Thursday, July 23, 2009

Innovation or Nightmare

This New York Times article describes a summer program for middle schoolers where lesson plans are generated by computer algorithm. On the one hand, it sounds like many of the kids are enjoying the computer games that teach math.  On the other hand, this seems like a scary prospect of kids sitting in front of a computer all day.  Yes, the lessons are tailored to each student, which I think is a good thing and a good use of technology, but there seems to be little real interaction with the teachers or with other students.  Though the article mentions small group activity and lessons with the teacher, it's unclear how much of that actually occurs.  There's the suggestion, in fact, that fewer teachers are needed.

For now, the curriculum is focused on math, because there are materials--quizzes and games and whatnot--already available. There's no mention of how they'd do language arts or social studies.  Would they just have online quizzes?  What about discussing a book? Blogging about it? I'm not opposed to using computer quizzes to test skills and basic facts, but those don't necessarily indicate a full understanding of the material.  That's one of the problems with state tests now; they test things that can be memorized not the understanding of the concepts behind those facts.  It may be that this curriculum is being supported through discussions and writing and other kinds of engagement, but that's not the impression I got, and frankly, this scares even my technophile self.

Cross posted at Emerging Technologies Consulting