Technology and Education

By on June 4th, 2013 in Societal Impact, Topics

Technology is edging into education in radical ways, and that is worth some thought.   One example is the “upside down” classroom, where the “homework” is to learn the material, and the classroom work is to review progress with the instructor/mentor.  An exciting example of this is the Kahn Academy  which is described by Salman Kahn on TED.  He has been posting short video “lectures” on a wide variety of topics (starting with math), evaluation tools, and reports for students and teachers.  This has expanded into “merit badges” for completing certain sequences of classes. School Districts have picked this up as a primary teaching approach, leaving the teacher in the classroom to help students with  the spots where they are having problems (as evidenced by the “mastery” metrics in the evaluation modules.)  Of course it is a boon to home school, tutoring and other programs as well.

A second trend is Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs).  Coursera is a highly visible example.  This grew out of a Stanford AI course (which I initially signed up for, but then didn’t have cycles to do it in real time.) .. where the enrollment exploded into six digits.  The  tool kit for this activity includes broadcast of the “lectures”, and online evaluation tools. But also discussion boards and ways to connect students who get-it with ones that are having trouble.  33 major universities are broadcasting some 300+ college level courses using this environment.  And of course some major schools have posted videos of lectures online as well, adding to the depth of resources available for the self-directed learner.

Oh… did I mention that these classes are free?

Part of the rationale of schools like Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, etc. for posting curricula, videos, etc. online is that the “old school ties” — personal interactions between Professors, class mates, and the overall environment are the real power of their degree programs, so having a chance to audit classes on video is not a significant business impact.

So what is the real essence of education?  A colleague of mine teaching at SNHU stated “Education is not a spectator sport”, and I’ve had energetic discussions with folks about “you can’t teach xyz” or “if you aren’t in the classroom, you aren’t getting the education”

What is your view of how education will evolve?  Can the upside down, virtual or other classroom models provide a good education? Does it depend on the topics? Does it depend on your cultural environment?