- March 31, 2021
- Posted by: kcadmin
- Category: Blog
Ron Kantor Interview, BRN Weekly Jeffrey Snyder
Dr. Ronald Kantor, BRN Weekly
Good morning, welcome back to the broadcast retirement network. I’m Jeff Snyder, this is B Rn weekly, for Saturday, February 20, 2021. And Our top story this week, virtual disaster, the impact of COVID on our educational system. Joining me now to discuss this and a lot more is Dr. Ronald Cantor. He’s a learning and development consultant. Ron, great to see you. Thanks so much for joining us in the program this morning.
Dr. Ronald Kantor
I’m very happy to be here with you. I’m really proud to be here.
Well, it’s great to have you and, you know, this topic of education. And a discussion about Virtual Education couldn’t be timelier. There’s a lot of talk out there about getting our children out of the homes, for education and back in the schools. But I want to seek out your perspective on this. So give it to us straight and to the point. How are you kind of what are you seeing in terms of successes, and maybe some areas for improvement in terms of this virtual learning?
Dr. Ronald Kantor
Well, that’s very interesting, because if you think about it, it’s really been a virtual disaster. I mean, so much of what’s happened has taken the notion of schooling and turned it on its head. I mean, if you think about what schools offer kids that they can’t get through virtual, it’s the socialization, it’s the sports, it’s the opportunity to interact with teachers and informally, and all that’s kind of gone away. Then add to that, the rationale given for why we have the absolute requirement to return kids to school. On one hand, you have the educational imperative and time lost learning, on the other hand, you have the economic imperative. You know you can have a good affluent life in the United States, without both parents working. School fills the gap of childcare, a provision that really doesn’t exist otherwise in our society. What’s interesting about the conditions caused by the the pandemic is the real possibility that they may actually lead to positive outcomes and transformation. Even if you think about the meaning of “virtual” disaster, the meaning of “virtual” is not real. So, I would posit, it isn’t a real disaster. It’s an opportunity. A chance to move in a direction that’s more interconnected, more leveraged on resources that extend beyond the walls of the school and accessible through the Internet. And if you think about it, one of the things we’ll be left with when this pandemic is beaten, and it will ultimately be beaten with vaccines, is that we’re going to be left with many, many more students connected to the internet, many more opportunities to extend the nature of education in ways that were only available beforehand, to the affluent and their children. So my sense of it is, yes, it’s a sort of a desperate situation. But largely, it’s because we are measuring the wrong things in terms of education. The educational system overall, is in a state of what I would call “hysterical panic” about this, because their whole business model has been turned on its head. This extends across the entire educational ecosystem. My daughter, who attends a private liberal arts college that costs $75,000, a year is majoring in a subject where the whole industry is shut down due to Covid restrictions. So, is studying that topic area logical now? No, not really. Was it logical beforehand? Maybe not either? Because if you think about it, there’s such a misalignment between what kids are studying through the K-12 years and then how they continue at the university? And then what relevance does that have to the world of work? Unfortunately, if you don’t have a STEM or STEAM background, maybe no relation whatsoever. What are your choices when you finish school and have to pay off your students’ loans? You end up becoming a low paid service worker and if you’re luck, a job at Starbucks. So overall, I think there are issues that have to be resolved in the educational system including that system’s misalignment, its lack of contemporary topics to learn and skill training that make people successful in the workplace. This pandemic has revealed a lot of those problems. And I think that in some ways, there’s no going back to the way it was before as much as non-creative school administrators, stressed out parents, and paranoid political entities want us to. Another important point to consider is how and what we measure to determine student attainment and accomplishment? And the answer is, we use outdated standardized testing, much of which seeks to determine how much one knows about a lot decontextualized topic areas, a garbage pile of information that they’re probably never going to use again in their lives, things they don’t really care about, but are obligated to learn despite individual preferences and interests, because they have to not because they want to or because it’s relevant and useful. What about the skills necessary to be successful in an interconnected world we’re living in now? We don’t even measure technology literacy, coding or the development of digital skills. We don’t measure the successful competencies needed to use technology to learn by getting connected or putting-up assignments, generally the ability to use various systems effectively. These capabilities are not even being measured, and yet that’s what’s necessary to be successful. It’s an irony that everybody can see right now, and frankly, I think is going to lead to significant change in the future, but not immediately. What we’re moving to is a gradual recognition of the fact that the overall educational system, which may work for some, doesn’t work as planned for everyone. Our educational system was hardly fulfilling its mission beforehand. I don’t think it’s fulfilling its mission for society even more so now, and I think the pandemic has revealed this in spades.
What are the steps that you would recommend going from where we are today, what I would call point A, and get us to point z, which is more openness, more access, a curriculum, or curricula, whatever the proper grammar is on that is really appropriate for our next generation of leaders and workers?
Dr. Ronald Kantor
Well, I think we can learn something from the Chinese and how they have approached integrating ed tech and distance learning into their education system. I was in China in Beijing in 2018, for the Global Education Technology Summit. And I was very impressed. I discovered, firsthand that the Chinese were already using artificial intelligence in education, and even augmented reality, on the university side, to teach engineering and other topics, which we are hardly even touching in this country. On the on the K-12. side, the thing the Chinese educators and instructional designers recognized was, that the use of distance learning was essential, because the regionally distant cities outside of Shenzhen, Beijing, and Shanghai, just didn’t have strong educational resources, most notably teachers of English, advanced math and science. So, based on government policy, they planned was to make the educational system more equitable using the same distance learning technologies were using here in the US to cope with exigencies during the pandemic. But the difference between the Chinese approach to distance learning and ours is that instead of focusing on the content and treating the students as tabula rasas that could be written on via lecture and the transmission of information, the Chinese instructional and experience designers focused on the emotional state of the students. The Chinese are using artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and various other algorithms to understand the emotional and psychological state of the students who are at a distance. And then they’re providing teachers of those students, intact classes of students mostly, with feedback to know how to improve their approach to engaging those students even though they are geographically dispersed.
We have nothing close to that here except if you want to include innovative outliers like Dr. Bruce Kosslyn’s Foundry College (https://foundrycollege.org). Actually, it would be very interesting to reengage the Chinese now that Trump’s gone to see how they’ve moved forward with their systems almost three years later. Innovative education companies, like TAL, DAO, and CLASSIN were and still are all pushing the envelope in ways that would help us here to improve the quality of our education. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if they don’t insist on curriculum, they already have a textbook that’s been nationally developed, is the basis for a course on the use and development of AI solutions that every college student in China has to take. We have nothing comparable to that here in this country. And one of the reasons is the same reason we have the problems we are experiencing now with the virtual learning during this pandemic. Contemplate this…right now…if there are 2500 school districts, there are 2500 solutions. And as you know, based on Six Sigma principles, variance is the enemy of efficiency and effectiveness. In the course of a year, we went from a situation where nobody knew what to do, to a situation now in which everybody claims to know how to do virtual teaching and learning, but these self-proclaimed experts are all doing different things taking different learning approaches, using different technology and pedagogies. And part of the reason they’re all doing different things is because the quality of of the Department of Education’s solutions offered, actually, the Department’s inability to come up with a common set recommended standard…well let’s just say their contribution to dealing with these challenges has been vapid. Now that may change, but to this point, it’s everyone for themselves, basically. And that is not the best formula for, shall we say societal success. It may work really well for the affluent who can afford to create private pods and bring in their own teachers and pursue other expensive interventions of this sort. However, for the general public, a typical family in the United States, I mean, it’s been a horror for them in many ways. And let me give you one example. You know, there’s this new role in distance learning that’s emerged as part of the design for virtual learning. That new role is the learning coach. Really, this is just a euphemism. And another way of saying a parent, family member or guardian who has the time and inclination to sit next to an early childhood or primary student who basically helps them to do the work. Actually, what we’ve found is that often, these learning coaches do a lot of the work for the students they are coaching. Another question that’s come up is how one can be tested fairly if the learning coach is sitting next to them, giving them the answers. What’s most significant about this and worth considering, is the crying need for more family education and life coaching. There need to be ways by which we can uplift family life, especially during the time of pandemic and specifically when there’s so much edgy mental illness out there right now with people who are isolated and not used to living that way. This is another valuable opportunity that we’ve been given to help the family really feel like a part of the school community. In my experience, often teachers are afraid of telling family/parents/guardians what to do, so sources of family education and guidance need to come from higher level administrators who serve at the school district level.
Another interesting factor, that “fits” with any discussion of Family Education is the way in which Zoom based delivery inadvertently let’s attendees pry into people’s private lives. You can tell a lot about people by looking at their backgrounds. Zoom-like interfaces can provide an intimate view into people’s lives that normally doesn’t exist and certainly doesn’t in normal/traditional school settings. And distance learning can be a very, very powerful means to support project-based learning and group exhibition. And that’s why I’m working on a concept with some of my former colleagues at Accenture, called the GLAP, a group learning assessment platform. which posits that we should use this environment as a way to bring large numbers of people together kids with parents watching to show what they’ve learned to do a live gamified event that will provide students and teachers a chance to exhibit what they’ve learned for parents, and to get a nice community thing going because that seems to me a lot what’s missing right now. Instead, we find parents are learning coaches, meaning they’re the ones who have to flog the kids to do the work. And teachers who have become assignors. And Chief, they give them assignments, and then they clock the assignments back in. But as far as how much teaching is going on, virtual learning is a double-edged sword is they’re learning really going on, we have no way to know at this point, because our standardized tests really aren’t applicable, and they’re not and, and the state here in North Carolina, is afraid to allow students to take those tests because it’ll show how much they fall mind. So, they’re not even taking the tests at this point. There’s a lot of interesting opportunities and challenges. And I don’t think they’re bad. I think they’re actually good because we were stuck in a pattern of school, which probably wasn’t working beforehand, anyway.
Yeah. Well, Ron, there’s so much that you delivered through your through our conversation today. And we look forward to having you back again, we’re going to make this into a regular monthly series, if not, with greater frequency. Ron Cantor. Dr. Ron caner, always a pleasure chatting with you, sir. And we look forward to having you back on the program very soon,
Dr. Ronald Kantor
Jeff, this is you’re filling a very, very important void right now in terms of education for people across this country who nearly need it, those of us who are retiring, so I just want to thank you very much for all of your hard work to make this network, you know, a possibility. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you.
Dr. Ronald Kantor
Bye for now.
Thanks, Ron. Appreciate your perspective.