Digital Trilogy’s End and Perhaps Ours? Revolutionary Transformation as Explicit Goal of the National Ed Tech Plan

In 2010 the US federal Department of Education issued the National Education Technology Plan (NETP) report named Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology. It calls explicitly for “revolutionary transformation rather than evolutionary tinkering.” Thereby confirming the worst fears of anyone concerned the Common Core was some sort of an attempt to nationalize ed policy. Now I maintain the feds are actually plugging American ed into the internationalization of ed as a vehicle for systematic change with UNESCO and also the Paris-based OECD as the lead drivers but that is not today’s story. But do keep that in mind as part of the why. The Grit Perseverance Report and Digital Promise and media education and the computer gaming as classroom activity and assessment are ALL part of NETP.

So is the Common Core State Standards Initiative that I just abbreviate as CCSSI. Its purpose is described in NETP as creating the standards (used consistently and interchangeably in report as a synonym for outcomes in students) and new alternative assessments to “measure 21st century competencies.” Now I will come back to all this while you mull over the fact that CCSSI was always merely a temporary means to force states and local school districts to make the desired shifts laid out in the NETP and its collateral documents. That were never really intended to be widely read or known about.

CCSSI takes the political heat. NETP lays out the real sought transformation. Except it’s the same transformation at the level of the individual student and future voter as what was sought in the 90s as well. And we know that because in numerous places NETP mirrors both UNESCO’s DeLors, The Treasure Within, report from 1996 and Chapter 9, “A Curriculum About Humanity,” of the Paul Ehrlich book New World New Mind that I wrote about in the last post. Think of it as a long sought global vision for ed.

So why do we need to change what goes on in the classroom? Because we need to literally change the way people think says Ehrlich: “most important, we have to shift our understanding of ourselves as separate individuals, each seeking our own welfare, to an understanding of how we fit into social, biological, and physical environments.[a Blue Ribbon for every reader recognizing that description of Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory graphic] It is not that increasing scientific knowledge makes learning morals obsolete, but that the new world we’ve created makes the nature of moral choices unprecedented.”

Now hiding a deliberate shift in values, attitudes, and beliefs through adaptive software and in vague terms like competencies and 21st century skills and learner outcomes and social and emotional learning to supposedly prevent bullying and create mental health for all is obviously a great back door in for such a Change the Way We Think goal. Especially if you want to teach all these needs to alter moral choices “to children right at the beginning of their education.”

Remember Ehrlich was writing back before the Internet and today’s generation of videogames and stunning, visually compelling multimedia graphics. So his suggested way “to introduce young children to a new view of humanity might be through a cleverly crafted series of Saturday morning cartoons. The first might present humanity, metaphorically, as one single animal. We could show that if humanity were one animal, that ‘creature’ would now weigh more than 100,000 times its original weight. Think about an animal growing until it is now 10 million times more powerful than it was at birth. Wouldn’t that creature have to behave differently at the time of its great power than in its great power than in its weak infancy?”

Now before I continue on with the quote, I want you to keep that intentional manipulation via visuals and emotions on impressionable children in mind from now on every time you read or hear of an intention to use technology in the classroom to engage all students. Or here’s another quote from the NETP “leverage the learning sciences and modern technology to create engaging, relevant, and personalized learning experiences for all learners that mirror students’ daily lives and the reality of their futures.” Elsewhere, NETP lays out technology’s ability to assess non-cognitive features like motivational influences and to do it through virtual reality simulations that can assess personal responses “within the context of relevant societal issues and problems that people care about in everyday life.”

Ehrlich, much like all these education professors whose theories we have looked at, wants to figure out how to change people’s perceptions of their daily reality. Here’s the rest of the quote from above. Ask yourself if Ehrlich would be a fan of David Christian’s Big History curriculum we have discussed.

“If we imagined humanity this way, we and our children could begin to think differently. Instead of pondering the local problems of our own life, we need to think about the collective life of our species. If, instead of thinking in terms of decades, centuries, or even the millenia of recorded history, we contemplated our history for many millions [italics in original] of years, then the problems we now face would take on a vastly different purpose.”

Well if that doesn’t give additional clarity to all the hyping about catastrophic man-made global warming whatever actual temp trends or trumpeting weather events like Hurricane Sandy as proof of too much “carbon” in the air, how about the acknowledgment that “If we could teach this understanding of our history and capabilities, both students and adults might begin to channel the development of humanity in new directions.” Directions that, like NETP’s vision for revolutionizing education, have a likely effect of making people far more malleable to being governed. And more susceptible to the social engineering aspirations of the behavioral sciences.

If you think of curricula in the 21st century not as a body of knowledge but as the prescribed set of learning experiences, it is a lot easier to see that learning sciences and cognitive theory as mentioned repeatedly in these reports as what the new classroom is to be about gets you to Ehrlich’s New Mind goals. Here’s another quote consistent with his intent that “the key to getting new-minded adults seems to be training them early.”

“When we say change the curriculum, therefore, it is really a code for saying change the whole society (since curricula are determined largely at the local level [Not anymore! How convenient.]) and changing the entire education system. It is a big order, our survival depends on it, and it is a task for grown-ups.”

Preferably those grown-ups with an Edudoctorate and a title to mandate all these changes that seek to transform society invisibly at taxpayer expense. These Supers and profs and principals and overpaid consultants have all been totally immersed in all these learning theories that are either political theories that track back to Uncle Karl or based on Soviet psych research. The lack of genuine knowledge in the typical ed degree program at any level leaves these Determined to be Change Agents almost the last people to be able to appreciate the likely dire implications of what they are pushing. Or its known tragic history.

Let’s get back to the NETP since it really is how the federal DoEd and the foundations and the tech companies for starters intend to get Ehrlich’s New Minds in a sufficient number of voters to drive the rest of the sought changes through the ballot box. Two explicit goals that actually sound nice and worthy drive this entire transformation of the ed system. Which of course is intended to drive revolutionary transformations in everything else.

Goal Number 1: “We will raise the proportion of college graduates from where it now stands (around 41 percent) so that 60 percent of our population holds a two-year or four-year degree by 2020.”

That’s a requirement that forces the nature of both K-12 and higher ed to change so that we have equity in credentials without real knowledge. Which in turn sets up voters who are likely to have expectations for their adult lives that cannot be met under current economic and social structures. They will have no idea that it is government interventionism and overregulation and the “learning sciences and theories” themselves driving the economic stagnation. They will thus be ready to vote for every demagogue promising change.

Goal Number 2: “We will close the achievement gap so that all students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and careers.”

That second goal again forces changes on what can go on in the classroom since no achievement gap is allowed despite different life experiences, parenting, or language issues. The emphasis on ready to succeed again fuels the drive to reform higher ed AND the nature of the workplace AND the nature of the economy.

It will then become a necessary role of governments to ensure that anticipated adult success. Which is really convenient as I will lay out in the next post what the planners have in mind when they say they want governments to be the designers of new social systems.

For all of us.

Say what?



11 thoughts on “Digital Trilogy’s End and Perhaps Ours? Revolutionary Transformation as Explicit Goal of the National Ed Tech Plan

  1. Unfortunately(!) the link works for me and the document is there.

    This is from section 2.4:

    “To be valid, an assessment must measure those qualities it is intended to measure and
    scores should not be influenced by extraneous factors. An assessment of science, for
    example, should measure understanding of science concepts and their application, not the
    ability to see print, to respond to items using a mouse, or to use word processing skills.
    Assessment and technology experts should collaborate to create assessment design tools
    and processes that make it possible to develop assessment systems with appropriate
    features (not just accommodations) so that assessments capture examinees’ strengths in
    terms of the qualities that the assessment is intended to measure.”

    The only way to meet this would be something like brain scans. What was wrong with accommodations anyway?

    Section 2.5 is important:
    2.5 Revise practices, policies, and regulations to ensure privacy and information protection
    while enabling a model of assessment that includes ongoing gathering and sharing of data
    on student learning for continuous improvement.
    Every parent of a student under 18 and every student 18 or over should have the right to
    access the student’s own assessment data in the form of an electronic learning record
    that the student can take with them throughout his or her educational career. …

    This doesn’t quite say that it’s all the information that a student might be expected to sign over to an employer, university or government agency later on, but it is something at least.

  2. 21st C Learning Is Scary And Totalitarian

    If this document is the source of the browbeating we are experiencing in our education systems, then it bears close reading. Recently brought to our attention, I refer to:

    National Education Technology Plan (NETP) report named Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology.

    The language and tone provide clues as to its danger in our midst — going far beyond “Nation At Risk” of 30 years ago. The anxieties and fears stirred up make us want to jump on the bandwagon and embrace the “solution” — “21st-century competencies and expertise such as critical thinking, complex problem solving, collaboration, and multimedia communication should be woven into all content areas.” (pg11) Coercive words such as “urgent” and “crucial” proliferate.

    “The Time To Act Is Now . . . we do not have the luxury of time.” (xv)

    I am from Canada. I am a grandmother and I was glad to have done my time — being vigilant and diligent with my kids when they were in school. But, the engineered “transformations” being infiltrated into our schools today means I just can’t retire and watch new generations being hoodwinked by the self-interested education establishment.

    I am so grateful to Robin and this blog for exposing the “hidden agendas” and “hidden curriculum” in 21st C Learning. The same gurus are here in Canada cheerleading the collaborators.

    A statement like this really bothers me: “Many of the failings of our education system stem from our failure to engage the hearts and minds of students.” (5)

    So, people, if this is a mind-changing initiative, where are the safeguards? These proposals and initiatives already in place are nothing more than experiments — there is no track record and the theory is shaky.

    Are there no psychologists or ethical experts to help guide the way and provide some guidelines and protocols?

    – Protections against intellectual and emotional abuse
    – No unauthorized invasions of privacy of child or family
    – Informed consent and permission to be required before participation
    – Professionally prepared personnel in charge and in practice
    – Parents involved and included in evaluation of program
    – Full, and without penalty, right to non-participation or withdrawal from program
    – Etc.

    Watching this video will illustrate the kind of hype we are experiencing. It’s all about peer pressure and groupiness. The teacher readily admits this is constructivist pedagogy — constructing your own reality. It’s easy to see how students get caught up in “group projects” and not want to exit or challenge. “The power of student-driven learning: Shelley Wright at TEDx” Do you see why it’s hard to even question such successful fund-raising experiences? What if every class now did this? And really, what are the academic learnings acquired for post-secondary?

    Sorry to rain on this parade, but if this is 21st C Learning, I don’t buy it. It’s extra curricular to me.

  3. For David Coleman aficionados, here are two videos of him pitching CC ELA and math standards for NY residents:

    I’ve watched the math one so far, and I have to keep saying it sounds right to me. When I think of math, I do not think of 100 concepts, just a few, and I think he’s identified pretty much what is important and continues to be important in a more general understanding of the subject. The story about Hong Kong doing better on TIMSS than USA, even though Hong Kong only explicitly covers half the topics in class and we cover all of them, also makes sense. Teachers here were making math confusing, because they themselves were confused, and they acted confused, constantly jumping around.

    But it will be a trick to get the desired results with our current cohort of elementary school teachers. I think if we had math experts teaching there, things would about as Coleman says without the need for explicit standards. So if standards can make the teaching half as good as if it came from someone with a math background, that will be quite a feat. Stand and Deliver anyone?

    Along with the link to this video came information about the state’s performance on the grade 3 – 8 ELA and math state tests. Our state percentage scoring proficient or above went down 25% in ELA and 35% in math. And our district was even worse. In my now-seventh-grader’s year, the ELA proficient scores were down 35% and math down 43% (most grades didn’t go down quite this much in math.) Boy will there be some ruminations and recriminations now!

    We haven’t gotten his individual scores yet but I expect they’re fine.

  4. Well the STEM goals may be nice, but what will the implementation (and assessment) look like? I hope, not like this:

    because the less able students would learn NOTHING (or at least no mathematics) from that first textbook they talk about. Actually those are the students who need the specific stuff, like the second text, the most.

    • David-

      I pulled up a 2007 STEM presentation that was a good reminder that STEM is just a nickname for the real-life problem solving and applications emphasis.

      Will try to put up link to it later. You can see that the only people who will have much accurate are the ones getting it from home. Who will then be so bored they will regard school as a form of torture.

      Help me, I am working on footnotes and it is not fun.

    • I agree the interface can be clunky and is still buggy. I did some questions on a SBAC test, I think Algebra II, and I found the questions doable but requiring me to think. Almost every time I was able to get the interface to work well enough to enter an answer I thought correct. Once I was not. Once is obviously too much if these are high stakes tests.

      The interface did allow some rather nice questions. But it’s not ready for prime time yet. SBAC and PARCC seem to have a similar look-and-feel to their interfaces and I hope they’re sharing efforts for mutual efficiency. They will have to spend more gobs of money to get this straightened out. And a significant training period for students using the interface will be needed.

      For the given questions at your link, they really don’t have to be rewritten onto paper, contrary to what the writer at the link implies. For example in the first one, one can factor 3x-2 out, unless 3x-2 =0, so the two solutions are 3x-2 = 0 and (taking the factor out) 3x-2 = 2. The student should be comfortable that he has found two solutions since it is a quadratic and that there cannot be any more. Many students will want to write this out, but not all students will need to. Other problems can be solved by inspection more easily than this. Part of the mathematical skill that is normally tested is the ability to spot the easy way to do such problems, so having such a “trick” available is fully legit, and students who can save time by using these tricks should be able to gan an advantage and probably a higher score than those who cannot, and those who have no idea where to start should get the lowest score of all.

      They look like fair test questions to me, once the interface issues and some language ambiguities are ironed out. The bit with the ears of corn was not well specified, but they may think that’s some important communication skill they’re testing — which I don’t think belongs in a math course. Mainly they’ve gotta fix that user interface and make it very reliable.

      • David,

        Here’s a link to the international STEM vision/use of technology and move away from content

        I have had my eye on this OECD/ Hewlett Foundation Catalyst Initiative for a while. I just had not written about it. Internationally though the Competencies push is coming from the OECD. Notice the mention of ICTE which we have noted is based in Moscow with much of the papers in Russian and not translated. Also the New Media Consortium’s involvement. Karen Cator was the Keynoter at NMC’s 2013 conference. It is where I first heard of Digital Promise that she now heads.

        So all of this is connected but it is mostly away from the public eye. Which is what I am going to deal with today.

        Also don’t forget ambiguity and ill-structure in problems for 21st century learning is per Pearson itself a feature, not a bug. It brings the influential emotion of frustration to bear. It is not supposed to be rational problem-solving.

        • Robin, yes that certainly is a lot of gobbledygook.

          As you and other blog contributors have shown, there are lots of papers from important people, as well as disturbing videos, saying that STEM is to be dumbed down. I’ve seen problems described for “deeper learning” that are way too hard , that don’t even have simple solutions, that therefore overemphasize “higher order skills” like estimation and discussion over math technique. And what I’ve observed from elementary school math curriculum is that they waste tons of student time on estimation, even on coloring, that should be spent on drill and problem solving, or going outside and playing!

          But these problems I’ve seen from PARCC and SBAC, as well as David Coleman’s comments for NY parents, are not only OK, they look quite good (the interface does need more work), and there’s nothing squishy or emotion driven about those problems. They’re math, on the straight and narrow.

          And yet, in other contexts, David Coleman sheds his geeky face and shows the personality of a relentless social subversive.

          Maybe it’s like this. The geeks making math problems in PARCC and SBAC, and doing all the hard work of getting that interface right, are doing a sincere job. They will be inspired to do their best work with the thought that the best material will be taught.

          But nobody bothers them with the fact that it’s all going to live under the legal and economic imperatives that all students must meet the standards and gaps must be closed. And school administrators will see very clearly that this is not happening. Our society is too heterogeneous, our teachers too weak in math for that miracle to occur with that math material.

          And so then the material will change. After all these were just samples, rough ideas, some tired old-style thinking we plugged in there temporarily to get the interface working right, now we need other ideas more aligned to the 21st century. We can use the interface to stimulate discussion about problems-with-no-solutions or to gather inputs from students in online math games. Maybe the stuff on the sample tests and curricula we’ve seen won’t even make it to the classroom at all. And then we’ll get the pure 21st century skills approach replacing it, mandated. And all that software the geeks have written will be used for different tests, and there will be nothing the developers, who worked so hard and so sincerely to design a good system for teaching math, can do about it.

          Or as I’ve speculated, a real math track for a few will be preserved so we don’t entirely run out of technical geeks, and everyone else will be fed indoctrination-as-math.

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