Andrew S. Clark is the Founder, Chief Executive Officer, and President of Bridgepoint Education and also runs two accredited universities, Ashford University and University of the Rockies. He has written a blog that suggests that K12 schools, instead of being well behaved with their desks in a row, really needs some disruptive behavior or at least some disruptive technologies to shake things up in a positive way in the classroom.
Clark writes that the technology that has gone into the business world like smart phones and web conferencing have changed American business for the good. They have been disruptive forces that have shaken up the establishment in a positive way. Smartphones can do much of what a computer can, for a lot less cost and much greater convenience. Web conferencing saves money and time and lends immediacy to the collaboration of a business.
But technology has been slow to influence K-12 schools. Clark notes, “Fair or unfair, education technology has been more heavily scrutinized than virtually every other aspect of society where technology has been introduced.” And he suggests that perhaps this has happened because people are uneasy revolutionizing school through commercial ventures, not pedagogical ventures.
While K-20 education is being asked to do more with less in these tough economic times, it is very possible that well integrated, well utilized technology could be the environment that gets more done with less money.
The role of education technology is different in the K-12 schools than in a college course. Clark reminds us that a Department of Education study found that online learning was only a little bit more effective than the students’ traditional learning. He acknowledges that online learning is not the “endgame” for what ails the American K-12 schools, but it is still a very important part of the answer.
Digital textbooks have a great future in both K-12 and university education. The Federal Communications Commission did a study of digital textbooks entitled, Digital Textbook Playbook, to help teachers and administrators understand the possibilities and requirements for digital textbooks. This includes understanding broadband and learning from other schools’ digital experiences. From all of this the FCC anticipates that learning speeds can increase by 30 to 80%, and digital textbooks can save about $600 a year per student.
We have known that the digital textbook is an engaging textbook, but now the digital textbook also makes predictive analytics possible. Predictive analytics is a statistical method that is used in a variety of ways from game theory to machine learning. In education it can be used to understand how the student is learning. The digital textbook makes it possible for the teacher to understand the student’s learning patterns. Recently the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $1 million grant for research into the use of predictive analytics to better understand student learning.
Andrew S. Clark ends his blog by acknowledging that technology will not replace teachers. Excellent teachers are vitally important and perhaps even more important in a technology environment. “But, we need a simultaneous broad technology push to give our educators the tools to be successful, from K-12 to the university level. Market forces in digitally-integrated learning equate to better outcomes and affordability. Just as disruptive advances further society, students and the broader approach to education will benefit from disruptive technology. Our education system could use the shake-up.”