Monday, April 22, 2019

“Personalized learning”

“I want to just take my Chromebook back and tell them I’m not doing it anymore”: The New York Times reports on students and parents in Kansas protesting the arrival of Summit Learning and its program of “personalized learning,” with a curriculum developed by Facebook engineers and funded by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan. The quotation marks are fitting: what “personalized learning” amounts to is a student sitting in front of a screen for most of the day, with teachers devoting their time to “mentoring.” The Summit Learning website, which does not show children sitting in front of screens for most of the day, mentions “weekly 1:1 checkins” with teacher-mentors. Students in Kansas report anxiety, eye strain, hand cramps, headaches, seizures, and stress from lack of contact with teachers and peers.

Irony of ironies: as the Times reported in 2011 and again in 2018, tech types often do all they can to keep their children away from screens.

So many falsehoods at work in the Summit vision of what, really, is depersonalized learning, one child to one machine. And such a mistaken understanding of what it might mean for a teacher to be a mentor. My best teachers were mentors all the time. When they were standing or sitting in front of a classroom, they were teaching me how to think, how to feel, how to communicate, how to be a good human. All of which is much more valuable than “weekly 1:1 checkins.”

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