So, what do I mean, “Unlearning Education?” Our understanding of education must completely change, and soon, if we hope to provide our students a fighting chance at being competitive in the global markets of tomorrow.
Why is changing education so important?
Everything else in our world is rapidly changing due to advancements in technology. For our society to keep up, education – as an industry and as the way Cartoon displayed with special permission we prepare our youth for a productive future - from http://www.glasbergen.com must now undergo its biggest change since the introduction of the printing press.
Even though we are instructing our children in much the same way as people have been for more than two thousand years, with an instructor lecturing a group of students in a specific location, the cost of education has been rising at a staggering rate. In fact, the cost of higher education has risen even faster than healthcare and healthcare is typically cited as a case of inflation gone wild. In one year alone, the United States now spends $15 billion just on textbooks for K thru 12. Now you would think, with this incredible amount of spending, our youth would be achieving outstanding results. This is clearly not the case – our test scores and the number of degrees produced are falling way behind other developed countries in virtually every category, especially in the areas of math and science – categories that are critical for our nation to remain competitive.
Technology has reached a point that we no longer have an excuse for educating our students the way we do. We now have so many better options, and adapting the best of these is critical. Our administration, teachers, parents and students must demand and facilitate change now. Let’s now turn our attention to what the future of education could look like if we can adapt the technologies needed to be successful.
What needs to be done and what is the future of education?
Imagine with me, if you would, how we will educate the near future. I think just three words will define what we can expect: Individualized, Interactive, and Anywhere. Learning will no longer be confined to a classroom and from an instructor standing in front of the room lecturing. Enhanced devices will enable students of any age, and located anywhere, to learn skills that are relevant, meaningful, and employable.
Today, companies such as Knewton are completely changing the way information is presented by individualizing the experience. Every student uses a platform created by the company that is completely catered to the way they learn the best. The lessons move at their pace and homework and tests are tailor-made to best insure that the student is truly understanding and retaining the subject matter. The program even assigns students study partners that complement each other’s learning styles. Many new companies are currently being established to serve the quickly growing market for individualized learning systems.
Next, Interactive e-books will completely displace the traditional dead tree variety of textbooks in the future. Textbooks that students use now are unable to reflect the almost daily changes in our current understanding of a subject. Some textbooks being currently sold contain information more than 5 years old by the time they are printed. These paper textbooks are also incredibly expensive – I remember as a student being forced to buy a Finance book that cost me $185- and that was for a used copy! This is simply unacceptable in today’s technological environment. And, with e-books, content can be interactive – you could click on the picture of a frog and digitally dissect it in a biology book, for example. Now, isn’t that better than killing a real frog? E-books can be updated regularly so that their information is always relevant and correct. This change is happening on other countries – S. Korea has already announced that they will stop using paper textbooks completely within three years!
Gamification and LBS
With mobile devices, that content can be experienced anywhere – not just the classroom. Additionally, they allow the use of gamification and location-based services and to enhance education. Gamification, which is adding a gaming element to something, along with Location-Based Services, which is using your mobile device to determine where you are and incorporate that into what you are doing, will rapidly disrupt education.
Think of it this way – If a student who is currently studying classical art, is at a Museum, they can use their smartphone to check-in to that the museum and experience interactive information while they explore. And, each time they discover and learn about a new painting or sculpture, they would earn experience points for their classical art class.
Open-Source and Open- Access
Now, course materials aren’t just going to change because they will be on interactive e-books now – The texts themselves will fundamentally change in the way they are produced.
Open-Source and Open-Access content will begin to displace publisher- produced content. Think of Wikipedia vs. a regular dictionary – millions of people can read what thousands of us have written and edited on Wikipedia. We are already seeing a rapid growth of online content and this is just the beginning. Apple recently announced iBooks 2, which will be used to produce and sell textbooks on the iPad for the K-12. This alone is massively disruptive, bringing prices from up to $100 per book to $14.99 or less. 350,000 books where purchased within three days of its launch.
And, furthermore, why would you take the class of a professor that may not even be in the top hundred professors in their field, when you can easily access content from the best professor in that subject via the Internet? This, also, is beginning to happen. Recently, I participated in a class called “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” offered by Stanford. The instructors were the two top experts in the world in this area. This class was free and I had over 100,000 classmates. We were able to take tests, do homework, and still interact with the professors and with other students. So, the question quickly becomes – Why should a student pay tens of thousands of dollars to attend a traditional brick-and-mortar university?
The large number of teachers and professors we have now will simply not be needed in the future. Most teachers will serve a much different role. For example, Khan Academy, which was started in 2006 by Salman Khan, produces YouTube videos about biology, mathematics, and science to help students learn about these subjects in a way that has really connected with many of them. Over 100 million students have viewed his videos to date. Some classrooms are experimenting with a model where students learn their lesson from the Khan Academy videos at home, and come into class the next day and their teacher helps with their homework instead of teaching them the actual lesson. This model has proven to be very successful and we’ll certainly see more of this.
What are the challenges?
So, if all of these changes make so much sense and are so needed, why isn’t this all happening faster? What are the challenges to rapid adoption?
First of all, regarding technology – the rate of change itself is increasing so fast that it makes advancements hard to keep up with. If you look at most administrators and decision-makers in education today, they typically would be considered “Digital Immigrants.” Old habits die hard – If you have only ever used a chalkboard while teaching, using computers and technology in the classroom does not come naturally. To people who were not raised with it, new technology may even seem to them to be a dangerous distraction away from learning. Unfortunately these same administrators, teachers, and parents are tasked with educating students who are Digital Natives, meaning they grew up with computers and rapidly-evolving technology, and are completely comfortable with it. This inherently creates problems.
The expense of incorporating these new technologies is also a factor. Enabled devices are neither cheap, nor in many cases durable enough to withstand the daily abuses of elementary school student for an entire school year. Although e-books will become the norm we must consider how difficult it would be to buy something like an iPad for every child, even considering the substantial overall savings in textbooks.
These are just a few of the barriers we must overcome if education is to change.
I would like to leave you with this – education is changing – absolutely. It’s up to us to decide how resistant are we going to be to this change and to carefully consider what we can do to help our students use advancements in technology today to prepare for their futures tomorrow. I encourage you to view education not as it has been, but what it might become if we choose to use technology to dramatically improve results at a time when we need it the more than ever.
To find out more about unlearning, and why it’s so important, visit schoolofunlearning.com