In today’s world everything is online – all aspects of our personal and professional life seem to include aspects of technology, yet it has been difficult to incorporate technology in the classroom.
K12 CEO Ron Packard believes that “education may be the only way to achieve a more equal and just society–and a more robust and globally competitive economy.” He details his view of the landscape and opportunity set in his new book, Education Transformation: How K-12 Online Learning is bringing the greatest change to education in 100 years.
Packard quotes A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Education Reform saying “the education tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.” He suggests that it is our job to ensure future generations have an education system that is at pace with the rest of the world. Packard continues saying, “schools throughout the country have not adequately incorporated the advances in how technology can deliver information, communicate, respond and shape learning. The ineffective use of technology has left education behind in the enormous productivity gains the US economy has achieved over the past twenty-five to fifty years.”
Making a very simple argument for how technology could and should be implemented in the classroom Packard states “technology is changing how curricula are delivered, how students and teachers interact, how progress is monitored, and how different methods of learning can be accommodated”. This idea can also be replicated at scale as Packard explains “we can now customize and individualize education without hiring armies of tutors, and this can be achieved at scale”
Packard points out that “after healthcare, public education is the largest single part of our economy and of government expenditures, accounting for over $500 billion in expenditures.” He also believes that “technology will put an end to one-size-fits-all schooling” and even with money being spent, it is very difficult to establish change because to make large strides there must be policy changes at a state and federal level. Most importantly what tends to be overlooked when policy is created is what is actually best for the children. When discussing the constituencies and amount of adults involved in the policy making, he says “sometimes their desires align with what’s best for student learning, and sometimes they don’t”.
To really make a difference the government must encourage public and private competition within the education system. Both have a lot to offer and can provide innovations and scalability that have not existed before to bring better solutions to the classrooms.
Packard stated in a recent Q & A with Getting Smart, “Core courses for most students will be blended but I think most electives will go online. As I note in my book, that will allow many communities to double shift schools significantly reducing the need for new facilities.”
Packard also believes technology is not going to replace teachers; it will help them do their job more efficiently and effectively. “Based on our blended learning program in Chicago called K12 Passport, a drop-out recovery program for at risk students, we think self–paced learning in a supportive environment will have a big effect on reducing the number of high school dropouts,” said Packard. “Students can get out of an environment they have and we can surgically repair the transcript. They benefit from 15 hours per week of onsite academic support, guidance and social services.”
Eventually policies will change and there will be many new types of learning offered to students, i.e., virtual schools, charter schools, more flex learning opportunities in the classroom (as noted in the book, bills were passed in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Chicago). Packard is also optimistic about reaching an online global community, and that online learning will assist in adapting to common core curriculum requirements.
Packard will be proved right about the reach and impact of digital learning but it may take a little longer than he suggests. Well-supported teachers and advances in technology will decrease the U.S. dropout rates and boost achievement.
K12 is a Getting Smart Advocacy partner.