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Home California Teachers Association Updated: Would Digital Education put Teachers Unions Out of Business?

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Updated: Would Digital Education put Teachers Unions Out of Business?

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We spotted an interesting interview Sunday on Conan Nolan’s “News Conference” on NBC Channel 4 out of Los Angeles.  Former State Senator Dean Florez (D), now CEO of Twenty Million Minds Foundation, spoke to the capability of online education.  There’s an Infographic on the organization here.

For a Democrat, Florez made a lot of sense.  His organization is promoting online teaching (once known as ‘distance learning’) on top of ordinary curriculum in higher education.  With cameras in lecture halls or pre-recorded courses delivered on demand from cloud storage by ordinary high-speed Internet connections, there’s no reason to restrict the number of students for a class, or charge the rates the CSU and UC schools are gouging these kids for — and there’s no reason to do it live in a classroom.  College can go back to what it was designed for — drinking beer and semi-professional sports.

Florez says late in the interview that our State university systems are among the last to embrace this readily available technology (which, of course, offers a much higher level of sophistication and interactivity than traditional instruction).  Why seems obvious — the teachers unions and the state employee unions that hold the universities hostage can’t possibly want inexpensive, electronic methodology to deliver course material when its consumers want to use it (vs. when and where they wish to ration it out).  Union teachers constantly gripe about class sizes, but using electronic delivery devastatingly invalidates the argument.  It could also invalidate the teacher — consider the good press and great reception Khan Academy has received.

Governor Brown was said to be very high on this technology and teaching process, so how long with it be before his unions set him straight and California loses even more competitiveness?

Update:  From the Register today, here’s another piece re. online learning from one of the few NY Times columnists we can occasionally stomach — Thomas Friedman: High education revolution.  Friedman makes no reference to to stranglehold that unionized teachers and public employees of university systems have on their schools and institutions — but he does make an excellent point on how this technology and courseware could be used as foreign aid for far less of a financial outlay than the US currently makes:

Imagine how this might change U.S. foreign aid. For relatively little money, the U.S. could rent space in an Egyptian village, install two dozen computers and high-speed satellite Internet access, hire a local teacher as a facilitator, and invite in any Egyptian who wanted to take online courses with the best professors in the world, subtitled in Arabic.

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One Response

  1. JM Ivler

    Alas, this is actually in my area of expertise. Politics is a passion and an interest, but education is my bread and butter. So, before I start I must put in a standard disclaimer. I am NOT a teacher or educator. I AM the co-author of a patent in computer adaptive diagnostics for education. I AM the co-founder of the company developing the product(s) from that patent. I AM the first person to put educational math flashcards on the Internet (1993-4) and I make my living in education these days.

    So, let me start with the fact that on-line education is NOT the answer. It is ONE potential solution. Yes Kahn Academy is a fine resource, but it is but a resource.

    Let’s use a metaphor.

    Can a athlete learn to pay QB using only on-line tools? Of course not. Athletes need a coach. They need someone who will, when the time is right, interrupt their processes and provide the right support that they need at the time that they need it. This human intervention is required because the athlete has gone as far as they can with “learning” and “self-analysis” and now they need expert instruction.

    All education, whether it be athletic or general knowledge requires an interventionist. Anyone who claims that you can take that person out of the equation is selling you snake oil. The key is to provide that person with the toolset necessary to allow them to intervene at the right time with enough and correct information to provide the directed support to the student.

    Yes we can deliver content. Yes we can “test”. But what we need in education is a system of intervention. We need to have a way to know when the student needs the delivery of specific expert help and what the student needs the help with.Case in point. A student can’t seem to get the answers right when he is doing fraction addition and subtraction with different denominators. While that student may have fully understood the process when using like denominators and the student had seen all the on-line material, what we could be dealing with here is not the process steps not being understood, but a basic issue with multiplication that requires and interventionist, or a coach, to come and and provide the student with the proper and correct support.

    Yes, there are tools out there working on doing this [ours being one of them that has been in development and test for the last 10+ years].

    Like I said, there are some great tools out there today that can provide support to a students learning. And there will be even more (our will hopefully be one of them), but as we make clear whenever we talk about what we have developed, the tools will NOT teach a student in a vacuum, a coach is an integral part of the educational process.

    One last note. I want you the reader to think back on something that you learned. When did you really grasp it? If you are like most people, you learn in the intake process, when you get information, but you really grasp ideas and concepts from use. But there is even a better way to grasp concepts and learn. Teach. The process of learning happens on one side of the brain, but the process of teaching and explaining happens on the other. To translate the learning to teaching requires that the information learned and written into storage has to be analyzed and moved from the learning areas to the teaching/explaining areas. The process of translating learned knowledge into knowledge to be taught or explained solidifies concepts and re-enforces the learning process by having the learned material “translated” into understanding that is more readily adaptable into the thought processes of the student. The reason that the single room schoolhouse was so effective at generating the group that gave us the industrial revolution was that the students were always translating the lessons from one side of the brain to the other, creating neuro-connections that allowed the student to retain more and think better. on-line education severs those connections rather than expanding and building on them.