Hypothesis: We Can Change the Learning Curve

 
I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
     –Rilke’s Book of Hours

 
My life is a hypothesis—that personal digital learning will change the world.
Right in front of us is the opportunity to build new tools and schools that help young people around the world learn more faster, deeper, and cheaper.   New tools will boost engagement and persistence.   New schools will reach and lift kids in Detroit and Delhi.  Hundreds of millions of young people will gain the opportunity to connect with college and careers.
The learning revolution underway is the shift from print to digital, lectures to interaction, testing to feedback, classes to individuals, school to anywhere.  The revolution will yield powerful learning platforms that result from public-private partnerships.  Some of the key elements of SAAS (school-as-a-service) will include:

  • an engaging media library of learning objects and experiences
  • instant feedback from lots of content embedded assessment (games, sims, virtual environments, unit quizzes)
  • a comprehensive student profile (as discussed with Aneesh Chopra)
  • a customized experience driven by a smart recommendation engine
  • mixed modes of learning that leverage community assets
  • social learning with formal, informal, and flexible groups
  • internet access, content consumption, and production device(s)
  • student support services tailored to individual needs (e.g., online
  • the support of a team of learning professionals and community members

This all becomes widely available when money follows the student to the best learning experience, when students aren’t bound by time and place (i.e., seat time requirements and only one way to learn), when they have access to the best teachers regardless of location, and after we figure out a bunch of privacy and security issues.
We have the first chance in history to change the learning curve.   Technology has driven productivity and service breakthroughs in every other sector—education is next.  It will soon be clear that we can do better for less in the U.S.—more achievement, higher completion rates, better preparation—and extend access to quality education to hundreds of millions of young people worldwide.
My life is a hypothesis—a blog, an advocacy shop, a fund, and a lot of great colleagues.
The mission is becoming a movement of edupreneurs and funders.   Here’s how my friends at KnowledgWorks introduce their map of the future:

If you think our future will require better schools, you’re wrong.  The future of education calls for entirely new kinds of learning environments.
If you think we will need better teachers, you’re wrong.  Tomorrow’s learners will need guides who take on fundamentally different roles.
As every dimension of our world evolves so rapidly, the education challenges of tomorrow will require solutions that go far beyond today’s answers.

Tom - Speaking Engagements

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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3 Comments

Ed Jones
10/2/2010

Tom, maybe we can begin an exchange of what role I can play in this--in 'an engaging media library of learning objects and experiences', 'instant feedback from content embedded assessment', in 'mixed modes of learning'.
I have a number of projects, some partially completed, which may or may not converge, either to a greater whole, or to some form of profitability.
blog.openhistoryproject.org
Ed

Ed Jones
10/2/2010

Tom,
Maybe we can begin an exchange of what role I can play in this--in 'an engaging media library of learning objects and experiences', 'instant feedback from content embedded assessment', in 'mixed modes of learning'.
I have a number of projects, some partially completed, which may or may not converge, either to a greater whole, or to some form of profitability.
blog.openhistoryproject.org
Ed

Replies

Tom Vander Ark
10/2/2010

Looking forward to discussing this with you Ed

Jennifer Job tr
10/2/2010

This is really fascinating to me. I think the weakness in the KnowledgWorks plan (at least according to their site) is a lack of a clear articulation of the teacher's role. Teachers are always afraid of being displaced--by layoffs, by computers--and they need not only a space they feel they can occupy but a roadmap of how to get there. There are needs teachers will always need to fill, in character development of democratic citizens. But teachers in the world you describe above could still do that. While I am part of a teacher ed program, I would like to see a clear definition of a "guide" as you put it, so that we can start creating programs to teach teachers how to become them. I'd certainly be willing to help with that!

Replies

Douglas Crets
10/2/2010

We are always looking for teachers and educators, or people learning to be teachers to contribute to this blog. You are welcome to send us any thoughts you have and we look forward to sharing ideas with you.

Tom Vander Ark
10/2/2010

Posted a longer response in a blog today on the changing landscape of teaching. You were looking for a clear articulation of a teacher's role, but that's going to get harder to come by as the number and type of roles expands. This will make it even more important that much of preparation becomes role and network specific. I think prep programs will need to target job clusters with specific districts/networks in mind and revise every 3-4 years.

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