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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Arne Duncan makes a startling admission: online learning doesn't work

At the conclusion of the NBC Education Nation conference in New York today, writer William Doyle (co-author with James Meredith of  A MISSION FROM GOD) asked U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan a question involving billions of dollars of taxpayer funds.

The video below is hard to hear, but here is a transcript of the substance of the conversation, which began before the video rolled:

Doyle: "Are you aware of the fact that your own What Works Clearinghouse [U.S. Department of Education research department] has found virtually no [K-8] technology interventions with solid evidence of academic benefit [exception: special needs and distance learners]?"

Secretary Duncan: "We're nuts on that. We've gotta fix it. It's a big problem. John Easton runs the IESD, have you talked to John?"

Doyle: "No, is that the What Works Clearinghouse?"

Secretary Duncan: "It comes out of his shop. This is not my first time hearing it. I haven't fixed it. I gotta figure it out. I got it. [ex-Apple exec] Karen Cator on my staff is my tech guru, she is phenomenal. She totally gets this."

Doyle: "I think maybe we should stop spending all these [many billions of] dollars [on those K-8 technology products that don't have strong evidence of academic benefit] until we validate it."

Secretary Duncan: "Talk to John."

Additional note from William Doyle: "Personally, I believe in the effective use of technology for learning by older children, once it has been found to have strong evidence of academic benefit through independent research. I am not certain that when Secretary Duncan said "I haven't fixed it," he meant the technology or the research."


NYC Educator said...

Perhaps he was only trying to say he's yet to figure out a way to extract maximum profit from it, and that there are still a lot of expensive humans getting in its way. I'm not persuaded that whether or not things work factor at all in this administration's decisions.

be careful said...

He actually sounds like a huckster.....flapping his lips, saying nothing and it appears he is not informed...delegates to others...shoots off names...get to this guy...get this guru, but what is he an expert on? Nice suit, new tie, basketball buddy to Obama, but no experience or knowledge in the industry he is leading. P A T H E T I C !

Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

Scoundrels and profiteers.

dorainseattle said...

He has always sounded like a jock to me. You know the type. When on camera they say the usual phrases but aren't saying anything at all with their mono-tonal voices.

This guy has no clue, never did and never will.

It was a complete insult to the rest of us when he was selected as Secretary of Ed.

Alexander Russo said...

this headline seems misleading. i'm no advocate for online learning or a particular fan of duncan's but even in the transcription you provided i don't see duncan admitting that online learning doesn't work. he's not an idiot. he's saying he's got to fix the what works clearninghouse, and yes putting off his questioner.

Anonymous said...

The only way to "fix" the What Works Clearinghouse is to do multi-year randomized studies that prove online is effective. I'm pretty sure he meant "fixing" that like fixing a boxing match.

NYeducator you are so right on about reformers wanting to move dollars out of human capital (teachers) into "materials, resources." great elearning will made ooodles of cash for the private sector, and all were talking is a couple more students per class. Win, win right?

Unless you actually see education as the foundation of democracy, and value learning for learning's sake.

Patrick J. Sullivan said...

Russo's comment is just silly. Clearly implicit in his response Duncan is saying, "yes, my own research experts say it doesn't work."

Leonie Haimson said...

Hard to know exactly what he means; fix the programs or the evaluations but in either case it's pretty damning I think.

PeterS said...

The headline for this is completely misleading. The What Works Clearinghouse is not a reference to online learning. So how you make the leap to online learning doesn't work is not logical. The suggestion that we do experimental research on online learning randomized trials is probably a waste of time. Online learning is primarily about choice. Once you force someone into the online learning (experimental) condition you have changed/undermined the "treatment". It can't be done that way...

Pauline Howard said...

Yes, he actually sounds like a huckster.

online college course

Carol Lee said...

To explicitly says that online education does not work is a product of unsorted and baseless claim. Why more and more reputable schools are giving online certificate if this claim is true in the first place?