Changes in Education

The first article, Virtual Schooling: Where Are We Now?  Where Are We Headed?  speaks of the growth of online schooling and its virtues.  The primary of these is that these courses judge students based on their own individualized competency rather general standards.  By doing this, these courses reduce the set amount of time that traditional classes have, allowing students to learn at their own pace, whether this entails moving faster or slower than the average student.

The second article, published May 18th, 2013, is titled Hack Education Weekly News: A MOOC Master’s Degree.  Following through with this theme, it describes a program being piloted by Udacity, Georgia Tech and AT&T to offer a Master’s in Computer Science degree online for under $7000, that is well under the ordinary cost of the degree.  Furthermore, it describes Coursera, a platform that is used by a wide variety of schools to share MOOCs.  Further on, it describes another number of MOOCs that are presently being piloted, most interestingly a How to Learn Math course by Stanford University.

The first TED talk is by Shawn Cornally at TEDxEastsidePrep 2011, titled The Future of Education Without Coercion.  He outlines a theory of teaching which involves focusing the first half of the day on teaching concepts teachers are truly passionate about, then spending the second half allowing the students to self-discover.  Creating a system like this destroys the problems that stand in the way of students succeeding due to interruptions to their work.  He further emphasizes ridding the system of the A-F system and instead focusing on learning in various concept fields, then submitting this to college.  Thus, colleges actually can judge students based on what they know and can make use of, rather than capability to fit to a standards based system.

The second TED talk is by Luis von Ahn, titled Massive-scale online collaboration.  Von Ahn is one of the founders of Captcha and the succeeding ReCaptcha, which are used to verify that people are making transactions rather than computers.  ReCaptcha uses this to make a greater impact by further asking people to help digitize books by identifying a word from a scanned book that OCR Software is unable to accurately.  Presently, he is working on a language education project that works off of this idea, called Duolingo.  It serves to translate the Internet by providing language courses based on translating ordinary works through human capacity.  Not only does this serve the purpose of translating much needed material, but it also provides education for free to a segment of society that in other cases would not have access to comparable education, provided in the form of expensive software such as Rosetta Stone.

The third TED talk is by Peter Norvig, and is titled The 100,000 student classroom.  He speaks of an online course on artificial intelligence that he gave as a Stanford professor to over 100,000 students.  However, he structured it in a different way from other online courses, such as those on Coursera, to better motivate students.  This is, he created very short lectures interrupted by quiz questions to maintain attention.  Furthermore, he limited the amount of time that videos were visible for.  There were due dates for assignments, forcing students to obey a schedule rather than procrastinate.  To a degree, this is what Shawn Cornally was protesting against in a high school format, but may be ideal for a college format, particularly in a system where students aren’t being forced to attend the course.

The fourth TED talk is by Ken Robinson and is titled How to escape education’s death valley.  It describes the way the standardization in America’s public education system is essentially a death valley.  It does not allow for the necessary creativity and critical thinking for the workplace that these students will be entering.  The key is to acknowledge different types of knowledge and education and make use of these in more individualized ways rather than standardizing the system.

The final TED talk is by Scott Young and is titled Can you get an MIT education for $2,000?  It describes Young’s experience in a task he names the MIT Challenge.  To achieve this, he uses the MIT Open courseware to complete all the final exams and programming projects for an entire Computer Science degree in a single year without any faculty help.  He believes that this is a much more effective education system than present colleges, and generates workers that are better capable of adapting to a changing world and use their knowledge critically.

Finally, the last article is titled Pearson buys a small stake in Nook Media, wants a fast track for digital education.  While the other articles and talks have primarily covered the user-wise and institutional positions in this situation, this covered the commercial position.  Publishing companies seek a way to be closely associated with digital media distribution platforms, so as to create a “seamless and effective experience for students.”

Vocabulary Terms

1. Competency: ability: an ability to do something, especially measured against a standard, though, in this situation, not.  Instead, it is a measure of skill that is completely subjective.

2. MOOC: Massively open online course

3. Student Initiated: Projects that are powered by the desire for knowledge and accomplishment held by students.

4. Collaboration: Interaction to achieve a massive task at a much quicker pace with the participation of large numbers of people.

Education Changing

The fact is, it just is.  Each of these describes a different change.

Online replacements to high school are allowing school to be more based on skills and capabilities rather than comparison to standards.  This is confirmed by the theory presented by Shawn Cornally that education needs to shift away from a confused process that is not only based on useless standards but also on bureaucracy.  This won’t just be seen on the high school side, but also on the college side.  Colleges will need to start looking at what students are capable of (what concepts they grasp) rather than grades.  Thus, they see that the student excels in certain things that may be far beyond the average student, even if they don’t grasp things that the rest of the class has been taught at a standard level.

Scott Young confirms this idea with his point that not only are colleges exclusive and expensive on an unnecessary level, but also that jobs are now looking more and more for people that are critically capable of doing specific things, even if they don’t have specific credentials, like having graduated from a prestigious college.

Ken Robinson brings up a similar point in stating that the current public education system teaches along standards that don’t prepare students for a critical workplace.  Thus, another change in education is hopefully inevitable.  This is a change that is extremely clear here at Eastside Prep: that emphasis is placed on being able to do things properly and well, rather than being evaluated generally on a standards scale.  Creating a system focused on this fosters creativity and encourages innovation that is vital to the progression of our society.

Of course, as much as we might blame the education system for problems like this, Scott Young does make a good point that, to a great degree, the potential for achievement lies in the hands of the students.  Open systems like Open courseware and MOOCs allow for students to take advantage of their own capabilities and progress to this creative level without a system to encourage them to do it.  In doing so, not only do they demonstrate their capability to critically achieve the task, but also their capability to adapt and learn on their own at an effective level.

Of course, this isn’t to say that education reform isn’t necessary.  I very much believe that it is.  However, it isn’t the only component that will contribute to creating a capable, advanced and innovative workforce that our future will necessitate.


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