Transforming education via the Common Core national standards doesn’t come cheap. It was reported recently that California has spent about $578 million on technology to implement the standards. California taxpayers might wonder why they’re having to fork over such enormous sums when their previous state standards were indisputably better than Common Core, but then California taxpayers may be too beaten down to object.
Implemented properly (or “with fidelity,” as the current tagline goes), Common Core requires technology for “digital” or “personalized” learning. Common Core is a blueprint for competency-based education (CBE), which essentially means the old, discredited Outcome-Based Education. With OBE/CBE, schools are to focus not on teaching academic knowledge but rather on inculcating in each student “21st-century skills,” including communication, collaboration, and digital literacy. CBE is more effectively implemented through digital platforms that train each student to cough up the response that, in their subjectivity, the platforms want, and that can keep tabs on which of these “competencies” each student has achieved. As EdWeek reports, “new technologies are giving rise to more powerful and detailed information systems that can help track students at the level of granularity that CBE requires.”
As part of their CBE focus, the Common Core standards dictate specific content-free technology skills for students at different grade levels. Third-graders, for example, should “use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic,” and seventh-graders should “compare and contrast a written story . . . to its . . . multimedia version . . . .” Thus, the money-dump into the ed-tech companies that (surprise!) promote Common Core.
The result is articles about the glories of digital learning, with students glued to their screens. The CIO of a metro-Atlanta school district dismisses books and teaching methods that use them: “[Students] expect to be presented with information, content, dialogue, interactivity, and even entertainment. Anything less is boring for most kids . . . .” While making the obligatory nod toward good teachers, this CIO parrots the ed-tech line: “Instructor-led teaching is often dry because it does not engage students in multiple modes.”
We won’t dwell on the many dangers of increasing children’s screen time; that’s fodder for a more in-depth column. Instead, let’s examine another angle, provided by a Utah teacher who explains how this digital learning really plays out in the classroom.
In a recent blog post, Suzan Barnes describes a multitude of problems that teachers, students, and parents face with digital learning. One is that teachers tend to be cut out of the learning process:
Emmett McGroarty is the American Principles Project’s Director of Education. Jane Robbins is an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principles Project.