Maybe teachers in wealthy schools-with fewer students per teacher, more students passing tests, more prep periods, fewer classes to teacher, more curriculum support, more IT support, etc.-are better able to use Khan Academy videos not just to push content to students, but to reimagine pedagogical models. These teachers use the content to flip the classroom, differentiate and personalize instruction, release students from seat time requirements, etc. Any of these new models are possible because teachers can assume that every kid has reliable broadband internet access at home and on their mobile device. By contrast, maybe teachers working in schools serving low income students simply can't make as much use of the Khan Academy videos because they lack the planning time, broadband access, etc. In this model, schools with greater fiscal and human resources have more capacity to take advantage of even free and open resources. This second model is actually quite troubling in its implications. If this model is generally true, then virtually every education technology initiative which does not specifically target the needs of particular populations will disproportionately benefit the wealthy, even if the materials are free.To be clear, this isn't an argument for more walls, for more proprietary, less open content. Rather, it's a call to recognize the ways in which education technology -- even when free and open -- could increase rather than decrease the achievement gap. It's also a call to do something about that, and Reich makes a number of suggestions to that end: ensuring that we expose all students, not just the high-performing ones, to these resources, that we develop ed-tech initiatives to address the neediest students.
by Audrey Watters on 21 Dec, 2011
Audrey Watters is an education writer, a recovering academic, a serial dropout, and some days, ed-tech's Kassandra.
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