The Shape of Education to Come

Half Sigma notes that eBooks readers will become cheapter than books, while Purpleslog argues that public education should be fixed.

No Child Left Behind is an important tool in fixing education, but like the current generation of eBook readers (and even corn-based ethanol, for that matter), NCLB is a transitional technology, not an end in itself.

Most text-books cost about $100. Imagine how the world changes when sub-notebooks running Windows 7 cost about $100 and can bounce without breaking.

How far away is that?
How long after that would be bother with physical books for students?

For just one idea of the shape of things to come, take automated teaching software like Rosetta Stone. Imagine hooking up simmilar software to students pay-pal accounts, and paying them some amount ($5.00, say) to pass a lesson. Do the same for mathematics, science, vocabulary, grammer, and other core courses. Have some form of proctoring, and you’ve just automated a lot of teachers out of a job, or freed them up to teach higher-level skills while we netbooks and paypal to program learning like we program computers..

rosetta_stone

Teaching to the test, of course, is a good thing, as long as we have good tests.

Computer tech is becoming cheap and resilient enough that, for much of education, we won’t need ‘teachers’ at all. Just someone to swap out the batteries on the teaching machines, someone to monitor the test taking, and someone to make sure the floors are clean.

16 thoughts on “The Shape of Education to Come”

  1. Ebook reader! Did you say ebook reader?! I love my Kindle!!! It kicks ass!!!!! Yeaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. “but like the current generation of eBook readers (and even corn-based ethanol, for that matter), NCLB is a transitional technology, not an end in itself.”

    Out of all seriousness, though, I should point out the harder to pirate Kindle format and the e-ink tech that can last for a week on one charge is part of the reason for Kindle’s success. The former reason is why some publishers will not touch any other format besides Kindle at the moment.

    In other words, 100 dollar netbooks may be a step in the right direction, but it probably won’t be the single catalyst that end’s the era of dead trees.

    And I assume the Windows 7 thing involves a special academic license on the notebooks, right? If not, then I doubt they will be 100 bucks.

  3. I wonder how many people made the same argument when the printing press was introduced?*grin*

    Haven’t played around with Rosetta Stone (yet), but my experience with CD sets like Pimsleur and Michel Thomas suggests that a good language teacher would still be valuable for answering questions, filling in context, providing morale support when tough spots are reached and spotting serious problems before they get too bad.

    And one of the best math teachers I ever had was able to use good textbooks to get herself out of lecture giving so she could concentrate on answering questions and maintaining discipline.

    In short, my gut feeling is that technology doesn’t replace teachers, it replaces mediocre and BAD teachers.

  4. Jeffrey,

    Does Kindle produce less eye-strain than laptop monitors? (I would imagine so…)

    And I assume the Windows 7 thing involves a special academic license on the notebooks, right? If not, then I doubt they will be 100 bucks.

    In short, my gut feeling is that technology doesn’t replace teachers, it replaces mediocre and BAD teachers.

    In short, my gut feeling is that technology doesn’t replace teachers, it replaces mediocre and BAD teachers.

    Technology exists so we can use less labor. Technology can dumb-down the labor force (like Zip codes enabled less training for postmasters) or require fewer-but-better (such as advanced computer equipment). I expect we’ll see both applied to education — both ‘teacher-proof curriculum’ and also more knowledgeable education-supervisors.

  5. Here is something different from my High School experience:

    “American High Schools Try the International Baccalaureate Program” [1]

    The prestigious International Baccalaureate program is quickly becoming a fixture at many U.S. high schools as the demand for more students with global skills grows. Take, for example, the International Academy, a public high school outside Detroit, which ranks No. 6 in U.S. News’s America’s Best High Schools list. Bert Okma, a high school history and economics teacher, founded the school in 1996 with the goal of preparing every student for the jobs of the 21st century. He decided that the best way to do that was through the International Baccalaureate curriculum, a rigorous academic, cultural, and linguistic program that was relatively unknown then.

    Anybody here go through the program or have kids doing so?

    [1]
    http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/2008/12/11/american-high-schools-try-the-international-baccalaureate-program.html

  6. I.B. isn’t bad, but I think most students would be better off taking classes at a technical, community, or four-year college (or even working a few extra hours) than getting a higher-quality diploma.

  7. Yes and no. IB classes don’t prevent you from going to a community college afterward, and would make the students in question better equipped to handle the mental challenges of life (moving into management, voting in elections, etc).

    I’d still like to see the results of a serious attempt to apply IB methods to an entire student body, though. Succeed or fail, it would be worth knowing.

  8. Michael,

    Unlike an IB program, community college gives someone immediate skills, confidence they can acquire commercial useful skills, an exposure to knowledge of the labor market, and something that is at many four-year institutes to accelerating graduation and/or moving onto high-level classes earlier.

    How does an IB class on, say, American literature help with management more than Principles of Accounting? As for elections, political education typically boils down to indoctrination into the worldview of whoever is writing the curriculum.

    sonofsamphm1c,

    Interesting! Could you explain?

  9. I was thinking more in terms of general mental expansion than specific skills. And even if an attempt at universal application didn’t work, we’d at least know what works for the portion of the student population that benefited and that something else needs tried for the rest. Who knows? We might be pleasantly surprised.

  10. Michael,

    I was thinking more in terms of general mental expansion than specific skills.

    I’m not sure this exists, though changing a frame of reference to something instilled by the family to something more politically correct [1], of course, is feasible.

    And even if an attempt at universal application didn’t work, we’d at least know what works for the portion of the student population that benefited and that something else needs tried for the rest

    It strikes me we’ve had this century of experimentation (with a brief exception during the Sputnik panic), and it’s failed us rather miserably.

    Under NLCB we have the beginnings of a real quality-program in education. We should to that, improve that, and automate that. [2]

    The future of public schools is in teacher-proofing education. [3]

    sonofsamphm1c,

    Thanks. The problem in evaluating the success of Talented And Gifted programs is that often the kids in it are the ones who will get the most out of any opportunity to learn.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/01/25/liberal-education-part-iii-infection.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/07/11/no-child-left-behind-the-quantitative-revolution-applied-to-publi-schools.html
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/11/03/science-technology-engineering-mathematics.html

  11. Was it the experimentation that failed miserably, or the tendency to see “experiment” and think “hot new trend that must be jumped on like rabid hyenas on a gnu bone”? Followed, of course, by bureaucrats saying “This is how it is done, so this is how it will always be done.”?

    You’re right about the benefits of a good testing regime, but you still need to know what changes can be made in the schools that don’t make the grade.

  12. More precisely, the parade of fad after fad, each judged in a qualitative manner in which their proponents are always pleased, and their opponents are always displeased.

    Occasionally something would be so stupid that a mountain of evidence was compiled against the hype — against whole language, against “self esteem” improvement, etc — but mostly it was fad v. fad.

    The same is true in military circles, sadly, with Net-Centric Warfare, 4GW, EBO, and the rest rising and falling in tempo with the intellectual fashions.

    An advantage of NCLB is that is does not need to know how to fix failing schools — it closes them. Thus, we have creative destruction.

    I’m assuming that part of NCLB will change under Obama. Hopefully the quantification of our educational system will continue, nonetheless.

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