Automated Teaching

I made a joke about schools offering 21st century versions of WHIMP a few weeks ago, but apparently they already exist. The New York Times featured one such version yesterday in an Opinionator column titled “Reaching Math Students One By One“. [HT: Chris at A Blog About School.]

The column describes a program known as Teach to One or School to One, depending upon where it is used, and it is hard to know where to start.

How about since when are airports the ideal model for places where children are compelled to spend their days?

Or why is students entering middle school/junior high with a range of math or reading skills from Kindergarten to eighth grade always treated as a given? Is there never a point at which school administrators and school boards are obligated to stop celebrating middle school/junior high remediation success stories and start asking questions? For instance–after congratulating awesome remediation teacher, of course–can we ask administrators why so many students are entering our middle schools/junior highs with such a wide range of skills after five to seven years of schooling under their belts? What can we learn from successful middle school/junior high level remediation programs that we could use to change elementary school curricula or teaching methods so that fewer students require remediation in our middle schools/junior highs? What can we learn from successful middle school/junior high remediation programs that we could apply to elementary school interventions so that students get effective help, perhaps years sooner, rather than later?

How did automated teaching become the 21st century ideal? In person lecture: bad! Pre-recorded Khan Academy lecture: good! Teacher generated quiz: bad! Computer generated quiz: good! Teacher exercising professional judgment about what to teach next and how to most effectively teach it: bad! Computer algorithm generated lessons/assignments: good!

Also, I can’t understand this quote being offered without question:

“For any subject, any room, it can’t be true that one teacher teaching 30 kids is the best way, says Joel Rose, an education expert [and co-developer of School of One] who in 2009 worked for the New York City Department of Education.

Aren’t schools offering different levels of math by middle school/junior high? Is it really so impossible for one teacher to teach thirty children pre-algebra or algebra or grade six math that it seems like a good idea spend a lot of money to throw all 120 students into a single, giant room? I don’t think so, but I guess that doesn’t sell expensive computer-based solutions.

The column includes positive comments from teachers who use the program, but I am seriously asking: does this sound like a fulfilling professional teaching career? Carrying out the mandates of a computer algorithm in an airport-like atmosphere?