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Learning in the Digital Age: Control or Connection?

Learning in the Digital Age: Control or Connection?
MICHAEL DUFFY

In October 2011, 200 state school officers and legislators gathered at a hotel in San Francisco to learn how to revolutionize learning by personalizing instruction. The occasion was former Florida Gov. Jeb Bushs second annual National Summit on Education Reform. The topic was digital learning.

To Bush and his supporters, personalized instruction has a very particular meaning: Students click at their own pace through web-based tutorials, videos, learning games, and diagnostic quizzes, with digital remediation as neededcontent and assessments all created and delivered by for-profit corporations.

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch was a keynote speaker at the summit. Ten months later, Murdochs News Corporation launched its own digital learning platform, Amplify, that will customize instruction and generate classroom data around the new Common Core Standards under the leadership of CEO Joel Klein, the controversial former New York City schools chancellor.

Although this corporate vision of digital learning is gaining traction in state legislatures across the country, social justice educators and their students offer a competing vista: new forms of media as a means for young people to create and collaborate across distance, aimed at collective action, advocacy, and democracy.

Ctrl L: Learning Controlled Through Technology

The vision of digitally managed curriculum and assessment presented at the summit was developed by the Digital Learning Council, also co-chaired by Jeb Bush. The councils plans are ambitious: In the rapidly changing landscape of digital media, the council has taken it upon itself to define the policies that will integrate current and future technological innovations into public education.1

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