Rocketship’s Learning Labs & The Cost Of Personalization, Ctd.

Rocketship CEO John Danner went on record with EdSurge. The Learning Labs aren’t leaving.

Online learning is integral to our model…The Learning Lab is not going away, rather we are working to integrate its key components directly into our classrooms under the guidance of our incredible teachers and staff…I think Merrow probably just happened to focus on an isolated incident and wanted to bring it up as it is always a valid concern with online learning. We continue to work on the data integration piece and this pilot doesn’t change the importance of that. Our teachers continue to get more robust data from the Learning Lab and are eager for us to work towards a fully integrated and real-time system.

Jason Dyer notes that this doesn’t really address NewsHour’s criticism:

Is the complaint from the PBS interview really about “teacher interface” or even “data”?

Meanwhile, on his blog, Danner writes a post called “Kids learn when they are solving problems,” in which he laments the state of online learning and basically outs himself as a radical constructivist.

When you are in a school, I think it becomes very clear when learning happens. Students who are working on a problem that they can solve learn by trying to solve the problem and receiving prompts and insights from peers or the teacher when they make mistakes. This eventually helps them get over the hump and be able to solve similar problems with a lot less mental effort. That’s learning. This happens thousands of times a day in well run classrooms. For whatever reason, we have really lost this truth in online learning.

All of this makes Danner, and Rocketship, really hard to pin down. But there’s a lot to like here and even more that’s interesting.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Dennis Ashendorf

    January 11, 2013 - 11:44 am -

    Working hard to “integrate” online instruction with classroom instruction is often TOO hard. I teach Algebra 1, but I use Buzzmath as one of my online tools (superb middle school math software) for many of them. Many of my students need to be rebuilt, not patched.

  2. I can’t help wondering if there’s more at play here, whether the real story is that content providers at present are the ones who are unable to truly provide a learning environment that is conducive to the needs of the learners in the learning lab. If you take a look at some of the providers, they’re stuck in multiple choice questions and the land of rote, a place that we’re already aware of being the exact opposite of what is needed for higher order mathematical skills.

    Just a thought.

  3. It is encouraging that folks like Danner are pushing vendors for better products. We will see…

    The online learning lab is integral to their model – their financial model. The savings gained from having large groups in the learning lab with teaching assistants allows for higher salaries and investments in technology.

    I wonder if online learning is better suited for providing a problem the student is capable of solving (Danner’s words) rather than leading student’s through a specific sequence of skills and concepts. Perhaps the online learning could involve more general problems that do not require a lot of technical skills. The program would be adjusting more to a students problem solving ability and less to their content knowledge.

  4. Somewhat related, and from the blog of one of Khan Academy’s software developers: “I had recently visited one of our pilot schools, Summit, a charter school in San Jose, CA. It was my first school visit … I observed how some students made progress in exercises without necessarily demonstrating understanding of the underlying concepts. The practice of “pattern matching” is something that Ben Eater and Sal had mentioned on several occasions, but seeing some of it happening firsthand made a deeper impression on me.”

    At least they’re becoming aware of it.