Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Blended Learning

There's a piece in the New York Post that pretty much confirms everyone's worst suspicions about so-called blended learning. Actually, this particular brand does not appear to have been blended very well at all. In fact, it sounds like the very worst sort of credit recovery, and I only wish it were restricted to that which the story describes.

How many of us have seen or heard of kids getting on computers, answering a few questions, and somehow getting credit for courses they'd failed? You answer A, B, C or D, maybe get it wrong, and maybe answer again. Or maybe you sit with the book and look it up. More likely, you find a smart girlfriend to do it for you. Actually, if you're smart enough  to look up the information, you're probably smart enough to avoid taking the makeup computer thing anyway. Still, the story describes students paying other students 80 bucks to sit at the computer.

80 bucks seems like a lot of money for a high school kid to pay. What on earth is the kid learning by doing such a thing? Certainly nothing I want my kid to learn at school. I'm not a big fan of cheating. I discourage it actively in my class. Of course if my class were designed to restore credit in a multitude of subjects for no particular reason, I might have a different outlook. And of course, if I let kids take tests at home, on or off computer, it would be tough to imagine resulting grades as remotely reliable.

I've actually been at presentations where people introduced blended learning concepts that were interesting. But it's clear to me that the bottom-feeders at the DOE liked it because it enabled them to hire fewer teachers, never a good idea for kids in need of role models. It's even clearer to me that desperate administrators won't hesitate to use it to improve their stats.

When Mike Bloomberg places guns to the heads of principals and says he needs higher graduation rates, he places them in a tough spot. Public school principals can't go all charter school and dump the kids they deem likely to fail. In fact, once the charters shed those inconvenient children, the public school principals with guns at their heads not only have to take them, but also have to figure out how not to have them hurt their graduation rates.

So what do you do? Have the kids sit in front of the computer, award them credits, and it's a win-win!

Except for the kids, of course. What do they learn? They certainly don't learn whatever their original teachers had in mind. But they do learn that failure is no problem. If you fail, you just sit at a computer, or get someone else to do it, or pay someone else to do it, and whether or not you've learned anything is of no consequence whatsoever.

After all, college is full of papers, and there are a million places you can buy them. Sometimes those places put ads in the comments section and I zap them. I want kids in my class to really learn English, to be able to communicate, to be able to go out on the streets and get what they want and need. I want them to love the language and I want them to use it. The notion that passing some test on a computer could show me that is simply ridiculous.

Computers are a great tool. I love computers, and obviously I'm sitting at one right now. But people who think they take the place of teachers, people, or learning need to have their hard drives examined.
blog comments powered by Disqus