FOR a ten-year-old, Amartya is a thoughtful chap. One Monday morning at the Khan Lab School (KLS) in Mountain View, California, he explains that his maths is “pretty strong” but he needs to work on his writing. Not to worry, though; Amartya has a plan. He will practice grammar online, book a slot with an English teacher and consult his mentor. Later he will email your correspondent to ask for help, too.

Now, though, the stasis is finally starting to shift, for two reasons.

The first is that “edtech” is increasingly able to interact with students in sophisticated ways.

The second reason is the experience of a growing number of schools, like KLS, which are not just bolting edtech onto the existing way of doing things but using the new software to change how pupils and teachers spend their time.

Teachers may be more skeptical away from Silicon Valley. And parents may be more concerned about privacy. Machine-learning software has an incentive to accrue data; they make predictions more accurate. New platforms contain accounts of a child’s abilities far more detailed than any report card.

If schools can combine personalization and rigor it is hard to imagine pupils failing to benefit. Education software is not making teaching obsolete. If anything it is making the craft of teaching more important. That would be good news for the staffroom and the classroom.

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