May 20, 2022

Nancy Bailey: 6 Terms Transforming Public Schools to The All-Tech Endgame

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Nancy Bailey looks at terms used to disguise attempts to convert schools to all-tech businesses. Reposted with permission.

Here are tech terms threatening teachers and public schools and how students learn. When these words or phrases appear, it’s an indication that school district administrators, school board members, or those at the state or federal education levels are embracing an all-technology system, and teachers will play a secondary role in teaching students.

Public schools will no longer look the way they do now. Little proof indicates children will learn better this way.

1. Anytime/Anywhere Learning 

Anytime, anywhere learning replaces formal schooling, teachers, and the classroom with mobile instruction through technology.

Both political parties seem in favor of this tech conversion. Republican Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Democrat Arne Duncan have pushed anytime, anywhere learning. In 2022, while visiting a museum, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said, “We need to think about anywhere-anytime learning (DeForge).”

It’s what it states. Students can visit museums, outside clubs, or other organizations with laptops, where they’ll find tutors or facilitators to help them if they run into a problem. They won’t have a subject specialist or elementary teacher.

Students might also stay home and learn everything online or attend a cyber school, but those schools will drastically differ from current public schools.

2. Deeper Learning

Deeper learning is associated with whole-child education, with a large part of this technology and data collection.

In 2014, a Harvard report called The Role of Digital Technologies in Deeper Learning by Chris Dede described it as:

  • collaborative investigations
  • extended inquiries
  • apprenticeships
  • interdisciplinary projects
  • students to discuss and debate complex ideas
  • connect academic subjects to personal interests
  • confront open-ended, real-world problems

Much of this tries to connect children to their future and careers. It’s not clear how children will learn subject basics.

3. Digital Equity

Providing the poorest students access to digital information is essential. Technology has become a part of life and a helpful tool necessary for learning and most professions. Students needed to connect to their teachers online during the pandemic.

Still, is it equity if children no longer have well-funded public schools with qualified, prepared teachers or an in-person connection to other students?

How will students learn to like each other?

Legislators bemoan the digital divide, but where have they been for teachers and students in their public schools?

4. Personalized Learning

Personalized learning (a term hijacked from special education) is about children facing screens for instruction.

Based on an online assessment, students get lessons aligned to their (personalized) academic level. They punch in answers. If correct, they move forward; if incorrect, they redo until they get the correct response.

This kind of instruction does little to connect students socially. Nor is it the best instruction. It collects online personal data about students, which is a concern.

Other descriptors for personalized learning include:

  • competency-based
  • autonomy
  • purposeful
  • differentiated
  • student-directed
  • proficiency-based
  • project-based
  • self-efficacy
  • interest-driven
  • mastery
  • individualized

5. Seat Time   

Criticizing student seat time promotes anytime, anywhere learning. It’s not to be confused with fighting to give children more recess. It’s important to remember too that students usually sit in front of computers.

The actual claim is that it doesn’t matter how much time students spend in school if the computer collects student information (data) and can demonstrate successful mastery of standardized achievement. But there’s no proof students get a well-rounded education.

Knowledgeworks, an organization awarded $7.4 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2007, continues to wield power in promoting this notion.

Here’s how some state legislatures are reconfiguring the kinds of credits students will earn, by changing seat time to transform schools to online learning provided by Knowledgeworks:

6. Whole Child Learning

Different definitions surround teaching the whole child, but the primary focus involves added responsibility for a child’s health, especially social-emotional learning, and collecting data (it’s a data gold mine) on a child’s behavior. The promise is that this will make children ready for the 21st century.

Whole child learning is related to Deeper Learning discussed above.

If you have something to add about these definitions, please share. I realize this list is incomplete, but this is enough for now.


DeForge, J. (2022, March 6). US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona visits Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst College, to learn about innovative education methods. Mass Live, Retrieved from

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