Sometimes the contradictions in life smack you right in the forehead. This morning I was doing some work and casually watching my Twitter stream fill up with articles, comments, and debate about the potential of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to revolutionize access to higher ed learning and provide high-quality instruction to thousands of people who normally can’t afford it. At some point I checked my email, and in there was an email from a colleague, with a quote from our Minnesota Governor, Mark Dayton. Here is the full quote:
“I might get into trouble saying this…but…regarding online learning, I think a student needs to wake up at 5:30 in the morning, get out of bed and get their butts off to school like I did in my generations…”
My first reaction was that I hope he gets into trouble saying this. With regards to vision and understanding of the current educational landscape, this statement is downright disheartening. It reeks of such old school thinking. The backhanded jibe here is that online learners are lazy, and you can’t possibly work hard and learn unless you’re sitting in a classroom. Have you considered, Governor Dayton, that an online student can wake up at 5:30 in the morning and start studying right away, instead of having to wait two hours for school to open? Done correctly, with strong teacher support, engaging curriculum, and a personalized learning environment, digital learning provides more opportunity to work hard and succeed than any outdated model that forces everyone to learn at one pace, in one place, and at one time. Minnesota schools and public educators know this: the pace at which school districts are asking us to provide support for blended, hybrid, flipped, and online learning has skyrocketed in the past two years. Education, whether Governor Dayton realizes it or not, is changing and changing fast.
Now don’t get me wrong, Governor Dayton has been a long needed advocate for education in Minnesota, and has been a force in promoting the importance of education in Minnesota. That’s a good thing. And he’s clearly encouraging people to get up early and work hard. That’s also a good thing. But this quote is a slap in the face to all the public educators in Minnesota who are working hard at exploring the potential of blended, hybrid, and digital learning opportunities to help kids learn more effectively. It goes to show that if education in Minnesota is to adapt to learning in the 21st century, it’ll have to do so without the leadership of Governor Mark Dayton.