Rupert Murdoch meets AR

News Corp has entered the debate on the ‘digital age’ and education. Robert aims to become a major provider of digital educational materials to schools. In fact his ambition is to secure at least 10% of the market in the next few...


News Corp has entered the debate on the ‘digital age’ and education. Robert aims to become a major provider of digital educational materials to schools. In fact his ambition is to secure at least 10% of the market in the next few years.

His premises are simple. Modern technology is as yet barely leveraged as a tool for learning but more importantly offers youngsters the possibility of learning at rates commensurate with their individual abilities.

It’s time to pause here. His first assumption I would have no problem with agreeing with. Rup has obviously sussed the power of ePUB for himself and wants a slice of the action especially when the competition is the flat-footed school text-book cartels.

The second assertion is very dangerous indeed. All schools aim to empower the individual student and maximise their says so on their mission statements. Only this is a ‘miss-speaking’. Schools and societies do not do this at all.

Schools act in the interest of their League Tables and as a whole education (albeit stratified into various sectors) acts to level down achievement. This is for a good reason, if by some mischance individuals could maximise their potential then the divisions between the super smart and not smart would be unsociably massive.

Technology has hitherto acted to collude in the levelling down of potential.

The introduction of technology into schools made life more 'level' because it provided the tools for the growth of a stultifying internal bureaucracy and the means to generate exciting educational materials far in excess of students' capabilities to learn. No technologies have added to white collar misery and impotence more than the photocopier, e-mail and Microsoft Office and this is equally true in schools.

The modern teacher, now mostly young and female is part bureaucrat and part entertainer. Inevitably she wears out within 20 years, good pay and generous holidays not withstanding. And as we all know, in all walks of life, bureaucracies do not simplify, nor do workloads reduce and so things are looking bad for change.

But like it or not technology will have to get us out of this hole, like Rupert says. But to make progress and bring Rupert’s dream to life we must pick a technology to back. The basic rules to do this are the same as we used in the late 90s and still form the basis of all Public Sector procurement.

It must be..

  • cool and quite baffling to anyone over 40 (Senior staff just have to pretend)
  • costly and become rapidly outdated with new upgrades
  • unlikely to carry any educational benefits outside studies that show how effective it is
  • be provided by a very, very big organisation which is hard to bring to account

However in order to make money the whole shebang must be delivered by fewer staff (think Wapping) so we need a new reality to displace the current class-teacher model.

It follows:

  • ‘reality’ must be controlled and defined by the teacher not the student. Think of this as a hybrid between a conventional classroom and ‘The Matrix’.

Fortunately as with the Bionic Man ‘we have the technology’ and it’s called AR or Augmented Reality. In the UK the first AR headsets will retail this summer at £3k (check ‘costly’) and may be a little strange to some (Check ‘over 40’). They will be able to access tutors by web cam, VLE and educational material via e-readers and web material (check Pt 3). The check for Point 4 is obvious.

Then check bullet point fiveis covered not a little sinisterly in that teachers will be able to control the visual feed to AR headsets.

Using AR headsets teachers will be able to provide for many more pupils at one time than is currently possible and they will all be able to progress at their own pace. This will allow for the creation of super teachers and will be able to match them to super pupils

I think I have found the perfect new technology for schools. AR meets all Public Sector procurement criteria and should make money for a global corporation whilst promoting social division ... cool

You have no idea what an AR headset is? Shame on you, I drove home with one on and did not crash.

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