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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Comments (Archived):

  1. Lily

    don’t be sad that its over. be grateful that it happened.should i be sad that his relationship is over or be grateful that he is back? sad that it is over.he may be back but he is not happy.there us nothing worse than a sad friend.why should i care about what she thinks? she believes devoutly and forms her life around mystical fables. what if we started to worship the tortoise from the tortoise and the hare? it would be just about as ridiculous as believing in god.the day before easter the dog nearly git her leg cut off. things don’t taste like what they look.its not having what you want, its wanting what you’ve got.it is odd imagining two separate parts of your life symultaneouslyi don’t know what to write as my day has been so uneventful. the kitchen is being repainted the same colour that it already is.i went for a walk and nearly lost the dog. everyone else are always busy.i hate moving, changing environments. i never know what to do. i want to work tomorrow as i didn’t today. but when you move into a non working environment, you seem to want to do everything that requires the least amount of effort.i watched a lot of tv today. i wont tomorrow. i need to unpack as well. i just cant handle the boredom.you know, he is as her.both lonely and both alone.together.she wants to be friends but she needs to get over him first. the faster she can get over him, the faster they can be friends, the faster they can get back together.when you speak without thinking, you say what you think.magic will sort it out in the end.ok.magik.wear your shoes every other day and they will last twice as long.then you speak the awful, cruel truth.i hate you.and they returni know, i hat you too, i love arguing with you.buti hate arguing with you, you belittle me, irrationally contradict me, speak over me.i really hate you.i know. (you don’t care or you don’t understand)i hate you.

who do i talk to?
what do i say?
will she remember… what.
she is in so much pain alone.
i will be there for her.
but can she accept that?
can she?i want to cry but i can’t.i need to.i can’t.everything is at your fingertips if you are willing to reach out and grab it.my head feels like a rake.lonelinessjust reach out and catch someone if you see them falling. the faster you reach out, the harder to reach but the easier to catch.nowwas god man’s biggest mistake?or was man god’s biggest mistake?negative spaces in books.the parts between the action, when it is all calm.i would love to build an existence on those moments. but then that would only be existing.frustrationam i taking it all too seriously on is the idea that i am causing it all to go wrong?

    1. Declan Dunn

      Following up that previous comment is like stepping on stage after a speech…you are taking it too seriously, makes for good poetry though ;-)Now to the important post…Fantastic idea, and thanks for recognizing that education is one of the things this connected world does best, and the old educational system is still not that far away from the Prussian approach that the student is a blank slate for society to draw on. We need to build bridges quickly!Maybe it’s the reverse, society is the blank slate that students should write on, contribute to, encourage, and drive the whole process. I’m speaking from experience, because the most amazing thing I’ve been involved in for my 15 plus years on the Net is an educational site started in 1995…and the students, and contributors, run the whole show, and they are an amazing when you let them simply go!Remember.org teaches the Holocaust and Genocide, and began by approaching students through the Net and through their teachers, and having them bring it into schools. I asked the audience (as any Instructional Designer/marketer would do) what they wanted, and they created the content…in fact, we completed a project with Auschwitz Museum that we funded with an amazing contributor, Alan Jacobs, and the results are available on their site and on ours…part of the collaboration we foster at a grass roots level. Check out their site…English: http://en.auschwitz.org.pl/…Polish: http://pl.auschwitz.org.pl/…Now if I was pitching it today, it would be a user generated community based on passion and storytelling…yet it has always been based on stories of survival, and of the creative energy of students. The first Gallery, the Imagine Art Gallery, is a collection of paintings and poetry by 6th graders, who are supposedly too young to learn it…good thing the teacher didn’t read that book.She taught me that any student can learn if they approach it with imagination instead of constraints, something I’ve tried to apply to the site. My contributors are worldwide, and it’s not about me, it’s about remembrance. We’re about to launch some new educational initiatives as well (finally, we fund ourselves so this is all done through love and sweat equity).And to do this you really have to collaborate and share, not just say it as a positioning statement. It doesn’t matter if you think different, when you act the same. The students can spot phoniness a mile away!We have been in school curriculum’s for years, reaching a few million visitors in my stats, 300,000 or so a year according to Quantcast. Hey, reaching one kid is payment enough…What we’ve really learned is you need great teachers, as the old adage goes acting like “Guides on the Side”, not “Sages from the Stage”, who aren’t afraid of technology, and who bring this to the students. You need tools and you need teachers who know and are open to the randomness and lack of control these discussions bring. Empowering teachers is crucial, and they can bring things in…amazing what a little help and patience can do to help them really achieve the important goals.Educational systems seek control, like many businesses on the Net; and while you can’t just let them all YouTube, with the tools today you can segment and set up specific paths for students to develop, rate, and learn from…with teachers providing essential guidance.Anyone interested, in April we’re launching an upgrade, based on some 15 years of doing learner-generated content in a vibrant community. Be glad to share everything with anyone…that’s what we do at Remember.org.I don’t see it as Starbucks, it’s more like you weave the content into their learning and they way they connect; I take a viral approach, and trust them to share it. I’d equate it more with smaller groups of students, cells, who go out to the garage or barn, a few of them together, and start jamming. Then they bring it in frequently to the main room, where they get to play, get feedback from teachers and other students, and go back to perfect it, while listening to what the other groups came up with.Teams help people learn and focus, which is sooooo hard in online education. I’ve become friends with many survivors at the site, like Harold Gordon, whose message is to put “Hate on Hold”…and is one of the most vibrant, and happy, people I’ve had the blessing to meet in this life.We remember…in fact most times you’ll find us on top of Google for Remember…we’re trying.As are you…thanks!PeaceDeclan Dunn

    2. fredwilson

      i’m not sure what to make of this comment. to the commenters and readers – should i nuke it or leave it? it just seems so out of place and i can’t figure out if it’s even relevant to this conversation.

      1. anumberone

        Schools during the past 20 years have had a hard time keeping up with the Internet age. Throwing money at schools for computers has not helped the overall teaching quality in many cases. Homeschooling has proven to be successful, and simply works where traditional schools do not. With the economy, there will be more haggling by schools to sustain their funding levels and increase property taxes at a time when taxpayers are already pinched and looking for more accountability in how their tax dollars are spent. I think the time will come where some taxpayers will even revolt at paying for local property taxes for schools when for example they have no kids. This has already been happening in the case of taxes being spent on arcane feasibility studies, the latest computers, and for high academic salaries in areas where school grades are poor.

        1. matt schulte

          one more thought…southpoint above mentions a “taxpayer revolt” of people with no kids not wanting to pay taxes to fund schools. I live in Portland Or. Really progressive, right? Has that reputation anyway. A couple of years ago, there was a tax issue on the ballot to help fund schools. The number of very progressive, but child-less, Portlanders who grumbled endlessly, to me, about voting for this tax was a real eye opener. It was a shock, to be honest. I figured support was a given. (I realize now how wrong my attitude was.) But that feeling is out there, real and growing.

          1. JLM

            In a certain way this is being dialed in all around the country with stabilized senior citizen homestead values. Fix the value of a person’s homestead for property tax purposes at age 65 and the incremental tax burden for education is shed. Don’t know that I agree with it or not but it is surely happening though not always discussed in that manner.

      2. kidmercury

        i initially thought it was an automated spam bot, not sure though

      3. Michael Lewkowitz

        From the initial tone I didn’t even bother reading. i’d say let it sit… will be less of an issue than it might become if removed.

      4. Steven Kane


      5. JLM

        Hmmm, sounds like somebody just dumped or broke up w/ their mistress.BTW, she apparently is not taking it well.Hmmm, it does have a certain Fatal Attraction quality to it, doesn’t it? Might be a good idea to lock up the Ginsu? LOL

      6. mpstaton


  2. daryn

    Wow. Great teaser & food for thought. Looking forward to the transcript and further discourse.

  3. Chris O'Donnell

    Interestingly, all 11 points tie directly back to homeschooling, particularly the unschoolish wing of homeschooling that tends to be completely unlike “school at home.” This might imply that maybe the education establishment should be looking at homeschooling for inspiration of how to improve education, instead of looking at them as lost tax dollars.

    1. kidmercury

      truth was just dropped, people. give props.

      1. fredwilson


    2. fredwilson

      I am prone to compare education to the media businessAnd in that context home schooling is bloggingSo yes, absolutely the establishment should be looking very closely at homeschoolingIt is disruptive and important and grass roots

      1. Mike

        While I see #1 and #2 becoming exponentially more valuable over the course of the next generation as well, do you believe that politicians would support a system that empowers the student and focuses more attention on the importance of the home over the school when it seems to me that it is those two points that cause most students to fall behind in the first place?And, I doubt very seriously that policy decisions are made to equip those who already have access to state of the art methods for future success. They are focused on ensuring that all students have access to the same education. So until we address the deteriorating conditions in public schools as a whole or lower income school districts more specifically (through funding, teacher performance, etc…), this conversation may be a non-starter from a macro level. Also, like you, I support causes like teacherschoose.org, and I believe organizations like this will be important players going forward should any of your 11 points take hold. To that end, I believe #4 may be the most critical.But in the end, it may be important to simply remember that, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” (Albert Einstein)

        1. fredwilson

          I think we have to develop alternatives that work for the poorest and mostdisadvantaged and do that outside of the current systemThat presupposes that parents will take advantage of themI think enough will to make it worth our while

    3. Michael Lewkowitz

      Unschooling FTW (for my family anyway). The experience we’ve had so far that through unschooling is that our family learns through living. Together. As people. More than as teacher/student. We can learn from countless sources on line and in our geopgraphic community. It’s about following interest and curiousity, Asking questions and seeking answers. It’s natural and fluid.As for socialization, it’s the best socialization we could imagine for our kids. Our kids are part of the community, interacting with people of all ages, backgrounds. Encountering a myriad of interests and experiences that exist. This is different than my experience as a kid in the education system being ‘socalized’ primarily by a community of people of the same age and mostly the same background.As for teaching, sharing experiences and wisdom, those are important skills, everyone plays a role and those who have unique abilities at will always have big contributions to make. The places and ways they do it are just changing.To jump back to the post – excellent summary and hits at some huge threads of transformation that are underway. This is happening. How we can best accelerate it to the maximum benefit of our youth, and our society is the question. And that this mix of people in this forum are discussing it… giddyup! Love it!

    4. Druce Vertes

      Interesting… it’s noteworthy that most of the questions are around the training function of schools – ie the system was architected to train the industrial worker.However schools are central cultural institutions that perform many other functions that intersect with every aspect of society.Signaling – why are people driven to go to, say MIT? Not just because of the training, but because of what it it signals to others (as noted above). Obviously, looking at Facebook and the amount of information a Web era background check can unravel, technology can do a tremendous amount of signaling. In the hacking education context, for instance more detailed information about a student’s academic record, and appropriate analytics could make backgrounds more informative / comparable – think computerized football rankings for quality of outcome against what material, or Hirsch index for academic citations or Twitter follower ratio. Of course, privacy and liability issues work against greater transparency.Socialization – teaching students how to interact with each other in their chosen work, ie science/engineering at MIT, or politics, or simply ‘the company of educated persons’.Of course, beyond training is critical thinking and asking the right questions.perhaps the important question is – how can you tell if the system is educating students effectively and decide what approaches should live or die? that means going back to educators from Plato through Dewey and beyond and formulating what you expect schools to do.The medium is the message, and there is a lot of cultural DNA in the existing system which needs to be reflected in new methods, which will certainly not be value-free, and letting ‘bad code’ into the wild in the educational system is far more impactful than on the Internet or practically anywhere else.

      1. fredwilson

        Great points as usual druceThe socialization piece is a particular challenge that I am trying to get myhead around

    5. Ben Atlas

      Perhaps Montessori Method is the middle ground between homeschooling and regular schooling that we are looking for.

      1. fredwilson

        I don’t know much about montessori but I think it has a lot of interestingideas in itGoogle founders did some montessori and home schooling btw

        1. Ben Atlas

          right, it was i who told you about Google founders 😉

          1. fredwilson


          2. Ben Atlas

            BTW http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…expert is someone you should consider for your panels. I am hesitant to recommend somehting without a first hand experience (I considered teaching there at some point)But it might be what you are looking for, i.e. children are not at home, they are supervised by instructors but the curriculum is bottom up.

  4. Guest

    Fred,From a political standpoint, a lot of the democrats you strongly support disagree with many of these principles. Often funding is the only priority, instead of actually improving education. So things like vouchers, which give more choice and control (point #1) but reduce funding, get slammed down. Are you going to stand up for this?

    1. fredwilson

      For vouchers?

    2. mpstaton

      Technically I’m an independent that would call myself conservative if that didn’t come with a loaded ideology. I’ve not seen conservatives have great ideas when it comes to education. I support vouchers, but think it should happen in concert with a lot of other changes that republicans aren’t willing to think up or fund.

  5. jakemintz

    I am glad so many smart people are trying to tackle education. The progressive moves towards open courseware by schools such as MIT and Stanford are great first steps. I hope my school (Chicago) sees the light and starts sharing material (and I intend to discuss this with the administration). It would be amazing to see someone start putting lectures online. If the content is good, I don’t see how this does anything but improve the brand. We have the technology to scale education but it hasn’t happened yet. It is not necessary to limit amazing professors to teaching only 50 students at a time. I dream of a world where the best teachers are superstars and can teach thousands at a time through the internet. However, I am not sure if internet learning is a perfect replacement for classroom learning; I learn a lot by interacting with other students and having the ability to ask questions in class. But, the world would be a better place if we did everything we could to remove the barriers to a good education. Opening up the best schools in the world would help give motivated people that opportunity.One of the fundamental problems I see is the connection between a degree and knowledge or experience. A degree does not represent the amount of learning one has achieved. This is especially a problem in programs like mine (MBA) where some people attend school for the networking and recruiting and put the minimum amount of effort into class. This will continue to be an effective strategy as long as people rely on degrees to (inaccurately) represent knowledge. I am proud to go to a great school but don’t want to rest on the laurels of the institution. If I am successful it will be because I worked hard and learned as much as I could along the way. We are all lucky to be born in a time and place that is relatively one of the best meritocracies that has ever existed.

    1. fredwilson

      Jake ­ you would have fit right into the room yesterday. This is all spoton.

      1. jakemintz

        I would have loved to be there. Let me know if you want any student representation in the back of the room next time. Also, if you are in Chicago in the next 18 months and are willing to grab a coffee, let me know!

        1. fredwilson

          I’ll do that jakeSame is true if you come to nycAnd rob kalin acknowledged your point during the event with this tweethttp://twitter.com/rokali/s…

          1. piers

            One of the things that really stuck out for me while I was following #hackedu was the value of social networks like linkedIn and facebook to replace the “old boy” network. I completely agree about MBAs – the value is in the network, so you are advised to go to the most prestigious and expensive program you can. This should be less and less necessary as social networks become more and more important to career survival.

        2. ShanaC

          Istria on 57th Jake?

    2. Ben Atlas

      Jake, you can’t say this is the best meritocracy because as you yourself illustrated schools and names still plays such a dominant role despite the actual education. Witness the entire Harvard class rolling into DC with this election and undoubtedly the trajectory of the president himself.yes Obama is a self made man on merit and no he would not had chance in the world if not for Harvard.

      1. jakemintz

        Please note that I said “relatively.” While the world can do much to improve, I would not have the same opportunity to advance based on my merit if I had been in another place or time such as feudal England (off with his head!). There are plenty of Harvard graduates that have amounted to nothing special. There are plenty of Harvard dropouts that have amounted to plenty (Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg for example). There are billionaires that never even attended college, let alone dropped out (Richard Branson for example). I don’t know the world of government as well as I know the world of business (which I don’t know exceptionally well) so I will refrain from commenting other than to say I haven’t heard that President Obama was accepted to Harvard Law for anything other merit. For the record, I have not applied to, attended or dropped out of Harvard. Schools and names may matter more than they should, but there are plenty of people that have and will succeed without them, especially entrepreneurs.

        1. Ben Atlas

          I don’t argue with any of your points and I was clear that Obama got to Harvard on merit (perhaps). This country is undoubtedly a country where merit is strong. Yet the names mean a lot in corporate America.I can only speak from my experience and I have seen so many people advance based on little except the name of the college they attended.

          1. jakemintz

            One of the reasons I was unhappy at my last job before going back to school (at a large semiconductor company) was that there were lots of people that did very little but played politics well enough to stick around and advance for many many years. There are lots of bad reasons that people advance (in addition to the name of the college they attended). At the very least, we can individually reward people based on merit. And, there are lots of people who attended big name schools that deserve everything they have achieved. But, I totally agree, the less that school name matters in our world, the better. In defense of my old employer, I am a huge admirer of the CEO and he did not attend a big name school (or get a graduate degree).

          2. Ben Atlas

            No amount of hacking will undo the human nature. Degree or no degree workers who have the best people skills will always advance.

      2. fredwilson

        True in politicsLess true in business every dayNot true at all in startups

    3. rahmin

      Are there any good examples of groups organizing around the open courseware content? While it’s great the material is available, it’s still very daunting to attempt to learn an entire course worth of material without a community chugging along with you.

      1. CS


  6. jamtoday

    I just posted some thoughts about the “pay for grades” topic of discussion on the #hackedu page.http://bit.ly/LyfXBA couple close friends have recently been forced to adapt their lives around student debt, and it’s not pretty. And because extrinsic rewards can be a powerful feedback mechanism, there’s a lot of potential for adoption in this area. But just giving cash to students for their grades probably won’t achieve the effect we’re looking for of *investing* in the student.In the blog post, I begin to describe a possible alternative, although the implementation details are the tricky part.

  7. davidst

    Have you seen DreamBox learning?http://www.dreambox.com/I have no stake in the company but I like the product. I would be happy to introduce you to their founder if you would like to talk with them.BTW, I tried to post this three times using Facebook Connect and each time got a “That wasn’t supposed to happen” failure message.

    1. fredwilson

      Ugh. Facebook connect bug. I’ll forward that to disqus.I’ll check out dreamboxThanks for the link

  8. Jesse Farmer

    Fred,I’m really interested in this space. Who should I talk to to get involved with something interesting? (I have a bunch of ideas of my own, of course.)

    1. happyseaurchin

      heyjessei am in the same boat…let’s do this togethertweet @happyseaurchinbe welldavid

    2. fredwilson

      Send me an email (contact on the upper right of this blog) and we’ll discuss

  9. Cliff

    To the extent that students don’t know what they don’t know, they are at the mercy of a greater wisdom to help ensure that they at least ask the right questions about what they could/should learn. This “greater wisdom” doesn’t appear to be so great in the current educational system, which almost completely overlooks many of the most important teachings related to productivity, fulfillment and happiness. (For example, I know very few people who wouldn’t benefit – or have benefited – substantially from more education on managing their emotions, relationships, time, goals, etc. Yet, these areas are remarkably underrepresented in most curriculum, as far as I know.)What kind of educational hacks could effectively address this?

    1. fredwilson

      If we put the students in control of what they learn, then issues like thiscould become classes/courses they opt to takeThere is also things like teachstreet and schoolofeverything that could (andmaybe are) offering classes in this kind of thing

  10. brainyflix

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.I think education suffers from alot of regulation and public sector red tape. It will be hard to reform it within the ‘school system’ space for entrepreneurs in a scalable way without involving the public.However, I think there is a chance to make drastic changes at the edges. The real scalability comes from1. being a bit edgy – lets not be so wound up about what exactly they learn, as long as they retain curiosity and learn the important things–how to continue to learn for the rest of their lives. I think too many people get hung up on this and overcensor the learning environment. 2. letting kids teach each other – adults are boring. it is just an eternal law. kids should just teach each other. its definitely more scalable3. setting up the right constraints and rules to make it effective for kids to teach each other.A few of my projects have been acquired and i’m working on a side project w/ a friend. check it out if you’re interested at brainyflix.com. I’d love to get your feedback. (this is not a solicitation for funding so apologies if it comes off this way)

  11. Jay Jamison

    Fred, great post and sounds like an interesting event.Agree with everything here.One big area of thought that I’d add is how to integrate the continuing development of neuroscience and early child brain development (in particular) with how learning / teaching occurs. As we discover more about how the brain develops, translating that into more scientifically oriented apporaches designed to most effectively develop an individual’s brain, is something that should be a priority and an element to these solutions etc..Too often, we will hear that there’s no “one way” to teach something (a language, math, etc.) True, but the science of the brain and its development should be providing a far brighter beacon than it broadly is today.Thanks again, I’m passionate about this and in the space myself. Will be a blast to help in driving this shift.

    1. fredwilson

      Great point about incorporating science into this effort

  12. awilensky

    Oh, man, I don’t even know where to begin. Geared to the Industrial worker? We should be so lucky to get back to that orientation towards true skills that foster the production of real, value added goods and services. We have eschewed a great swath of true industrial arts for the ephemeral and useless. We need more engineers and advanced trade education. The 4 year degree as a benchmark and cutting point for exclusion must be replaced with fine gained credentialing.I could rant on this for hours. I have been a two way radio and mobile phone tech, audio tech, video, AV, interactive service manual publisher, analyst, programmer, writer, business consultant, what next. I know how to handle advanced test systems and design tools. I never went to university, but was accepted to several.We have an antiquated system of expensive boutique schools. We need a general system of open admissions where any willing student can rise to the top once in, where they can pick up specific credentials for real skills.

    1. Ben Atlas

      Alan, good to read your comments buddy. Show your face in town sometime.

    2. Yule Heibel

      Good points re. “geared to the industrial worker,” although to be fair, the observation is probably informed by John Taylor Gatto’s analysis, which has a deeper historical perspective backing it up.Gatto noted that in traditional Prussian-inspired K-12 education (which is what the American public school system was based on), the learner/ pupil does NOT get to speak because s/he is expected to become someone who can work to rote and routine and can take orders (i.e., become a Taylorite or Fordist cog in the machine – or, if you like Pink Floyd, another brick in the wall).Gatto compared that to two precedents: on the one hand, to the one-room schoolhouse and/or homeschool setting familiar to Americans in the late 18th and 19th centuries (in the 18th century, the literacy rate was almost 100% among Americans); and on the other to elite prep schools – which until relatively recently produced ALL the US presidents – where students learned to speak through public speaking and debate clubs. They learned how to be leaders in those settings, and Gatto’s anti-“industrial” comments were more aimed at the absence of training for initiative and leadership in typical 20th century public school settings.We’ve probably moved past this to some extent, and now we’re at a point where most kids aren’t learning practical stuff anymore. Like, what schools still offer Home Ec or Woodworking or Auto Mechanics? There’s such a scramble to offer Advanced Placement instead that the practical stuff has become …well, impractical.Same thing happens with music and the arts in general. All of this stuff is treated as a “frill” – as if.

  13. David

    Hello Fred,Over here in Seoul, South Korea, the ESL industry is quite substantial in terms of market size and perhaps, more importantly, influence. ESL (English as a Second Language) is a 3 billion dollar industry here in South Korea and it’s only getting bigger. The last couple of years we’ve seen investments from the Carlyle group (asia growth) and AIG. The investments were 20 million USD and 60 million USD, respectively. Why may you ask? It’s simple, for a small country like ours, we need to grow beyond this peninsula and that means going beyond the limits of our physical border. There are over 1.5 million Korean immigrants living in the U.S. alone. But what’s becoming increasingly more important is not exporting products and people but our ideas, thoughts, and perspectives. In the end, that’s true influence. So what does that have to do with English? Easy… it’s the official global language. Korean mothers, like all mothers, want the very best for their kids. They know that the only way to really have a chance at upward mobility can only be made possible through education, especially, math and English. In a culture that is heavily influenced by Confucius beliefs, education is most important for children.Everyone from youtube Korea (Google), to SK communications (Cyworld), to Naver is trying to gain a better understanding before they jump in. Because they see what Fred sees, an opportunity to make money, build a true education/learning platform, and influence lives. I know Fred talked about education in general, but his points are applicable to the situation over here in Seoul. Things need to change. These franchise cram schools that are truly impressive in terms of scale and effectiveness is essentially a dying model. It’s surprising because things have just started, but already people see the end of “physical space”. Learning hasn’t started yet. Education is transforming. The convergence of the two should be a space worth exploring. The innovation in education has yet to begin, but I firmly believe that it will come out of Asia.Anyway, the comment is getting long. If any of you guys have questions about anything ESL or Korea tech related, please feel free to email me at : [email protected]

    1. David

      edit. 15 billion dollar industry according to SERI (Samsung Economic Research Institute)http://www.koreatimes.co.kr…

  14. derrinyet

    I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I would love to put you in touch with Richard Miller, chair of the English department at Rutgers and one of my intellectual heroes. He wrote a couple of books – one about higher education reform and the other about the place of humanities in the modern world – but now he works in digital multimedia and is championing the development of a Center for the New Humanities, where students can learn to create instead of just critiquing.He’s got a YouTube channel here [http://www.youtube.com/user…] and a blog here [http://criticaloptimist.blo…].I’m going to point him to your work as well; please let me know if this is a connection you might be interested in making.

    1. fredwilson

      Of course. Pls send him our way

  15. sprague

    Roger Shank at CMU used to say that in the future, when all facts and all knowledge is at your fingertips, the most important skill will be to learn how to ask the right questions. Wonder what that does to schools. Maybe schools start to merge with the rest of the world instead of being separate institutions.

  16. Jackson Miller

    I posted some related thoughts on my blog: http://urlzen.com/7hkIt will be great when that TweetBack feature is enabled. That might be reason to switch from IntenseDebate.(and yes, the related blog post is about hacking education)

    1. fredwilson

      Another great reason to switch from Intense Debate is that its part of a big company now, safe and sound, while disqus is fighting every day for its survival and to become something big. The latter is almost always the best way to build something great

      1. Jackson Miller

        Yeah, I am real familiar with the motivation of a hungry entrepreneur :)It is tough as a consumer when you really like competing companies and can only use one.

        1. fredwilson

          Fortunately the market will sort this all out in a year or two

  17. Keenan

    Number 8 is a game changer. Being measured on what you produce will completely disrupt the current system. Our educational system does very little to leverage the application of information. An system that leverages application in the class room earlier and earlier will drive tremendous change not only in the education system, but also in markets as students learn and embrace innovation at earlier ages.Imagine a math class that not only teaches algebra, but HOW to apply it? Imagine a History class that not only teaches history, but requires it to be used to draft a bill to address a modern day issue. Number 8 is very intriguing. It could truly be disruptive.

    1. fredwilson


    2. Ben Atlas

      Correct about the importance of 8. (See my previous comment to Jake)Plus as I mentioned on this site before the value of apprenticeship. “I have worked for such and such firm” will count for a lot. This has a flip side. For example, start architects today employ young talent for nothing and people are eager to work for the stars because it looks good on the resume.

  18. Mike

    Fred, Mike Levinson here from DreamIT Ventures. I’ve been reading your blog for a few years but this is my first time posting. I co-founded and started a tech education company in the 80’s and ran it for 12+ years before selling to a Welsh Carson company in 1999 and I couldn’t agree more. Even back in the 90’s we saw this trend and began building self paced learning products that put the user in control; first on disk, then CD, then on-line.As a side project I’ve also been active in a few new not for profits geared toward helping teachers challenge the traditional model and begin to learn to think like Entrepreneurs (www.3einstitute.org and http://www.aimpa.org). At the 3E we began using the term “Entrepreneurial Educator” to promote what we were trying to do.The challenge at the K-12 level is that the traditional infrastructure is so deeply stuck in the old ways (like many of the fortune 500 companies crumbling right now) and so protected (funded and not as susceptible to free market pressures) that it is very difficult to get people to move. At higher levels, though, you see the rise of on-line learning as University of Phoenix and many others leading a shift, which is good.Happy to contribute to future conversations.

    1. fredwilson

      It sounds like you’ve been working on this for decades. We’ve got a lot to learn from people like you

    2. Kontra

      @Mike: “…University of Phoenix and many others leading a shift, which is good.”I’m not quite sure why you think UoP is good.Here’s a sober declaration:“We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.”Who said that? Woodrow Wilson, in 1909. And, BTW, who quoted it? None other than Bill Ayers: http://billayers.wordpress….Does UoP represent a radical or meaningful ‘shift’ from this over-riding arrangement?

  19. kidmercury

    the mission statement of my organization is to help people learn, we have a few thoughts on this subject:1. niche social networks +blogs + rss feeds/filtered web + games/points systems = niche learning community2. everyone learns from each other; teacher needs only a bit of experience (enough knowledge to filter for good information). more important for teacher to act as a community moderator that brings people together and creates a safe environment for all to learn3. beginners need structured learning. after a basic foundation, though, learning is done through trial and error, conversation, and unstructured patterns. this is one of the biggest problems with school, way too much structured learning. turns you into a robot. 4. information businesses will need to invest in educating employees/independent contractors, more important than ever5. as information economy contiues to explode, businesses will need to invest in educating employees/independent contractors about internal protocol/business processes6. a business model for bloggers is to help folks learn about a given topic. this reduces the information cost needed to make purchases, and allows bloggers to earn confidence that is awarded to those who educate. for this reason i find it to be one of the best business models for bloggers and niche social networks. 7. product placement opportunities galore for companies that want to place their products/services in educational material, and in having demo products specifically for learning. some will cry about ethics issues here, though IMO it all depends on how it’s done; it can be done deceptively or it can be done honestly and transparently.i always drop two links on the subject of education:deliberatedumbingdown.com (charlotte iserbyt is from the department of education under the reagan administration)johntaylorgatto.com (confessions from a former new york state teacher of the year)one of the many bright things that will emerge out of our current collapse is a collapse of the education system. education is now about indoctrination, though it will soon be about learning. this will pave the way for a broader and long-term renaissance.

  20. Shiv

    Great post. This is pretty much what we’re finding students prefer. We’ve experimented with all these points and given our students a choice of learning in more traditional course/class method or self directed, bottom up, task based ones. Students of all ages are choosing the later.

  21. happyseaurchin

    interesting blogand substantial posts…maybe i should name myself a VC and see what happens to my readership!i have been working below the grassroots level in schools teaching mathsbut really helping kids learn self-discipline and social responsibilitywhat you dichotomise as teaching-learning topdown-bottomupeverything you say is online for substantive evolutionary change :)i have been hacking for 10 yearsand i quit last yearnow interested in engaging adults with my resultsthis mightor might not be of interest to yousince there’s a lot of thinkers about and the opinion cloud gets rather dense…twitter:@happyseaurchinbe welldavid

  22. antrod

    Am interested in #8 “Credentialing and accreditation” and how that is going to go away. There is no doubt that for a lot of the soft skills that we hire for today a traditional liberal arts diploma is completely meaningless. As one of the commenters said, this is even true of professions like software engineering where a CS diploma is often uncorrelated to success on the job.However, we’ve got a lot of hacking to do to change this outmoded way of thinking for the really big employers out there. And while forward leaning recruiters at big companies (like say HP) may be open to looking for alternative ways to “score” incoming applications, “work product” seems like a very amorphous and scary way to do so.Any thoughts?PS- And before people go nuts on this one: all of the best engineers I’ve ever hired at startups have been identified on the basis of their “work product—” be it their open source contributions, side projects, blogs, conference talks. But in sum total across four startups and 15 years, I’ve made maybe 35-40 hires which is a trivial amount of folks from the perspective of a big company where you might hire that many engineers in one quarter.

    1. Kevin Prentiss

      I’ve read 60% of employers search the net to find out about candidates, which makes google the new resume.The sum total of your digital identity is the new first impression. It may not be “the” filter yet, but just like the ability to speak on one’s own behalf in an interview, it’s certainly one of the important filters.Maybe google is already the hack for evidence of work / life.

    2. fredwilson

      I think the open source ecosystem can teach us a lot about the way forward

    3. Kontra

      @antrod: “…a big company where you might hire [35-40] many engineers in one quarter.”It would be a mistake to assume that the “education problem” can be solved in a vacuum.There’s unfortunately a coordination factor wherein such industrial-age behemoths that require the hiring of so many engineers may well be ill structured for an era of reformed education/learning. IOW, would Vista have been a better OS and released on time if they had doubled the number of developers working on it, and all from Fred’s alma mater? I think credentialism will live on (as it’s quite ancient), but the tokens for credentials will shift.There’s a huge range of personnel in large organizations, however, whose jobs can, should and will be automated or rendered redundant. And that’s as much a political problem as it’s technological.

      1. antrod

        @kevinprentiss I agree Google (and LinkedIn) are the new resume. Notice though that this doesn’t necessarily help with accreditation and credentialing— it is more like a reference on steroids.@Kontra I also agree that we have some fat left in the big corporations (though this recession is helping to take care of that nicely), but there are still projects that require loads of bodies and there is no way to get around that. You point to Vista which is a whipping boy of bad large teams. But OSX, Ubuntu, and even Windows 7 are examples of products that take a lot of people and end up being great. Let’s take the OSX example for a second: in fact those guys are very good at hiring and mentoring Stanford kids, fresh out of the CS program and using them first as interns, then testers, and eventually craftsmen on their core products.If you were to talk to an Apple recruiter, they would tell you that they *love* the kids from Stanford. I am sure that it is not about the diploma per se, but I remain stuck on this: what is the equivalent high level filtering function on the post-hacked education world?

  23. mdudas

    Very interesting. Did the conversation touch upon the “soft/social” skills that students develop through the education system that aren’t directly measurable or testable (values, trust, respect, camaraderie, etc.) Based on my own education experience, those skills seem as valuable as learning to count, read, write and spell. The comfort of having the same classmates & teachers and a shared experience with others was instrumental in my education and growth as a person. I’d be concerned if education becomes too a la carte/choose your own path and personal education decisions become too individualized. I worry we’d get away from that “core” that helps ensure we have a society where people can interact with one another in a productive manner and develop tangible relationships with others. This is coming from someone who enjoyed and derived great value from the people I met and developed personal relationships with more than any measurable or testable skill I learned.

  24. matt schulte

    Not a lot of mention has been made (specifically anyway) about Mentoring, although Kid Mercury alluded to it certainly. I think this is one of the most important elements in education that the web can foster/enable, especially as we think about learning vs. education. I’ve received a valuable education on certain topics from certain bloggers, that have turned into a two way street of communication and learning…and, although I never thought about it until now, I consider them mentors. We can all name people on the web that we’ve learned from, maybe even established an on-going relationship with, and perhaps have never “met” and never will. I can see a safe system or business of on-line mentors who guide learners towards resources, or aggregate resources themselves, and provide encouragement and insight, even if they are outside the specific system the student is enrolled in. I know there are companies out there doing this, but it seems so separate from the current system and sales-pitchy, and there must be a better way to enable this over time…My wife is a university professor, a brilliant innovator in her circle, and is involved in the credentialing and education program at her school. She is following the threads of thought posted here with great interest.

    1. fredwilson

      Mentoring is scalableI like to think that some of that goes on here at AVC

  25. bernardlunn

    I think there is a danger of devaluing teachers here. The bank teller analogy is way, way off and even the newspaper reporter analogy is wrong and dangerous. It depends a little on the age of the student. I have a 4 year old and an 8 year old and that tends to be my perspective. What I am absolutely certain is at that age an emotional connection with the teacher (whether a relative, formal teacher or anybody) is ESSENTIAL to learning. The web is a great tool but cannot and must not replace teachers.I am involved with a local initiative to raise money locally for improving science eduction in our public school and that is driven by involving and supporting the teacher. Sometimes the missing ingredient is simply MONEY.But at a deeper level, we must make teaching into a highly valued/paid occupation. What if we had a flat tax and some of those highly paid tax accountants and lawyers did something useful, like teach children? Or what if society recognized – with cash – that a great head of school and the teachers they encourage drive property prices up or down. We all know that we pay more money to buy a property in a great school district. Realtors and property owners benefit. Why not teachers?

    1. JLM

      The problem w/ the teaching profession at the high school and lower level is similar to what has happened to the American car companies — an entrenched union has destroyed the meritocracy and the administration of that union has squandered funding that rightfully belongs in the pockets of teachers. It is expensive to erect a massive union hierarchy and to aspire to become a political force.Is is also not a matter of the total amount of funding, it is a challenge as to exactly what gets funded.We should be able to discriminate among those teachers who are able to create resuls and create a competitive compensation meritocracy based upon the performance of their students.This is exactly why people are willing to forego taxpayer funded public schools and then pay a second time to educate THEIR children at private schools.We need a merit and incentive pay system for teachers driven by student achievement.

      1. fredwilson

        Here’s an outtake from Friday’s sessionhttp://twitter.com/opencont…

      2. b

        I agree, unions are a problem. I want to see good teachers paid more, but unions protect the not so good teachers.

    2. Ethan Bauley

      EXACTLYI had a short conversation with Albert Wenger on his blog about these points earlier this week:1. Marginally increasing teacher autonomy and empowerment yield huge improvements in student learning and achievement. That’s the principal difference between public and private or charter schools. Decentralized power can be put in effect with the flip of a policy switch if we want it bad enough.2. Corollary: Who cares about school choice if you can make your current school X% more responsive?Geeking out on webcam tutors and open courseware is fun (I’m a fan of Yale’s stuff) but we need to be picking the low hanging fruit NOW. And by “now”, I mean “ten years ago.”For the record, that comment about teachers being tantamount to bank tellers is completely ridiculous, I wonder why Jarvis even posted that garbage. That level of cynicism is counterproductive (and I’m being VERY diplomatic about my real feelings 😉

    3. fredwilson

      The journalist analogy is simply a recognition that the best reporters havestarted to develop their own platforms on the web and are making a lot moremoney doing thatThe best teachers will do the sameHome schooling is disruptive in the same way blogging is

      1. briandbutler

        universities will be disintermediated… teachers willl not.its like newspapers being disintermediated…. not the journalist/ blogger / reporter.the parallel is a good one.another:record labels get disintermediated, not the artists.hope that helps

        1. fredwilson

          And tv networks get disintermediated but tv shows do not

  26. rtolmach

    Those childless couples who don’t want to pay for education can blame themselves in a few years when they have to deal with uneducated and incompetent nurses, mechanics, sales staff, etc.; when an uneducated populace elects a demagogue; and when the economy flounders and they don’t get their entitlement payments.

  27. vadadean

    These eleven points seem very biased toward learning skills and information. However, one of the most empowering jobs of great teachers is helping students learn how they learn. This process requires deep human skills, one-on-one interaction, and can be difficult to measure. However, when done well it’s like a switch goes on in the student and the impact is life long.Therefore, I don’t believe teachers will go the way reporters. Their interpersonal skills do not scale like information dissemination. But their work product, students, will help us identify the best and their value will rise commensurately.

    1. JLM

      To learn one’s own preferred learning style is one of the greatest insights we will ever obtain about ourselves.Teachers are also mentors. This is a huge role. A mentor is someone who knows how to challenge a student, to comfort a student, to empathize with the student, to force a student to live up to their own potential etc. etc. etc. all while not allowing the student to abandon learning.The other thing we fail to recognize is the teaching of values — what institutions today actually teach “character”? Schools are faced with an epidemic of cheating at a time when the delivery process for learning has never been more broad and flexible.There will always be a need for teachers but will there always be folks willing to take on this at time thankless task?

    2. fredwilson

      That’s certainly true of early childhood educationAt what age does that stop being true?

      1. vadadean

        Learning how one learns ends when a person takes personal responsibility for their education and puts it to the test. This can happen during teen years, college, work, or not at all. When it does happen, skilled teachers have laid-out the bread crumbs.I agree with JLM, mentors are also important to this process.

  28. Kevin Prentiss

    Great work, great post.The theme I got from the twitter stream was the need for intrinsically motivated students with the hack approach.Craigslist as a hack/disruption worked because buyers and sellers were motivated. Lowering the barriers expanded the market, but some motivation was still required.I agree with number 4. The challenge is that we have to work with students we have, not the students we might have if they were raised in a more playful and creative school system that doesn’t yet exist. Even when we have rockstar teachers and the marginal cost of additional students is zero, students still have to want to show up.Accreditation is extrinsic motivation and that’s why most college students are in school. 42% won’t read a book after they graduate. They go through the motions because they feel like they have to. Most don’t learn or know how to be active in their own growth.The work of getting students to care – to use the free resources available – is still swampy, sociological hard work that might require in person culture normalization around educational engagement. I know danah was worried about this as well – there’s a massive chunk of our society that is very structurally resistant to the lightweight tech hack.It’s exciting, worthy work. I’m completely fine with (and excited about) a hack for the best students. That will help the world. I also think it’s important to keep the whole of society in mind.Somewhere in this might be a normal boundary between what makes a good business / hack (working with motivated students) and what is a necessary societal investment (trying to get more to care).

  29. Nick Lindsay

    new journal from MIT Press that deals with many of these issues just launched this week. http://ijlm.netVolume 1, Issue 1 is free online at the above link.

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks for thatLooks great

  30. Facebook User

    My four favorite sources of learning in no particular order:PBS Frontlineyour blogBrad’s blogWikipediaEconomist

    1. Raj

      Oops that’s five.

    2. fredwilson

      That’s five :)Are you learning too much from me?

  31. Marc Rigaux

    Fred, I started a company in 2000 that unfortunately didn’t make it past the bubble, but was circling around a theme that may be of use to this conversation, and specifically builds on points 8 and 9 – the need for accreditation and the role of testing and assessment.Our company was focused on enhancing both through the use of simulations – or as we called them, “arenas” where individuals could “demonstrate, rather than indicate” their competencies.Most simulations even to this day focus on web enabling multiple choice questions and adding multi-media to them to give them an interactive feel – but the technology exists to pre-load real world situations from the workplace into digital arenas that allow thousands of people to demonstrate what they think, how they think, how fast they think it, etc. etc.We originally applied this technology to the HR market to combat the trend that we saw when the big job sites started flooding employers with resumes, but the applications for education are endless.So just wanted to add the two cents. Our system right now is designed around accreditation and assessment because fundamentally people making investment decisions on individuals use them as risk management tools. But the technology exists today that could put a Harvard grad against a 14 year old from South Boston into a real world, information arena and ask them to solve real world problems that a degree won’t solve by itself. As employers move towards simulation based assessment of their candidates, perhaps the education system needs to incorporate them earlier and often as a learning tool as well.

    1. fredwilson

      I am a big fan of this ideaI think instead of building a platform, build an applicationI think my son would love to learn french or spanish from a videogame, forexample

  32. Nick O'Neill

    Hey Fred,You hit the nail on the head … I wish I had participated in this event. I’m working on developing something for this space. I see this space as one of the fastest growing over the next 10 years. Huge opportunities. I’m glad to see that investors see this as a space with great potential :)I’m currently reading “Disruptive Innovation” which discusses all of this. One thing that I’m still trying to understand is the dynamic between traditional education and the emerging form of digital education. How will students interact with each other and do students need to have social interactions with one another or can they have separate social groups from their fellow students?I’m preparing to roll something out which does exactly what you mention in the comments “puts students in control of what they learn”. Anyways, this is a very interesting discussion. Thanks for starting it.

    1. fredwilson

      The things that will be the most powerful will work outside of an within thetraditional education systemI like to think of AIMHigh school students use it and so do big companiesWe should build tools that work like that to disrupt education

  33. Steven Kane

    fascinating stuff, wish i could have attendedand again, just when i think i have you pegged as a leftie you swing rightie — i do agree with the comment that says these are very closely aligned with recent Republican ideas and movementsschool choicevouchershome schoolingtesting as filters (rather than grades or degrees)charter schoolsreducing crippling calcifying (albeit well intentioned) influence of techers unions in favor of igrass roots-driven policy making and innovation and experimentationI love people in the Far Center – joyfully impossible to predict their positions, one must actually listen to their thoughts

    1. fredwilson

      Yeah listening is the keyI love the fountainhead as much as anyone

    2. Yule Heibel

      “Far center” – new to me expression, love it! 🙂

      1. fredwilson

        Steve is the chair of the far center party!

  34. Taylor Davidson

    I was home-schooled (actually, more like self-taught) for part of my youth, and it exposed me to the inefficiencies of the educational system. Home schooling has tremendous positives and negatives, and the potential for the web and networks to completely alter the dynamics for alternative, personal education is amazing.Are we at a point where we can combine the community and interaction of the university (the real power) with the coursework (MIT OpenCourseWare et. al.)?Finding the balance between disrupting the existing system and creating new, alternative systems is the real value, the real question, the real opportunity. There will have to be a huge amount of “showing by doing” in order to create the disruption within the system. It will be fun 🙂

  35. JLM

    Interesting topic. The question becomes in some measure whether an “education” is a “thang” or a “destination” or a “process” and whether it is simply intellectual or practical or physical? Is it about developing a particular physical or intellectual or practical “skill” or “body of knowledge” or is it about “training one’s mind” or, hell, just the ability to analyze and think for one’s self. Or just to go through life with a more enlightened receptor for the entire experience?For me, it’s about “all of the above” and therefore I see the delivery mechanism (traditional, extraordinary,homeschool, formal, direct, informal, indirect, externally paced, self paced, written word, oral presentation, multimedia, etc.) having to be an “all of the above” process also.So, I think we stand on the edge of “evolution” rather than “revolution” with the exception that we are moving today at a speed in which evolution is a whole lot faster than ever before.The big difference between evolution and revolution is the freedom to not have to condemn or abandon the past to carve out the future.The top 50 high schools in America — based upon SAT scores of its grads — are all private, expensive and have student-teacher classroom ratios of 12-14 and also have the highest number of advanced degrees of their faculty. They are spread out around the country.The unspoken fact in the preceding paragraph is the high quality of the raw material — the entrance screen which is applied. Talent, ability and the depth of the gene pool unfortunately are important ingredients in the education equation.I worry just a bit about the “eat dessert first” temptation if students are left to guide their own educations and the simple fact of the fleeting lack of wisdom of young folks. I am of the age that my IQ is going up just now as my kids get a bit older — it’s been a long time coming but they are beginning to appreciate that just a few of the things I “forced” them to learn have now proven worthwhile in the real world. They are often tempted to advance the “blind pig” theory.If we could really figure out what an “educated” person is or knows, then we could reason backwards. The only constant in my life has been the continuing recognition of how little I really know, how much more there is to learn and how much I enjoy learning it.From a political perspective, we are also confronted with the earthy question — is this going to produce a taxpayer or a consumer of taxes? This is one of the yardsticks which is currently MIA but a very, very important practical consideration for charter schools and vouchers. This is an investment decision.On an odd note, if there was only one special skill that I would encourage every young person to develop that will change their lives beyond all measure — LEARN TO DANCE, very, very, very, very well.

    1. fredwilson

      I can’t dance and regret it very much

      1. JLM

        Yet!Go take lessons. It’s easy as pie. It will simply mystify your wife, it will energize your marriage, it will dramatically increase your “cool” quotient with your kids, amaze your friends and it will be a great triumph for you. And the whole time you can laugh to yourself.It is the cheapest midlife crisis available and these days that is important. You are coming up on 50 and you will be doing something really crazy — count on it. Mark these words — 50 craziness is inevitable. This is after all what created the resurgence at Harley Davidson. Normal guys buying HDs and letting their inner monster loose.Learn to do the oldies beach music “shag” and then you will have something to do when you go to Myrtle Beach to play golf. You can learn in about 15 minutes. “one and two, three and four, rockstep”You can dance on the porch at the beach and everybody will envy you. One summer I made my 18-year old son and two nephews take lessons from this sweet Southern lady on the porch at the beach house in Wrightsville Beach at 3:00 in the afternoon. By 4:30, they could dance and the porch was filled with beautiful Carolina girls in bikinis dancing who having seen the action joined in. It’s a better babe magnet than a Shih Tzu. They spent the next month going out “dancing” with a different set of girls each night.Then learn how to do the Texas two step (hell, it’s only 2 steps) and the West of the Pecos — now you have something to do when you go skiing. Ski, eat BBQ and dance. Then the hot tub.This is a whole lot cheaper than therapy. Think of it like investing in yourself. LOL

        1. fredwilson

          good suggestions. i’ll run this by the gotham gal

  36. Chris Dodge

    “Teachers are more important than ever but they will have to adapt and many will have to learn to work outside the system.”I was just having a similar conversation with someone who comes from Educational Publishing. Basically, I was saying the teachers will ultimately have to transform from being the “presenters of information” to more of a “Managing of Learning and Mentoring of Social Mores”.I glad you noted that lessons will ultimately be generated adaptively according to students and their progress. Like you said, testing/assessment will have to feed back into progressing the student on an individualized dynamic schedule. Therefore, I can see the 25-or-so students in the classes actually having some portion of their time on individual lesson progressions that are generated in real-time, based on automated testing/assement systems.The other part of school time should become purely collaborative/team learning, which would be more about inter-personal processes and socialization than the rote communication of knowledge.Making teachers more managers/mentors than simply presenters moves them up the “value chain” – which in turn – should be more valued (even monetarily) by society, in general.

  37. Ben Atlas

    I don’t know if this has been brought up already but it pays to look into Olin College, a new school outside of Boston, that tries to have a less structured curriculum in engineering:http://www.olin.edu/about_o

  38. lgu

    #5 hits home. Built to train the industrial worker? Please. We’re still hampered by the vestigial agrarian aspects of the system. Furthermore, our funding of public school is completely broken. Want to put your kid into a “good” public school? Move to an suburb where the cost of housing will require two professional salaries to run your household with any hopes for fiscal sanity. One of those salaries lost due to a lay-off? Good luck. I hope your family has the fiscal discipline to have reserves on hand to not lose the house AND the education you so desperately want for your children. This coupling of “good” educational prospects and housing is structurally deficient and must also be addressed for the good of public education as a whole. Hell, for the good of our commonwealth — but I digress…# 6 is for the patient. My children are 8 and 4 and I am impatient for change. Participation in the public education system is only so much tinkering at the edges for me. To my mind, creative destruction has a primacy, and urgency that will catalyze the efforts necessary to make #6 a reality.Look at it this way, public education is the incumbent and innovation rarely comes from the incumbent, right? Sadly, this is why I throw my hat into the ring with the right-wing whackos who think vouchers are the answer. Vouchers are certainly not THE answer, but they serve the role of a shoving a lever into the crevice of this educational nut we’re trying to crack. Specifically, they give parents a measure of fiscal ability to divorce housing choice from school choice and they take away funding from the incumbents which applies a certain amount of pressure to change the way they do business.

  39. Nathalie Simmons Jorge

    ¡Muy interesante! My education was the best gift I was ever given. Somewhere along the way, I was fortunate enough to develop a passion for learning. I cannot attribute that passion to one teacher or school. However, isn’t that what we need to cultivate, a passion for continual learning and a passion for teaching those learners? As is, our current educational system is broken and the financial incentives aren’t there for real change.I am always amazed at how much time we parents will spend dragging our children from one sporting event to another and how easy it is to turn on the T.V. to get a break from the kids. I am not pointing a finger because I am as guilty of this as the next parent. It does make me wonder, however, if we are optimizing how we spend our time with our children.When I read that arts programs, P.E., and the “extras” are being cut because of shrinking school budgets, I cringe. Is our goal to churn out people who can “get by” or to fuel future generations of innovators? I also think we are burying our heads in the sand by not viewing our ESL students as opportunities.Back in 2005, my sister-in-law and I started a bilingual children’s entertainment company called Professor Pocket to empower more teachers and parents to get their children excited about learning different languages. Although our products are huge hits with the kids, parents and teachers who hear them, I regularly encounter schools that say, “There’s not enough time in the day to teach Spanish.” And then I look at the statistic that only 26% of the U.S. population believes our kids should even learn another language. That statistic scares me. How are we going to compete globally if we don’t open our minds to what we don’t know? Not to mention, the process of learning another language is important and advantageous in and of itself. In math, your symbols are often x, y and z. When studying languages, you learn to process words (which are also symbols) differently. The earlier that type of learning begins, the better.So enough for my ramblings. Your post struck a chord in me. Even before we retool the education system, it seems to me that we all need to make it more of a priority in our day-to-day lives. And many folks will balk at the statistics we present in this video, but even if we are actually in the top ten for health and primary education, is that good enough?http://www.youtube.com/watc

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks for the link

  40. BobN

    Fred,Thanks for the stimulating post & conversation.Interesting parallels to the new media discussion earlier this year. There, with the disaggregation of publishing institutions, a key challenge was how to replace the still important functions of editorial leadership and financial lubrication after the no longer necessary functions of printing and distribution were gone.Here we face the disaggregation of educational institutions. In my simplistic view, thinking about primary and secondary education, the constituent parts are:A) Facilities – classes, labs, fields…B) Learning materials – books & mediaC) Teachers/SMEsD) Development guides/mentors/shepherdsE) Socialization context – classes, teams, clubs…F) Progress measurementG) Financial lubrication[I’m leaving out H) curriculum definition/management, which is currently a State function that ultimately drives F]As the net gets better and better at B, the apparent need for much of A & C goes away. However, I still feel strongly that personal interaction with a SME (C) is necessary for complex learning. And D, the other classic role of a good teacher, shouldn’t be forgotten. Someone needs to make sure that each student gets the support, direction and discipline they need for their chosen path. E is also important and we’re decades away from the web being an adequate replacement (IMHO). F is gradually being assumed by the state/fed authorities, though they generally lag the real world by at least a decade (as with H). And of course we’re stuck with the issue of G: how do you get the money flowing with minimum friction and leakage?To me the biggest content challenges are:I) How to give parents & students effective open market access to the B/C/D they want. Recognizing that some want a high degree of control and others want little.II) How to revitalize H & F to make them relevant and dynamic. Society owns some portion of H, as we need to establish some minimum threshhold for civil activity. Maybe that’s half the curriculum. The other half should be aligned both to the student’s interests and his/her expected career path. That second half needs to very market driven and potentially rapidly evolving.And as an entrepreneur, I believe that if we can address G, then natural creative disruption will generate solutions to I & II.

    1. fredwilson

      Great framework to think about all of this bob

  41. BobN

    As I typed my earlier ‘disaggregation’ contribution, I got to wondering how an alert parent/student will be able to find a good teacher in the disaggregated future. Of course, locating a teacher/SME is half the battle, the other (harder) half is figuring out if they’re good for YOU. And as vadadean and others have noted earlier, you ultimately measure a teacher by his/her work products, the students.Maybe the model of finding a good contractor/tradesperson is instructive? Perhaps an AngiesList for teachers?(An amusing and informative exercise: Google ‘find a good algebra teacher’ and compare the results with ‘find a good music teacher’ and ‘find a good plumber’…)Alternatively, maybe a WhoMadeMeWhatIAm.com? A LinkedIn equivalent that lets you link to the people, materials and institutions that significantly influenced your development. If I admire you, I’ll admire and support your linkees. (I’ll leave that tld to others…)Cheers,bn

    1. fredwilson

      Schoolofeverything.com and teachstreet.com are examples of markets thatallow you to find good teachersThey were both at hacking education

  42. BobN

    Final tangential thought for the morning: As colleges have stopped taking for granted that high school graduates are actually ready for college, they’ve turned to instruments like the College Success Factor Index (CSFI) to assess readiness and help them tune remedial efforts. After all, there’s more to college/life readiness than SAT/ACT measure: teamwork, project management, study habits, computer skills, etc.Maybe there’s a need/oppty for a market driven objective means (a la SAT/ACT) to measure and track development in these areas? Which will of course stimulate a supply of targeted education materials for parents & students. (Measure a child’s inadequacy and someone will show up to lighten the parent’s burden (and wallet.))-bn

  43. f4star

    Fred, you might enjoy this piece from Robert Bruner, Dean of UVA’s Darden School of Business on “high touch” learning and its benefits: http://www.darden.virginia…. (Summary below)“High Touch” teaching approach vs. online learning: (1) Street Smarts. Simple technical competence is not enough as the basis for a high-impact career. (2) “you must be present to win” — electronic cocoon fosters narcissism (3) learning from each other (4) Communication – written, thinking on your feet, persuading, presenting & defending, & reading (5) growth in values (6) leadership – it can not take place in isolation.

    1. fredwilson

      I totally believe in high touch learning but there is also low touchlearning which is what goes on in the vast majority of classroomsAnd I think online learning is preferable to low touch learning

  44. Leah

    Strikes me that you could replace the word education with the word healthcare in almost every takeaway! The next session?

    1. fredwilson

      healthcare seems more difficult to disrupt because its not as informationdriven as education

  45. Philippe Bradley

    Hi Fred – long time since I last posted here. Plenty of food for thought in this post for my long bus journey to Sao Paolo tonight! It leaves soon so I can’t go into my initial impressions with adequate depth, but the post as a whole does bring up vivid memories of a book I’m extremely fond of, by an author I very much recommend for a totally leftfield approach to various sociopolitical issues. Who knows, Ivan Ilich may even have come up at the conference. Here’s a pointedly relevant extract:*Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavour are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question. Ivan Illich Deschooling Society (1973: 9) *

    1. fredwilson

      Why have you given up on this community? We’ve missed you

  46. Claire Wadlington

    Don’t know if there is a nexus with this discussion but more than 50% of the New Orleans public school population is now in charter schools as the City struggles to rebuild a system that had problems well before Katrina. Interesting laboratory for study – and potentially for innovation.

    1. fredwilson


  47. Michael Ortner

    To your first and second points, here’s a nice little article from this weekend that speaks to the rise in both kids being more proactive and the rise in homeschooling in Cape Cod…http://www.capecodtoday.com

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks for the linkHome schooling is a big deal and worth watchingI am thinking a hybrid approach, school + home school, might be interesting

      1. SwitchedOnMom

        I just found this discussion and wanted to say “right on!” There *are* parents out here who are paying attention, who in the hard effort of trying to get their kids an appropriate education have learned that “the system” is broken–and have not been blinded by multimillion dollar, cheerleading school PR departments. We’re moving on. Life is short, my child’s childhood is short and I’m not waiting for the system to change. But in the meantime I’m going to do all to spread the word that there are alternatives, that there are choices, that we can speak out and speak the truth. I too would love to see some kind of homeschool/school hybrid opportunities, but sadly where I live it’s not up for discussion. Pity. And the school system’s loss.

  48. Nathalie Simmons Jorge

    Buenos dias, Fred. That is an odd comment???Here’s a link to a Columbia University article about the crisis in Latino education. Agreed that there is real opportunity to use technology to raise the bar since there is a significant gap both from a curriculum and supply side (i.e. # of bilingual teachers) perspective in our current ability to educate this growing portion of our country’s population. http://www.tc.columbia.edu/…Also, here’s a good book by Maryanne Wolfe about how children learn to read. When I put this together with articles like the Columbia one above, it emphasizes how critical those pre-primary years are for tackling our country’s educational issues. http://www.amazon.com/Prous

  49. Alasdair

    I think your point about it taking a generation to happen is critical, and too easily overlooked – but let me take it a step further.Today’s kids are going to live with their feet in two worlds for the conceivable future. The school world will remain one in which the teachers play the role of ‘knowledge sources’ rather than facilitators of ‘knowledge transfer’, kids will continue to sit in large classes and computer will slowly make inroads to labs, but never the classroom itself in any significant way. The home world will be one in which facebook, twitter, youtube and cellphones dominate.The challenge for the entrepreneur is satisfy the demands of the school environment, with the tools from the home environment – solving as Michael Horn would say, the ‘jobs’ that the student needs to get done – homework, testing, private tutoring. Clearly, entpreneurs can also tackle the ‘jobs’ of the teachers – better lesson planning, more interesting resources (such as betterlesson.org)I think that anyone building tools that require entire classrooms to migrate online, threatening the routines and processes of the incumbent institutions has their heart in the right place but will struggle to gain traction.To your point on textbooks. They may be going away eventually, but they are the irresistible object around which much of today’s education is based. Look at the successes of those sites offering free, open source textbooks or peer-to-peer textbook sharing – they bring new technologies to solve big unsolved problems with the current system, but in a way which is disruptive, rather than radical.In short – I wouldn’t drop textbooks from the equation – in fact, there’s a strong case to say, that they should/will play an interesting role in the next generation of startups.

  50. Ben Ortega

    Love to hear “homeschooling” or as I prefer, “home education” getting its due right now.This is the way education should be structured, PERIOD. It is student based and focus is on delivering education that the student is interested in.My wife and I home educate and that means we are able to deliver the education (math, science, whatever) by circling the curriculum around their interests. This way their learning never stops because its always something “interesting”. For instance, our daughter is into animals, so yesterday we went to an event at the Nature Connection in Concord, MA where she was able to learn about wolves, while getting the chance to see one up close.It was highly educational and relevant to her interests. A excellent by product, it also built some social responsibility. It cost us beyond taxes but building her to be a lifelong learner is the outcome we strive for.Home education is the boilerplate.Ben

    1. fredwilson

      Have you heard of any mixed models where the kids can get the best of what aschool and a home education can offer?

      1. BillSeitz

        I’ve heard of some public school systems making some of their programs (e.g. arts, phys ed) available to local homeschoolers. But I don’t have any specific references.

        1. fredwilson

          Hard to imagine this as home schooling is the enemy but I think a hybrid model would be fantastic

      2. Michael Lewkowitz

        Here in Ontario, Canada we have great support. Can use any of the school programs/resources. Even tried a school track before we switched to homeschooling that was “Adult Participatory Learning Environment”. Originally came from homeschoolers and became part of the official system. The limitations still seem to be in trying to provide interest-driven education for a room of 30 kids.It’s as if there’s an opp to reinvent the distribution system/supply chain of education/learning. Move away from gathering students in a place to provide education to enabling students to go to the places where the education is available. In some weird way I’m now thinking of a logistics based student delivery system… instead of school infrastructures we have student transporation infrastructures coupled with distributed programs and online interest based communities and discovery.It’s kind of what we are starting to do but on a family basis… not really coordinated. Hmm…

  51. Brett

    HowdyRe# 6 and the falling cost of information, below is an excerpt from a fundraising email from my alma mater. referencing fred’s scarcity vs. ubiquity argument (http://www.avc.com/a_vc/200…, seems to me like the education industry should pay close attention to the fate of the music industry. The downfall of the music industry seems obvious in retrospect but are we to believe that the same will occur in education? If today’s educational institutions remain the same, i think so.What should institutions of higher learning do to create more value for their customers?”It costs $242 a day to educate one Dartmouth student. You know that on any given day, Dartmouth can change a student’s life—and that life can benefit the world.

    1. fredwilson

      Music, media, banking, we can go on and onEducation is on the listIt’s coming

  52. the_infonaut

    Fred,Very informative as always. My feeling is that there has to be a differentiation between early and later stage education.Web 2.0 technologies can offer real changes to how we educate our high school students and above – indeed, education in the future is likely to continue way beyond high school/ college and be an ongoing part of people’s lives. I’m guessing this is part of the appeal to VC – extend education for another 20/ 30/ 40 years and you are educating those who have the money to pay for it ; )However, I’m not sure if we should be hoping to see the rise of ‘twittering toddlers’. Yes technology is transferring power from institutions to individuals, but at what age are you able to be fully responsible for your education?I think the real challenge is to lay a strong enough foundation so that people are adequately prepared to continue to educate themselves in the landscape you describe above. Paradoxically, I think this means giving more power to early stage institutions to strengthen them (i.e. more funds/ teachers/ facilities for primary schools).As BF Skinner said:”Education is what survives when what has been learned is forgotten”

  53. the_infonaut

    Also, I posted your thoughts on Business Week’s Business Exchange ‘Technology in the Classroom’ group – it has some useful resources in this area.http://bx.businessweek.com/

  54. butwait

    I work in a K-12 school, mostly w/ upper schoolers, whose orientation towards the ‘net reminds me a little of mine to my hometown when I was growing up… I knew where my favorite hangouts were, and mostly how to get there, but had NO concept of how they connected to the larger geography. Places that my parents drove me to? No clue.I’m starting to assess students for digital literacy at the beginning of my getting to know them…. at this point very few have a clue about RSS feeds, wikis, or Twitter, although of course they all live on Facebook.Anyway, thought I’d toss in a pitch for Maya Frost’s upcoming book, The New Global Student. <http: http://www.mayafrost.com=“” new-global-student-book.htm=””> She’s a thought-provoking and cheerfully disruptive parent/ educational designer.SO sorry I missed this conversation “in the moment,” but very much looking forward to the transcript.Thank you.

  55. AJ

    You guys should consider learning from those who have years of experience in the field.Your Dreams are their RealityI know of at least two examples – nay, make that four – of niche learning communities. Two mainly video, one mainly audio, and one text.SunniPath (Jordan)Zaytuna Institute & Academy :: Distance Learning (USA)Seekers Guidance (Canada?)Witness Pioneer (Asia)Google them.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s exactly what we are doing. Almost everyone who came to hacking education has been working in this sector for a while. We are learning about learning!Thanks for the tips. We’ll check the out

    2. m-roch

      i have only recently become interested in this concept of “niche learning communities”. i am a student and would be extremely interested in this become a popular reality.i did find it interesting that all four of the above online programs were Islamic. Religion already commands a devoted audience. if highly structured religion can adapt to a new age of education shouldn’t general education adapt as well. In my community(far from the norm) where private religious education is considered irreplaceable, there is an intense debate about how to lower the ever-rising costs of the private school system. I would be interested in suggesting online classes to those involved in reforming ideas. Current ideas include charter schools and after-school programs. However neither of these ideas completely eradicate the high costs of paying for real estate and humans and also give up some of the control they desperately “need” to hold on to. The internet idea/ niche learning community idea solves both problems.I realize my community is far from the norm but nowadays everything is- that’s what a niche is

  56. John Derrick McMillen

    Loving it! I agree with most everything said here. I also think we must rethink who a teacher is and welcome those from outside the accredited teacher into the system. This would bring immense levels of new ideas into the system.

  57. Scott

    Heh, here’s a business plan I wrote last year on Education 2.0The overall premise centers on outsourcing homework and focusing on what you’re good at (whether it be web design, science, business, technology, etc.)If the goal of education is to prepare you for the real world, education is doing students a deep disservice:http://www.scribd.com/doc/1

    1. fredwilson

      Outsourcing homework, hmm

      1. Scott

        Yea — that’s everyone’s reaction. They’re apprehensive. I hear a teacher’s voice in my head, “Good students must do all of their homework and eat all of their vegetables!”The problem with this centers on the real world. Things have changed. I outsource things I’m not good at all the time; whether it be to individuals in other countries or other team members.Heh, It’s all about results. Am I wrong?

  58. mpstaton

    I’ve spent the last three days thinking of insightful things to say, but all of them just affirm or ramble on about these 11 points. Good conference. Wish I could have been there.One thing I’ve forgotten to do as an entrepreneur, and you pointed this out to me, Fred, is to use Christensen’s model of disruption and start by serving the non-consumer. When I read “Disrupting Class,” suddenly online universities and high schools and the terrible remediation learning environments didn’t seem so smarmy. And, now I’ve got two products that serve the status quo! (In a good way, though!)

    1. fredwilson

      Disrupting class was good. I’m on to my next education book, by my wharton prof russell ackoff

  59. Vince Milot

    Schools are such a place of anti-education now that any change would be an improvement. Teachers at my school look at you funny if you try to use fancy words, vary your vocabulary, or delight in a well-turned phrase. Then they make students memorize lists of fancy words. Male teachers and administrators appear to spend far more time discussing sports performance than anything else. Having worked in private bilingual education most of my career abroad, I am not afraid of change, and I can see how bad things are here in the States. That bit about training the industrial worker is right on. Don´t forget, though, that education is really a baby sitting service, and despite exorbitant baby sitting fees paid to us teachers, economies of scale still make it cheaper than a lot of baby sitting services. Also don´t forget that the affluent class has always had and used the means of making education relevent, but for the poor, using existing technologies to the same end has always been stymied. The reason is clear enough; power brokers want dumb consumers, not educated citizens who can cognizantly participate in democracy.Computer tutorial programs and digital systems are already cheaper than teachers, and teachers´ aids may well play the role of the on-site baby-sitter who switches the programs on and off while watching the kids (software will monitor all twitter and network dialogue)–no teacher needed. But price point for digital hardware and software for education is always just beyond our reach so that can only afford what is already outdated. And the digital industry operates on the same business model as everyone else, making some new gizmo or expensive download necessary for a particular system to work.I´m in the teacher´s union and have mouths to feed like everyone else, so the notion of losing my job isn´t pleasant, but I support a revolution in the education system anyway. Indeed, the economies of scale of packing thirty kids together in one room for 8 hours a day may make sense from the vantage of baby sitting value, but it brings out all the worst social instincts in humans, adult and child alike, and this forms the foundation of our disfunctional nations.Twenty years ago, I wrote a diatribe calling for the integration of youth with adults in the workplace as their main educational experience with skills building time at the work site. Portable computers and internet makes this more feasible than ever. The element that needs to be in place, however, and that is not in place now either, is the critical discourse on the ethics of what is being learned and the direction of industry.At any rate, it isn´t what is available or what isn´t working, and much less is it the analogy of the banking or media industries that will dictate change. It may be when the uneducated cease to be consumers and begin to be severe economic burdens owing to increasing production abroad that reduce unskilled labor jobs to nill in the U.S. Then we will understand the importance of better education for all to keep our economy afloat.One thing I´d do is emphasize early childhood reading, and make learning and cooperative strategies for project based activity at the core of curriulum rather than facts-based transmission conveyed information. This is the only way to keep learning adapting to society needs. Curriculum and learning activities must to be pegged (rather like a stock index) to ´blue chip´sources that reflect the real discourse patterns used in real life nonacademic life in real time.

  60. jeremystein

    do you think that the declining value of the degree is being accelerated by current market conditions?what we’re seeing in the job market is similar to inflation– too many candidates chasing too few jobs. what appears to be devaluing in this situation is the degree.

    1. fredwilson

      MaybeWe’ll only know when the economy comes back

  61. Sean Swayze

    excellent views on a subject that has been close to my heartwhat has disappointed me is the dearth of video game simulations for more job related tasks to ensure that new employees can learn in a harm free environment, certainly we can have some standards met through this type of training, and also because there is the opportunity to monitor behaviour while under simulation potentially hazardous people can be identified at a point in their training where they would not have exposed the public to potential harm. Most kids I know, all of them have high proficiency with computer interaction, the cost savings for school boards that purchased e-texts alone would be worth a bit of a culture hack as well. A hardened e-book reader a la fisher-price (TM) is called for I think and potentially cut school board paper requirements by a third, thereby in a cost / performance way actually INCREASE the services that school boards could provide to their students. I’m also pretty certain that most parents would be happy to shoulder the purchase cost of these devices if they felt confident that their children were getting better and clearer access to the content they need to know… certainly room in this environment… would be interested in further discussion on this 🙂

  62. briandbutler

    The education marketplace may radically change over the next 5-10 years. With falling costs of producing and delivering digital content, the education market could face radical disruption to the traditional business model. Think about the following… 1. Falling cost to create content * any professor with a video camera can upload his / her lesson to Youtube (or similar sites). With the drastic fall in cost to create content online, professors all over the globe are uploading lesson plans online for free viewing. (see my list of online distribution sites here) * economics of “scarcity” no longer applies to basic undergrad content in courses such as economics, marketing, finance, etc. 2. Falling Distribution cost * internet communication technology drives the cost of distribution of content to free * monopoly of “physical space” no longer applies since the number of “seats” at the lecture is now infinite. 3. Lessons from history: * every industry that faced both falling production & falling distribution costs….underwent fundamental radical change (disruptive). In no industry that faced both of these factors did the landscape turn out the same as it began… * Parallels with other industries – newspaper, music, computer (Dell) * the education industry will soon face major disruption to their business model…much as other industries have in the face of falling costs of creation & distribution of content. Think about the transformation we have witnessed in: o music industry: record labels lost the monopoly of creation & distribution when costs fell and the internet grew o reporting / journalism industry: the newspaper lost its monopoly over creation & distribution when costs fell. o computer distribution: companies such as HP were challenged by Dell who dis intermediated the wholesaler, and went direct from manufacturer to customer…using the tools of communication to reach people directly.more on KookyPlan blog: http://blog.kookyplan.com/?…

    1. fredwilson

      I agree

  63. Troy Steele

    Very interesting read. Traditional eductaction seems to rely on a teacher passing on knowledge from a reliable source to the student. Won’y a push for self education and home schooling remove the unbias and have the new teacher pushing opinions rather than facts?

  64. esha

    I was searching on google for worldwide college and study abroad guide for international students and i found a great websitehttp://www.education-guide.net. It has all the information needed by the new comers.So i strongly recommend to check that website and leave your feedback.Thanks

  65. Ashwin Ram

    Nice post. You spoke with Payman regarding OpenStudy (http://openstudy.com), just launched out of Georgia Tech and Emory. Our vision is nicely aligned with your points #1,2,3,6,8,10,11. We want to take the 10-15 hrs/wk today’s kids are spending on social networks and channel that engagement towards studying (peer learning). The site provides online study rooms for high school and college students. Would be interested in comments from you and your readers, if you’d like to take a look.

    1. fredwilson

      I’d like to learn more abiut open study

  66. Matt Teichmann

    I thought of this blog topic when I read this quote from Bruce Lee:”If you want to learn to swim jump into the water. On dry land no frame of mind is ever going to help you.”

    1. fredwilson


  67. fredwilson

    Textbooks are going awayCourseware and curriculum is going to be free and open and extensible andre-usableYou can count on thatIt may take a generation to happen, but that’s a done deal in my mind

  68. Yule Heibel

    I agree with Fred, textbooks will go. My local newspaper coincidentally ran an article today:QUOTE:Students trade heavy textbooks for laptops – From high schools to universities, course material is going greenerhttp://www.timescolonist.co…If a tree doesn’t fall in the forest, online technology could deserve some of the credit.Officials at Sprott-Shaw Community College estimate their efforts to cut textbooks from a range of business classes have saved 26 trees since last September. Textbooks are now passé in 11 courses at seven of Sprott-Shaw’s B.C. campuses, including those in Victoria, Duncan and Nanaimo.Sprott-Shaw president Dean Duperron said the college is on the leading edge of a move away from textbooks, the so-called “greening” of classes in the post-secondary realm.It’s territory other institutions are also exploring, including the public-education system. The Virtual School Society of B.C., created in 2006, develops distance learning for kindergarten-Grade 12 students through its LearnNowBC website, which is supported by a grant from the Ministry of Education.UNQUOTEBy the way, that Ministry of Education-funded LearnNowBC site is deeply involved in online K-12 learning and in supporting homeschoolers throughout British Columbia.I have sooo much to say about this (having homeschooled my two kids since 2000 – the oldest is 17 and at university, and the younger one decided she wanted to finish her last year at a neighborhood school, and will be going to university in September – but don’t have time for a longer response right now.I should write a blog post, I guess. Suffice it to say, we used distance education technologies from 2002 onward, had support from BC, did some “unschooling,” but also (once in high school) all the Ministry curricula (except at our – their – own pace), and as for socialization (mentioned in another comment), don’t get me started.About socialization, I’ll just ask this: if someone told you that for the next 12 years or so, you could only socialize with people your own age for 5 to 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, would you consider that good for *your* social life? No? Didn’t think so. So why do we do this to kids? And why are we surprised at some of the toxicity of peer culture?