Tuesday, October 4, 2011

National Standards Won't Help, Won't Work

So says the doom-and-gloom columnist Jay Mathews in last week's Washington Post. He brings up the lovely idea from Sir Ken Robinson on how schools kill creativity, only this time, he pinpoints the national standards. Citing another columnist, Mathews says that national standards are neither exciting nor profitable enough to sustain interest, but the largest reason is that they "stifle innovation" that is a result of digital education.

Clearing up a misconception: there is no clear data on whether or not online instruction is particularly effective, any more or less than face-to-face. Most studies indicate that blended learning (a combination of online and face-to-face) holds the most promise, but there is still scant evidence to support across-the-board implementation. In a 94-page study of all of the research and literature on online learning thus far, several key findings are important to keep in mind:

The main finding from the literature review was that students participating in online learning did only moderately better than face-to-face learners, and few rigorous studies of the effectiveness of online learning have been published. Additionally, blended learning environments produced better results than straight online work, and students who were led by an instructor online did better than students who worked completely independently. There were more findings from the Department of Duh, such as the fact that different learners will have different results, but overall, there have not been any significant studies that demonstrate online learning's vast superiority.

So while I agree wholeheartedly with Sir Ken, please don't throw the instructor out with the chalkboard. National standards are not what is killing schools; politicians and egos are killing schools. If we are busy pointing fingers, let's aim them where they belong: at people who are not now nor have been been in a classroom for any length of time and yet presume to tell schools what is best for them (like the meddling maiden aunt who tells you how to raise your kids).  There are no quick fixes, and slapping a technological Band-aid on the sucking chest wound of schools is pretty much the same as assuming that a set of national standards will magically raise us up. Now THAT is creative thinking!

No comments:

Post a Comment