Wednesday, May 9, 2012
It's Time for Technology to Disrupt Education
A few days ago, I attended Imagine K12's "demo day" where a group of startups in the education space pitched their companies to potential funders.
As I sat and listened to these mostly young entrepreneurs, I wondered which ones might disrupt education just as technology has changed other industries such as the music and newspaper businesses.
It strikes me that it's time for technology to start disrupting education. I'm not calling for the abolition of schools. [snip].
But I want those resources to be used smartly, not just by taking advantage of hardware and software that can improve education, but also by using social media to supplement what teachers do and make it increasingly possible for people to learn outside the confines of a classroom.
Kahn Academy is an example. This not-for-profit free Web resource offers thousands of videos on academic subjects "to help you learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace." The quality of the instruction is world-class. And there are plenty of other great sources of educational videos, e-books, learning games, academic papers and other resources available to anyone with an Internet connection.
You can even "go" to Harvard and MIT without being admitted, paying tuition or leaving home. The two universities last week announced a $60 million partnership called edX that lets anyone in the world take online courses for free. Stanford, Yale and other universities have similar experiments.
Clearly, there are lots of new ways to learn. But there is often a disconnect between what people know and what their "credentials" say they know.
What should matter is not so much your degree or grade point average but how well equipped you are for the next stage in life. [snip].
For that reason I was particularly intrigued by LearningJar, a startup that allows you to "easily validate and store" what you've learned whether it's from an online source or an offline experience.
The site lets you document your experiences including educational videos you've watched or courses you've taken on or offline. It categorizes them by subject and, according to the site, "monitors your learning progress and uses algorithms to create a dynamic learning graph, so you can track your development."
Another company that caught my eye was TapToLearn, which is developing casual games to teach young children subjects such as math and grammar. [snip].
It strikes me that some of the world's best teachers have never donned caps and gowns. They are the people around us ranging from that brilliant auto mechanic down the street to that insightful social anthropologist 12,000 miles away. Thanks to technology, the world can be our teacher and the Internet our classroom.
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