Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Special Blog Assignment

A World Where Grades Will Be Left Behind
An article in the USA Today talks about a world where education is affordable and accessible to anyone. This will be achieved by the expanding use of online learning. To encourage this shift of thinking the author, Mary Marklein, says that in a few years lectures will be fun. The example they give is teaching a psychics lesson with a game similar to angry birds. Sebastian Thrun, Google vice president and researcher, goes on to say that learning should be fun. In his vision teachers wouldn't be just lecturing to twenty or one hundred students, instead he sees reaching thousands and hundreds of thousands of people. He has seen these numbers before. He taught an artificial intelligence class online and had about 160,000 students. He says this experience is like "taking the red pill" with this new power you can teach on such a large scale that it will seem like wonderland, or you can take the "blue pill" and go back to teaching 20 students. Lastly he claims that with this new teaching method education will now answer to the students.

This entire article is flawed. Grades will always be an important part of education. I never understood why grades are seen as a reward punishment system. That is the logic that is flawed. I was raised and taught that if you do your best then you will get the grade you deserve, and if you didn't then you got a lower grade. How is that punishment? I think people are confusing punishment for reflection. This argument is brought up in an age where parents can't even discipline their children without the fear of being accused of child abuse. It is this sort of mentality that will destroy the education system. The article says that failure is no longer an option. Who are they trying to fool? Failure is not only an option; it is an important part of growing up. We learn the most from our mistakes.

Now to further my point from a logical standpoint, we need to say what a "grade" is. Traditionally grades are given a letter with an "A" representing 100% to 90% completion or correctness, "B" from 89% to 80%, "C" from 79% to 70%, "D" from 69% to 60% and "F" from 59% to 0%. The article says,"Classes will involve a sequence of increasingly more challenging exercises and quizzes aimed at helping students master a particular concept or skill." How does the computer program know when it is time to go to the next lesson? The computer will have to see if a certain percentage was reached to see if the student is ready. This percentage is still the very definition of a grade. Does this mean the true argument here is whether we should show the students their grade?

Assuming the computer program can be altered to not rely on a "grade algorithm", can you imagine the torment of being behind a computer screen for hours or days just to have to keep repeating the same lesson over and over? Obviously you do not understand the material. How long will it take the professor to email you back after you ask him a question, seeing that he has 160,000 students in one class? The next argument will be that they can skip the lesson. That will be worse. If lessons are skipped the students will not learn the fundamentals of the skill they are trying to acquire. If there is not a safe guard against laziness then the system will be in serious jeopardy.

Near the end of the article they give themselves a neat little loophole. "Instruction will be free, but related services might involve a fee. Among those are certification and exams, which will be conducted separately from the learning process." That means the only grade that matters to them is the grade you get at the very end of career as a student. How can a student prepare for these types of tests without knowing how they are doing in the classroom?

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