There is a two-part series on ‘Gaming’ and the push for ‘digital learning’ over at the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research which are written by Mary Grabar.
I encourage readers to go and read both articles all the way through:
- TRANSFORMING EDUCATION BEYOND COMMON CORE: ARNE DUNCAN’S “CLASSROOM OF THE FUTURE”
- TRANSFORMING EDUCATION BEYOND COMMON CORE: GETTING THE WORD OUT ABOUT GAMING FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
The first article talks about the shift from actual instruction and imparting of knowledge on a student to the use of digital materials like games. This shift obscures the skills gap in reading ability. Note that Linda Darling Hammond didn’t just work on the assessments, she was part of the group that created the Common Core itself.
The Department has been redefining education, emphasizing behavior and attitudes over academics, and even casting awareness about racial and ethnic identity as overlooked evidence of intelligence. Education is no longer about teachers imparting knowledge to their students. Linda Darling-Hammond, leader of Obama’s education transition team and developer of one of the two Common Core national assessments, has repeatedly disparaged traditional assessments that objectively test students’ knowledge as skill and drill. In this she follows progressive and radical educators who see their roles as developing agents of social change, agents who do not learn in the traditional Eurocentric linear and logical way, but emotively and tactilely.
Replacing our traditional ways of learning, through reading, writing, and study—contemplative and solitary activities—are the communal and hands-on activities promoted in Common Core and now digital learning. Both Common Core and digital learning serve to obscure a large part of the reason for the achievement gap: reading ability.
The second article gets into the use of digital materials and games as a vehicle for “social change” as promoted by the White House and Department of Education. “Social change” is exactly what it sounds like. Also mentioned is the creation of curricula and materials, which I’ve been documenting for quite some time now.
Common Core’s main funder, Bill Gates, is now positioning himself in the digital learning market. Check out the $20 million he is dumping into it.
Sansing and Garcia recalled participating in the White House “Game Jam” with teams of game designers and some “amazing teachers” at the beginning of the school year. Sansing’s game-design project, they claimed, demonstrated the benefits of game-based learning: “media literacy, soft skills like collaboration, and technical skills like managing an online repository of A/V assets, to say nothing of the logic, math, reading, and writing skills . . . in navigating tutorials, communicating online, and building . . . games.” They added excitedly, “Students even discussed gender norms in character design and traditional gaming narratives.” They listed the same benefits of gaming as commonly ascribed to Common Core: “critical thinking, persistence, and problem-solving to master, critique, play, and make.”
Who participated in the event? What kinds of skills were promoted? Industry spokespeople, government officials, and game designers came together to discuss “partnering” with each other as they uncritically promoted the benefits of gaming. The partnering is much like the “partnering” that has been revealed in the production of Common Core curricula and assessment, the crony alliance between the U.S. Department of Education, technology companies, and their non-profit arms (that serve to advance sales of the for-profit companies).
In spite of Sansing and Garcia’s claim that games would teach “logic, math, reading, and writing skills” most of the presentations at the four-day event involved lessons about tolerance of the Muslim “other,” global warming, sustainability, bullying, Native American culture, nuclear disarmament, and sexuality.
I’d like to take a moment to remind readers from North Carolina that the McCrory administration is going whole-hog for digital learning — to the tune of $43 million dollars over two years. In 2013, McCrory signed two bills advancing the digital learning agenda.
Where is the governance? Where is the oversight?
One can barely navigate the labyrinth that is the NC Public Schools website, yet here we are expanding digital materials far and wide with no policy, privacy or uniformity guidelines in place of their use. The cart is not just coming before the horse, it’s already down the road and over the hill.
These materials are being handed to groups through the creation of a “North Carolina Digital Learning Initiative”. This Initiative already exists — see the Digital Learning Collaborative. Read More here.
The groups involved are Common Core supportive and include The Friday Institute as the centerpiece, drawing on support from North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT), MCNC and North Carolina New Schools.
All of these groups have already benefited financially from the implementation of Common Core in North Carolina through various contracts and grants. Had you heard of any of them before today?
I took some heat for my criticisms of HB 660 (Transition to Personalized Digital Learning). A primary concern, among others related to governance and transparency, was that these ‘digital materials’ were being commissioned by bundling them in the same bill that extends internet access across all North Carolina schools.
Given what Grabar has exposed, I again stand by what I wrote about HB 660.