Imagine a school where students worked alone or in teams with computing devices connected to automated web-based tutoring systems designed by master teachers. If a student got stuck on a problem, or didn't understand an essay question, she or he could open a chat window with a "cloud-sourced" education-worker in Bangalore, India, or one of several similar centers in India, China, or wherever there are clusters of highly-educated, low-wage workers and abundant fiber-optic bandwidth. A person would be present and circulate through the room or rooms to parent, encourage, discipline and instruct students as needed. All testing would take place online and all grading would be outsourced. The teacher-to-student ratio would be halved and the levels of reading, writing, math and problem-solving skills would increased by half.
I had this vision reading an academic article in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education entitled, "A Comparison of Traditional Homework to Computer-Supported Homework." The author points out that the "Maine Learning Technology Initiative was able to supply laptops to all of their seventh and eighth grade students for $300 per student per year, which is about one third of the cost of reducing class size." (434).
Maybe education can be "flattened." The best, most creative teachers will become content creators and designers of the system, or they will lead, parent and oversee the instruction of very large numbers of children. And their salaries will be comparable to the salaries of doctors. While the help-desk aspects of teaching will be outsourced to the cloud. Teachers who are living in high cost-of-living areas but lack the high-level skills required to design and maintain such a system would have to adapt or lose their jobs like many other victims of the new global economy.