Thursday, February 2, 2017

The EdTech Experiment Continues

            50 years ago, the idea of learning any subject without a professor and a physical textbook seemed simply impossible, because it essentially was. The world has progressed in a way that has not only allowed for many educational tools to be accessed online, but also for programs to be coded so that students all around the world can learn new subjects in their own environment. This past fall, a new education program fused technology with the learning experience any sixth grade student would receive, in thought. The public school system in Silicon used New Classrooms, an online ‘personalized curriculum’ created by Microsoft, for the fall of 2016-17. Currently, The Mountain View’s school district has put the startup education program on hold after complaints regarding the program.
            This idea of online education has inspired multiple companies to begin building corporations that focus on meeting the students’ needs. The educational world has also addressed this idea with open arms. However, being able to create a single program that can fit the needs of a diverse number of students seems difficult, and that’s why these programs are so hard to implement. The Mountain View school district noticed that some of the programs actually displayed technical glitches, which cannot happen in a learning environment.
            Personally, New Classrooms can’t expect to compete with a school system at such a low level. Sixth grade students aren’t mature enough to manage their online progress by themselves. At this young of an age, teachers are there because they can guide students academically, physically, and emotionally. A computer program cannot achieve the same goal. To add on, attending school is viewed as a tool for developing young minds into accountable students. It seems highly unlikely that any student would learn attributes such as being on time and being respectful in front of others.        
As far as the future goes, it’s certainly possible that these programs will become more relevant. According to the Dow Jones VentureSource, around $2 billion have been invested in some form of EdTech company in 2015 and 2016. This suggests that there are people out there that believe in this company. I just think that it’s hard for a company as sophisticated as New Classroom to target sixth graders. This seems like they chose the wrong market to invest in. At the same time, I also feel like they went to the right part of the United States. As Alan Wessel, a bio tech employee and mathematics Ph.D., states, “you’d think that of all the places, Silicon Valley would be an ideal place” implying that if these programs are going to be successful, this would be the first place to do so.
Lastly, from a different perspective, the world needs teachers. Jobs aren’t given out every day, and consumer tech has cut out enough of the work force. If this is going to continue, then the education world has to manage the integration of technology with professionals such as teachers.


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