[ExI] big rip in education

spike at rainier66.com spike at rainier66.com
Fri Mar 1 17:46:07 UTC 2019



From: extropy-chat <extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org> On Behalf Of William Flynn Wallace
Subject: Re: [ExI] big rip in education



>…Whatever happened to programmed learning, with each student sitting at a computer and following along at his rate and taking tests at his own rate? (lots of small ones which point at a problem and refer back to that subject) 



It is already in practice.  Your question is a pretty good description of Summit Learning’s PLP.


>…First suggested by B F Skinner, I think…


Is it not astonishing how long it has taken to put this into practice?  The experiments were many, but this PLP was the first one these local schools have embraced.


>…The teacher wanders around the room helping students get over a hump in their work.  bill w 


Ja, a guide on the side, rather than a sage on the stage.  That is how they are doing it.  However… there is a significant minority of student who do not or cannot learn effectively that way.  They need interaction with a live teacher realtime.  Their progress quickly grinds to a halt, the teacher deals with them individually when (s)he is available, the plod and wait, while the eagles soar.


Result: educationally, the rich get richer.  As the educationally super rich get better and better at using the available (and rapidly expanding) resources, these super rich get crazy rich.  This is the big rip in education that plenty of us are witnessing, but none of us have any particular insights into how to deal with it.  BillW, you are a professor.  Please offer insights sir.



>…(sorry to hear about the Ted talk - still think you have something to offer)…


If I can get some real insight into where the educational big rip leads and how to deal with it, I may still go ahead with the pitch at some point.


Here’s a fun take on the whole big rip angle.  These online resources are available to eeeeverybody.  The best ones are free (thanks Sal Khan (of course they cheerfully accept donations to Khan Academy (I have given them a few hundred bucks and offered two videos (but he has given me value I would conservatively estimate in the tens of thousands (at least (and if you do or don’t, go look around in Khan Academy online (it’s free.))))))) 




For fun, check out Sal Khan’s book One World Schoolhouse:




For even more fun, see if you can find a first edition, before Sal took out some of that fun slightly politically incorrect stuff (which isn’t in the PDF above (no I won’t lend you my hard copy (they have gotten too hard to find (and I have already given away two first editions to local principals.))))


We are so accustomed to the rich (money rich) having access to the best schools, the best teachers, the best opportunities in general.  Now I would argue that the best educational opportunities are online, available to anyone who wants to go in and gobble it up like a ravenous PacMan.  Plenty of the PLP superstars come from the lower socio-economic ranks.  Our local library offers free WiFi, and a ChromeBook can be had for a few bucks used over at the Salvation Army.  The very poor don’t really get rich (yet) but they can get really smart.















On Fri, Mar 1, 2019 at 9:26 AM <spike at rainier66.com <mailto:spike at rainier66.com> > wrote:



From: extropy-chat <extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org <mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org> > On Behalf Of John Clark


On Thu, Feb 28, 2019 at 4:10 PM Dylan Distasio <interzone at gmail.com <mailto:interzone at gmail.com> > wrote:


 > > I'm not interested in equality of outcome at the expense of all else. 


>… it might lead to a more peaceful civilization if the wealth gap were to stop growing or at least stop accelerating?...John K Clark



I recently set up a Ted Talk on what could be titled the Big Rip in Education, but after thinking it through, decided to decline the opportunity.  I realized the intended audience already knew (better than I do) the problems and challenges.  I only talking about embracing the problem, but wasn’t offering any solutions.


John talks a lot about the coming big rip in economic status, a model which holds some merit one might suppose.  The span of wealth ownership is increasing.  I differ from John in that the big resentment I see isn’t on the part of those at the bottom, but rather on the part of those in the middle: millionehhhs hate billionehhhs.  Shrugs.  I don’t have anything against them.


My aborted TED talk was about how we are seeing a big rip in education as more and better online materials come available.  There is an ever widening gulf between the students who use it effectively vs those who do not.  Before I expand further on that, I will comment that we are seeing the same thing in other areas in which I am involved: Boy Scouts, Science Olympiad and American Math Competition.  All of these areas are experiencing big rips, which I may expound upon at a some future date.  It is astonishing to watch it unfold.


In the education area, I have been watching closely for the past 8 years, since my son has been a consumer.  In that time, I have witnessed the local public schools really get with it, supplying a computer to every student and sufficient bandwidth to drive all of the machines simultaneously.  They have adopted an experimental curriculum called PLP, developed by Summit Learning.  That might be a step in the right direction, but it is very limited and mainstream-ey.  Plenty of the students have discovered better online material such as Khan Academy.


The result of these developments is an ever-accelerating big rip in academic achievement.  A yawning gap is forming between those who use the online resources effectively and those who do not.  This is not to say there are fewer students in between, for there are plenty there too.  But the extremes are getting more extreme with time.  We see it happening, but I have no particular insights on how to deal with it.  I don’t see any particular resentment against those who are super-achievers on the part of those who are not.


At the same time, I recognize that the job of the teacher is getting harder with time, at least in some ways.  In other ways, it has gotten much easier, particularly in curriculum planning (that is done for them) and the grading process.  The software package takes into account the online achievements and automatically generates the grades.  (!)  The report card isn’t what you and I brought home, but rather several pages of stuff, including text, much or most of which is generated by the software.  (!)  The teacher can add commentary if (s)he wishes, and it uses speech to text, making that aspect of teaching easier.  


A new twist I hadn’t seen before was rolled out this year.  Instead of the usual parent-teacher conferences, the students now make up a set of PowerPoint charts and present these to a parent, in a big room with about a dozen other students simultaneously pitching their accomplishments to their parents, while the teacher is present in the room but not interacting directly with any of the students.  (!)


In all this, we are seeing an astonishing divergence in accomplishments of the top end vs the bottom end students.  The big rip in education is already ripping wildly.


In some ways this makes the job of teaching harder, for while there are plenty of students still plodding along the old-fashioned way, with plenty of parents insisting on the old educational models, it becomes very difficult to even keep up with the best students, while they are still in the middle and even lower grades, such as… seventh.  I can show you examples of students who already have zoomed past their teachers at least in some areas, particularly math and software development.  Cool!  (…If your own offspring happens to be way out there on the right end of the bell curve and accelerating to the right… (otherwise, not so cool.))









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