Joel Klein’s Edu-Cojones

Today we raise our collective wine boxes to a man who has the biggest, boldest edu-cojones in the business. Reader: meet Joel Klein, former NYC schools Chancellor turned edu-preneur—and most definitely turning a profit. When last we encountered Mr. Klein he’d just finished sounding the alarm bell about the greatest national security threat our country faces: our union-stifled public schools. But there is good news, reader. Joel Klein has now figured out the solution to the national security threat of our time—and it turns out to be the very edu-product that Klein himself is peddling.

You see, Mr. Klein heads up a company called Amplify, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which aims to “disrupt” the K-12 education market by selling a bazillion open source tablet computers to school districts around the country. But how can our cash-strapped schools afford to spend the $17 billion of the $700 billion education market that Klein believes rightfully belongs to Amplify? That’s status quo thinking, reader. The real innovators and edu-preneurs understand that these cash cows failing public schools can’t afford NOT TO hand over the dough.

Klein outlined an American educational system—one teacher in a room of 25 kids, using minimal, if any, new technology—that he said not only fails students but “is a national security issue,” emphasizing that “if we don’t see a dramatic change to using technology in classes, the country won’t go forward.”

What will our new state-of-the art classrooms look like?  In his presentation at the UBS Global Media and Communication Conference, Klein helpfully supplied some before and after shots. Union-stifled, innovation deprived public schools look like this (note bored expression on the face of front row minority student, leading to achievement gaps and national security threats).

Amplify that classroom though and things start to get pretty excellent and innovative pretty quickly:

That’s some blended learning all right. See how engaged front row minority student is now??? Crushing the achievement gap and solving the national security threat of our time turns out to be as easy as writing Joel Klein and Amplify a big phat check.

We’ve now reached the question and answer portion of our presentation. Let’s start with the obvious one: does blended learning, aka paying teachers less in order to buy tablets actually work? Mr. Klein?

“We know this stuff works,” [Klein] said, “students are engaged and learn quicker,” when digital technology is integrated into the learning process.

Sounds good. What about school districts that have doubts about redirecting scarce resources into the coffers of for-profit companies like Amplify?

 Klein said technology is “saving money,” and that “school systems want this.”

Last but not least, how do I know that newly engaged minority student isn’t just playing Angry Birds on his achievement-boosting tablet?

On the teacher side, Klein continued, the tablet lets the instructor see who is absent and present—attendance at the touch of a button—and can create instant chat rooms for class discussion, as well as allow teachers to lock out distractions—they can spot who’s playing Angry Birds when they should be reading—or takeover all the screens in the classroom when necessary. “We think we’re positioned well to build a fresh business model,” Klein said.


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  1. My school has recently issued iPads to all students. Thus far, I have not seen a bigger hindrance to learning and engagement. Even when one integrates technology most of the time, students are unable to lure themselves away from the distractions of angry birds and other games. Indeed, it would be necessary to co-opt the screens almost all the time in order to really utilize these tools effectively. Furthermore, note Klein hasn’t mentioned the other necessary costs, like upgrading the school’s wifi capabilities, etc. Moreover, Klein also hasn’t remarked upon the need for teacher’s to have additional planning time so that they might create materials and use tech tools in a most effective way. It doesn’t behoove the students much for their teachers to be able to say create textbooks tailored to their needs and interests if teachers don’t actually have the time to do so.Finally, this also doesn’t address the issue of students not having wifi at home, thereby making it difficult to do the assignments and fully utilize the technology. Thus, it seems to me that in our rush to use the newest and shiniest tools, we forgot to take the time to really think about how they should be implemented and to prepare for them.

  2. Einstein quote:

    “I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”

    Teaching is a human interaction based upon relationships and building relationships. Setting up rows of children staring at tablets is not progress.

    Poor Joel….he has chosen to $chlep for Rupert, the man whose company is responsible for hacking into the cell phone of a murdered missing 13 year old girl. And they want to track our children’s school records? Disgusting!

  3. Even college students go off-task in courses equipped with computers, iPads, etc. The policing that is built into Amplify can be readily addressed by the teacher when teaching from the back of the class or periodically walking behind students to see what they’re doing. And why would you want to use chat rooms in class when you can talk to people in person. Or is that another ploy to make teachers work with kids after school hours, when they’re off the clock and not getting paid? I wonder how much of HIS non-paid personal time he regularly donates to his job.

    Another know-it-all faux educator whose is really only about being “positioned well to build a fresh business model” so he can cash in on kids.

  4. Funny how scientists who spent their school days sitting in desks that were lined up in rows, round-robin reading out of textbooks, practicing penmanship, and with 2 recesses a day managed to put a man on the moon. And they even got him back alive.

    The question for us is: how do we stop these current looters from getting to the tax money?

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