The notion that Bill Gates has been invited to New York to “reimagine education in the new normal” resulted in serious pushback.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said last week that the state is collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to envision what education should look like in the near future. Making better use of technology will be the focus of this partnership.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has compelled schools to teach courses online rather than hosting students in their classrooms. Mr. Cuomo suggested we should use this time to see how education could be transformed going forward.
“The last few months have been an incredibly stressful time full of change, but we have to learn and grow from this situation and make sure we build our systems back better than they were before,” Mr. Cuomo said May 5 during a news briefing. “One of the areas we can really learn from is education because the old model of our education system where everyone sits in a classroom is not going to work in the new normal. When we do reopen our schools, let’s reimagine them for the future. And to do that, we are collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and exploring smart, innovative education alternatives using all the new technology we have at our disposal.”
According to a May 5 news release from Mr. Cuomo’s office, issues to be explored include:
n How to use technology to provide more opportunities to students no matter where they are.
n How to provide shared education among schools and colleges using technology.
n How to use technology to reduce educational inequality, including English as a new language students.
n How to use technology to meet educational needs of students with disabilities.
n How to provide educators more tools to use technology.
n How to use technology to break down barriers to K-12 and colleges and universities to provide greater access to high quality education no matter where the student lives.
n Given ongoing socially distancing rules, how to deploy classroom technology, like immersive cloud virtual classrooms learning, to re-create larger class or lecture hall environments in different locations.
These are ambitious goals, and we give Mr. Cuomo credit for coming up with some new objectives for our education system. Progress is never made until someone examines how things can be improved.
But critics raised questions about what will eventually come about through this process. Mr. Gates has some notable failures with a few education initiatives he’s supported over the years.
One concern is how families will deal with children remaining at home rather than traveling to their local schools:
Who’s going to look after them while their parents are at work? Will students be motivated to pay attention to a computer screen for the entire day of instruction? How will they respond to the loss of social interaction with other children?
Another matter is the lack of broadband internet in many rural parts of the state:
What about families without access to sufficient online services? Will broadband internet be made available to remote communities when this plan is put into effect? How will all this new technology be funded?
Obviously, many questions will need to be answered before anything is approved. Hopefully, representatives of all the parties involved will have productive discussions to iron out the problems brought forth.