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Joel Klein on Digital Learning

Education Week features a recent interview with former New York City Chancellor Joel Klein, who is now heading the education division of News Corp. Here are excerpts:
The education division’s guiding principle is that we’ve got to change from a 20th century–or even late 19th century–model of classroom instruction to a more individualized, differentiated model. We’ve got immense new opportunities to do this now. Much, much more digitized content is available today than was ever the case before. Technology and digitization offer a very powerful way to supplement a teacher’s delivery of instruction with multiple modalities.

We’re seeing this now at School of One, Rocketship Academies, Carpe Diem in Arizona…and global models that are moving in this direction. Jeb Bush just held a major conference on this. But really doing this right is going to take private capital, a shift away from a standard one-teacher-and-thirty-kids classroom to a much more customized, differentiated model. 

Just recently, a university professor called me and said he’d met with twenty students [and gotten into a discussion about the merits of online instruction]. He’d asked them whether they would rather take a course in justice with the professor who taught it at the university, who was supposed to be pretty good, or an online course with Harvard’s Michael Sandel. All twenty students, all of them, said they would rather take the online course. It [resonated], because I had a similar experience in my youth, watching videos of Richard Feynman teaching at Cal Tech.

We’re talking about a world where the digital revolution that’s hit the rest of the world now gets to take off in education too. We aren’t talking about an adult-less or teacher-less world, but a world where the technological advances that have swept the globe start to take over education. And a lot of people, including in the private equity world, are starting to think about that.

The more we can stimulate a view that we need to think about innovative delivery systems, the better. We’re locked into this one model of a teacher with a classroom of students–but there’s an enormous win-win in programs [that free us from that model]…The teachers in these innovative programs [that permit new approaches to staffing, grouping, and instruction] are excited and energized. They tell me their work is easier and more rewarding, and it lets them build in the basics instead of just focusing on them.