The reform vision of twenty-first century education is one of “lifelong learning” run through devices that deliver digitized content and aggregate personal data for credentialing and predictive analytics purposes.  This will decrease expenses for children whose predictive analytics suggest lower level career placements.  Of course the data will also be used to evaluate return on impact investments in education, which drives our profits.

Adopting this model diminishes the need for physical school buildings and formally trained teachers. Our pitch is that with a device children can “learn” “anywhere.” The trade-off is the surveillance that goes along with it and the isolated nature of life on your own individualized learning pathway. Are you ready to trade in neighborhood schools for cyber-learning and centralized drop-in centers where students check in occasionally with a mentor to review their data dashboards and assess their progress? How comfortable are you that children with special needs, those whose first language is not English, those without reliable transportation, those with complex medical conditions, the children who are the most vulnerable can just pick up a device and learn “anytime” without meaningful, face-to-face support from a trained professional?

The MacArthur Foundation and Knowledgeworks are pushing the concept of learning ecosystems where “the city is your classroom,” but they aren’t going to come out and tell you these ecosystems with their cool maker spaces are intended to replace schools, not supplement them.