The Educator And The Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges The Gates Foundation by Anthony Cody

Part III: Gates’ Education Dystopia

15. Wiring Our Students With Galvanic Response Bracelets?

  • Here we encounter galvanic response bracelets and classroom cameras to monitor student engagement and potentially teacher effectiveness. As a technocrat Gates sees technology and science as providing answers to all of the problems we face. What he doesn’t seem to consider are potential downsides. The analogy here is to Jurassic Park. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

16. Bill Gates’ TED Talk: Are Video Cameras the Missing Link?

  • Anthony and Gates both believe that teachers need more feedback. Gates would have cameras in every room while Anthony would like to see more time for teachers to work and plan together. With his focus on tests that feature a very narrow spectrum of achievement Gates differs from Anthony who seeks a broader range of opportunities for students and teachers.

17. Dystopia: A Possible Future of Teacher Evaluation

  • This future is one where all teachers teach the same lessons using plans developed by the vendors who make the tests. All lessons are recorded and outsourced to vendors for evaluation purposes. Students spend most of their time engaged in self-paced lessons provided online. All student data is stored in one large database that companies and administrators can access. Teachers whose kids score lower get to watch videos of teachers whose kids scored higher. If they don’t improve they are fired.

18. Are Education Innovators Channeling B. F. Skinner?

  • Teaching machines like to ones pushed by current reformers were envisioned by B. F. Skinner sixty six years ago. (Watch the video below to see B. F. Skinner in 1954.) While they have their place, they shouldn’t be allowed to take over too much learning time as there are places that only good teachers can take kids that scripts and rules cannot. Computers can be used as tools that expand what students can create. Students need projects, hands-on learning, debates, and conversations. They want arts and technology and working in groups.

19. Are MOOCs Missing the Mark?

  • MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses and Gates sees them taking over traditional instruction as all-star professors will be the only ones students will want to watch. This doesn’t seem to be happening as the low completion rates will attest. They are also impersonal and only seem to work for the most dedicated students. (Doug: It tried one once and found the required assignments to be tedious. I also think that a lot of people find it easy to stop since they didn’t pay for the course. You are more likely to finish if you have skin in the game.)

20. The Classroom of the Future: Student-Centered or Device-Centered?

  • It is possible to take a course totally online that is completely automated and a number of such products exist. There is also the flipped classroom model where students watch videos and take quizzes at their own pace and get help from the teacher when they need it. Anthony sees a place for device-based learning, but he cautions against relying on it too much.

21. Is Common Core Creating the Code for a Computerized Education System?

  • It is possible for a computer system to capture every keystroke from every student and to walk them through standardized instruction based on the Common Core. There is a long list of important skills and abilities, however, that students need to develop if they wish to succeed that can’t be taught by such a system. Twenty-one are listed here including creativity, critical thinking, self-awareness, leadership, and compassion.
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