Laura Chapman: Computer-Based Education as a Depersonalized and Profitable Industry

Laura Chapman writes here about “computer-based education” and who profits from it.

“Frankly, the scariest for-profit ventures are the tech companies that hope to replace teachers and schools with their “scalable” models.” Diane Ravitch.

Yes. Computer-based Education (CBE) is being marketed as personalized when it is exactly the opposite. Legislators in Ohio and elsewhere are counting on CBE to produce a radical reduction in brick and mortar schools and the need for educators who have college degrees and professional credentials.

CBE is part of the reason that we states are trying to install student-based budgets as the norm for schools and districts. Accountants are dissecting a district’s budget so costs can be allocated to specific schools, then to courses and grade levels in the school, including each teacher’s salary with benefit package, and the estimated cost of educating an individual student to a specific standard of mastery, given the student’s SES characteristics and the like. These estimates would take into account local revenues, the value of federal and state funds (usually less than 12% each), and so forth. The aim is to lay claim to CBE as the “best bang for the buck” while pointing to a system that “objectively” monitors student mastery of pre-determined content (delivered by computers).

Here are two maps that show the rapid uptake of CBE as if it is the new panacea for education. Look beyond the maps for excellent research on how CBE is being marketed.
Hoping to escape Competency-Based Education? Looks like Wyoming is your only option.

Here you will find amazing and disturbing stats and graphic illustrations of some interlocking initiatives, all designed to have a rapid and “collective impact” on the educational landscape.

The Gates Foundation is investing in a program that would train adults to serve as “providers” of CBE, therby eliminating the need for state certification to teach. In fact the whole CBE movement is aimed at “deschooling” education. That requires demonizing place-based brick and mortar schools and grade-by-grade instruction as part of the antiquated lock-step factory model.

The International Association for K–12 Online Learning (iNACOL) aims to expand access to online formats for learning, with mobile phone access for some programs. See especially their publications calling for “innovation zones” that would provide for “competency-based, personalized learning” free of brick and mortar schools.

“Policy makers establish innovation zone authority or programs through legislation or rule-making to catalyze the development of new learning models. The innovation zone authority provides increased flexibility for a state to waive certain regulations and requirements for schools and systems beginning to plan, design and implement personalized, competency-based education models. Innovation zones offer state education policy waivers in order to support practitioners in the process of developing and implementing new learning models. As practitioners implement their models, any rules or regulations that impede the model development are brought to light and can be addressed through waivers in a state, which has provided such innovation zones. This shifts the role of the state agency from one of compliance enforcement to support in enabling new model development to occur in districts.”

iNACOL lists the states with favorable legislation: Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, and New York. INACOL is supported by the The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and The Walton Family Foundation.

The work of iNACOL is closely connected with the National Repository of Online Content (NROC). NROC Project is a non-profit network focused on “college & career readiness.” It is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, and NROC institutional members. Members provide multi-media content and applications to websites like HippoCampus (six sources of online content in Math, Science, Social Studies, English and Religion) and EdReady (math to prepare for commonly used placement exams, such as AccuPlacer, Compass, SAT, and ACT). Membership in NROC keeps costs low for institutions, and free for individuals. NROC operates under the umbrella of The Monterey Institute for Technology and Education (MITE), a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation founded in 2003. MITE is staffed by three people. Taken as a group, they have worked for McGraw-Hill Education, CTB/McGraw-Hill, Harcourt Brace, in addition to having experience in corporate training, media, and financial management. MITE has received $16.2 million from the Gates foundation.

Although it is wise to keep attention focussed on the damage to public education being done by charter schools, vouchers, and the standardized testing requirements in ESSA, I think the larger threat to public education is CBE. Venture capitalists are investing in educational management systems and apps galore. markets CBE as teacher-free, learner-centered education organized by playlists of “opportunities for learning” with for-hire “sherpas” to guide students on “learning journeys.”

So far, there is very little discussion of the Trump/Republican roll-back of privacy regulations that once applied to internet service providers. There is little discussion of the prospect that this administration may eliminate the principle of net-neutrality in delivering content. The former means that student privacy (already thin and fragile as a moth’s wing in school contracts) is open to confabulation by personal/parental choices of products and services. The latter means that the speed and cost of internet services, including the e-rate program for schools, may become strictly market-based–supported by ads or other pay-to-play schemes.

CBE promoters see education organized in an ecological landscape with informal learning centers (for working parents), abundant on-line resources; opportunities for learning via community organizations such as art museums, libraries, parks, zoos, courts; and local businesses/workplaces.

Each of these providers of education would offer a badge or credential symbolic of learning. The badges or credentials are “stackable” so students who may verify their competencies as needed in seeking a job or advanced education. There is not much talk about the actual costs of CBE, the shelf life of hardware, the quality of on-line instructional materials, and unlimited possibilities for commercial exploitation of children and their parents. Choice through vouchers and CBE are perfect partners for creating the illusion that all children can and will have access to the best education in the world and completely personalized.

from novemoore


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