Putting the ‘i’ in School

Have You Heard Episode #20: Personalized Learning and the Disruption of Public Education

Fantastic news, listener. The cure for what ails our long failing public schools has finally been found and it’s personalized learning! Except that as our special guest, Bill Fitzgerald, breaks down for us, a more accurate term for this miracle cure-all is *algorithmically-mediated learning, which is about as appealing as it sounds.This episode of Have You Heard looks at what’s behind the huge push to reshape public education along *personalized* lines, why disrupters like Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates and Reed Hastings would do well to revisit the history of #edtech, and the strange bedfellows aligned behind personalized learning, including advocates of religious education (see DeVos, Betsy) who seek to control the content of what kids learn. It’s Have You Heard #20! Note: complete transcript of the episode is available here.


  1. It is interesting to note that the last great technological advance in education, moveable type that created the ability to inexpensively reproduce the written word, has become so popular that early education focuses on giving children the ability to access that technology.

    Perhaps the new computer based technology will result in something similar, where teaching students to properly access the technology will be central for education in the future.

  2. The discussion here has nothing to do with access. The essential problem is an idea that computers can replace teachers. It’s a narrow view of how humans learn that excludes the full context of social-psychological processes. No surprise, given many of these guys in Silicon Valley don’t really like people. Compounding the problem is the business community’s lack of respect for the teaching profession.

    Access and functionality, on the other hand, have been a problem ever since edu-reformers via legal mandates required schools to buy every kiddo a lap top or tablet. The US does not have the necessary infrastructure to support the massive tech dump. Scaling up tech access is impossible without infrastructure upgrades.

    1. I suspect that people once thought that the inexpensive printed book would replace teachers as students could be independent of the oral tradition. As it turns out, society determined that being able to access the written word was so important that we greatly expanded the number of teachers in large part to give the population access to the printed word.

      I think that education in the future will use a variety of communication technologies. The now standard oral and written communication technologies will remain important, but a variety of media made possible by the IT revolution will have as big an impact on teaching as the discovery inexpensive printing.

      It may take some time and more effort by the wealthy to give people access to these communication technologies. Andrew Carnegie built the first library in my town, and perhaps yours. The folks in the valley are following in his footsteps in this regard.

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