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6 Reasons Why Tech is the Future of Education

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how best to conduct social media training online.  I do a lot of live training, which consists of lectures and exercises, and I see first-hand how tough it is for anyone to take in reams of information in real time.

Lectures are inhumane. You sit with a bunch of people you don’t know and hear one person share basic concepts. You can ask only one or two questions. There’s not much time for instructor-student dialogue.  Everyone’s forced to learn at the same pace. And students are not empowered to apply what they’ve learned.

Tests don’t accurately assess ayour capabilities. GPAs, transcripts or completion certificates say nothing about whether or not you really have the skills that were taught.  Yet testing is the main way you’re evaluated, even though projects work is a much more realisitic simulation of how you apply practical skills to real world situations.

With exception of the big name Ivy League schools, academic credentials are certainly no guarantee of employment. Attending college affords you a valuable life experience, but it doesn’t mean you’ll get real skills and be able tp earn a living.

Technology has the potential to change all that, as Khan Academy founder Sal Khan and Stanford AI professors Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun discussed in a recent Google+ Hangout about the future of technology in education.

The video, in which students from well known universities ask the three questions about how technology will change education, lasts about 45 minutes, which is not exactly the granular chunks Sal says students need, but if this subject interests you, it is well worth watching.

Here are the major take aways:

  • Gamification makes learning more Fun: Scores are more fun and more motivational when they’re presented in a competitive, game-like fashion. What is a report card other than a score?  Some people think of their bank account as a score.  Why not use game mechanics to encourage participation and improve performance?
  • When people are together physically, they learn more through one-on-one mentoring and group interaction than from a passive lectures. Use technology to convey basic principles in granular chunks that students can stop, rewind and replay, and make class time a more human experience through more instructor/student/peer interactions.
  • The challenge of integrating technology into education is combining personal and group experiences, where the personal experience is the student’s interactions with the course material, and the group experiece is the student’s interactions with their instructor and peers.
  • Educators can use technology to collect more detailed data on student performance, much like Google Analytics collects detailed data on website usage. Grades are too broad a measure of performance to have real value to employers. Online learning allows instructors to use A/B testing to see what students respond best to and improve their courseware, and to capture performance data as well.  But more importantly, using the web for personal learning could also let students focus on project work that can form the basis of a portfolio, a more meaningful way for employers to evaluate them as job candidates.
  • Just cause something’s recorded, doesn’t mean it has to be perfect. Perfection is the enemy of the good.  Use online video to explain things, and break those explanations down in bite sized chucks.
  • Everybody has something to teach. Crowd sourcing knowledge online has real value. The challenge is enforcing standards. We may find that crowd-sourcing combined with content curation is the answer.

The other big challenge, as I see it, is getting students to actually watch the content, particularly in today’s online environme with so many distractions. Sal says the relationship between the on-demand content and in class content is the key and suggests wrapping projects and in class discussions around the on-demand content.

Still, I think it might be tough to get someone who is disengaged due to personal or family issues to find the uninterrupted time, which in-class sessions guarantee, to consume the on-demand content. But that’s another issue entirely.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the Hangout.  Thank you Sal, Peter and Sebastion for taking the time to make the video. It definitely helps me sort out my thinking on how best to use technology to conduct social media training.



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