Mustn’t let the steam engine spread into education

Hell, even coal fires are a bad idea, they’ll teach the young to appreciate Big Carbon:

By 2020, technology in the classroom is predicted to be a $21 billion industry. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have pledged to donate $45 billion in Facebook shares to bring their personalized learning to other educational spaces. Meanwhile, Bill Gates is committing $300 million to similar causes, and Netflix’s Reed Hastings wants to give $11 million to personalized math software.

But there is reason to second-guess this opportunistic philanthropy, especially with Betsy DeVos as an outspoken proponent of this so-called personalized learning, i.e. tech-enriched education. It’s becoming clear that company interests are intended to groom loyal customers, sometimes at the sake of effective tutelage. And while teachers have begun to criticize their new roles as entertainer, classroom silence has become a measure of an app’s success. These are just a few of the reasons Silicon Valley’s role is in serious need of examination.

Take Google as an example. Right now, the majority of public schools rely on Google’s Chromebooks. The laptops now host half the nation’s primary and secondary students, with over 30 million students using Google’s educational applications. At a cheap $30 per student and with a suite of free online applications, it may seem like an altruistic move on Google’s part. However, all of Google’s services remain free because of advertisements and the data the company tracks from users’ online meanderings. This has led many to argue that its benevolent image is only as good as the promise not to track student data. Otherwise, Google’s educational enterprise allows the company to benefit from its collection of adolescent data mines.

Twat.

15 comments on “Mustn’t let the steam engine spread into education

  1. Yeah right. Be a help if most of the readers of this weren’t running a Google advertising platform on their fones as an operating system. So go talk them into ditching their Samsungs & get back to us.

  2. I remember that in the ’90s Wordperfect had a 7 for 1 licencing deal for educational establishments. Microsoft beat them with a free MS-Office for schools deal. Now one of them’s dead & the other declining.

    There’s nothing new here. Just the normal rise & fall of the established players. In 10-20 years it’ll be Facebook & Google’s turn.

  3. Eh. Call me old fashioned, but I think fire is magic and “classroom technology” is mostly useless displacement activity to pretend that we’re “investing” in our yoof, even as we let them pass through the alimentary canal of the British educational system without any apparent positive effect.

    What do we actually want the kiddies to learn?

    How to read good, write good, and do other stuff good, natch. A bit of history (as opposed to White Guilt And Multiculti Studies) would be nice. Some basic knowledge of the sciences. P.E. is less fashionable than ever, but I reckon the soft, chubby children of the internet era could do with experience of competitive sports. A foreign language is always helpful, even if it just gets them thinking about how language is the software of the human brain.

    In short, what parents want from schools probably isn’t much different in soon-to-be 2018 than it was in 1978, when the only computers most kids would’ve seen were trying to kill Doctor Who.

    So, how are gizmos and fondleslabs and other assorted cheap plastic grot going to help children conjugate a verb, know what the Battle of Naseby was, or solve a quadratic equation? Seems like they’d just be a distraction.

  4. I know a fairly leftie Brit who moved to the US and was amazed and appalled that the school his step daughter was going to was a sort of sponsored school – by a burger chain. Lots of promotions and logos, etc. Plus meals.

    But he wasn’t nearly as appalled as he was at the standards in the available state school, so missie stayed in filthy capitalism and got herself a good education.

  5. it may seem like an altruistic move on Google’s part.

    Strange that the supposed altruistic motives of the government and its employees are rarely questioned in this way.

  6. SS2: The purpose of learning computers is to keep up with computers. That IS needed but super-tech is of little value without a good education to give it something to work with.

    Kids can likely pick up computers from having them around and using them for fun. They still need a real education as you define it from schools. Hopefully not state ones for much longer.

  7. My niece’s 13 year old son’s school has just announced no more textbooks. Everything is no on tablets, including all homework and testing.

    I didn’t get round to asking if he was taight write with a pen.

    However I was impressed when he did some pretty quick mental arithmetic using fractions.

  8. The Blob believes that children should not be taught anything except skills as they can google any fact. Result: profound ignorance and a mind that can readily be filled with nonsense.

  9. If Sophie Linden shouts loud enough she may influence the State but no one else.

    So she must shout that the private sector give billions to the State then she may be able to fulfill her socialist dreams.

  10. ‘$45 billion in Facebook shares to bring their personalized learning to other educational spaces. Meanwhile, Bill Gates is committing $300 million to similar causes, and Netflix’s Reed Hastings wants to give $11 million to personalized math software.’

    $45,000,000,000
    $300,000,000
    $11,000,000

    That’s a steep staircase!

  11. Having watched some schools experiment with laptops and the like my assumption is a simple one – every electronic screen in a classroom decreases learning.

    As all the students use it for is surfing the internet for porn and plagiarising Wikipedia.

  12. Watch for the code words. “Personalised learning” does not mean individualized learning, such as with tutors on a near one-to-one basis. Small classes under a skilled teacher is known to be good for learning. Hence it is what private schools aim for.

    Instead, “personalised learning” is sticking kids in front of self-paced computer systems. The teacher can then, it is thought, not need to be personally skilled, and therefore cheap. It’s a terrible way to teach, and has been disastrous when tried on any scale. Did I mention, however, that it is cheap?

    Too many of the Silicon Valley industrialists are convinced that computers are the only way forward. That they know literally nothing about education is, bizarrely, considered an advantage — because they are not limited by the old ways. That those old ways are the old ways because that’s how people learn is not considered modern enough.

    Genuinely personalised learning is a good thing, but it’s not what they are offering. Nor are they offering to aid teachers with better software, which would have some value, but instead they are attempting to replace teachers with programs.

    Computers don’t understand why people make mistakes, can’t determine that a non-standard technique might be needed for specific individuals and have zero motivational ability. They are decades off being more than a “sometimes” tool in a classroom.

  13. It’s a heck of a change from when I started school, writing on a slate with a scratcher. But then I was lucky enough to get a good state education when the only aim was to turn out educated people.

  14. “That they know literally nothing about education is, bizarrely, considered an advantage — because they are not limited by the old ways.”

    I once saw a consultant try that one on with the users – from a trading floor.

    The results were entirely predictable, and utterly hilarious – from a distance.

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