What the New Education Business Mustn't Forget about the Nature of Learning

The billions of dollars spent on new technology have produced data that is "pretty weak", according to Tom Vander Ark, the former executive director for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The national education system has been calling for reform for some time. It has also been receiving substantial reform for well over a decade, from charter schools and voucher programs to stricter testing standards and a host of technological innovations. Still, our best attempts to implement novel ideas have mostly come up short. The billions of dollars spent on new technology have produced data that is "pretty weak", according to Tom Vander Ark, the former executive director for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an investor in educational technology companies.


Rather than find new ways of feeding sterile knowledge into students' brains, fresh teaching methods and new technologies must focus on establishing strong personal bonds between teachers and students. There is simply no substitute for personal relationships when it comes to education. In her Big Think interview, creator of the Teach for America program Wendy Kopp explains how the biggest challenge her teachers face are finding ways of connecting personally to students rather than integrate technology into the classroom, for example:

Perhaps the mistake of education reform is our interpretation of the word reform. We cannot hope to replace time-tested methods of nurturing children's individual curiosity. A computer screen cannot nurture; that difficult and life-altering task will always be left to teachers. If we want to support our children, we must first support their teachers. 

Read more at the New York Times

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