that capitalism and education can not be separated.
Anonymous said…
There's nothing to be sad about, unless you're a socialist. Are you a socialist?

Got Socialism
Josh Hayes said…
When it comes to education, I certainly AM a socialist -- society should pay, together, for the education of our children. That's socialism. I'm all for it.

But this only holds if we regard education as a right; if we regard it as a commodity, something that one can choose to forgo with no real penalty, then it becomes a profit center for all kinds of characters -- in much the same way as we see in medicine. If we regard education primarily as a place to make money, then the system itself suffers, and the clients (our children) suffer, and consequently, we as a nation suffer. I realize that's not a popular sentiment with the current crop of "I got mine, screw you" people out there (some of whom will be inhabiting the highest reaches of our government shortly), but it's no less true for that.

Tl;dr: Yes, yes I am. Moreover, I'm right.

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