Can Digital Learning Transform Education?

Education Next talks with Chester E. Finn, Jr., and Michael B. Horn

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The enthusiasm for digital learning is contagious. More than 2 million K‒12 students are enrolled in online courses today, and research firm Ambient Insight projects that figure will hit 10 million by 2014. Will today’s wave of technology inexorably change the face of schooling, or must we first alter policy? Chester Finn, Jr., president of the Fordham Institute and editor of Education Reform for the Digital Era, and Michael Horn, executive director of education at the Innosight Institute, agree that for digital learning to realize its transformational promise, policy changes are imperative. Finn argues that these changes require a full rethinking of the education reform agenda, whereas Horn asserts that a piecemeal approach may be the wiser, more strategic course.

Chester E. Finn, Jr.: First, We Need a Brand New K-12 System

Michael B. Horn: As Digital Learning Draws New Users, Transformation Will Occur

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  • Greg Nelson says:

    Great articles! I always like reading Horn’s columns and will add Finn to my list!

    Our company is right in the middle of this and you are right it certainly is contagious, Digital learning promotes curiosity, which promotes enthusiastic learning, which will ultimately produce ideas and jobs!

    Tech should make education less expensive not more expensive!!

    Content Technologies, Inc. is striving to help this become a reality.

  • John Danner says:

    both articles seem to make one big assumption – that today’s institutions will be relevant to tomorrow’s learning. as we are rapidly seeing in higher ed, the ability for learners to rapidly find what they need online profoundly questions whether they need those of us who work in education. We built Rocketship to answer this question – what does a school look like when we have the ability to know exactly what each student needs to learn? Can we do better than that student or their parent can do for themselves with a smartphone? We hope so, but we will have to see how good digital learning gets and where we can add value as adults. I think schools have to look at the next two decades through this lens to have a chance for relevancy.

  • […] friends at Education Next pose an interesting chicken-or-egg question about digital learning and the case for major education reforms: Will the transformative technology […]

  • jeffreymiller says:

    Wrong, John. Rocketship only works–to the extent it actually works–because learners already have the metacognitive skills to learn for themselves. Rocketship, so far as I can tell, depends mostly upon marketing and skillful editing for its success. Show me your data from independent sources and I will take back my suspicions.

  • John Patten says:

    What does an online learning course look like for a kindergarten or first grade student?

  • jeffrey Miller says:

    Still this story is up on the website and still my request has gone unanswered. No one has added anything for a month.

  • Ronald E. Johnson says:

    I love the dialog exchange on digital learning. Obviously, the public is watching movement toward independent learning via electronic delivery systems. Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum ( is scheduled to introduce high school courses in early 2013 at the lowest per-course price on the market, allowing students worldwide to complete courses via internet as rapidly as desired or as slowly as needed to earn transcript credit via iphone, ipad, or laptop.

  • Anthony says:

    As a future elementary teacher, I feel that technology can be very useful in the classroom. You don’t have to rethink everything that you are doing, you just have to add a little bit to it by bringing in technology. Everything is moving to a “tech world”, so as teachers we must be able to conform to the learners and teach them in the best ways in which they can learn.

  • […] error that online champions make decade after decade (recall that distance learning goes back to the 1960s) is that they forget […]

  • […] we might just follow Checker Finn’s adoration of the Rocketship charter school model, which instead of those cumbersome Harkness tables that actually encourage students to face one […]

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