Personalized Learning: A “Steve Jobsian” Vision of Education?

Here are some excepts from a Wall Street Journal article on October 15, 2011 adapted from a speech given by Rupert Murdoch is chairman and CEO of News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal and a new Education Division. This article is adapted from his remarks Friday to the Foundation for Excellence in Education Summit in San Francisco. 

“Our children are growing up in Steve Jobs’s world. They are eager to learn and quick to embrace new technology. Outside the classroom they take technology for granted—in what they read, in how they listen to music, in how they shop.The minute they step back into their classrooms, it’s like going back in time. The top-down, one-size-fits-all approach frustrates the ones who could do more advanced work. And it leaves further and further behind those who need extra help to keep up.”

“Teachers are likewise stunted. Some excel at lecturing. Some are better at giving personal attention. With the right structure, [teachers] would work together like a football team. With the existing structure, they are treated like interchangeable cogs.”

“Better doesn’t have to be more expensive, either. For example, Georgia state legislators now spend $40 million a year on textbooks. They are considering iPads to save money and boost performance. Unlike a textbook—which is outdated the moment it is printed—digital texts can be updated.”

“Let’s be clear: Technology is never going to replace teachers. What technology can do is give teachers closer, more human and more rewarding interactions with their students. It can give children lesson plans tailored to their pace and needs. And it can give school districts a way to improve performance in the classroom while saving their taxpayers money.”

“Steve Jobs knew all about competitive markets. He once likened our school system to the old phone monopoly. “I remember,” he said in a 1995 interview, “seeing a bumper sticker with the Bell Logo on it and it said ‘We don’t care. We don’t have to.’ And that’s what a monopoly is. That’s what IBM was in their day. And that’s certainly what the public school system is. They don’t have to care.”

“We have to care. In this new century, good is not good enough. Put simply, we must approach education the way Steve Jobs approached every industry he touched. To be willing to blow up what doesn’t work or gets in the way. And to make our bet that if we can engage a child’s imagination, there’s no limit to what he or she can learn.”

You may not accept Rupert Murdoch’s or Steve Jobs’ brand of politics or vision of education reform, but what can we take away from their perspective?  

So how would a bold, innovative and perfection driven mind such as that of Steve Jobs have sought to restructure and re-imagine education in this region?

How could we redesign physical learning environments? 

How might teachers become the “Apple” of education’s eye?  

How can teachers compete with and be even more useful, engaging and inspiring than the iphone!?  

Is there a way to effectively package and transport a “first rate teacher” in your pocket, so to speak? What might get lost in the tech. translation–how can we supplement?  

Yes, these questions can feel somewhat threatening to ask–but they have to be asked if we are to evolve with students and avoid going the way of the IBM and dinosaurs.

4 thoughts on “Personalized Learning: A “Steve Jobsian” Vision of Education?

  1. Technology and social media are about building relationships between teacher and students, teacher and parents, and teacher and community. What struck me as a parent, is that digital technology is not recognized as a new media to the same extent that reading is recognized as an important media. A friend of mine was bragging how her child was going into kindergarten already knowing how to read. I sat there feeling like I’d been transported back a century as my kindergartener couldn’t read yet but she sure knows her way around the internet and social media. Embrace the new media.

    • Thank you for this!…we do have many ways to use technology to build relationships. I too think that a modern notion of literacy needs to include the language of technology. And considering a multiple intelligences theory of intelligence, I would say it is even a matter of social justice that we recognize technological expressions as just as valid as traditional forms of output!

  2. Remember that Rupert Murdoch has an economic imperative to ‘transforming education’. He runs corporations that are looking for growth in stable publicly funded markets. Quote from Murdoch on his news Corp. Press Release: “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching”. Murdoch, as the chairman and CEO of News Corp. (with The Wall Street Journal and Fox Broadcasting Co. in its’ holdings), is not looking at reform as a moral imperative, but more an economic one.

    Follow the breadcrumbs around ‘learning analytics’ as the next tech wave tied to personalizing learning. Murdoch’s acquisition of Wireless Generation is part of the path.


  3. Powerful points. Thank you, Phil. “Follow the bread crumbs…” Hmmm, it’s chilling. Your contributions to this discussion about personalizing learning have been so valuable for me as a teacher reaching to understand the broader context. I have and continue to recommend to others your article, “The Politics of Personalization in the 21st Century”

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