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

Saturday, November 19, 2016

ELOs: How Community-Based Learning Advances the Cyber Education agenda

from Wrench in the Gears
November 19, 2016

This is the third installment in a series on learning ecosystems. For more information see these related posts: “Future Ready” schools and digital badges.

A key tenet of Ed Reform 2.0 is “anytime any place learning.” Detaching education from the normal school day and physical school buildings will permit the transfer of face-to-face classroom instruction to digital platforms. Once implemented, these systems of “personalized learning” will efficiently extract children’s data so their futures can be channeled through black box algorithms, while significantly reducing staff costs since online instructors can theoretically “teach” thousands of children at a time. If reformers were up front about it, “Future Ready Schools” would be a much harder sell. And since they are nothing if not expert at framing their issues, my belief is that they intend to use Extended/Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs) as cover for this planned cyber takeover. Most Americans would never willingly trade neighborhood schools for a chrome book education, but reformers will sell the public on project-based learning in communities while minimizing the central role devices are intended to play. Out-of-School-Time (OST) learning will be presented as a welcome relief, an antidote even, to the harm wrought by No Child Left Behind. It’s all part of the plan, so please don’t be fooled.

ELOs are learning experiences that by definition happen OUTSIDE the classroom. This makes them a perfect foil for digital learning. These learning opportunities, pitched as experiential and hands-on, will readily capture the imaginations of students and parents who have been steamrolled by the test-and-punish system. In selling the 21st Century “redesigned” ecosystem version of education, reformers will play up exciting partnership programs like robotics, filmmaking, and CTE apprenticeships. There will be allusions to educational technology, its importance for 21st century work force skills, but the extent to which this new version of public education relies on adaptive, data-mined modules will be downplayed.

ELOs are vastly different from school-community partnerships of the past. We’re not talking about an organization working closely with a teacher or group of teachers and their classes on a unit of instruction- planning field trips, research opportunities, projects and presentations. This is not about collaboration, organizations coming INTO schools to do their work. No. ELOs are about sending students OUTSIDE schools, individually, to earn credit towards graduation by demonstrating competencies tied to set national standards. While a teacher may work with a student to develop an ELO plan and monitor their progress, they have no instructional role in the process. They are essentially case managers handling the paperwork.

The Afterschool Corporation (TASC) is an ELO proponent. George Soros founded TASC in 1998 with funding from the Open Society Foundations. In 2012 TASC prepared a policy brief entitled “Learn Anytime, Anywhere: Rethinking How Students Earn Credit Beyond School Hours.” The document outlines strategies states can employ to expand opportunities for students to earn credit in alternative settings. Among those recommendations are:

Click here to read the entire article. 


  1. Anonymous4:01 PM

    Newark is an epicenter for under funded, under resourced district public schools. I smiled when I read the line about strange programs appearing in libraries. There are schools in Newark that have thrown entire collections into the garbage utilizing the argument that we now have computers and books are so Twentieth Century. I, personally, am being coerced into abandoning a dialogic approach to read alouds in favor of a tightly teacher controlled presentation. I was recently critiqued for posing too many questions and pointing out too many vocabulary words as I read to my students. The notions of academic freedom and teacher autonomy have gone the way of the typewriter.

    Abigail Shure

  2. I am disgusted when ed-reformers co-opt the language of authentic education practices. Anytime, anywhere learning is a research focus from Carl Dunst's extensive research line in early childhood special education. For many years, Dunst and his research team have empowered parents of infants & young children with disabilities by sharing needs and interest based learning tools. Parents of children with disabilities are taught to embed short,language rich & responsive episodes into everyday activities. http://www.puckett.org/returns_investments_everyday_child_learning_opps.php

    It's a challenge to teach my pre-service pre-k students to separate the noise from the signal.