Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

Wikipedia & the Magic School bus

Magic school bus
(Image credit: XKCD)


In many ways this comic from XKCD describes to me the dichotomy between the neo-Liberal 21st century personalized learning model, and the constructivist learning model.

The Magic Bus uses an constructivist approach to learning. In each episode, Ms. Frizzle leads the students through investigations of different scientific ideas through magical field trips. The students lead the process, and Ms. Frizzle uses her questions to draw out their thinking, and to help students decide on the direction of the bus. Often she leads the students through the scientific principles, but she lets them come to their own understanding of the science, while helping to correct their misconceptions.

In the neo-Liberal model, students absorb content through online courses, and the personalization comes in through what pace they are learning the material, and what resources they need to be indoctrinated. One of the primary purposes of technology in this mindset seems to be to reduce the role of the teacher in leading the child through learning, both for a cost-savings effect, but also to reduce the natural tendencies of teachers to indoctrinate children with their own moral values.

Personally, I’d hate to see the Magic School bus model of learning derailed to meet a corporate need for compliant citizens. Videos used to help explain concepts, or as part of a pedagogical approach of individual teachers is okay with me, but as a vehicle for dehumanizing education is entirely inappropriate. If we are going to use technology in our schools, I think it behoves us to recognize both of these arguments for what they are, a fundamentally different approach to education.