Report: Schools Must Keep Up With Shift Toward Digital Learning

Goldwater Institute
News Release

PHOENIX — Picture a typical public school classroom: Rows of students facing a blackboard, with a teacher lecturing. It’s the same scene in 2011 as it was in 1911 – and, in a world of laptop computers, smartphones and iPads, it’s wildly out of date and ineffective. But that is changing.

In A Custom Education for Every Child: The Promise of Online Learning and Education Savings Accounts, Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow Dan Lips examines how technology can be combined with the newly created Education Savings Accounts to help parents create education solutions that challenge their children and help them prepare for the real world.

In 2011, the Arizona legislature adopted Education Savings Accounts, which give special-needs K-12 students state money for educational services tailored to their individual needs. The report calls on Arizona lawmakers to expand the savings accounts program to all Arizona students, and for legislatures across the country to adopt Education Savings Accounts for all students.

“By 2020, online learning is expected to rise dramatically, with about half of all high school instruction taking place online,” said Goldwater Institute Education Director Jonathan Butcher. “Schools must keep pace, and implementing and expanding Education Savings Accounts is one way to open these tools up to all students.”

Butcher added that the growth of online learning solutions changes the discussion of choice in education – the conversation moves from choosing a school to choosing individual services that specifically meet a student’s needs.

The breadth of digital learning programs extends from full-time online virtual schools to occasional online instruction that supplements a student’s traditional coursework. The benefits include improved academic achievement and a better overall learning experience for students.

One Arizona school is leading the way. In 2011, Carpe Diem Academy in Yuma was named one of the best high schools in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. Carpe Diem uses a “blended-learning” approach in which students receive half of their instruction from a computer-based learning program and half from a traditional teacher-classroom environment.

Click here to read A Custom Education for Every Child: The Promise of Online Learning and Education Savings Accounts.

The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog that develops innovative, principled solutions to issues facing the states.


  1. Conservative American says

    No. This is a very, very bad idea and should be nipped in the bud. Just like Communism, it sounds good in theory but is full of opportunities for ill intentioned exploitation.

    1 – He who controls the online content shapes the minds of our children. If the leftists gain control of the venues for online content, as they have with the mainstream media, our children would be fed a constant diet of leftist thinking. Because those on the right may control online content today doesn’t mean that they will control it tomorrow.

    2 – Schools in California and other places are mandating a cirriculum containing information on homosexuality, homosexual history and the homosexual lifestyle. Such content, even if not overtly presented, can be woven indirecty into lessons and parents would be hard put to detect it.

    3 – The last thing we need is to have our children even more plugged into electronic devices. Between the internet, video games and texting, less of less of their time is spent in direct human interaction. That is unhealthy.

    4 – Aside from special needs children, we don’t need “individual services that specifically meet a student’s needs”. What is needed is a unifrom, standard education which provides students with the fundamental tools they will need to successfully navigate life and enter the workforce. One lesson which children must learn is that they need to accomodate themselves to life because life will not accomodate itself to them. Lets set our children up for success, not failure.

    I have little faith in glowing reports of how well this is working. Where there is money involved, outcomes can be made to appear so as to do a good sales job. Someone is going to make a LOT of money selling this content. Follow the money.

  2. I concur with CA for additional reasons:

    There is a huge and important role for human educators. WE don’t HAVE them because the teaching colleges produce a certain “facilitator” who is not expected in any measure to have a subject competency. They are process people who distribute pre-purchased, pre-packaged curriculum, then collect it.

    THAT is what needs to be FIXED, not be seduced by the “high tech.” Computers for education become CRUTCHES. THey do the work, the calculations the spelling, the easy research searches that students SHOULD be learning – pencil and paper, day in day out. A poor and mediocre paper printed out with slick photos and graphics LOOKS better than a well-researched, thought-out hand-written one, but it’s fundamentally a poorer product, judged much better than it should be because of it razzle-dazzle presentation.

    Computerized instruction is a VERY thin replacement for qualified human teachers. It’s boring and lacks very very important human dynamics, simply, students will work harder to achieve and try new things IF they perceive somebody CARES about their personal efforts and their personal performance. This CANNOT be UNDERSTATED. Every coach of every sports team on the planet knows this.

    NO ONE thinks for a second replacing coaches with computers would work on the playing field. Its patently absurd. It OUGHT to be the same reaction for replacing teachers with computers.

    Is not a teacher a coach? A coach not a teacher?

    We DO know what we need in COACHES, and NO ONE tolerates a FAILING coach, but teachers are left to fail year after year.

    The expenses involved with computers are enormous, and the results are grossly less than if the students sat at desks in simple classrooms, with a teacher at a chalkboard up front, and the students copying the day’s lesson into their notebooks. Effective learning requires that sort of audio, written and discussion reinforcement. We have students failing because they aren’t getting ANY of that, and then the schools blame the students.

    A lot of students are sitting in front of computers already in school. The facilitators supervise … hard to know what, except that they are able to walk around and sit with a cup of coffee in their hands for hours, and then spend their time data inputting to produce progress reports for every nuance of the student’s performance, without once ever looking at the student’s individual work. The data inputting is so boring that teachers get students to do “community service” hours inputting the data FOR them, as the facilitators lobby admin to get computer systems that automatically record the scores.

    Don’t think so? Go ask your kids.

    It’s pretty easy to determine if this”digital” classroom works because we HAVE it already and academic scores are STILL plummeting and kids don’t know anything.

    We need to completely revamp the teaching degree. COMPLETELY. The 1960s radicals did just THAT. They destroyed traditional education. WE have the fruits of that – it’s a FAIL. WE need a cadre of professionals who have a proven competency in their subjects and who can convey that to students in an orderly, rational manner.

    OTHER countries HAVE teachers. It’s only HERE that the profession has been gutted by radical Left “new thinking” manipulators. We need to rip the fraud down and build a real teaching degree, with rigorous expectations. Our traditional teachers easily managed classrooms of 30 students, with NO teacher’s aides. One of them easily replaces two facilitators and their two teachers aides who only handle small classes of 15 students or less, and they EARN their higher pay. Teaching is RESTORED to the level of respect that facilitators whine about, but don’t produce.

    In California, a team of Noble Science Prize winners joined with mathematician parents to describe WHAT sort of education and competencies was required of ANY student who wanted to pursue the sciences and mathematics-based careers. It’s already been developed. The California school board ignored the experts and gave their stamp of approval and grants to teachers unions instead. It’s been over ten years.. how amazing California schools WOULD have been had they taken the FREE advie of those who KNOW what studens will need to succeed.

    The radicals developed the FAIL curriculum, the “no need for facts” and all the reasoning-destroying “new thinking” and the unions provided the “facilitators” to carry it out.

    Computerization is NOT the solution to this problem.

    • Conservative American says

      Excellent points and valuable information that I was not aware of, wanubma. Thanks! 🙂

      I was very fortunate in attending public school in that I had outstandingly superb teachers all the way through. I have never forgotten even one of them and neither have my classmates.

      Word got out through our alumni group that one of our teachers was terminally ill. They provided a phone number and said that telephone calls to him were welcome. I called him, spoke with him and told him of the impact he had on my life. He was stunned and very humble about it. He had no idea that he had had that kind of impact on me until I told him. He was a physical education instructor and wrestling coach. He also happend to have a doctorate in nuclear physics. What a guy! You can’t get that kind of inspiration from a computer!

      The traditional approach to education works. All that is needed is competent, dedicated and inspiring teachers like the one I mentioned above who passed away. Who will replace him now?

      • A great teacher is a gift to many many.

        I remember very well the transition in the late 60s to early 1970s… all my teachers were close to retirement age women… and they KNEW their subjects, math, history, English/grammar/rhetoric/writing. A generational wave of these experienced women professionals retired and were replaced by literally know-nothings out of teachers colleges barely older than the high schoolers they were supposed to teach, and shockingly less informed than quite a number of them.
        The women hired by schools today are not fit to carry those women’s file folders.
        Beowolf, the Odyssey were replaced by “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.”
        Not kidding.

        The start begins in the teaching certifications. Stunning that no colleges have figured this out yet and continue to provide vapid, empty degrees.

        Any current facilitators should be required to pass subject competency certification in the subjects. If they can’t cut it, they are not rehired. That will effectively cut the sheep from the goats in the current crop of do nothings. Those who actually step up and work to improve themselves will have a future in education, the lazies get cut. Their own performance will be the determinate, all on their own heads whether they succeed or fail.

        That’s just the START. NO COMPUTERS.

        • Conservative Americans says

          This is part of the “dumbing down” of America which is a strategy of the leftists, wanumba. I’ve run into college graduates who can’t make change unless there’s a computerized cash register to calculate it for them!

          Once, I called a television station asking them to have their news people speak English instead of using phrases like “you guys”.

          Today, if there a really good, dedicated and inspiring teacher, the system will drive them out because such teachers are proof of what can be done.

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