in the Washington Post yesterday, making his pitch for "the education of the future." It must be frustrating to be Jeb. He was the smart one, and he was going to ride the noble steed of Common Core and education privatization right into the White House; now he's just stuck beating the same old dead horse.
Jeb! has a couple of points to make here, all of them baloney.
First, he is frustrated that every school district is not on the virtual learning train right now. He agrees that the digital divide is real, but he doesn't really understand what it means. His solution: "Every district should make available a device and WiFi so every child can participate in online learning."
If your internet memory goes back to the nineties, you remember the people (your mom might have been one) who thought that the CD-ROM from AOL had the internet on it. Jeb! reminds me of those days. If he wants to stop by, I'll drive him out to the places where you could give folks whole stacks of devices and WiFi hot-spot devices and it wouldn't make a bit of difference, because there is no signal there. Nor is internet connection an yes-no proposition; as many many many many folks are learning with considerable frustration, a bad connection is not much more help than no connection at all.
Nor does Jeb! have suggestions about how to finance what, for some districts, would be a massive bunch of purchasing. And (another thing that isn't discussed nearly enough) that big-money purchasing never ends. Licenses-- every year-- for the materials. Whatever devices you select for your school will be obsolete in, at most, two years. What Jeb! proposes is really, really expensive. Of course, for some folks, that's why its appealing-- it turns on a big money faucet at the district level that just never stops gushing (except when the taxpayers run out of money). Jeb! cites the e-rate program, but that is already pretty fully tapped-- how does he propose to get more money out of it. And, of course, Jeb! smells that sweet, sweet pandemic stimulus money, the aroma of which has drawn all these vultures out in the open .
Plus, the adaptations. Students with special needs may require more than just a chromebook connected to the interwebz. "Just hand them a device" doesn't really capture all the work that has to be done to properly meet their needs. Jeb! admits "this will be challenging" but offers little concrete other than, hey, you could have a virtual dyslexia expert virtually help the students across the district. Why would this be better than helping in person? Jeb! doesn't say.
But, Jeb! insists, schools must adapt to a future of learning without classrooms "because that's the future of learning."
Would you like some evidence that this is so? Too bad. Jeb! offers none. But he can assert with the best of them.
Learning is no longer modeled on the traditional classroom but has become digital, individualized and delivered on smartphones or laptops.
It's not? He offers the corporate learning market as proof, but that's not public education, at all. He mentions the many college courses on line. Evidence that these are effective? Nope.
And the assertion that education has become individualized because its digital is likewise laughable. In the vast majority of cases, it's the exact opposite; for instance, a Khan Academy video neither knows nor cares what student is watching it. It works exactly the same for everyone.
Jeb! says some schools have gone to online courses or even require them-- that would be Florida, of course, where the legislature helped make the state's virtual school "successful" by mandating that every student must take an online course to graduate. And then there's this--
Computer-assisted and personalized learning can be particularly effective in closing achievement gaps, especially in math.
Jeb! links "particularly effective" to a site that doesn't actually support that claim, but instead says
Initiatives that expand access to computers and internet alone generally do not improve kindergarten to 12th grade students’ grades and test scores,
Which matches most of the research that says that virtual schooling is disastrously bad.
His big plug is vintage edu-disruptor:
Some might push back against these measures, but the benefits are clear: Such changes would better enable students to learn. They would be better prepared for the learning platforms of college and the workforce. Teachers would be able to deploy more innovative and personalized instructional strategies. Distance learning has the capacity to help students go deeper where their interests take them and get more focused attention in areas where they’re struggling. And Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, dual-enrollment courses and other intensive offerings could be expanded in districts where they are not currently available.
Except that the benefits are NOT clear, or even visible. There is not a shred of evidence that internet education would "better enable students to learn" or be better prepared for college or workplace. Teachers are already innovative and personalized; there's no evidence that the internet would make them more so. What does "distance learning has the capacity to help students go deeper" even mean? The benefit is so tenuously detached from reality that we're going to stick with, "Well, it maybe could happen." Why? What about distance learning positions it for deeper learning? And why would distance learning be more helpful for providing "focused attention" than the "focused attention" of a live human teacher right there with you? The AP/IB baloney is classic ed tech sales pitch-- buy my product, and then you can figure out uses for it.
This is all pretty marketing talk, devoid of facts, distanced from reality. It starts not from a question of "How can we best help students" but "How can we best market our education flavored product."
I would suggest that Jeb! ride back out of town on the horse he rode in on, but, as previously noted, the horse is dead. So instead maybe he could just take a long walk and give the poor expired equine a rest. This is not ed tech's Katrina.