Hacking Education (continued)

Sir ken hackedu
Last fall I wrote a post on this blog titled Hacking Education. In it, I outlined my thoughts on why the education system (broadly speaking) is failing our society and why hacking it seems like both an important and profitable endeavor.

Our firm, Union Square Ventures, has been digging deeply into the intersection of the web and the education business in search of disruptive bets we can make on this hacking education theme.

My partner Albert led an effort over the past few months to assemble a group of leading thinkers, educators, and entrepreneurs and today we got them all together and talked about hacking education for six hours.

The event has just ended and my head is buzzing with so many thoughts.

We will post the entire transcript of the event once the stenographer gets it to us. That usually takes about a week. In the meantime you can see about twenty pages of tweets that were generated both at the event and on the web by people who were following the conversation and joining in.

But here's a quick summary of my big takeaways:

1) The student (and his/her parents) is increasingly going to take control of his/her education including choice of schools, teachers, classes, and even curriculum. That's what the web does. It transfers control from institutions to individuals and its going to do that to education too.

2) Alternative forms of education (home schooling, charter schools, online learning, adult education/lifelong learning) are on the rise and we are just at the start of that trend.

3) Students will increasingly find themselves teaching as well. Peer production will move from just producing content to producing learning as well.

4) Look for technologies and approaches that reduce the marginal cost of an incremental student. Imagine that it will go to zero at some point and get on that curve.

5) The education system we currently have was built to train the industrial worker. As we move to an information driven society it is high time to question everything about the process by which we educate our society. That process and the systems that underlie it will look very different by the time our children's children are in school.

6) Investment opportunities that work around our current institutions will be more attractive but we cannot ignore disruptive approaches that will work inside the existing system. Open courseware, lesson sharing, social networks, and lightweight/public publishing tools are examples of disruptive approaches that will work inside the existing system.

7) Teachers are more important than ever but they will have to adapt and many will have to learn to work outside the system. It was suggested at hacking education that teachers are like bank tellers in the 1970s. I don't agree but I do think they are like newspaper reporters in the 1990s.

8) Credentialing and accreditation in the traditional sense (diplomas) will become less important as the student's work product becomes more available to be sampled and measured online.

9) Testing and assessment will play more of a role in adapting the teaching process. A good example of this is how video games constantly adapt to the skill level of the player to create the perfect amount of creative tenstion. Adaptive learning systems will soon be able to do the same for students.

10) Spaces for learning (schools and libraries) will be re-evaluated. It was suggested that Starbucks is the new library. I don't think that will be the case but the value of dedicated physical spaces for learning will decline. It has already happened in the world of professional education.

11) Learning is bottom up and education is top down. We'll have more learning and less education in the future

That's it. I'm spent. I"ll let you know when we post the transcript.

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