I recently read a fascinating NPR article called “Meet the Classroom of the Future.” It describes the experience of a sixth grade class in Brooklyn, NY as they implement blended learning in an effort to increase student scores. The article defines “blended learning” as “combination of human capital and technology” in a classroom.
Here are three excerpts from the article I thought were interesting:
“Beneath all the human buzz, something other than humans is running the show: algorithms. The kind of complex computer calculations that drive our Google searches or select what we see on our Facebook pages. Algorithms choose which students sit together. Algorithms measure what the children know and how well they know it. They choose what problems the children should work on and provide teachers with the next lesson to teach. This combination of human capital and technology is called “blended learning.” And regardless of whether it makes you uneasy, the program, Teach to One, seems to be serving Boody Jr. High well. A recent study of the 15 schools using Teach to One, had mixed results, but showed they are outperforming their peers nationally on average.”
“When these sixth graders get to class, they either log onto their laptop or check a monitor at the front of the room. It tells each student where to go — the room is quasi-divided by book shelves and small dividers into 10 sections… The computer also tells them what kind of lesson they’ll do.”
“Whether [the students have understood the lesson] or not, the algorithm will ultimately find out. At the end of class the kids do a short quiz called an “exit slip,” which the algorithm uses to gauge what they’ve learned. In five questions, this exit slip gives the algorithm the information it uses to decide which students will be grouped together the next day, and what work each of them will do. In a sixth-grade class, in theory, students might be working on everything from 4th grade level math to 8th grade level math. Around 5 p.m. every day, teachers get an alert telling them how students will be grouped and what lessons they’ll need to teach.”
This concept of blended learning is very interesting. As the article indicates, there are many pros and cons. One of the main concerns is that these algorithms end up teaching to standardized tests. I haven’t researched the idea enough to have a solid opinion for or against. The article ends with this sentence: “What remains unclear is the point at which standardization begins to take away from those other educational hallmarks: creativity and critical thinking.”
What do you think of this idea? Let me know in the comments below! :-)