Saturday, 13 June 2009


It’s not often that online learning gets discussed in the mainstream, and I must admit I missed the Governor of California’s most recent pronouncement. I caught up with it on primetime TV last night on the BBC, when it was discussed on Have I Got News For You. Well, not so much discussed as ridiculed, albeit for the wrong reasons

Arnold Schwarzenegger has advocated greater use of online learning in schools. His actual statements make perfect sense. For example,

"California is home to software giants, bioscience research pioneers and first-class university systems known around the world. But our students still learn from instructional materials in formats made possible by Gutenberg's printing press"
(from USA Today)

However, he made the mistake of emphasising the cost savings of replacing textbooks, allowing critics to focus on claims that he is only proposing this to save money, and to caricature his position as “getting rid of textbooks”.

This underscores a point I have made many times before, about advocates of digital technology in learning needing to focus on the real benefits. Sadly, it also highlights the uphill battle we face in getting traditionalists to accept that there are now new ways of learning, which are often better than the old ways. As far as the Have I Got News For You panel were concerned, the arguments for online learning were terminated.

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