Thoughts on Liberating Learning: Technology on All Fronts
In this chapter of Liberating Learning, the authors introduce some applications of technology that they believe will transform U.S. public education. The central examples are: an online charter school, charter schools that incorporate a few hours of computer use into the traditional school day, and computer programs that track student achievement and predict state test results.
Each of these examples has made its mark on a tiny segment of the education market. We’ll have to wait to see which of them will change public schooling more broadly. I expect online charter schools like the one discussed in this chapter, as well as online schools run by states and traditional districts, to have the greatest effect on the education market as a whole.
Here’s why: Online schools give parents a choice, and they potentially compete with all the public schools in a wide area. That means they affect many students besides the ones who actually take classes. It’s like when a new brick-and-mortar charter school comes to town, and the neighboring schools have to work harder to retain students. The difference is that an online school could attract students from across a whole state, so it provides instant competition in every district.
Using computers more effectively within a traditional school is beneficial for the students already enrolled, but it does little for the rest of the market. The authors of Liberating Learning expect other schools to respond as parents demand accountability, but unless parents can make a credible threat that they’ll leave, schools have little reason to respond to their demands.