Revisiting the Coming Revolution in Education

This is an edited 8-minute video version of a Powerpoint presented February 10, 2012, in one of my final courses to complete my Masters degree in educational psychology. The script follows the video.

This is Steve Stockdale. In this movie I’m going to revisit my presentation from two weeks ago, which I’ve now retitled as “Revisiting the Coming Revolution in Education.”

In retrospect it’s easy to see that my original intent was overly-ambitious, to say the least. I tried to make six different points, each of which could no doubt be developed into its own dissertation.

Let me re-state those six premises:

  1. The Educational status quo is not defensible, nor is it sustainable. As I asked rhetorically, if we were starting from scratch today, is this the system we would design?
  2. Educational institutions have, at best, merely accommodated the digital technology that has transformed other institutions, industries, and services. At worst, educational systems have actually resisted transformation.
  3. The Digital technology revolution has spawned not only radically new devices and platforms, but also entirely new forms of content and processes to distribute and interact with that content. This would seem to be tailor-made for transforming education.
  4. As we learn more about the brain, we learn more about how brains learn as dynamic, biological organs, rather than metaphorical “black box” information processing systems.
  5. We can begin to see how digital technology can be married with neuroscience to better exploit how we learn so that we can learn (and presumably teach) more specifically, more efficiently, and more engagingly.
  6. The portrait artist Chuck Close and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs each credited grade school teachers as major influences in their development. They specifically recounted how, at critical periods, they had teachers who made them feel special – teachers who recognized their unique abilities, even though both students manifested certain cognitive and behavioral deficiencies. I proposed that the coming synthesis of digital technologies and neuroscience would make it more likely – not less likely – that the “specialness” and uniqueness of each individual student could be similarly developed.

For this presentation, I’d like to introduce another voice who has something worthwhile to say.

Bill Gates

In his biography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson describes a meeting just last May when Bill Gates visited a sick Steve Jobs at his home. Here’s what these two tech titans discussed about education.

Quoting from the book:

Jobs asked some questions about education, and Gates sketched out his vision of what schools in the future would be like, with students watching lectures and video lessons on their own while using the classroom time for discussions and problem solving. They agreed that computers had, so far, made surprisingly little impact on schools – far less than on other realms of society such as media and medicine and law. For that to change, Gates said, computers and mobile devices would have to focus on delivering more personalized lessons and providing motivational feedback.

I’d like to go back to my original slide that talked about the revolution in educational content and processes enabled by digital technology. I’d like to show three examples that, in my opinion, deliver on Bill Gates’ vision of more personalized lessons, and perhaps motivational feedback.

Khan Academy

First I want to talk about the Khan Academy. On its Wikipedia page we can learn that the Khan Academy:

  • is a nonprofit educational organization
  • created in 2006 by Bangladeshi American, and MIT graduate, Salman Khan
  • its stated mission is to provide a high quality education to anyone, anywhere
  • its website has over 2,800 “micro lectures” available for free covering a wide variety of subject areas
  • has obtained funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, Google, and other individuals

Let’s go to the Khan Academy website. We can see this incredible number here of almost 120 million lessons delivered, with over 2,800 videos covering these topics.

Just to demonstrate how most of the lessons are structured, let’s pick one that’s pertinent for educational psychologists… how about something in statistics like … the Standard Error of the Mean. (30 seconds)

[clip from the Khan Academy ]

The Khan Academy is just one example that demonstrates what the possibilities are in terms of how students can learn outside of the old educational paradigm.

Lynda.com

Another example is Lynda.com. Unfortunately, Lynda.com isn’t free, but I can vouch for the quality of its extensive collection of detailed tutorials, primarily on software and computer technologies.

Want to learn about Powerpoint? Well, do you want the Mac 2011 version or Windows 2010, or the 2007 version? There are several different courses available of different durations targeted to different experience levels.

Let’s look at just the introduction for Powerpoint 2011.

[clip from a Lynda.com movie tutorial]

A monthly, all you can drink, subscription to Lynda.com costs $25, or $38 for a premium subscription that includes copies of all the exercise files.

But now UNM students have free access to the Lynda.com library of tutorials. Maybe you’ve noticed on a recent login to myunm the yellow icon over on the right sidebar. Click it, and you can login to the Lynda.com system using your unm login credentials.

Lynda.com provides another example of how learning can be delivered via online video, for profit, and for technical and software skills that to a great extent renders how-to books and manuals obsolete.

The third and final example I’d like to highlight is admittedly self-serving, since it’s my own site. But it’s representative of thousands of online sites created and maintained by individuals for educational purposes.

Ndividuate.com (WordPress tutorial)

This is my Ndividuate Yourself site that offers a pretty extensive tutorial on the WordPress blogging platform.

Again, there are thousands, if not millions, of websites like this, all around the world, that provide alternative learning opportunities on virtually every topic, subject, interest, hobby, and even academic area.

So I hope by revisiting my earlier revolutionary thoughts and providing some examples of alternative forms of delivering education, you have a better idea of how the future offers hope for education.