​How Realistic is Silicon Valley’s Vision of Personalized Learning?

Personalized Learning

​How Realistic is Silicon Valley’s Vision of Personalized Learning?

Feb 6, 2017

NOT YOUR MAMA’S HIGH SCHOOL: Last week The Financial Times asked: “Can Silicon Valley really hack education?” (There’s a paywall, but getting there through a Google search may work.) The author looks at schools across northern California for answers: from the Tahoe Expedition Academy in California’s ski country to Summit Public School and AltSchool near the heart of Silicon Valley. Tying them together, of course, is the “personalized” software developed and funded by the likes of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and their fellow technologists.

These schools allow students to design elaborate projects that reflect their interests, as well as learn basic skills through personalized computer exercises. For many in Silicon Valley, the model represents the future of education. “Rote learning is done — computers can do that,” a parent at the Tahoe Expedition Academy tells the publication. “The kids are going to have to have the interpersonal skills to work in groups, to communicate well, be creative, arrive at an answer in many different ways.”

But how realistic is this reinvention of learning for the millions of students living outside this privileged area? The schools featured in the piece, which offer robotics, 3D printers and kayaking trips down to the Mexican border, currently cater to the few and the wealthy. They’re “unrepresentative” of the country, the author acknowledges. Among the other hurdles to making the Valley’s vision a widespread reality: privacy concerns, teacher unions’ skepticism, and, not the least of all, “Silicon Valley hubris.”

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