“No more pencils. No more books. No more teacher’s dirty looks.”

15 02 2012

Perhaps it’s time for me to go back to what first made this blog marginally popular: making fun of overenthusiastic educational technology articles written by people who know nothing about how education actually works. This may be the most absurd example of that genre that I’ve ever seen:

What we’re witnessing is a bottom-up revolution in education: Learners, not institutions, are leading innovation.

Because we know that learners already know everything they need to know about what they’re learning, why shouldn’t they decide how best to teach what they’re learning too? [Read that last sentence slowly again and you’ll see that it actually makes sense. Just remember that it’s sarcasm.]

Everybody thinks they know more about teaching than teachers. That’s why people like this think that social media will save us all:

Students are taking responsibility for their own learning, and the lines between student and teacher are blurring. Learners can determine their strengths and weaknesses and connect with one another to help and teach each other based on their areas of expertise–all they need is Facebook and Twitter.

Teachers? We don’t need no stinking teachers. We have each other, and we’ll Google everything that our friends and followers don’t know already.

The more I think about it, the more all this talk about credentialing and competencies strikes me as the natural step after online courses. First you claim that everything students need to know can be supplied through the web. Next, you deny that students need to take any courses at all:

The education paradigm of the future is all about the doers, not the academics or theorists. A paper degree won’t stand a chance against action. Start your own company, build a website, organize an event, get a side project, and you’ll make it. The accreditation of today is a powerful hybrid of tangible evidence of hands-on learning and social proof. Those who “course correct,” so to speak, and let their passion and personal interests drive their self-powered knowledge acquisition, will succeed because of the portfolios of evidence they’ll naturally build as they learn by doing. Those who mentor and partner with them will endorse their credibility and provide the final link of trust.

It’s bad enough when self-interested ed tech entrepreneurs degrade our contributions to education. It’s even worse when we do the same thing to ourselves:

Cathy Davidson, visiting from Duke University, said every professor who can be replaced by a computer screen should be – a comment several audience members immediately tweeted.

I’m pretty sure she meant that every professor who deserves to be replaced by a computer screen should be, but that’s a distinction without a difference when there are a bunch of Crazy Harries around who want to blow up schools everywhere. Collateral damage is inevitable.

But damage to faculty is hardly the most important problem here. Once you blow something up, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to put the pieces back together again when you inevitably decide that market values might not be the best criteria by which to judge the value of an education after all.

School’s out…of money.




6 responses

16 02 2012
The Failed Crop of the Online Education Harvest « Political Ennui

[…] article “Does the Online Education Revolution Mean the Death of the Diploma?” by More or Less Bunk.  Bunk, sarcastically says that: Because we know that learners already know everything they need […]

19 02 2012
Best Reads of the Week 2-19 « Political Ennui

[…] “No more pencils. No more books. No more teacher’s dirty looks.” […]

20 02 2012
Political Ennui

[…] to recent thread More or Less Bunk, and I have had on online education, I think this excerpt was […]

16 03 2012
You’re going to miss grading when it’s gone. « More or Less Bunk

[…] I explained the last time I mentioned Cathy Davidson, I find her total obliviousness to the collateral damage these kinds of changes will cause […]

6 07 2012
Here fishy, fishy, fishy. « More or Less Bunk

[…] At about 7 minutes and thirty seconds in on that Ted Talk, Scott Young off-handedly mentions “remembering facts, which is of course what learning is.” If that were true, then yeah MOOCs really could substitute for college. I think this is precisely what Cathy Davidson means when she said that any professor who can be replaced by a computer should be. […]

27 07 2014
What happens if you lose control of your own courses? | More or Less Bunk

[…] “No more pencils. No more books. No more teacher’s dirty looks.” The whole thing has the feel of some kind of teenage revenge fantasy against educators everywhere, but it still makes perfect sense. If textbooks have ambitions to be courses and MOOCs have ambitions to be used like textbooks, what’s left for the professors to do then? If we faculty let this happen all in the name of our own convenience, then we have nobody but ourselves to blame. […]

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