Monday, June 8, 2015

Why Technology Won't Fix Schools

Kentaro Toyama is a professor at U. Michigan, a fellow at MIT, and a former researcher for Microsoft. He's just written a book titled "Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology" (although I'd quibble with the title in one way: practically all geeks I know consider the following to be obvious and common-sense). He writes:
But no matter how good the design, and despite rigorous tests of impact, I have never seen technology systematically overcome the socio-economic divides that exist in education. Children who are behind need high-quality adult guidance more than anything else. Many people believe that technology “levels the playing field” of learning, but what I’ve discovered is that it does no such thing.

And, oh, how much do I agree with the following!:
... what I’ve arrived at is something I think of as technology’s Law of Amplification: Technology’s primary effect is to amplify human forces. In education, technologies amplify whatever pedagogical capacity is already there.

 More at the Washington Post (link).

Monday, June 1, 2015

Noam Chomsky on Corporate Colleges

Noam Chomsky speaks on issues of non-teaching administrators taking over America's colleges, the use of part-time and non-governing faculty, and related issues:
The university is probably the social institution in our society that comes closest to democratic worker control. Within a department, for example, it’s pretty normal for at least the tenured faculty to be able to determine a substantial amount of what their work is like: what they’re going to teach, when they’re going to teach, what the curriculum will be. And most of the decisions about the actual work that the faculty is doing are pretty much under tenured faculty control.

Now, of course, there is a higher level of administrators that you can’t overrule or control. The faculty can recommend somebody for tenure, let’s say, and be turned down by the deans, or the president, or even the trustees or legislators. It doesn’t happen all that often, but it can happen and it does. And that’s always a part of the background structure, which, although it always existed, was much less of a problem in the days when the administration was drawn from the faculty and in principle recallable.

Under representative systems, you have to have someone doing administrative work, but they should be recallable at some point under the authority of the people they administer. That’s less and less true. There are more and more professional administrators, layer after layer of them, with more and more positions being taken remote from the faculty controls.
 More at Salon.com.