"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, September 25, 2016

From Neighborhood Schools to Learning Eco-Systems, A Dangerous Trade

If we hope to preserve neighborhood schools for future generations we must recognize how reformers are reframing the idea of public education in dangerous new ways. A coordinated campaign of ALEC legislation, philanthropic investments, and slick re-branding is underway with the ultimate goal of replacing school buildings and certified, human teachers with decentralized, unregulated learning eco-systems and non-credentialed mentors and/or AI “tutors.”

It is a challenging concept to grasp. Therefore, I have decided to work on a series of posts. Taken together, I hope they will provide a base of information that people can share with others. This initial post will provide a framework for understanding the concept of a learning eco-system. Subsequent ones will cover: school redesign, digital badging, credit-bearing ELOs, Social Impact Bond financing, and changes to teacher training/hiring.

What is a learning eco-system?

Proponents of a data-driven, technology-mediated approach to public education see 21st-century learning as a “quest” in which participants diligently work to assemble proof that they’ve obtained the assorted skills and bits of knowledge they need to compete for jobs that pay a living wage. Rather than a humanistic approach that values individual creativity and civic discourse, the focus is on gathering data and shaping children to become standardized cogs in service of the global economy. The intent is to maintain the status quo, not to develop thinkers who might tip the apple cart and create a future that better serves the needs of the masses. Screen time trumps face time.

By shifting how we think about education-from a human process that happens within a community of learners to a game in which students demonstrate standards and accumulate badges-reformers aim to move much of the  K12 education process out of physical school buildings where face-to-face interaction is the primary mode of instruction, and into virtual classrooms, game environments, cultural institutions, and work settings. This is how they will attempt to replace neighborhood schools with learning eco-systems.

Click here to read the entire article at Wrench in Gears.


  1. So few people acknowledge that we all learn and borrow from others. I have Douglas Noble's "Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation" sitting on my desk at this moment, so I'm especially pleased to see this honor paid to him & his brother and the updating of their work to our own perilous condition.

  2. Anonymous1:50 PM

    I read about this story on a blog. A very short story about a computer school vs human school. Isaac Asimov figured it all out in the 1950s.