Learning future

Our education system is like “a giant canoe with 50 million students,” says Brian Greenberg of Silicon Schools Fund, which funds blended-learning schools. “We talk about what the canoe is made of and where the teachers should sit, but we don’t give the kids a paddle.”

We should be skeptics about blended learning, he said at the Blended Learning in K-12 conference at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. But “this is different from other reforms.” Blended learning puts students to work, learning at their own pace with digital content at their own level.

In schools that use blended learning, “a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path or pace,” according to the Christensen Institute’s definition.

Summit Public Schools, a growing charter network, students choose how to learn from a “playlist” of programs. “We’re unbundling school not just to the course level but to the concept level, said Summit CEO Diane Tavenner. Students and teachers get immediate, actionable feedback on each student’s progress or problems. “It’s actionable. They have control over it.”

Blended learning could be “transformative,” several panelists said. But it happen quickly or easily. Educators have been talking for decades about teachers becoming “the guide on the side” instead of “the sage on the stage.” But actually doing it . . . ?

Blended learning will require  a new kind of teacher, said Tom Loveless, senior fellow at Brookings’ Brown Center on Education Policy. “But we don’t know how to make this new-fangled teacher.”

Eton — yes, that Eton — is working with educational technology start-ups and piloting digital technology in its ultra-elite classes, reports The Atlantic.  “Nobody knows for sure where this business is going to be in five to ten years’ time. It would be very foolish of us to bury our heads in the sand and assume that education in schools will carry on in the traditional way,” says Percy Harrison, head of information technology at Eton and executive director of the newly-formed Eton Online.