Ariel Norling here. I write about education, technology, and my adventures in entrepreneurship- a.k.a. everything that I've learned outside of a classroom's walls. I am often sarcastic, sometimes serious, but always infinitely curious.
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Our open, publicly-funded public school system, deeply woven into the fabric of our open, freedom- and innovation-loving society, is the gem in the crown of America that people from around the world for decades have tried to replicate…
Poverty, hunger, homelessness, parents who are ineffective or unable to parent – these are all analog problems kids have that need the help of other people, not only computers, to solve. What Gene Marks and other Silicon Valley “edupreneurs” forget is that we live in a complicated three-dimensional world that doesn’t fit on a spreadsheet or a computer screen. Digital bootstraps aren’t enough; to help all the nation’s kids we need lifelines offered face to face to real kids, from a person who cares in their neighborhood schools.
Am I the only one who catches the irony of a tradition-laden school system in an innovation-loving society?
Education technology is not supposed to be the magic cure all for all of society’s ills, or even education’s. But if students aren’t getting what they need from the traditional method, don’t they deserve to have a chance to digitally bootstrap? Support is the most powerful thing that someone can give a student, and if a teacher, counselor, parent, or administrator isn’t there to give it to them, why should we criticize those who are digitally offering support? Besides, there’s more to education technology than AV technology and learning management systems, something that is often ignored in #pencilchat-type debates. Most importantly, people forget that there are people behind these products. People who care about students and education. From experience in trying to build a technology startup, one simply cannot start a tech company just for fun. They have to be committed to the idea, or else their hours, blood, sweat, and tears, and minimal income (especially in the education sector) are going to waste because lack of passion will kill them and their company.
Digital bootstrapping may not be sufficient for many, but why should we be angry at edupreneurs for trying? They’re the ones trying the hardest to innovate our public schools, and they’re moving faster than policy makers and individual teachers can. Maybe we should let them go full speed ahead, and let the rest of us focus on solving “analog problems.”
We are treating students like cogs in a factory, not like the unique individuals they actually are. We push students forward, without ever really addressing their individual needs, until many become disengaged and give up. And while most of the debate focuses on the “under-performing” students, I would argue that we’re not exactly doing a great job with the students who seem to be passing by fine. Many of them are never pushed to their true abilities, and they quickly lose their natural enthusiasm for learning.