Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Teach to One: Technology that Kills Learning Relationships

Teach to One Math is an exciting idea. What if computers could help students get a truly personalized learning experience? Their supporters include an amazing list of educational organizations for which I have great admiration and respect, including Gates, Chan Zuckerberg, New Profit, and Oak.

Hechinger Report published an interesting article a few years ago What happens when computers, not teachers, pick what students learn? that paints a picture of how Teach to One Math can look in a classroom. It's certainly innovative, and probably works for some kids and teachers, but I was skeptical.

When Open Culture published Trainwreck: The Teach to One Math Experiment in Mountain View, CA Is a Cautionary Tale About the Perils of Digital Math Education, more people took notice of the downside of Teach to One. Around the time the Open Culture article came out, I spoke with a teacher from a Teach to One school, and her comment was that she felt...
"... cut out of the process and overwhelmed at the same time."
I'm sure that computer-driven adaptivity has its place, but when those algorithms get in the way of effective teacher-student relationships, we have a problem.

Why mention this idea that is a few years old? Artificial Intelligence (AI) is getting more powerful and so people keep coming up ways that computers can improve teaching and learning. For instance, some of TeachThought's 10 Roles For Artificial Intelligence In Education have AI-driven systems re-framing the role of the teacher. Teach to One Math should be a cautionary tale that helps us evaluate huge shifts that could harm relationships between teachers and students.

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