Imagining the future of education

New breed of investors pursues tech's potential to transform the classroom

They are young, tech-savvy and affluent, many with successful startups under their belts.

A growing number of Palo Alto-area entrepreneurs have turned their attention to the power of technology to transform education -- "ed-tech," they call it.

In venues around town, from Stanford University to the airy offices of ed-tech "incubator" Imagine K12, they're coaching and funding an array of technology products aimed at students, teachers, parents and schools.

"We look at the issues facing K-12 today -- if you go into a public school it feels like stepping back in time," said Imagine K12 partner Tim Brady, himself the product of suburban Detroit public schools, Stanford's electrical engineering department and the Harvard Business School.

"We don't claim to have all the answers, but we think we can help."

Brady -- who was among the first four employees of Yahoo!, where he stayed for eight years -- sorts K-12's most nagging issues into what he calls "three buckets": inequality, international competitiveness and declining budgets.

Admitting inequality is the toughest, he still believes technology can help in all three areas by making teachers and administrators more efficient, freeing up time for them "to do what they love, are good at and are trained for."

Brady and his two partners, startup veterans and investors Alan Louie and Geoff Ralston, provide seed funding from their own pockets, strategic advice, networking and introductions to potential investors for 10 selected ed-tech startups for up to four months at a time.

A main goal is to help startups win their next round of funding. Of the 10 young companies that graduated in the first batch last September, five have garnered further investment and all are still alive, Brady said.

Now finishing up with its second group, Imagine K12 has posted a May 4 deadline for online applications for its third batch of ed-tech entrepreneurs.

"We're trying to pull engineering talent into the ed-tech space," Brady said in an interview in Imagine K12's central Palo Alto office, lined with whiteboards full of scrawled diagrams, lists and strategies.

"By doing so, we're trying to excite investors because investors get excited about smart people who can execute on good ideas and get that ball rolling. It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing: There hasn't been funding because there hasn't been great tech talent.

"We'd love to see this kind of investing-engineering talent ecosystem evolve where it becomes a healthy, attractive place to invest dollars that will result in positive change for our K-12 system."

The world has changed since the rough climate for educating investing in the 1980s and 1990s, Brady said.

A fast-growing number of teachers are digital natives -- welcoming technology into their classrooms -- and the Internet makes it possible to market products directly to them and to parents. Though they don't control school purse strings, teachers can pilot new products and spread the word about things that work, he said.

"Teachers are extremely active on Twitter -- it's a very strong community -- so the ability to get a product at least tested in a classroom has changed," he said.

"The world is flat now, and you'll find parents less accepting of mediocre outcomes and willing to put money behind alternatives."

Another big change is the ease of entry.

Advances such as cloud computing have driven down the cost of a startup -- where launching Yahoo! cost $1 million, entrepreneurs could do the same thing today for $50,000, Brady said.

The lower costs have attracted a new breed of angel investors, people willing to put their personal funds into startups.

One such "angel" is Jessie Arora, a veteran of Google and several education nonprofits who has backed several ed-tech startups, including Remind101, Motion Math and MindSnacks. The startups all involve learning games or communication tools for education.

About 90 percent of the vast $650 billion education market is tied up in paying teachers and running schools, but there's a growing slice for technology, Arora said.

"It's early on, and investors probably shouldn't really be looking for the next Facebook in the education space yet, but there's potential," she said.

For now, she said, "the overall focus is on the social impact and the social return on investment. The potential to make money is there, but the trajectory is longer."

Imagine K12's current batch of companies includes Remind101, which enables teachers to communicate safely with students outside the classroom, as well as startups in the areas of special-education communication (Goalbook); teacher observation ( BloomBoard); tutoring (TutorCloud); math and grammar games ( BrainNook); data collection (Eduvant); teacher productivity (ClassConnect); recording and uploading lessons (Educreations) and behavior management (Class Dojo).


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Posted by Susie
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 21, 2012 at 5:29 pm



The kids today gaze at screens not at faces. This highest of human abilities, subtle communication by facial nuance, is being lost. Reductive tweets and snarky facebook naricissm in the classroom, in the highschools. There is no place away from big brother of social networks, no place to escape the relentless pursuit of advertizers selling products 24/7. This push to "HELP" schools will do away with teachers and replace them with online learning. Its already happening. Face to face if expensive. Face to face enables change of pace, change of content depending on subtle facial cues in the classroom or lecture hall. Technology gets in the way of this communication.

There is no shortage of information out there. The world is swimming in it. School kids DO NOT NEED ACCESS TO INFORMATION. They need a safe place away from the avalanche of distracting viral videos, or mindless tweets, of 24/7 distractions to focus on hard learning. They need subtle communication of TEACHERS, face to face, using emotive skills to empathize with the student - only done face to face.

This is a disaster. A train wreck unfolding. Stupid techno boosterism is destroying our childrens futures.

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Posted by Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Susie, your argument has no supporting evidence whatsoever. Your rationale is unclear. And your CAPS lock seems to be stuck on.

That aside, I recommend you read a study conducted by the US Department of Education in 2009: Web Link

Let me know when you're done reading it. If you're still convinced that "kids do not need access to information", then I'd be happy to explain why you're seriously mistaken.

[I realize I might be coming off a bit harsh; I appologize for that]

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Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 21, 2012 at 7:48 pm

I think the list of areas that need to be improved in public education is longer. However, it still goes back to the fundamentals.
Get the best TEACHERS into the classrooms.
Some online is fine for supplemental applications.
Incidentally, I always thought curriculum (textbooks, etc.) had to be selected on a fixed periodic basis (what, every 9 yrs for Math -- PAUSD not that long ago went through a major hubbub about this for elementary levels) in state of CA from a limited selection approved at the state level. This must inhibit the "creativity" individual teachers can use in the classroom...pie in the sky ideas from "young entrepreneurs" meets the realities of public unions and government bureaucracy.
I am skeptical about pushes to sell more technology to the taxpayers.
A thoughtful emphasis on teaching, integrating/testing new methods and solid curriculum and solid supporting materials after that -- meaning texts, multimedia, etc. is the right way to go about it.

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Posted by susie
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 21, 2012 at 9:32 pm

there is an avalanche of research pointing to how bad this is for learning. Take this for a start.

Jane M. Healy, an educational psychologist who specializes in the effect of computer technology on growing brains and author of Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems, feels technology offers no benefits to children. "All indications are that instead of increasing their intelligence, it's going to dull it down," she says. What's most important for a child's brain development is interacting in conversation, a skill that children preoccupied with an iPad, cell phone or computer fail to practice, she says. "It's language that will later help them become physicists, scientists and imaginative computer programmers."

The type of learning that comes from responding to a stimulus that involves having a child’s brain directed instead of open-ended play, is a very low level type of learning, says Healy. Further, these devices can be addictive, so children long to spend more time with them. "You're basically horsing around with your child's brain chemistry in a way that's not very good for him or her," she says. Texting or online communication often supplants face-to-face time that older children need to develop social skills, resulting in difficulty with interpersonal communication, says Elizabeth Englander, a professor of psychology and the director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University.

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Posted by David Cohen
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 21, 2012 at 9:46 pm

I share your concern about the potential buying technological solutions in search of a problem. I don't think this article is describing companies or products that run a high risk of falling into that trap.

To former Paly parent,
I agree with you that the most important and fundamental issues for us to address concern the students and teachers in the classroom. I don't think this article is describing anything that would be limited by the subject area curriculum adoption cycle - and there's nothing I'm aware of in that process that is inhibited by any public union interests. If you really want to look at problems in the curriculum adoption, I'd suggest it's the mega-publishers who deserve a second look. Their profits are steadily climbing and their lobbyists are quite busy in politics, vying for position to land lucrative deals, providing the favored curriculum and materials and tests.

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Posted by Susie
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm

And no one should take a recommendation for technology use from a technology salesman with a vested interest in its sale.

Here is another doubter:

The Challenges of Teaching Students I the Age of Xbox, YouTube and Texting

Teachers are increasingly faced with the challenge of instructing students who demonstrate short attention spans, are quick to boredom, have immature self-regulation skills, and resist engaging texts in depth, as well as with unprecedented levels of anxiety - all of which may be related, at least in part, to the 24/7 use of technology. Educators understandably feel pressure to adapt to the changes in brain functioning caused by technology by bridging the gap between their students' digital lives outside of school and their experience in the traditional classroom. This talk will focus on the benefits of using the remarkable power of technology to meet our educational goals while also using tools such as movement, meditation, mindfulness, and the arts to balance the stress, the mind-scattering, and the mind-racing that result from extensive use of technology.

William R. Stixrud, PhD, Clinical Neuropsychologist; Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, George Washington School of Medicine; Adjunct Faculty, Children's National Medical Center; Director, The Stixrud Group

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Posted by susie
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 21, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Are Today's Students REALLY the Dumbest Generation?

In his 2009 book The Dumbest Generation, Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein makes the assertion that today's students are complete intellectual failures. In this presentation, full-time classroom teacher Dr. Ferriter challenges Bauerlein's assertion, arguing instead that the struggles of today's students are more likely a result of our failure to build a bridge between what our students know about new digital tools and what we know about efficient and effective learning.

William M. Ferriter, MA, Teacher, North Carolina; Founding Member and Senior Fellow, Teacher Leaders Network; Teacher-in-residence, Center for Teaching Quality; Developer, Schoolwide technology rubrics and surveys; Author, Teaching the iGeneration (2010); Co-Author, Communicating and Connecting With Social Media (2012)

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Posted by susie
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 21, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Attention, Engagement and the Multitasking Brain

Cognitive neuroscientists have measured the performance costs of multitasking, and have linked these behavioral costs (delays or errors in responding) to the functional architecture of the brain. Evidence from behavioral and neuroimaging experiments will be reviewed.

Steven G. Yantis, PhD, Chair, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Johns Hopkins University; Winner, Early Career Award from American Psychological Association and Troland Research Award from the National Academy of Sciences; Researcher on cognitive control and selective attention during multitasking; Author, "Value-driven attentional capture" (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011)

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Posted by susie
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 21, 2012 at 9:57 pm

High levels of stimulation endemic to our digital age alter attentional processes and brain development. Dr. Palladino explain important links between attention and the brain, with an emphasis on how technology is upsetting the balance between "top-down" (self-directed) and "bottom-up" (stimulus-driven) attention. This balance is crucial for academic success, and our students need effective ways to prevent imbalance before it occurs, and restore balance when it's lost.

Lucy Jo Palladino, PhD,Clinical Psychologist; Consultant to improve attention and resistance to distraction; Former Clinical Faculty, University of Arizona Medical School; Author, Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload (2011) and Dreamers, Discoverers, and Dynamos (1999, formerly titled The Edison Trait)

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Posted by Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 21, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Susie, your cited studies regard the negative effects of multitasking, iPads, and simply technology in general on the brain. Many are simply opinions stated by people in positions of authorities. Other are too general for me to work with.

Sure, technology can be bad. Technology can mess up your brain. We understand that. Just about anything can be dangerous in certain circumstances - especially when you look at the situation out of context.

But if you say 'this is a disaster' when talking about Imagine K12, you better have checked out the incubator and each and every one of the startups. That is, Goalbook, TutorCloud, BrainNook, Eduvant, ClassConnect, Educreations, and Class Dojo. Each one of those startups has a focus and is centered on improving education. Many have already shown promising results.

You have to look at the startups in context. Each one is trying to assist the classroom, add to it, enhance it ... but not replace it. Studies have shown that this combination of technology and traditional education is more powerful either one of them by themselves.

Right now, for all I know, you read only the first two paragraphs and jumped to the conclusion that 'technology is bad.'

If you have the time, I suggest you watch this move: Web Link

...and read this blog: Web Link

...and this article: Web Link

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2012 at 7:17 am

> declining budgets.

To date, most budget “declines” in education spending have been reductions in the amount of annual growth of budget increase. (In other words, if a program has been getting a 5% increase annually in the past, and it now gets a 3% increase—this is too often called a “cut” by (mostly) Democratic legislators and education spending proponents.

> About 90 percent of the vast $650 billion education market is tied up in
> paying teachers and running schools, but there's a growing slice for
> technology, Arora said.

Not too long ago, the US Department of Education was claiming that “education” at all levels was consuming almost $1T yearly—about 8% of the US GDP (at all levels). About half of the total amount is for salary/benefits for school employees, and the other half is for construction/finance expenditures for building/refurbishing/financing school sites.

For the past several decades, the US education establishment has been consuming almost twice what has been spent on the defense of our country. There are very few people in the education establishment that seem to know these basic facts about education financing—or are willing to tell the public the truth about these vast expenditures.

The results of these expenditures are questionable—since the high school graduation rates are stuck at about 70% (nationally) and US students by no means are the best educated in the world. Education spending proponents seem to be blind to any kind of cost/benefit analyses that cry out for education reform.

While this article has not provided any real insight into the growing area of distance learning, the advances that are on-going are quite significant. Unfortunately, there is no centralization of any of these efforts—meaning that what the public sees is too often a hodge-podge of competing/conflicting products and services that don’t fit into any long term plan that has been produced by local, or state, education officials.

On the plus side, education is not a “monolithic” thing, so there is room for independent thought and enterprise to deliver usable tools for people to use that will augment, or replace, failing, or substandard, public education. For instance, English can be taught using any number of on-line/digital techniques. On-line dictionaries now replace printed dictionaries. In addition to providing meanings, these on-line tools also provide pronunciation aids, which provide people with a spoken example of how a word should be pronounced, not a symbolic/phonetic symbol that must be understood properly if the word is to be pronounced properly.

With a little work, this example could be expanded to provide a fully functional language teaching tool—that would have the ability to teach, and analyzed a students written and spoken command of the language being taught (in this case, English). The idea that people should have to sit in classrooms a couple hours a week in order to learn a new language is Byzantine—given that we have now, between mobile computing devices, the Internet, and “the Cloud”, all of the technology needed to create a new “golden age” for “education” to flourish in the US—made possible by the access, and affordability, of information.

The underlying question of how we spend the $1T+ that we are currently spending for education, and what we get back for it can no longer be ignored. The financial future of the nation, and our children, is at stake.

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Posted by Susie
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 22, 2012 at 7:56 am

April 21, 2012
The Flight From Conversation

WE live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates. My students tell me about an important new skill: it involves maintaining eye contact with someone while you text someone else; it’s hard, but it can be done.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives. I’ve learned that the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are.

We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.

Our colleagues want to go to that board meeting but pay attention only to what interests them. To some this seems like a good idea, but we can end up hiding from one another, even as we are constantly connected to one another.

A businessman laments that he no longer has colleagues at work. He doesn’t stop by to talk; he doesn’t call. He says that he doesn’t want to interrupt them. He says they’re “too busy on their e-mail.” But then he pauses and corrects himself. “I’m not telling the truth. I’m the one who doesn’t want to be interrupted. I think I should. But I’d rather just do things on my BlackBerry.”

A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”

In today’s workplace, young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones. Walking through a college library or the campus of a high-tech start-up, one sees the same thing: we are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens. A senior partner at a Boston law firm describes a scene in his office. Young associates lay out their suite of technologies: laptops, iPods and multiple phones. And then they put their earphones on. “Big ones. Like pilots. They turn their desks into cockpits.” With the young lawyers in their cockpits, the office is quiet, a quiet that does not ask to be broken.

In the silence of connection, people are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people — carefully kept at bay. We can’t get enough of one another if we can use technology to keep one another at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right. I think of it as a Goldilocks effect.

Texting and e-mail and posting let us present the self we want to be. This means we can edit. And if we wish to, we can delete. Or retouch: the voice, the flesh, the face, the body. Not too much, not too little — just right.

Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.

We are tempted to think that our little “sips” of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places — in politics, commerce, romance and friendship. But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.

Connecting in sips may work for gathering discrete bits of information or for saying, “I am thinking about you.” Or even for saying, “I love you.” But connecting in sips doesn’t work as well when it comes to understanding and knowing one another. In conversation we tend to one another. (The word itself is kinetic; it’s derived from words that mean to move, together.) We can attend to tone and nuance. In conversation, we are called upon to see things from another’s point of view.

FACE-TO-FACE conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience. When we communicate on our digital devices, we learn different habits. As we ramp up the volume and velocity of online connections, we start to expect faster answers. To get these, we ask one another simpler questions; we dumb down our communications, even on the most important matters. It is as though we have all put ourselves on cable news. Shakespeare might have said, “We are consum’d with that which we were nourish’d by.”

And we use conversation with others to learn to converse with ourselves. So our flight from conversation can mean diminished chances to learn skills of self-reflection. These days, social media continually asks us what’s “on our mind,” but we have little motivation to say something truly self-reflective. Self-reflection in conversation requires trust. It’s hard to do anything with 3,000 Facebook friends except connect.

As we get used to being shortchanged on conversation and to getting by with less, we seem almost willing to dispense with people altogether. Serious people muse about the future of computer programs as psychiatrists. A high school sophomore confides to me that he wishes he could talk to an artificial intelligence program instead of his dad about dating; he says the A.I. would have so much more in its database. Indeed, many people tell me they hope that as Siri, the digital assistant on Apple’s iPhone, becomes more advanced, “she” will be more and more like a best friend — one who will listen when others won’t.

During the years I have spent researching people and their relationships with technology, I have often heard the sentiment “No one is listening to me.” I believe this feeling helps explain why it is so appealing to have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed — each provides so many automatic listeners. And it helps explain why — against all reason — so many of us are willing to talk to machines that seem to care about us. Researchers around the world are busy inventing sociable robots, designed to be companions to the elderly, to children, to all of us.

One of the most haunting experiences during my research came when I brought one of these robots, designed in the shape of a baby seal, to an elder-care facility, and an older woman began to talk to it about the loss of her child. The robot seemed to be looking into her eyes. It seemed to be following the conversation. The woman was comforted.

And so many people found this amazing. Like the sophomore who wants advice about dating from artificial intelligence and those who look forward to computer psychiatry, this enthusiasm speaks to how much we have confused conversation with connection and collectively seem to have embraced a new kind of delusion that accepts the simulation of compassion as sufficient unto the day. And why would we want to talk about love and loss with a machine that has no experience of the arc of human life? Have we so lost confidence that we will be there for one another?

WE expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship. Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies: that we will always be heard; that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; and that we never have to be alone. Indeed our new devices have turned being alone into a problem that can be solved.

When people are alone, even for a few moments, they fidget and reach for a device. Here connection works like a symptom, not a cure, and our constant, reflexive impulse to connect shapes a new way of being.

Think of it as “I share, therefore I am.” We use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings as we’re having them. We used to think, “I have a feeling; I want to make a call.” Now our impulse is, “I want to have a feeling; I need to send a text.”

So, in order to feel more, and to feel more like ourselves, we connect. But in our rush to connect, we flee from solitude, our ability to be separate and gather ourselves. Lacking the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people but don’t experience them as they are. It is as though we use them, need them as spare parts to support our increasingly fragile selves.

We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely. If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be lonely.

I am a partisan for conversation. To make room for it, I see some first, deliberate steps. At home, we can create sacred spaces: the kitchen, the dining room. We can make our cars “device-free zones.” We can demonstrate the value of conversation to our children. And we can do the same thing at work. There we are so busy communicating that we often don’t have time to talk to one another about what really matters. Employees asked for casual Fridays; perhaps managers should introduce conversational Thursdays. Most of all, we need to remember — in between texts and e-mails and Facebook posts — to listen to one another, even to the boring bits, because it is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate and stutter and go silent, that we reveal ourselves to one another.

I spend the summers at a cottage on Cape Cod, and for decades I walked the same dunes that Thoreau once walked. Not too long ago, people walked with their heads up, looking at the water, the sky, the sand and at one another, talking. Now they often walk with their heads down, typing. Even when they are with friends, partners, children, everyone is on their own devices.

So I say, look up, look at one another, and let’s start the conversation.

Sherry Turkle is a psychologist and professor at M.I.T. and the author, most recently, of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.”

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2012 at 8:18 am

> The Flight From Conversation

Another example of people in academia with far too much time on their hands.

This whole article reeks of someone who would prefer to live in the 1800s, when it took two weeks to cross the Atlantic, and people died in the 50s because of a lack of technology-based medical care, and over 90% of the population lived on farms.

The author of this article, and those who would direct our attention to it—seem to have a real problem with individualism, and personal achievement--seeming to wish on us the kind of “group-think” that predominated oral cultures/societies. Reading and writing are individual skills—whereas listening is something that can be extended to a whole group—albeit with a high loss of information content at each retelling of a story, or tale.

Technology is emancipating, allowing people to achieve more as individuals than they could as members of a group. We are seeing that with clear evidence that people are reading more, now that e-books are readily available, and high quality/low cost e-readers are now available to everyone. Any idea of returning to some social circle to have some one read to you—using “conversational” skills is unthinkable.

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Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2012 at 8:35 am

The Kahn Academy has pretty much solved the problem and the rest of these clowns can go back to their Ipad apps.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2012 at 8:48 am

I think technology in education definitely has its place, and the place is growing. But, and it is a big but, education needs to have the social aspect and face to face interaction between students and teachers and students and peers must still take place.

Already our twenty somethings who have had less technology in their lives than our teens are having difficulties with being able to interact with others on a social level. Manners are one part, but so are subtle skills like appropriate eye contact during conversation, facial expression and interpretation, voice expression and interpretation, etc. need to be learned and experienced to be considered able to cope in the adult world. Young people (and older) are finding it harder to meet and find friends in our technological lifestyle and romantic partners even harder, somuchso that etc. are becoming the norm as places to meet.

Education is more than academics and part of school life is learning to fit into the code of behavior of society. Family life is different from the culture of school and a screen can't take the place of interaction with another human. The school culture must teach to a teen about how to adapt to a social circle. The classroom skills must not be lost completely.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2012 at 10:18 am

> Education is more than academics and part of school life is learning
> to fit into the code of behavior of society.

And just what might the “code of behavior of society” be?

> Family life is different from the culture of school

There was a time that family life “socialized’ children before they went to school. Mothers (and to some extent fathers) spent many hours with their children teaching them to say “please and thank you”, respecting their “elders”, and waiting for the person speaking to finish before responding.

Sadly, too many parents have shirked their responsibilities—for whatever reason---and too many children need to be “socialized” in the pubic school system, where only three decades ago they were being “educated”.

> and a screen can't take the place of interaction with
> another human.

It really depends on the situation. For instance, if a teacher/admin were to use video to conduct one-on-ones with students, or parents, this would allow these functions to take place at more convenient times than they do now. Moreover, the horror stories that parents tell about having to wait for appointments with school personnel during business hours when the teacher/admin either does not appear, or is very late, would be fewer and less severe.

There are too many situations to consider for this sort of comment to stand unchallenged.

> The school culture must teach to a teen about
> how to adapt to a social circle.

There are issues about coexistence, sharing, honesty, and group safety that certainly are on a different plane than children might be exposed to in the home. However, teaching the fundamentals of these skills is not something that can not be delivered via distance learning. For instance—introducing/reminding students where all of the fire alarms are, and how to use a fire extinguisher, is something that could be easily done with a video (just like the short videos offered to passengers on airliners).

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Posted by Teacher
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 23, 2012 at 10:59 am

This rich discussion exemplifies what I love about this town.

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 23, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Thank you, Howard, for your comment about the Kahn Academy. It seems to answer most of the problems brought up in this thread.

And thank you, Teacher, for looking at the bright side of a lengthy series of opinions and facts.

I'm sorry that the Susie's quote of Ms. Turkle's was so long. I wonder how many read it through - or is a Twitter limit of 144 characters sapping our attention span?

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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 23, 2012 at 8:33 pm

That wasn't a quote, it was the whole doggone rant. Three webpages of NY Times Sunday Review opinion-section filler. On-line reader comments were overwhelmingly in agreement -- people using technology to disparage technology, responding to an article brought to them by that technology.

I see the biggest problem with superior technology-based educational approaches is their potential to greatly amplify existing inequalities among students. If everyone began to learn twice as much twice as fast, it could be a disaster for the bottom half of the spectrum.

How about a graduated tax on accomplishment? Those with highest GPAs and SAT scores should be required to spend a greater proportion of their waking hours on unpaid community service. We could probably think up a very complicated form to be filled out every April.

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Posted by Baffled
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2012 at 11:19 am

The comments and debate here don't have anything to do with what this article is actually talking about, or what the ed-tech companies mentioned are even doing. None of these parties are even spending time talking about screen time vs. face to face. That's not even what this is about. I've been in classrooms where smart tech tools are being used - and do you know what happens? Teachers are able to spend more "face to face" time, one on one with students, knowing where they're at and what they need, thanks to real time data on the child's progress. If we don't find ways to use technology in the classroom, we are going to be dramatically left behind and none of our kids will even be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. When I read the comments above, I feel like I'm reading the words some grandma (no offense grandmas, we love you) who have no idea what these tools even are. They just hear the mention of technology and cry, "kids these days with their fandangled devices! What is the world coming to?! With their google and tweets!"

Try clicking on the links of the companies mentioned in the last paragraph. What about any of those means humans are being replaced by computers? The mission of these companies is to enhance learning and can improve human interaction. Remind 101 for example simply creates an additional safe way for teachers, students, and parents to communicate utilizing existing technology.

What a blessing that there are entrepreneurs today who are trying to solve these problems and improve an antiquated education system. Palo Alto is filled with random startups creating products that ultimately will have no real impact on society long term. So yes - we SHOULD be funding innovations in education. Or would you rather that schools continue to stay the same forever - because that's the way it's been for more than 50+ years and our children are getting left behind?!

You want better teachers? We all do! But no single entrepreneur is going is going to take down the whole system, abolish the teachers unions, do away with the ridiculous concept of tenure, etc.

Ok, I'm done - already wasted enough time at work today!

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Posted by Responsibility
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 24, 2012 at 5:57 pm

"Those with highest GPAs and SAT scores should be required to spend a greater proportion of their waking hours on unpaid community service."

Sounds outrageous put this way. But I do believe that competency entails responsibility to the community.

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Posted by susie
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 24, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Baffled, you are part of the typical middle aged American trained consumer. New product - gotta buy and tell it to your friends. The material is what matters in classrooms. Smart boards are great. Computers and Iphones are not.

My problem is with the gotta have it attitude that all tech is good.

Its not. (and I am 41 does that make me a granny? lets see I would have had my first kid at 16 then my kids would have had to have theirs at 16 so i could be a granny but I am not) AND stop slinging off at grandmas. the world needs their wisdom. When techno boosters like Zuck are in their 20's the world is being led by people who have no nouse, no savvy, just luck and programming capacity. bring on the retirees back into power.

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Posted by Teacher's Pet
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 25, 2012 at 12:42 am

to "Student": you might also read this Web Link to provide some balance to your enthusiasm for virtual learning.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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