McEducation (Would you like teachers with that?)

Picture 3Friday morning I was eating breakfast and I noticed on TV a McDonalds advertisement – advertising “MathsOnline”.  If you have not seen this, MathsOnline is a comprehensive virtual maths tutor for Australian secondary students.  McDonalds is providing it free of charge to any and all families and schools.

I signed up, and created accounts for my two teenaged sons and had them test it out for me.  A teacher explains by screencast how to solve a particular type of equation, and then there is a series of exercises that allow a student to test his ability.  Once finished he is told what his score was, and is able to go back and review any questions he got wrong.  The site also sends me a weekly report to show me how my sons are progressing.

Just because its McDonalds, I think, part of me wants to report that its not very good… but actually, my cursory look at it says that it actually IS  good.  Ok, maybe its not as exciting as playing online games, but if you want to learn how to do a particular type of maths, it sure beats textbook exercises! And here is the point I want to make: while the screencasts have been recorded by an experienced maths teacher, the project has neither been funded nor commissioned by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD), or any other Education Department, nor by any school.  No, it is the initiative of  McDonalds.

I discussed in an earlier post my prediction that technology will democratize and is already democratizing education.  This is a prima facie example!  Here the responsibility for education is being assumed by a non-government body.

I think it raises real questions about the future role of schools and education departments.  Its not that we won’t need schools or teachers, just that their roles will have to change, if they are to be relevant.

I think anything taught in school that can be automated or recorded in a podcast or screencast or vodcast should be recorded as such (and will be recorded as such) over the next few years, by teachers like me and community organizations like McDonalds.  I also think that accounts for a large proportion of what is taught in schools.

What then will the role of teachers in the classroom be?  Good question!  One that bears thinking about.

8 thoughts on “McEducation (Would you like teachers with that?)

  1. How interesting that you have blogged about this maths site! A parent, last week, told me how her daughter was having great difficulty with her units 3 and 4 VCE maths, but she had found an online site that was helping her with understanding many of the notions. As I am always interested in online learning, I sought out the students to ask further about this site and was surprised when I found out that it was McDonalds.
    Like you, I agree that the nature of education will change.
    Teachers will still be there but very much as facilitators. Young people are learning what they want to outside school hours and have determined how, when, where and why they can do this. Learning can be 24/7/365 So, what value does the current classroom have?

  2. Thanks for this news. I’m disappointed though that the site has border control, sentry boxes and machine guns. I’m in New Zealand (not yet a state of Australia I don’t think), so I can’t register my school or take advantage of this opportunity. You’ve mentioned before about how students in other countries access your podcasts – and I think that’s terrific. I’ve recommended it to bio students (in my English class!). Pity this site is limited to only Aussies at this stage.

  3. Thanks Andrew, I to have seen thoe ads but didnt even think to log in and check it out. Given Im not maths trained and teaching maths for the first time ever, this could be a big help. Was planning on screencasting solutions to work on the IWB.

    How did you colleague go with animating maths sums?

  4. I agree that the MacMaths (macsOnline!) site is quite good and will be helpful to many. If this site is not for you Mathletics may be what you are looking for. Suitable for primary and secondary students. I have used it for my son and maths class and it has heaps of great features for a small price. User friendly and can be accessed easily from countries all around the world.


    My thoughts exactly. Why have maths teachers at all now? It’s a new frontier. But I think we’ll need more amazing maths teachers than ever!!!



    aka Kerry Cue

  6. I agree with your comments and assessment Andrew. I have used this program with some of my students and their response has been very positive.

    I see one use of MathsOnline as being a very effective homework program. If a student presently attempts set homework and cannot do it – it is shelved. With MathsOnline the student can watch the screencast at their own pace, and replay, taking notes, etc. Their work is marked by the program and reports are available to parents and teacher.

    The role of the teacher will increasingly become the coach on the side – somewhat similar to a sports trainer. The teacher will have important roles such as setter, checker, motivator, etc. To be successful in this role they need to develop rapore with the student and communicate in person. Humans operate best as social “animals” so the teacher will never be obsolete.

    Thanks Andrew for starting this important discussion!

  7. I am about to commence teaching from next year and it’s interesting to look at the evolution of the role of the teacher from lecturer to facilitator. I look forward to using modern technology to assist students in making the most of their opportunities!


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