Technology, politics and change

Cyberschools, online classes and virtual tutoring may force change in public education argue Terry Moe and John Chubb in Liberating Learning.  The book looks at how technology shifts political power, writes James K. Glassman in a Wall Street Journal review:

Teachers unions, of course, are appalled. They know that “the new computer-based approaches to learning simply require far fewer teachers per student — perhaps half as many, and possibly fewer than that,” Messrs. Moe and Chubb write. Online charter schools employ two or three teachers per 100 students; the average public school employs 6.8 per 100. Technology also disperses teachers geographically (making them elusive for union organizers); lets in private-sector players who aren’t members of the guild; and enables outsourcing to foreign countries. For unions, technology is poison.

Moe and Chubb believe parents will demand access to online education.  School districts, hit by rising labor costs, will “turn to technology as a way to get more for less.” Glassman fears politics will trump productivity as office-holders consider “the election-time productivity of unions that help politicians get into office and stay there.”

Frontline’s Digital Nation is hosting a discussion tomorrow on education in the digital age.

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  1. They’re all three wrong.

    Moe, Chubb and Glassman don’t have a clue what’ll move school districts since they seem to all be under the impression that the technology that the public education system has successfully ignored for the past forty years will now, by dint of becoming cheap and ubiquitous, break through that indifference.

    Educational considerations will drive school districts to embrace technology when educational considerations are what control whether teachers and principals continue to be employed and that won’t happen until their bosses, the school boards, win or lose their election bids on the basis of educational considerations.

    I’ll be interested to know how Moe, Chubb and Glassman see that happening.

  2. tim-10-ber says:

    A new online, all-girls school has been formed by four very expensive all-girls private schools. The venture was announced yesterday. (Sorry, I cannot find the link.) I believe as technology becomes cheaper for parents to afford (under $500 for a decent laptop) and the condition of public schools continues to deteriorate…those parents that can manage it will continue to seek alternatives for their children to public schools…

    Teachers should be leading the way in innovation…embrace the technology rather than shun it…get with the modern age…see what the real schools are doing with technology…

    Just my two cents worth

  3. Good thing the world is filled wtih caring parents willing to pay for computers and internet access, and well-behaved children who will do their schoolwork without being watched all the time. Oh wait . . .

  4. The netbooks are cheap, and the cost of Internet access is dropping. Look for neighbors to share the cost (kids during the day, adults at night) – if your neighborhood is relatively compact, it’s not too much of a stretch.

    The ones who will jump on this are the home-schoolers. For most, it’s tougher to provide a good math and science education; online looks like a good bet.

  5. It’ll never work. Education has always and will always look the way it does today. We’ve reached the pinnacle of academic delivery to the masses. All we need is more money to perfect it. And more respect, lots and lots more.

    And as so many of us have had our self-identity shaped by our school experiences, many of us can’t imagine any other way of educating students to be as open-minded and progressive as we ourselves are.

    Public-schools-that-look-like-the-kind-I-attended supporter.

  6. Margo/Mom says:

    Linda F is right. Online delivery is fairly limited in scope at present, and home schoolers are exactly the kind of niche that can help this technology develop. Online university courses were once primarily for students who weren’t likely to be served in a traditional structure. Now most universities have online sections of many classes.

    One of the big cries when NCLB required highly qualified and certified content teachers was that the rurals could never get a teacher credentialled in Physics, one in Biology and another in Chemistry. On the other hand, a collective of rural districts might very well be able to pull this off using technology to solve the problems of geography. There will come a day, I believe, when techological solutions–to real problems–will take root, and districts will begin to drift in that direction, whether it is due to reduced cost, increased effectiveness or public preference.

    At this point, I don’t know of any “drop-out recovery” or “alternative” type school for marginal kids that isn’t relying on some kind of online coursework–because their kids are all over the map with regard to achievement and the ability to show up consistently. Not to mention, there is rarely a stampede of teachers to apply for jobs to work with this population.