I recently revisited the central prediction of the influential 2008 book, Disrupting Class – that the growth in computer-based delivery of education will accelerate swiftly until, by 2019, half of all high school classes will be taught over the Internet – in two blog posts (here and here). At the time the prediction was made, I was a skeptic (that it was possible, that it was inevitable, that is was even desirable) and have remained so.

For the prediction to approach a semblance of accuracy we should be seeing dramatic evidence by now that large percentages of U.S. high school students have the opportunity not just to take an online class for credit but a significant proportion of their course load online. New data analyses by NCES offer an updated assessment of the adoption of online learning by high schools:

  • More than 4 in 10 U.S. public high schools (42.5 percent) did not offer any entirely online courses to high school students during the 2015-16 school year.
  • Of those high schools that did offer entirely online courses, fewer than 14 percent offered students the ability to take about half or more of all courses entirely online:
    • 3.6 percent of high schools that offered any courses entirely online offered ‘about half of all courses online;’
    • 6.7 percent offered ‘a majority of all classes online;’ and,
    • 3.6 percent offered ‘all classes online.’

This is a far cry from the evidence we should be seeing if the 2008 prediction was even approaching accuracy. Yet, from my vantage point in the education policy arena (in leadership roles, for instance, at the National Association of State Boards of Education and the State Educational Technology Directors Association), the book and prediction drove widespread advocacy for changes in policy and practice. Indeed, I am reminded by Audrey Watters 2016 admonition that “the best way to predict the future is to issue a press release:”

Here’s my “take home” point: if you repeat this fantasy, these predictions often enough, if you repeat it in front of powerful investors, university administrators, politicians, journalists, then the fantasy becomes factualized. (Not factual. Not true. But “truthy,” to borrow from Stephen Colbert’s notion of “truthiness.”) So you repeat the fantasy in order to direct and to control the future. Because this is key: the fantasy then becomes the basis for decision-making.

There is more to be said and written about this book and related topics. In the mean time, my “take home” point is that skepticism of claims about the future of technology in education deserve a greater voice. I believe it is inevitable that technological tools and services will become more integral to schools and schooling. How, for whom, and to what ends these tools will be employed, however, all deserve much deeper and critical investigations.

We need other better stories about the future of technology in education.


Otherwise, here’s what caught my eye this past week – news, tools, and reports about education, public policy, technology, and innovation – including a little bit about why. No endorsements; no sponsored content; no apologies for my eclectic tastes.

Strong opinions may be weakly held.

A Thinking Person’s Guide to EdTech News (2017 Week 34 Edition)

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