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News Corp. and the Business of Education (video)

News Corp. and the Business of Education (video)
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Not only did Rupert Murdoch give the keynote speech at the education summit held under the aegis of Jeb Bush the past two days in San Francisco. His News Corporation is seeking to make its way into the for-profit education business, as signaled last year when Joel Klein, the former New York City school chancellor, went to head News Corp’s education division: If you needed proof that education is a business, there it is.

Approached while speaking to attendees at the education privatization conference, Klein demurred to answer questions clarifying the relationship between less-than-academic (certainly when it comes to climate change, math and  history) FOX News executives and News Corp.’s new K – 12 business. Indeed, Klein’s responses were of a decidedly uneducated, albeit decidedly evasive, nature, as the video below suggests.

News Corp. clearly sees technology as a big part of its educational offerings. It has acquired a digital learning company called Wireless Generation. In both his keynote speech and in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (i.e., the “house” paper as News Corp. owns it too), Rupert Murdoch describes what he calls the “Steve Jobs model for education reform,” which invokes familiar calls for using new technologies (i.e., iPads instead of textbooks) to “[rewrite] the rules of the game” while downplaying (or rather, downgrading) the role of teachers:

Just as the iPod compelled the music industry to accommodate its customers, we can use technology to force the education system to meet the needs of the individual student.

For example, say I was trying to teach a 10-year-old about Bernoulli’s principle. According to this principle, when speed is high, pressure is low. Sounds dry and abstract.

But what if I could bring this lesson alive by linking it to the soccer star Roberto Carlos—showing students a video clip that illustrates how his famous curved shot is an example of Bernoulli’s principle in action. Then suppose I followed up with an engineer from Boeing—who explained why this same principle is critical in aviation and introduced an app that could help students master the concept through playing a game. Finally, assessment tools would give teachers instant feedback about how well their students had mastered the material.

Written just like someone who has not spent the past several years sweating it out in an actual classroom, teaching actual students. Murdoch says what every other adult these days does: Kids these days take technology “for granted” outside the classroom; he therefore presumes that we ought to meet them where they are, on the technological front. But it’s not quite so revolutionary as he suggests to call for more technology, whether in the form of iPads or smart boards, in the classroom. In many schools and colleges in New Jersey, such has become commonplace and the jury is out about whether or not such “innovations” lead to better learning and if they will keep US students competitive.

(Last week, the best way I was able to get my students’ attention was to play a game of Latin grammar hangman on the chalkboard.)

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Photo by Alex E. Proimos

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12:58PM PDT on Oct 30, 2011

Wait... what? Why the sudden ganging up on technology? While I agree that it's not always helpful and is certainly no replacement for a good teacher, the idea of introducing technology into schools isn't bad simply because it comes from Murdoch. His examples of useful technology (illustrating Bertoulli's principle with a soccer kick and a Boeing engineer) seem like pretty good ideas to me, as a student. Assuming that my teacher were to discuss and illustrate the connection between the videos and the principle as we watched, which seems pretty reasonable, then I think that it's not true that "students don’t need a teacher showing them a video of a soccer star; that’s something they watch on their own." If the students were to watch the video separately from learning about the principle, the vast majority (myself included) would probably never make the connection. And were the teacher to assign the video for homework, with no help available for the students, it would be even harder to make this video mean anything. Technology, rather than making teachers obsolete, actually makes them even more important. After all, the whole point of a teacher is to interpret and explain textbooks and information for the students by highlighting important details and connections,
and this is what they do with technology.

Why are you picking on this important tool, Kristina? As a student in an iPad-equipped school, I know how much fun they can be to learn with, and just because Mur

7:12AM PDT on Oct 18, 2011

Why oh why is anyone letting this man anywhere near our children, even if its only via others. It has been proven over the past years the man has no values, hacking into the phones of at least 2 mothers following the murder of their children and causing police investigations to follow the wrong leads in one case. News Corp and its companies are in my opinion are a disgrace and should have nothing to do/say with the education of our children.

7:05PM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

Heaven help the children!

6:14PM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

The quality of the teachers and family-involvement in education are the two major factors in determining the success of an educational system. Barring any major screw-ups outside of those, the rest is statistical error. The technology matters only insofar as it helps the teacher. Using it for its own sake is a waste of money.

I do need to raise a minor issue with one point in the article, though: While expertise in a subject does not necessarily imply the ability to teach it, such expertise is often necessary to be effective. Without it, a teacher cannot answer any questions for students who need to know the underlying truths behind the lesson. It is also necessary for a teacher to be able to explain things in multiple ways, and if the teacher is only a few lessons ahead of the students then he or she cannot do that. I remember, one time, teaching a student Newton's Laws not by rote, but from the principle that the dynamics of a system do not depend upon how you measure it. To know what I was saying, to answer questions, and to be able to adapt the high-school-level lesson, I needed material from applied Lagrangian mechanics.

3:22PM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

In my worst moments I believe that the assault on education, along with health care and any standard of living for the other 98-99% of us, decline of the infrastructure, lack of jobs, and housing scams denying us even our homes, the assault on Social Security, all are meant to keep us hungry, afraid, docile, and ignorant. 25 years ago I predicted we would become "a Third World Country" meaning exactly the above. It is not a pleasure to be right about this.

President Eisenhower, the retired General and Republican said, "Beware the Military/Industrial complex." The 10 year war(s), the assaults on any civil rights and human rights, the funding of our government by corporations have taken us to this. May Occupy, along with the other fine human rights campaigns be able to save us from the catastrophes we suffer and any further ones.

12:17PM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

Extensive articles on computers in education at Oregon Technology in Education Council worth reading.

Arguments against using ICT in education

There is a significant amount of literature discussing ineffectual uses and possible negative effects of use of ICT in education.

12:16PM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

After our kids graduate from Murdoch High School they can attend Glen Beck University (yes, there is (or was) such a thing) to complete their well-rounded education. After this they can keep themselves current by watching Fox News every day. I see a bright future.

12:14PM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

Extensive articles on computers in education at Oregon Technology in Education Council worth reading.

Arguments against using ICT in education

There is a significant amount of literature discussing ineffectual uses and possible negative effects of use of ICT in education.

7:24AM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

A lot of good comments here.

What it appears we need for education is not the Murdochs of the world purchasing a new market called education. The potential for ill affects is astounding and catastrophic. What we need is strong public funding and strong government reform. One that is progressive and responsive to the educators and students alike. Not one that buys answers from corporations or forces ideological programs down educators throats.
What are our chanced of getting that? Slim to none. Not with our governmental pay to play system of free market barbarism.

So much of our culture hangs in the balance of our removal of money from politics. We can't affect any change if our politicians are beholden to campaign donators and are swayed by lobbyists with billions at the their disposal.

5:19AM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

Murdock is to education what FOX is to news. Just say no!

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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