I’ve taken an interest in the impact of the digital revolution on education and
in online education. I blogged the topic recently after reading the book “Liberating
Learning” (here) and before that in reaction to the US Department of Education
reports that online instruction is more effective that face to face instruction
(here). There are also several more earlier blog posts.
One of the educational leaders pushing various forms of online learning is NY Chancellor Joel Klein. The NY Times reporter Jennifer Medina reports on one of his efforts in her article “Laptop? Check. Student Playlist? Check. Classroom of the Future? Check.” (here)
The program, conducted in a converted library, consists mainly of students working individually or in small groups on laptop computers to complete math lessons in the form of quizzes, games and worksheets. Each student must take a quiz at the end of each day; the results are fed into a computer program to determine whether they will move on to a new topic the next day.
Mr. Klein said the program would allow learning in a way that no traditional classroom can, because it tailors each lesson to a student’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the child’s interests.
“The model we are using throughout the United States in kindergarten-to-12th-grade education is fundamentally the same as it was 100 years ago,” Mr. Klein said.
Now, he added, “we’re looking in a way that I don’t think anyone has looked at — at the way children learn, pacing them at their own pace, all of it tied to the mastery of content and skill and achievement.”
Once the students arrive at school, they receive their individual playlists identifying the lessons they have to complete for the day, which could involve virtual tutoring online, computer worksheets or small-group lessons with a classroom teacher. Their schedules are also displayed on large television screens, akin to flight schedule displays in airports.
In a room a few steps away, several administrators spend their day looking over more than a dozen computer screens displaying the students’ playlists, how quickly those students are progressing through their tasks and what the students are looking at on their own screens.
The program cost roughly $1 million to develop for the summer, with two-thirds of the money coming from private donations. In a grant proposal aimed at donors, administrators predict that the cost will grow to $9.1 million in 2010 and $13.3 million in 2012, when the program is expected to be used in 20 schools.
Joel Rose, who oversees human resources for the Department of Education said the cost of running schools using this model would be about the same as that of operating traditional schools….