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Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World Hardcover – October 18, 2011
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From the Inside Flap
"I am convinced that there is an amazing new world of education right around the corner—engaging learning experiences for students, an exciting future for learning professionals, and productive options for families. This book is also a call to join me as an advocate for innovation in learning as the key to lifting the achievement of U.S. students and reaching the next billion young people worldwide."
—From the Preface
Our digital age has prompted the need for radical new ways of learning that touch students, teachers, and parents. In Getting Smart, well-known global education expert Tom Vander Ark examines the various facets of educational innovation in the United States and abroad. Vander Ark—a former business executive, school superintendent, and foundation director—makes a convincing case for a new model of education that blends online and on-site learning. Vander Ark explains that through the use of technology it is now possible to provide 24/7 access to learning and increase student engagement. This new model can be cost effective, even doubling productivity for students who are struggling. By customizing learning—teaching the right way at the right level—each hour of learning can become more effective for all students at all levels.
Throughout this inspirational book, Vander Ark shares real-world stories of schools and programs that offer effective "personal digital learning" opportunities. In addition, Getting Smart spells out a vision of what it will take to transform our schools into "smart schools" that blend models, extend learning, and leverage community resources.
From the Back Cover
Praise for Getting Smart
"Provocative and bold, Tom Vander Ark's Getting Smart challenges long-held assumptions about education, points to why innovation will be so critical to enabling the education system of the future, and paints a vision of what learning could look like throughout society—and how we so desperately need it."
—Michael B. Horn, executive director, Education of Innosight Institute;and coauthor, Disrupting Class
"Tom Vander Ark thinks public education ought to join the twenty-first century. In this visionary book about a new and much more effective way to educate our kids, he explains the potential impact of the digital revolution on education—a learning transformation that is inevitable, even though it's now still in its infancy. Finally, an education reform book filled with hope, accompanied by a clear articulation of the way forward."
—Joel Klein, CEO, Educational Division, News Corporation
"Tom Vander Ark's analysis of the interrelationships between student needs, experiences, schools, and opportunity through innovations is thought provoking and 'wicked smart.' Vander Ark illuminates a pathway that is rational and intelligent—synthesizing the opportunities for adults to get smarter in serving our aspiring youth."
—Susan Patrick, president and CEO, iNACOL
"As usual, Tom Vander Ark is right on target. Blended learning will change how and what we teach and how and what students learn. Tomorrow has suddenly become today!"
—Terry Grier, superintendent, Houston ISD
Top customer reviews
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I rate this 4 1/2 stars.
The technologies Vander Ark discusses are, on one hand, a continuation of current consumer technology trends and, on the other, a revolution to the educational status quo. The book provides a strong, coherent and well-argued point of view that covers not only the application of technology to learning but also the implications of that application on the entire education system.
Learning is the operative idea in Vander Ark's book. Learning in terms of the outcome technology supports, what students actually do and the future of a re-imagined education system. The book can be divided into these two areas.
The first part of the book, chapters 1 - 6, concentrates on technology and the changing learning environment. Vander Ark describes how learning is different in an environment where it is self-paced, self directed and open to the best materials available. Vander Ark covers the impact of adding social networking and gaming to the learning process in ways that drive beyond what you may think of as traditional learning management systems.
The technologies Vander Ark foresees are not Internet applications that facilitate teaching (ala Blackboard) but consumer technologies that facilitate exploration, learning and demonstration of mastery at the individual level. These chapters are enlightening to people in helping them think of technology as a path to re-imagining education rather than electronically paving the way to the old schoolhouse.
The second part of the book, chapters 7 - 9, discusses the operational, policy and regulatory implications of these new technologies and the need to re-imagine the education system. In these chapters Vander Ark deals directly with issues of certification, the entrenched educator employment model, funding issues and national policy. Each of these topics are discussed in a frank and no holds barred way as Vander Ark sees a system in need of replacement rather than reform.
The ideas in the second part flow and fit from the implications of applying new technologies to learning. A call for funding individual students rather than school systems, national certification and opening up the learning supply chain to private as well as public sources are all discussed.
This is a policy book. It is intended to shape the learning and education debate in terms of advocating for greater use of consumer technologies to support individual learning and reduced emphasis on the formal structures of current education systems. Both parts reflect a fundamental re-imagination of learning and the systems required to support that learning. I say learning rather than education as throughout the book Vander Ark advocates that the education system is fundamentally and irreparably broken.
The book is provocative without being too sensational. New technologies are discussed in clearly and descriptive language so people who are less familiar with them can understand.
Extensive use of third parties and other visionaries, which not only strengthen the argument but also, provide examples that, is helpful.
A forward looking view on the impact of technology that looks beyond web 1.0 automation to web 2.0 consumerizaiton and socialization of learning.
Provocative from the standpoint that Vander Ark discusses the impact of technology on the entire education system not in terms of reform but in terms of creating a new and different system. You may not like the ideas, but they are well formed and flow in ways that are consistent with the way technology is changing the world.
Much of Vander Ark's arguments suggest that there is nothing really salvageable in the current education system. This will lead some readers to reject his argument and presentation, which is unfortunate as there are some interesting ideas in the book.
The book is light on evidence and data. While the book uses examples to support its argument, many of them are related to for-profit companies. At times this makes the book read more like a charter school advertisement than an assessment of education policy and choices.
There is limited discussion of the downside of technology in learning. Vander Ark does not talk much about the potential for propaganda, dogmatization, security, privacy and other issues raised by the application of technology. This presents, as challenge as the book gives the impression that there is no downside to tech in learning.
Some will read the book as a one sided shout out for pro-commercial, anti-union, anti-teacher policies and practices. FOX news and conservative radio will eat this up. If you choose to see it that way, then you will reject everything outright and this book become more propaganda than policy influence. However, readers who take a step back ask what is the impact of technology on the future of learning, rather than education, will get more out of the book.
Overall, recommended for educators and policy makers who want to learn more about the potential for technology to re-imagine a central part of the way we live. Non-educators will get much from this book as well, predominately the first part. I have enjoyed the book as it provides a comprehensive statement of one view on how technology changes the focus, features and future of an entire industry. I have learned from reading Getting Smart and if you are interested in the topic, then you will too.
It's a book that touts the incredible benefits of future digital learning (something most probably already know), mentions the current players in the field of digital online learning (here today, more than likely gone tomorrow; although the ideas, themselves, will stay relevant), while ignoring the cultural issues behind the abysmal educational system (as a native of la, I can assure you, the lack of technology is NOT the problem). While the book is about digital learning and doesn't market itself as a book on why the system is failing, the author repeatedly blames the ills of the current educational system on the system of learning itself, which is why I mention it. Keeping the student engaged is primarily a self-motivational factor and has very little to do with the media that the education is presented in (although a non-engaged student will look outside himself/herself for the reasons why they don't care and tell you differently). You only need to point to India and China as prime examples. This extreme customization of learning that the author champions is going to have the very real consequence of creating an environment where whatever works for little Jimmy is just fine, so long as little Jimmy's OK with it. A classroom full of high-achieving Chinese students-utilizing one textbook for a classroom and still managing to achieve high scores-would laugh at that notion. Technology should be a tool and not the students prime motivator for wanting to care. A student will point to anything outside himself/herself as the reason for the lack motivation. The author believes the lack of technology is the problem, and I believe he's going to be supremely disappointed when the new high-school-with a well-funded technology department-5 minutes from me continues to dish-out a 33% dropout rate 10 years from now.
The author's insistence that learning be made so that the student can choose "when to work on it, how long to spend on it, and how to approach the experience", and then receive some sort of recognition for their work while virtually eliminating the negative feedback a student receives after getting an answer wrong is discouraging and does a disservice to those future students who will enter the real world ill-prepared. It's OK to set a goal above one's aptitude and prod them into reaching that goal. Going at one's own pace (often an imagined self-limitation) has the potential pitfall of promoting complacency and mediocrity.
In sum, I found this book to be more of a reference on what is available in the digital realm, rather than a book on how to use what's available. It's a collection of what's available now and what (according to the author) is likely to be available in the near future. If you already know what the "The Cloud" is and have already read a book (of which there are many) or spent a decent amount of time reading material on the digital economy and how its poised to reinvent the way education is taught, then you won't find anything new here.