2011 Video: Personalized Learning’s Plan to Replace Teachers? “It means a different staffing model which costs less and works better”
The last few years have seen an astronomical increase in screen time and “blended learning” being required in schools, starting even in preschool and kindergarten. Many schools require students to pay a fee for a personal Chromebook or similar device (also called a 1:1 program) and students can often take this computer home, which brings with it a new level of privacy, tracking and security concerns. Many programs are adaptive, with hidden algorithms collecting every key click, and monitoring how a child learns, behaves. This is “personalized learning” and it has many parents, education advocates and teachers concerned. Even RAND researchers see little evidence to support online personalized learning, “The evidence base is very weak at this point,” said John F. Pane, a senior scientist and the group’s distinguished chair in education innovation.
Will Digital Personalized Learning Replace Teachers?
Perhaps you have seen headlines like My Teacher is an Algorithm: Silicon Valley Billionaires Want to Replace Teachers with Technology, or How Silicon Valley Plans to Conquer the Classroom, or Technology in the classroom: Robots could replace teachers in 10 years. People like this teacher have been warning of The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher, saying that teachers will become a guide on the side, replaced by personalized algorithms and computer screens. Yet those pushing tech into schools have responded by saying concerns are unfounded, and personalized computer programs were never meant to replace teachers. Case in point, see this 2017 ultimatum from the Clayton Christensen Institute, arguing that “it’s time for a narrative that teachers will be replaced by artificial intelligence to end“.
Apparently, these folks have not seen the recording of Tom Vander Ark’s 2011 presentation to a room full of education leaders. To see Vander Ark’s “Designing Digital Districts” video (his is the third video on the page) click here. (If the video won’t play for you, try this YouTube Link.) See PowerPoint presentation here.
In this 2011 ERDI video, Vander Ark essentially says personalized digital learning is more productive and cheaper than teachers and urges leaders to ‘make the shift’.
The video was mentioned in this recent Baltimore news story which caught my eye because of a 2011 Education Research & Development Institute (ERDI) video with presenter Tom Vander Ark. Vander Ark, a fan of personalized learning, has also expressed interested in unbundling billions in the education market. (Side note: If you aren’t familiar with ERDI and investigations associated with the awarding of lucrative edtech contracts and 1:1 devices, paid edtech consulting fees and paid travel to exclusive conferences, I suggest you read this and start asking who in your district is affiliated with ERDI.) I have posted an excerpt of the article below but do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. From The Baltimore Post, Technology as Teacher: Consulting Firm with Ties to Baltimore County Had Big Plans:
“If there ever were any doubt about the Education Research & Development Institute (ERDI) and its promotion of educational technology to school systems, a July 2011 ERDI Innovation Conference makes it abundantly clear.
One conference presenter in particular had a very specific message at the Atlanta event for education leaders and their school systems: that computer-centered learning for kindergarten through 12th grade was coming, and those in the audience would be making the changes – very soon.
“I want to give you a quick and conceptual look at why I think the pivot to ‘personalized digital learning’ is a really big deal, like one of the three or four of the most important things happening in the world,” said Tom Vander Ark, an author, speaker and investor in more than 70 technology companies. “Secondly, I’m going to talk about how that’s going to happen in most of your schools,” he said.
“[Vander Ark] told the education leaders that they should “be launching in September (2011), a Blended 6-10 math program” and “have a team of teachers work with two to three to 400 students” virtually and online.
“You ought to be piloting special services online. Speech therapies have had big developments in the last year and can deliver better and cheaper and faster speech therapy online,” he said.
Vander Ark, who mentioned the cost savings of using technology in place of teachers several times during his presentation, also said he started the first kindergarten to 12th grade online school in the country, but that “this stuff has not made enough of a difference as it should.”
Nonetheless, the Ed-Tech mogul told the audience of education leaders that the reason the 2011 push was different was because, in addition to providing students with a computer-based environment in order to “improve learning,” changing staffing was also now seen as imperative.
Vander Ark told the audience of education leaders that the reduction in teachers would “improve productivity.” “It means a different staffing model which costs less and works better,” he said. “It means a tough set of conversations…” -Baltimore Post [Emphasis added] http://thebaltimorepost.com/technology-teacher-consulting-firm-ties-baltimore-county-big-plans
Vander Ark’s presentation goes on to define the difference between edtech and Blended Learning. Watch at about 9 minute mark:
“Blended Learning is different. It is an intentional shift in the learning environment, to an online environment for at least a portion of the day to improve student learning.
So there’s an intentional shift in the modality of learning to boost student learning. And secondly, that shift is made to increase school productivity, staffing and facilities productivity. That means more learning and less money.
…in short, it’s not Blended Learning in my definition if you’re not changing your staffing model and that’s where this gets tough because you’re talking about differentiated staffing.
That means different levels, and distributed teaching. That means some teachers teaching remotely. So if you’re going to staff your school in a different way, that means a different staffing model that costs less and works better.” He also goes on to discuss working with policy makers and unbundling education. Listen here. Watch here.
67 minute mark:
“In closing comments, it’s time to plan the shift. You’ll be moving to an online assessment environment… it’s a great timeline to use as a lever to make this shift. Part of that 3 yr plan out to include provisions for “bring your own technology” to help create high access environments, part of that shift ought to include a set of blended pilots, Blended upper division STEM, Blended Math 610, Blended special services… Pick a great partner, FL Virtual, APEX, NC Virtual, Connections Academy, K12. … Make your state a partner, work with your county and Superintendents. You’re not in this alone.” -Tom Vander Ark, 2011 ERDI Forum
This Vander Ark video (along with videos of other presenters) is posted by Discovery Education and will likely disappear. WATCH the entire video; it is informative. Vander Ark talks about Jeb Bush’s Digital Learning Now, Data Quality Campaign, Virtual Schools, Common Core necessitating online assessments and how that can be leveraged to advance blended online learning in the classroom. He talks about education disrupter Clayton Christensen, Innosight and his book, The Rise of Blended Learning.
Where is the independent evidence to support digital “personalized learning”?
As this recent Chalkbeat article suggests, there doesn’t seem to be real evidence. From Chalkbeat’s Why ‘personalized learning’ advocates like Mark Zuckerberg keep citing a 1984 study — and why it might not say much about schools today:
“The results of a 1984 study have become a popular talking point among those promoting the “personalized learning” approach advanced by Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropy. The results from the 1984 study underlying it have essentially never been seen in modern research on public schools. Still, the results have become a popular talking point among those promoting the “personalized learning” approach that Zuckerberg’s philanthropy is advancing. One video created by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative features an illustration of a 50 on a graph zooming upward to hit 98. The New Schools Venture Fund, another influential education group that backs personalized learning, cites the same work by Benjamin Bloom. But a close look at the study raises questions about its relevance to modern education debates and the ability of new buzzed-about programs to achieve remotely similar results.” -Chalkbeat [Emphasis added]
We know screens are addictive. We know that Wi-Fi connected devices emit cancer causing radiation and the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that children should avoid exposure to wireless devices. READ THAT.
(Note, the AAP doesn’t say wireless devices cause cancer only at home, or only when not using devices for educational activities. We’re pretty sure the radiation effects are the same regardless of the content. However, there is likely more radiation in a classroom with children surrounded by 1:1 wireless devices.) We also know that screens are linked to depression, obesity, suicide, ADHD, sleep disturbance, retinal damage. We know that data collected by hidden “personalized learning” algorithms can be used to predict and profile a child and those algorithms can be wrong. We also know that student data is a trillion dollar market.
Why did policy makers, school board members, teachers unions, jump on the artificial personalized learning bandwagon to sell out teachers and students? Did they buy into the Vander Ark gotta make the shift sales pitch without evidence to support personalized learning’s effectiveness or researching its health risks? Are these same policy makers and Silicon Valley folks going to repackage and rebrand personalized learning, give us a new name for the online learning system that collects and remembers and analyzes every click? Will they repackage personalized learning as something “new” like competency based (blockchain) education and tell it is somehow different and better and safer?
We need to hold tech companies and educrats accountable. Parents need to be given the choice of textbook and face to face human teacher, rather than screen learning. Sensitive data (biometric, medical and mental health, behavioral evaluations) should never be collected or leave the school without parent consent. In recent days, former Silicon Valley folks have acknowledged problems with the tech industry: Why I Left Silicon Valley, EdTech, and “Personalized” Learning and Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built (Humane Tech).
Let’s hope these ex-Silicon Valley folks and policy makers will truly help us protect children. Let’s hope they will give parents a voice.
What do you think?
A few interesting links.
ERDI July 2011 Vision, Design, Implementation, and Results
“View the archive of a group of the nation’s preeminent school district and education technology leaders discuss best practices during a unique forum – Technology in Our Schools. ERDI Innovation 2011 was an unparalleled opportunity to hear from outstanding educators and committed corporate partners as they discover creative ways to addresses unmet needs in schools.” See the videos posted here: http://www.discoveryeducation.com/ERDIInnovation2011/
Global Silicon Valley, circa 2012, American Revolution 2.0 How Education Innovation is Going to
Revitalize America https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-Jd7BUE7cpuS1FwQW5NMy1SLUE/view “Anytime, anywhere learning” is a reality, and mass distribution is just an App Store away. It also helps that the iPad has had faster adoption in the education market than any technology in history. Other tablets including Microsoft’s Surface are on the way, allowing invisible and ubiquitous computing.” Additionally, the power of “app stores” will be an important and overarching force for the foreseeable future. With the tracks of IT laid over the past several decades, companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Google, the primary providers of app stores, give content
providers the ability to reach tens of million of people swiftly without needing to create a traditional distribution network. The implications are enormous as new education content – etextbooks, games, activities,videos – can be instantly sent to a large user base and updates can be pushed frictionlessly”… “Every click is captured” …”Individualized learning that becomes more personalized with every click. Adaptive
technology, like we’ve seen from consumer leaders such as Amazon, Pandora and Netflix, will become transformative in the education industry. Integrating data will allow teachers, parents and students to have a proactive learning experience—diagnosing, prescribing
and dynamically reassessing based on the individual student. Ultimately, we believe courses will be disaggregated from the institution and be selected a la carte for a personalized education program.“
STUDY: Increases in Depressive Symptoms, Suicide-Related Outcomes, and Suicide Rates Among U.S. Adolescents After 2010 and Links to Increased New Media Screen Time Screen use in teens may account for depression and increased suicide rates. Abstract: “In two nationally representative surveys of U.S. adolescents in grades 8 through 12 (N = 506,820) and national statistics on suicide deaths for those ages 13 to 18, adolescents’ depressive symptoms, suicide related outcomes, and suicide rates increased between 2010 and 2015, especially among females. Adolescents who spent more time on new media (including social media and electronic devices such as smartphones) were more likely to report mental health issues, and adolescents who spent more time on nonscreen activities (in person social interaction, sports/exercise, homework, print media, and attending religious services) were less likely. Since 2010, iGen adolescents have spent more time on new media screen activities and less time on nonscreen activities, which may account for the increases in depression and suicide. In contrast, cyclical economic factors such as unemployment and the Dow Jones Index were not linked to depressive symptoms or suicide rates when matched by year.” http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2167702617723376
Apple Investors Warn iPhones and Other Technology May Be Hurting Children https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/08/business/apple-investors-children.html?action=click&contentCollection=Technology&module=RelatedCoverage®ion=Marginalia&pgtype=article