Here we are, trying to revolutionize education with ideas that failed long ago. We can thank groups like the Gates Foundation for this new push for mechanized learning. With all their money, any idea that pops into Bill Gates head, even when he’s on the treadmill, can become an overnight national fad if he dangles a few million dollars in front of superintendents of starved school-districts.
A particular target in this explanation of why the emperor wears no clothes is ‘Ed Tech’, the promotion of lots of whacky software for lots of whacky teaching ideas as a replacement for sound teaching practices in the classroom.
If that sounds a lot like what is starting to happen on our campus too then you’re right. But there is nothing deep or mysterious about what is going on. To understand this, just follow the money. The shot callers in leadership don’t get personal career boosts by doing a great job as it has been done before, rather they often feel they are measured by how much change they effect – and recently, how such change saves money too. Companies promoting Ed Tech offer change, and never mind that they have an equity interest in people adopting their products. Eager empire builders thus have no self interest in vetting ideas based on how well they will help us accomplish core missions – that after all might get in the way of change, which they need for their own advancement.
This is how high schools get a lot of crap software and tools — it is all change done under the guise of helping the children, where nobody looks closely to see whether it all works (or if they do look then there are plenty of other culprits to spread blame) but everyone knows it is great for the tech industry in the long run. And it is why in College Park we get less investment in professorial resources, more ‘innovation’ that nobody substantively vets to see whether it improves our core missions, and an ever-increasing stream of graduates who are less prepared for careers than their counterparts in the prior cohort.