The future of education

Inspired by our last meeting, I thought I’d do a little research to update my knowledge of the state of the world and provide some links for those interested.

I was surprised. Amazed even.

It hasn’t been that long since I surveyed the area. And a lot has been happening while I’ve been away. Things are changing and change is accelerating.

The end of educational scarcity

The old education system was driven (like almost everything else) by scarcity. People with the skill and time to write textbooks are scarce.

And in many fields knowledge grows faster than textbooks can keep up. So correct, complete texts are even more scarce.

Teachers who can teach from the text are scarce (even in Finland, because good anythings are always scarce).

People who can review student work are scarce. And so on.

Technology and connectivity changes, aka Internet, changes all that. We are now entering the age of abundance. (Ref: Abundance by Peter Diamandis, h/t Bob S for the recommendation)

The old model of education is being replaced by:

  • Readily available, lectures created by people who are experts and/or great teachers and distributed through mass media.
  • Computer-based instruction, exercise, and testing
  • Crowd-sourced evaluations of things that computers are not smart enough to understand (yet!)
  • Market-based courses.  Kind of Uber or AirBnB for education.
  • Educational gamification (yes, gamification is a word)

Mass media lectures

Here I’m not talking about computer based courses, but just a good communicator explaining (audio) and demonstrating or illustrating (video) the content of a subject. One leading commercial source for such courses is The Great Courses. Their courses are available on CD, DVD, and streaming over the Internet.

The Internet (YouTube, for example, and Podcasts) is full of smaller scale efforts on big subjects and niche subjects. And much of it is free.

Computer based instruction

Now we get to actual course work.

Khan Academy is leading computer-based “flip the classroom” education for kids; but they have some pretty serious content for adults, too.

And mainly for adults we have the non-profit  EdX, originally started by MIT and Harvard (Wikipedia article) with now over 80 members; and the venture backed Coursera (Wikipedia article) with  more than a hundred courses. And many more.

Khan Academy

I’ve been following them for years, and was amazed to see what they’ve done in the past year. Here’s their about page.

To really understand what Khan Academy is about, you need to wander around a  bit.  To get started, click on the “Subjects” menu at the top of the home page. Or check out the links below:

  • Math, of course. This is where it all began, with Salman Khan teaching his cousins math via YouTube.
  • And: Common Core math.
  • Arts and Humanities
  • Partner pages: This whole partner thing is new, and pretty exciting.  They’ve invested in building a machine for delivering courses.  The thing about Internet stuff is that once you’ve built it, the cost of increasing capacity is near zero. So get more partners and let them build stuff.  Here are a couple of picks:

Here’s another site, that I tripped over. HASTAC:

HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) was co-founded in 2002 by Cathy N. Davidson, then Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University and David Theo Goldberg, Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI)

Crowd Sourced Evaluations

Computers are great at evaluating progress when testing can be reduced to answering multiple choice tests. But what about more complicated tasks? Like grading an essay for

Paper on the topic. And the referenced web site.

Market based education

Uber, AirBnB and the like are markets bringing buyers and sellers together and making the process safe and transparent. Riders rate drivers, and drivers rate riders. So jerk drivers are pretty driven out, and so are jerk riders.

Know something? Create a course (using computer-based tools) distribute it over the internet. Make a few bucks, or offer it for nothing (loss leader, or for the love of the game)

Udemy (about Udemy) is one such market. On their home page I searched for courses on writing and got courses costing $20 to $200.

I’ve rebooted my interest in playing guitar and keyboards thanks to one of their courses. And to Yousician, a Finnish company that provides amazingly good music training (theory and practice) delivered over the internet.

Lynda is another. Here’s what a search for writing gives you. Unlike Udemy, where you pay per course, Lynda sells memberships, and while you are a member, it’s all you can eat!

Some of other interesting stuff

TED talk by Jane McGonigal (bio on Wikipedia) about the social value of games.  (On YouTube, so you can run it fast or on TED, so you can read the transcript).

International  Baccalaureate web site.  Wikipedia page. Search page (preset for Language Other).

Article from Medium on about a web service that tries to build social skills using computers. The company’s website.

The future of college?

Maybe The Minerva Project is it. Article in the Atlantic, here, and web site here.

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