Friday, July 02, 2010

"Time for a Revolution" - Fully Embracing Technology

By John Glaser

Charles Huckabee at the Chronicle reports:
Dana College, a small, financially struggling institution in Nebraska that had sought a path back to solvency through a sale to private investors, announced on Wednesday that the sale would not proceed and that the college would close because its accreditation would not transfer to the potential new owners.

The investor group that had formed to buy the college, an entity called Dana Education Corporation, had said in March that it planned to maintain a residential campus but also offer online courses. The college's accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, cited the planned online courses among its reasons for denying the institution's request for its accreditation to continue after a change of control.
Although it's true that there were other factors the Higher Learning Commission considered that led it to deny accreditation to Dana College, this should not have been one of them. How could the criteria for denying accreditation include the use of the world's most revolutionary tool for learning? Speaking of revolutionary, Katie Ash at Education Week reported on a recent speech by Jeff Piontek, the head of school at the Hawaii Technology Academy. He has quite a different perspective on the role of technology and the internet in education:
"It's time for a revolution in education."

"It's creativity and innovation that's going to drive our economy," said Piontek, criticizing the standardized tests that he said stifled learning and creativity in public schools across the country. Standardized tests "are not a true gauge of student learning," he said. "We need to think about how we actually assess students on a larger scale."

Educators must give students the technological tools and resources they need to become competent global citizens, said Piontek. Teachers must learn to guide students with content and curriculum and trust that the students will know how to use the tools, he said. "When you're in a classroom, you have to know that the culture you're teaching is not your own," he said, referring to the gap between those who have grown up using digital tools and those who have not.
The generational gap that exists among people who didn't grow up with personal computers and the internet and those who did is a strain on how our institutions operate. Although I believe it is a quickly waning phenomenon, those older generations, who are now heading our schools and universities etc., tend to be skeptical of just how useful and revolutionary these tools can be for the betterment of education. They have brought unprecedented efficiencies in all kinds of markets and aspects of daily life, why not in learning?

Despite the ever-rising costs of higher education, colleges are relying on enormous amounts of subsidies, grants, and endowments to cover their costs. How might technology and the internet mitigate these concerns if it were more fully embraced? We know, at least, that Dana College might still be open next year.

Update: Check out Katherine Mangu-Ward over at Reason, in a post entitled "1 in 4 Kids Now Learning Online, Only 4 Percent of Teachers Meeting Them There".

No comments: