Part II: “Personalized” Learning
The name applies to a specific group of people (politicians, businesspeople, and policy makers) who believe 1. that schools should be run like private corporations, 2. That students and parents are consumers, and 3. That “success” of a program, teacher, students, or school must be measured using standardized testing and other units of standardized measurement that collect dataand make decisions based on what “big data” tells them. Education reformers are responsible for the creation of No Child Left Behind (1990), Common Core standards c 2008), Race to the Top (2007), online education, charter schools and the closure of public schools in urban areas. Education reforms belong to both political party and cross over “liberal” and “conservative” labels. They also support privatizationof educational programs and services.
It is a branch of artificial intelligence based on the idea that systems can learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention. Because of new computing technologies, machine learning today is not like machine learning of the past. It was born from pattern recognition and the theory that computers can learn without being programmed to perform specific tasks; researchers interested in artificial intelligence wanted to see if computers could learn from data. When Google recommends certain websites that match your personal interests is based on machine learning pulling big data from your internet browser history.
Students are assigned individual playlists and with a unique computer login to automatically personalize each student’s education based on their data file. The questions adjust in difficulty in response to student answers, optimizing their performance to meet each and every state standard. Those in Silicon Valley have been intensely refining artificial intelligence with the goal of ushering in a new era of public education. One day each of us will have a lifelong AI (artificial intelligence) companion guiding our learning journey as we navigate the challenges of an increasingly automated economy.
What Personalized Learning supporters say: “Individualism is an innately American value, and our approach to education reflects that. Our programs learn your child, using programmed feedback loops to ensure they attain the proper mindset and don’t get distracted by different points of view as might happen in a traditional classroom setting. That is what makes “personalized” learning so personal. Experts agree that this approach is the most efficient (and cheapest) way for every child to achieve.”
Rather than expecting student access to a teacher for a full day, hybrid learning emphasizes the efficiency of students working on their computer assignments for many blocks, and having direct contact with the teacher for a tiny portion of the day. Austerity budgets (no funding for public schools by state or local taxes) and chronic teacher shortages are going to help with that. Soon there simply won’t be enough teachers available, and tech will come to the rescue. Parents still expect some teacher presence. But with hybrid learning, students are spending more and more time working on their own with devices in the classroom.
Sure, we all love Fortnite. But do we want schools and learning to be created like a game? Spending all day on a tablet or laptop can be pretty soul deadening for students. But kids love games, and folks like the Entertainment Software Association know this and is excited at the prospect of opening a new market for their products. But it turns out games are also a great way to gather new types of data on behavior and social-emotional states. Plus, think about how your behaviors are shaped when you play games, right?… imagine how much control (of emotions and behavior) these corporations will have over you to get you feel and act in ways that serve their interests.
Standards /Competency / Mastery / Proficiency-Based (CBE)
Electronic portfolios listing skills one has “mastered” or attained a “proficiency or competency” in is all that is needed. Standards-based grading helps with that shift. The ultimate plan is to move education out of school buildings. With devices to gather the data on skills and standards, spending money on heating buildings and paying salaries won’t be necessary anymore. Public monies will be spent on programs that deliver consistent, measureable results. And these measurable results are front and center for investors (venture philanthropists) in the SIBsmodel.
What venture philanthropists say about a CBE model: “parents need to reject old fashioned notions of age-based classrooms, report cards, diplomas…because lifelong learning for tomorrow will be constant reinvention of ourselves as independent operators in the gig economy. The Chamber of Commerce wants to know how many skills a person has. Actually, the algorithmswill be reviewing the skill codes. It’s much easier to have a comprehensive list of what a person can do. Things that cannot be measured are a liability when it comes to economic sorting and profiling. We want clear cut data-yes/no. A student’s human capital value is a measure of the skills attained at a given moment in time. We need granular data, much more than can be recorded in a traditional report card format.”