Video Of The Week: Build A School In The Cloud

The Gotham Gal and I just watched this TED talk. It’s very thought provoking.

#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. kidmercury

    teachers are useful in speeding up the learning curve, and in areas where the cost of being wrong in trial and error is very high. these are important considerations so i don’t think self-learning is a 100% solution. though there is generally not enough self-learning and schools are a factory designed to mass produce obsolete industrial-era workers. this ties into other structures that are obsolete, such as corporations and the nation-state. networks/clouds disrupt them all. this much is self-evident and we have discussed it many times in fredland, though the missing ingredient is the political will to make it all happen — because there are strong opposing political/governmental interests. i believe that will come as the global economy continues to deteriorate and ignorance and apathy are no longer viable options for maintaining a sufficient standard of living.

    1. fredwilson

      I agree. But this is still very provocative

  2. Richard

    We need to dream bigger. If only the first schematic of the Internet was the “galaxy” and not a “cloud”, we would be building a school across the galaxy.

    1. Drew Meyers

      “We need to dream bigger”Yup…I know this community believes that. I wish a larger chunk of the general population believed it though.

  3. WA

    Foundational. Thanks.

  4. Russell

    Had a great talk with one of my old professors visiting London … what is the value of a liberal arts education … can it adapt to the internet. His point was that people are usually looking for very specific skills – accounting, programming, math. An interesting discussion and thanks for sharing the video.

  5. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Fred,Brilliant and very moving. The idea here is not so much “don’t instruct” but “make easy”.Make easy or facilitate can be practical or “spiritual”- provide necessary resources (children in slums don’t have easy access to power and laptops)- encourage (learning is though enormously gratifying, also potentially frustrating)- reward (given this model, the rewards are self-evident, when a child jumps rope its about “look what I can do – “can you do it too ?”)We all stand on the shoulders of others (our peers, predecessors and grandmothers), and in a globalised society we can all help each other up.Thank you for bringing this to our attention.PS SOLE learning in action – I came to avc and it was here I first found out for myself about things of enormous value. AVC is no more and no less than a sub-set of “The school in the cloud”.Though I have very few readers relative to AVC – I know there is nothing more satisfying than when people engage with articles I have put on my blog. So perhaps the key is simply “participate !”

    1. William Mougayar

      The AVC commenting community is very curious and participatory. Indeed like the kids on these videos.

    2. fredwilson

      thanks. i also think of AVC as a piece of the school in the cloud.

  6. William Mougayar

    I loved the inspiration from this video. This puts into question the whole rigidity of the 12-year high-schooling + 4-year undergraduate before someone becomes productive in the workplace.What if we could shrink this to 10 years + 2 yrs and we’d save a ton of money on physical education costs, and have kids enter the workforce at 18, not 22?

    1. Elia Freedman

      Or how about two additional years in service to our country, whether a set of volunteer programs or military?

      1. JLM

        .The notion of universal national service is an idea that is way overdue in our indulgent society.When everyone has a bit of skin in the game, then everyone will pull on the rope in the same direction.National service with skill development could do more to reduce unemployment in this country than any other current idea.Learn how to work. Learn a skill. Go home and go to work.JLM.

        1. Elia Freedman

          It plays off my construction comment, actually, as I see them as related. The best motivation may be to see how hard it is without the education. I didn’t serve (in retrospect I wish I had) but I can see how important that is for discipline and motivation to success.Those construction jobs did that for me. (In its way. I’m not saying military service would have made me ask this same question.) If I don’t do well in school I could be doing this all my life? I better go study!

          1. JLM

            .The notion of hard work and mastering a skill does not always suggest that one would not want to do it as a career.Sometimes it is exactly what someone needs — hard work is its own reward.To this day, I still love working with my hands particularly home building skills. It is a balance to a life lived in front of a computer.I get what you are saying. I studied engineering harder because having placed and finished thousands of SF of concrete, I wanted to own or run the company rather than doing the work.I am still a Hell of a concrete finisher.JLM.

          2. Elia Freedman

            Absolutely agree. And I can still cut a paint line better then most professionals I’ve met. 🙂

          3. JLM

            .That is really saying SOMETHING.Well played.JLM.

          4. Elia Freedman

            Just like concrete for you, I always figured if I needed it I could always join a paint crew. Instead I paint my own house from time to time. Much better for relaxation then a paycheck, I think, but nice to have the option.

      2. kidmercury

        National service = national slavery. Taxes are already > 50%, no need to take even more of our labor while continuing to take away more and more civil liberties.

        1. Elia Freedman

          Agreed on the tax issue but I do recognize that it works pretty well for Israel.

          1. kidmercury

            i don’t think it works well for israel and think part of the problems they have with the wars that go on for thousands of years stems partially from a forced culture, a symptom of which is national slavery marketed as national service. i also think onerous, big government type of policies are more likely to yield benefits when applied to smaller, homogeneous jurisidictions rather than something like the US.

          2. Elia Freedman

            And I thought it was all about water. 🙂

        2. ShanaC

          I’m pro national service for other reasons. It “countrizes” people and lets then get familiar with that country’s values, as well as meet people across different social, economics classes, races, locations. I wouldn’t mind something that gives back to communities across the US while also making young people care about the US through experience.

      3. Michael Elling

        As an increasingly polarized and disaffected “democracy” this is almost a necessity in the US at this point. National/public service (healthcare, education, transportation, military, welfare, etc…),a) gets people feeling like they are a part of their nation/community with “skin in the game”, andb) lowers overall costs of the government (including entitlements, which would cost less with a “conscripted” workforce fulfilling many of the services),c) give 18-20 year olds on the job training and skills, that they are not getting through our education system, which they can then carry into the civil workforce or into college.The quid pro quo of giving up 2 years of ones’ life, plus several weeks/year to act as experienced staffers and managers, compensated only for room and board and a minimum wage stipend, is a flat 10% income tax. This math works across all income/wealth levels.In addition to all the positive fiscal and socio-political benefits, we then have a population and infrastructure that can mobilize quickly against natural and man-made disasters, be they Katrina, 9/11, Sandy, etc… These will only grow with climate change, spreading population and infrastructure that is vulnerable to inevitable threats.

        1. Elia Freedman

          I don’t know how you figure it would lower costs; definitely more expensive for government plus it would be obligated to provide medical benefits, which many 18-22 year olds don’t have today.

          1. Michael Elling

            There are 19m+ government workers (~10% of working population) and ~8m 19-20 year olds. An additional 14+m comes from “reservists” who would serve 4 weeks annually (7.6% of 192m).So you can substitute 19m FTE’s with higher salaries than the average population and unsustainable pensions with 3-4m FTEs and another 22m citizens paid at minimum wage with room and board (and medical coverage).Guesstimating the savings would exceed $600bn. Our citizenry would have a vested interest in their country and government and will have developed tradeable skills. And things might even work and be maintained better vs the questionable return we get on our taxes today.

      4. Richard

        “No other depositories of power [but the people themselves] have ever yet been found, which did not end in converting to their own profit the earnings of those committed to their charge.” –Thomas Jefferson

  7. JLM

    .Much of education is simply a delivery and discipline system.A military school delivers education in a different wrapper than others, as an example. You march to class, you cannot miss class, there are no monkey shines during class and military discipline — orders — drives performance. It is a very efficient system, well, if you like military schools, that is.A bit of education is basic social development, the ability to test drive a newly educated mind with other novitiates and to learn how to harness that knowledge in society. Bit of beer mixed in to increase the degree of difficulty.The product of those two elements is a hope that a bit of critical thinking develops. New knowledge, new people and the ability to reason how to use them both at the same time based on thinking one’s way through the maze.The educational system is the link between knowledge and the student. It delivers it in a certain style which is hopefully embraced by the student’s learning style.The discipline is injected through the administration of class rooms and schedules and assignments in bite sized portions. The “process” of education.As one becomes a bit more educated, it is easy to do much of this in a self motivated methodology, if one has the time, inclination, interest, temperament and learning style to do so. PhD students are a bit more disciplined than freshman.Building a school in the cloud will have to address all of these considerations or be willing to acknowledge that it is a wholesale compromise of some of them.All the knowledge one might want is in the library but one still has to get off one’s ass and go to the library.JLM.

    1. William Mougayar

      Maybe we need to mix it up between rigid and non-rigid. Like co-op university programs where you learn for 4 months and work another 4 months, we could imagine a schooling system where there is a similar alternation between marching to classes and getting out of classes.

      1. JLM

        .Co-op learning programs are almost like an apprenticeship and are the most powerful learning mechanisms possible for many of the physical arts and sciences.You want to understand materials science? Go finish concrete for a summer.JLM.

        1. Elia Freedman

          If you want to know the value of a white collar job, work in a scrap metal yard and do construction for a few summers in high school, too. 🙂 That’s some serious motivation to do well in school.

          1. JLM

            .I worked construction — sometimes literally digging ditches which I must admit to loving, the sense of accomplishment — and then dug foxholes in the Army.I was a very slow learner but I eventually got the lesson.JLM.

          2. LE

            To certain people. Other people actually like jobs like that because they don’t have to think as much. My cousin used to kid me because I was in the office typing invoices where it was air conditioned while he was in the warehouse doing the “man’s work”.Look a cow sits in a field all day and has about the brain power to sit in a field all day and think it’s ok. I started to watch a pbs last night about men who like asian women. The main character, who seemed a little mentally challenged and simple, was a parking lot booth attendant for the port authority (or something like that). But yet he managed to have enough intelligence to use a computer to troll for asian women and even visit china to date these women. My point being is that he was perfectly content with that simple job and waited to have his enjoyment later and mustered up enough intelligence to do a pretty good job at it. (Is it sex or was he a savant?). I don’t think in any way this guy had any need to do anything different than what he did or take on more responsibility.I have spoken to several public school teachers in NYC that taught in really crappy schools. I asked them why they didn’t try to get in a better school. I expected they would say it was because of some union thing or something like that. I expected to hear that they wanted to but couldn’t. That’s not what they said (multiple teachers). They said that it was easier teaching in a crappy school because the parents were less demanding or actually totally absent and had no demands. If they went to a better school they would have a more difficult job. I’ve heard this from other professions as well. Doctors for example get their feet held to the fire by wealthy people much more than lower income groups and may avoid that patient population.

          3. Elia Freedman

            Good points. I made a mistake I try not to make in my post: I used the word ‘you’ when I meant to use the word ‘I.’ Definitely not the impact for everyone; it was for me.

    2. awaldstein

      Education is almost too broad a term to generalize about.What you need from the environment at 5 or 10 years old, has little to do with what you need at 17 or 25.I find that abstractions generally, generally mean almost nothing about this topic.And we forget or ignore or gloss over that the role schools play to those with families in the mid to upper middle class and above, and the role that it plays to people with less means, in really horrid environments, who walk through metal detectors on the way in is not the same discussion.I like your approach and measured thinking. The devil is all in the details in this as much or more than other topics cause the product is the person and the complexity of how that greys all the borders knows no end.

      1. Elia Freedman

        Take that even further. 32M K-12 students in the US alone, every one of which has his/her unique learning abilities and methodologies on a subject by subject basis, where almost all of these student don’t know yet how they learn.

        1. awaldstein

          Yup…I think these discussions are critical.It’s one thing to figure out how to make access better and more efficient and economic for smart, motivated, young adults. Challenging but the context is set.It’s another to deal with the population you mention where behavioral and intellectual growth are happening simultaneously. Then add in kids who are hungry, family and neighborhood dynamics.The only thing i learned in public school came from teachers that inspired me. Make education a desirable career for people to enter and you start to chip away at this.

          1. Elia Freedman

            I learned a ton in school, some from teachers but a lot from the social situations. That’s important, too, and a place where I think home schooling goes over the wall. But the academic part is really hard, as we agree, because of the breadth of requirements.

      2. JLM

        .I agree more with you than you agree with yourself. Well played.The social position of schools as a center of a family’s life is huge.We can measure poverty in the US with measures of parental supervision, access to learning, access to technology and access to love.Well said.JLM.

        1. awaldstein

          Participating in these discussions makes me realize how formative growing up in a working class home with a huge belief in and support of public education impacted me.Dad schoolteacher. Grandfather garment worker. Mom secretary and everyone had jobs after school and during the summer. When dinner was over, homework happened as the next layer of the day.You wanted to go to college, you saved. It was that simple.Hard work is a great value to learn. You never unlearn it but just keep going.

          1. Bill Phelan

            The point you are raising is important. There is something fundamentally different about the kids in the video from India and applying this in the US. Little or no safety net in India. I grew up the same way you did. Fear of being poor is a powerful motivator. Fear of failure is even more powerful.

          2. BillSeitz

            Hmm:1. the students in the video didn’t seem afraid, more curious and hungry for opportunity/knowledge as a positive.2. Mitra makes the specific point that the fear triggered by testing/grading *reduces* your learning potential.

        2. BillMcNeely

          I can’t agree with you and @awaldstein:disqus more concerning family, environment and how important education is to the family. I am the youngest of 3 kids. I was adopted at the age of 5 out of an abusive/neglected situation. My oldest sister was adopted by another family in the neighborhood ( social economic class) minus the abuse neglect.I was adopted by an upper middle class family.My Dad is a real life genius. He graduated from Hanover College and then worked on a Master and taught Mathematics briefly at the University of Kentucky. He was into computer before Computer Science degrees and ran MIS departments before crossing over to logistics in the late 80’s. He was a finalist for the CEO of Walmart in the late 80’s as well.He also was a good athlete played college basketball and was a prospect for the Yankees and Pirates.When I had problems in math my dad taught me. He went out and got the right work books so I could do well enough to live up to my potential.My Dad always read Sports Illustrated, Forbes and the Business section. I remember when he brought a computer home from a defunct company. I did not you could program it but holy cow you could make money from the Desktop Publishing program that came on it!My Mom is awesome. She cleaned houses to save money adopt kids when she could have some herself. ( Yes she is the coupon clipping type she have to do this she just did) She ran out of money in year 2 of college but she was well read and wrote well.My mom made us read books and then wrote a report on each one.When I was adopted I was probably 2- 2.5 yrs behind and it would have probably stayed that way if I had not been adopted by my parents and gone to the best public high schools in the country.I did not end up at an Ivy League school or a Founder at this week’s hot startup but I did get a business degree and worked my way up from Private to Captain in the Army. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with some folks you hear about on the news so not too bad.I have had a rough year and half but optimistic about getting back in the game.My sister did not end up so well. She ended having 4 kids by 4 different fathers,had them all taken away, was strung out on drugs and alcohol did time in jail, lives in the projects in Wilkes Barr, PA on public assistance. She’s 39 and going nowhere. She will probably be dead by 52 like our birth mother from a treatable disease .When I came back from Iraq in 2004 I went to see my sister and my birth mother before she passed and the doctors and nurses could not believe we were related. they were in shock.Environment, family, access to technology all play a big role in the outcome.

          1. JLM

            .Wow, what a story.JLM.

          2. awaldstein

            Thanks Bill!

      3. LE

        “in really horrid environments”Agree this point is way way underplayed by everyone who considers new ideas. What it’s like to be brought up in that total environment and not be the type of person who can pull yourself easily out of that environment. When the people who are your neighbors are committing certain crimes that you simply don’t see in middle and upper middle class neighborhoods. And they are the people who influence and wash your brain at an early age with their values.This documentary (Pruitt Igoe myth – it’s on Netflix) deals with what happened a number of years ago when they tried to change the environment to make it more livable. It ended up totally deteriorating for various reasons. It was really sad.…”The devil is all in the details”A point that is always glossed over by “big thinking” type people. Called being “book smart” and perhaps idealistic. Like thinking you will just be able to get a taxi in NYC (oops it’s raining today..).

    3. fredwilson

      that last line is what is currently missing in online education. grannys or sergeant majors or something else will be required to make it work.

  8. William Mougayar

    Open virtual learning is the future for sure.Not just for kids, but for adults too. The blog networks are an amazing self-organized learning environment.

    1. awaldstein

      You are talking about secondary education and above?Educating children, teenagers and adults defies generalization across these categories.

      1. William Mougayar

        Either segment.

    1. fredwilson


  9. jason wright

    the video is a reminder that by being together in the same place at the same time kids learn from each other. there will always be a classroom, or a cloudroom.

    1. fredwilson

      it is called peer learning and i am a big fan of it

  10. LE

    All of this sounds great. And it doesn’t surprise me that bringing something like that into a group of people that are poor and disadvantaged would have that effect on some of the group members.That said the question is also how many of those villagers didn’t care at all [2] and how many children weren’t interested [1] or have the aptitude or innate intelligence to have anything but a passing interest? The speaker uses outlier examples but it’s safe to assume the large majority of people in that group aren’t up to that level of thinking. (Not raining on the parade as much as just bringing forward a realism because getting to excited about this can make you not incorporate the realism into the dream of actually doing something and achieving the goal.)Fred is lucky that gotham gal is interested in watching things like this. My wife, highly educated, has no interest at all. I’ve tried countless times, it’s like getting me to watch sports (which by the way is probably more interesting I like the camera work and production values even if I don’t care about the game.) Exposure of course is key but people have different levels of abilities or even levels of frustration. Simply exposing people doesn’t always work (some people never get beyond the bunny slope).My question is what can be done using this technique for the people in Newark, Camden, Harlem or like poor communities that is a little more close to home here education wise? Obviously it’s not a novelty for them to see a computer like it is in a third world country. So what’s the comparable fish out of water idea to engage them?So we have the following which is important in solving the education problem and it involves many factors.:- Has aptitude- Has opportunity- Has resources- Has interest- Has reason- Has nothing else better to do at the time [3][1] Last night my stepdaughter (8) was making a movie on her ipad about how to make something with these colored rubber bands for hours. My stepson (10) was watching sports. Both are really smart (top grades bla bla bla). But the boy has no interest at all in doing that anymore than he would be interested in playing with dolls (and the girl I’ve never seen her play with a doll). She taught herself what she needed to do and was parroting the other movies that other girls do including the intros and everything. She occupied herself for hours doing this. She’s also the type that will come with me to the basement to help with the HVAC and ask questions. The boy, not going to happen. Everyone is different.[2] If you have a construction site in the city many people will stand by and watch the machines for minutes or even hours mesmerized with all sorts of curiosity about how the hole is dug and the machinery and moving parts (like me). But many more people will pass by and not care at all and have no interest. All those obscure channels on cable that show ships, airplanes, bridges and mechanical systems, air crash investigation? I’m a big fan can’t get enough of it.[3] Boys on spring break are not going to leave the bar having the wet tshirt contest in order to sit inside and play with computers. The reason many people don’t learn things that they could in school is also because they are social and get a bigger buzz out of socializing (it becomes an addiction) to the detriment of their school work.

    1. robertdesideri

      I like your questions. Mitra needs an alter ego vid, inverting the pyramid of the presentation Fred links. Tom Tunguz had a v good piece re presentation structure and his google vs VC experience, if someone could add the link…To answer your big question, you start from the end and work your way back. Most of us know, I believe, the problem we need to solve is creating problem solvers. Hackers.You ask about the Camden kids. They’re a lot like old people. Disclosure: I was told by an startup kid last week I’m old, too old in fact to be doing a startup, so I might know something about this -and the perception. The Camdens and olds may not be the low hanging fruit, not because they can’t learn but because they’re brains have already been f’d with. That said, they’re repairable.An unmentioned gem within Mitra’s thesis, which might be missed because he only speak to the youth scenario in the vid, is this self organized leaning thing works at all ages. In the sciences there’s always been a good example, even with the bickering. The internets merely lowers the minimum height requirement for getting on enjoying the scientists ride.Look at beautiful moments in science. The sciences case is interesting because scientists solve new problems. They are not solving problems in classrooms that have known answers. They’re not solving the ‘where can I get 50 bucks fast’ problem that leads to street crime that has known answers, some better than others. They’re not solving the 45 year old’s ‘I can’t find a job like my old one’ that has known answers, some better than others.This is all a great opportunity. People from the sciences will lead this one, they know the drill, they understand how pieces of the jigsaw are assembled -cooperation. That bickering you hear is science. That twittering you hear is self-promotion. We need more bickering, more scientists.Here’s a quick read: Zamecnic’s ‘adapter molecule’ tRNA filling the hole in Crick’s puzzle:…Kids are the new scientists. We can do better than automating school the way the Internets automated advertising. We can show Camdens how to hack 50 bucks better than street crime, I’d hope. Am not sure about the olds though, that may require more thought 🙂

      1. LE

        “inverting the pyramid of the presentation””We can show Camdens how to hack 50 bucks better than street crime”Exactly. But not everyone to start. The question here is how do you get the ring leaders, the ones with brains in those communities [2] that the others (with less brains – I mean get real – some of these kids were born to crack addicted mothers are are borderline retarded [1][3] – and others are just average) so how do you get those potential leaders turned onto a way to make money so they can use the others to work for them in a legitimate way. Ultimately they just want to make money and be important like anyone else.If you can give opportunity to the ring leaders, or, I guess at this point the potential future ring leaders, then the rest has a better chance of falling into place.Other alternative is simply a variation of Thiel fellows. Someone goes into the community and gives money and opportunity to a carefully selected group. Thiel concept is interesting of course but the people getting that money have an excellent chance of making it without the help of Peter Thiel…obviously. What if you gave money to those that were more behind the 8 ball.[1] It’s a real word:http://www.merriam-webster….[2] Because in order to be the head of some of those criminal enterprises you have to have brains and skills.[3] Freakonomics, Why do most drug dealers live with their mothers.

        1. robertdesideri

          “Ultimately they just want to make money and be important like anyone else”I think the answer is at out fingertips. Literally. Mitra gets it, he may not though have it framed quite right. Or perhaps he does, TED may not be the best venue for getting into nitty gritty.One can’t speak to any of the working-backwards steps unless you are well versed in theory of mind. That’s where we begin. That’s where behavior comes from.I’m going to bicker with Thiel’s scheme here, what he’s doing with these kids is encouraging them to spin their wheels. You know, makes lots of noise and smoke but not get anywhere. Perhaps there will be an outlier or two, if there are study them, that’s where you will find something interesting, the information is hiding in this variance. Eventually kids will learn not to give themselves, their time, away. Don’t read me wrong, I don’t think Thiel is evil, and he’s not dumb, I just don’t think that scheme is the most productive use of the money and his or the kids’ time. Or society’s time. But I digress.I don’t have a vision for how to help crack babies. It may be that there’s an opportunity there as well -I genuinely have no clue what to do there –or if it’s a just one of the many frictions we should not try to remedy, like having too much gravity at a rocket launch.I believe we can give Camdens opportunity. Olds too. That’s the big opportunity for us problem solving geeks. The answer has been slow-roasting on the internets BBQ for the past 15 years, it’s now time to set the table and feast. The feast though will not appeal to all geeks, it requires a dining commitment longer than today’s typical funding provides. But I digress, again.One really needs to think big and go big to pop a state change. One of the areas where we’ve lost touch while preparing the BBQ is long term strategy, which is okay, we probably needed to do that to fund, build and install the pipes.Now it’s time to go strategic again, which means meld science + finance. And the kids need to be weened off false idols, that’s part of the beginning, eating Techcrunch for breakfast every day just ain’t healthy.It always comes back to theory of mind, if we want a leg up in solving problems we need to get on the same page re behavior. Would you be in on that deal? This is where a trajectory mod could help Peter Thiel to do better magic.We need to send more invites to the BBQ. That’s a part of it for sure. I don’t think some of us geeks realize how exclusionary we appear to some. And the “I got mine” showboating encourages the conflict — what do you think is going on in the Camdens’ minds? “If you can give opportunity to the ring leaders, or, I guess at this point the potential future ring leaders, then the rest has a better chance of falling into place.” (heh, does the quote mark go beyond or before the full stop :)There’s plenty of eats to go around, shouldn’t we open the invitation to everyone who likes BBQ?

          1. LE

            I’m going to bicker with Thiel’s scheme here, what he’s doing with these kids is encouraging them to spinning their wheels. You know, makes lots of noise and smoke but not get anywhere…….I don’t think Thiel is evil, and he’s not dumb, I just don’t think that scheme is the most productive use of the money and his or the kids’ time. Or society’s time.”There is a yiddish phrase which is “tookish on tish” (or at least it sounds like that depending on who is saying it).It means “ass on table”.So let me put ass on table here.I think it’s quite possible that Thiel is spending money in the way he is in order to benefit personally from doing this.After all the world cares about the Nobel Prize, Genius Grants, Rhodes Scholars, Academy Award winners etc. Now we will have “Thiel Fellow”. What a great legacy to have. If that is important to you it’s a good move. All for less than the cost of a Superbowl commercial. It’s a great ad that gets plenty of media play.That is at least one, and a very large driving reason behind doing this (which is his absolute right to do as he pleases with his money) is it’s simply a better investment in furthering your reputation and focusing the worlds attention on you than simply spending the same amount of money on naming rights at a University building. So in a sense you are buying yourself into a position of importance in the world and it’s an advertisement for yourself. [1] Forgetting even that it’s cost effective it’s also better in the same way a news story is better than an advertisement.Amongst the world of billionaires simply being a billionaire isn’t enough.Compare: “He earned his money through paypal, yawn”with “oh that’s Peter Thiel I know him I saw him on 60 minutes he created Thiel fellowships”.[1] Benefits that come with friends and influence.

          2. robertdesideri

            Ha! Funny expression. Love those.That’s an interesting read. I’m definitely naïve when it comes to the machinery for projecting a fancy image, I’m the guy driving the old car and still have many of the same items in my home as I did in the 1990s. My naïveté aside, I do understand why folks do such, also understand why some peeps become addicts; understanding the underpinnings are part and parcel of the same problem solving opportunity we’ve been discussing. Which ‘adds’ a bit of irony :-/I think Camdens, olds and a broad range of ages could gain useful insight from Thiel. Other billionaires too. Whether your or my read on his scheme is the more accurate doesn’t matter, I’d love to see him join in at the BBQ.We have all the pieces for this. We can pop a state change, the stars are close to being aligned for this. Would be massively irresponsible to not take this shot.

    2. ShanaC

      I’m not really sure socializing has addictive qualities to it. And I think in this case the video is evidence than in part it is social norms and socializing that causes education (novelty plus friends into it makes it easier for the kids to learn)

    3. William Mougayar

      The more I thought about this experiment, the more I’m thinking perhaps like you’re implying- that it was effective in these less privileged environments because the bar was low to start with.But there is something to be said about less structured learning environments that we can learn from. Too much structure can stifle the imagination.

      1. bsoist

        Too much structure can stifle the imagination.+1000 The worst thing good parents do to their children is stick them in a room at five years old and tell them to sit down and shut up.

    4. fredwilson

      we should try it in camden and see. i agree with you skepticism but it is an experiment that should be tried.

      1. Michael Elling

        The carriers are generally bypassing the poor areas (rural and urban) in this country because of their average priced/costed mentality. These demographic groups need ubiquitous connectivity in order to be generative. Much could be done in the way of providing low-cost, mostly free access (without govt intervention other than mandating equal/open access). Even Google has rolled out a silo’d, vertically integrated model. The question is will they open up the fiber to wireless access that could be made (nearly) free?

  11. sprugman

    Inspiring talk, but I can’t help but feel that the future of work needs to be figured out, as well. The Empire may be gone, but the bureaucracy certainly isn’t, cf many white collar jobs….

    1. pointsnfigures

      I think that we will see more independent workers. Those unattached workers will form specialized pods that float from gig to gig. Adam Smith endorsed the division of labor, why not with high tech and knowledge workers too? They will work out of co-working spaces; rather than fixed offices. Much of it will be virtual and collaborative. Been doing a lot of research and thinking on this. Economic incentives are pushing things this way-too expensive to hire people because of government implemented costs.A company that I invested in is going to be a player in that trend. probably will too.

    2. ShanaC

      sadly, bureaucracy makes it harder to get work done – and it seems in my life it only has been growing when it comes to corporate work

  12. Monce C. Abraham

    Thanks for sharing Fred, you might also like to share the link to the SOLE Tool kit so that more and more guys can experiment with it.My post on the same here:,

  13. Elia Freedman

    Always amazes me how little Fred is involved in these conversations. I had this happen on my blog once. It was kind of weird. I assume you are used to it by now, though, Fred. Bartender is absolutely the right term for you.

    1. fredwilson

      i try to take saturdays off. i got the idea from brad feld. he calls it digital sabbath.

  14. Danson

    I liked the olden days, back when Fred used to shit talk the TED Conference anytime he had the opportunity. Now here he is, all these years later, calling it ” very thought provoking.” Sheesh. So not punk rock.

    1. kidmercury

      hahahahhaaha! i don’t recall fred shit talking TED, perhaps i missed it though. in any event folks are entitled to change their minds! TED has lots of speakers, some are punk rock (i.e. rebellious, revolutionary) — others not so much.

      1. Danson

        My recollection is that he lumped it in with “exclusive” “invitation-only” conferences and meetings like Davos, Jackson Hole, et al; his thinking being that they do not invite up-and-commers to attend, but lavish attention to those on the Forbes Midas list, and other such nonsense.

        1. fredwilson

          yup, exactly. but at least they put out the videos online. makes me like them a bit more than others.

      2. ShanaC

        I do – he would never go, but he likes watching the videos.

    2. fredwilson

      i wouldn’t go. haven’t gone. but some of the talks/videos are pretty good.

      1. Robert Holtz

        TED is better than ever but there was something very special and intimate about the old TED conferences back when Richard Saul Wurman was still on-stage and hands-on in that little conference center in Monterrey. Attending TED was a life-changing experience that literally transformed all who were there.I never lopped TED in with Davos and the other see/be seen events because TED was an almost metaphysical gathering showing how Tech and Entertainment and Design were all fragments of a larger human story unfolding. And it was a call to action of sorts to not waste this amazing opportunity we have to help change the world for the better.When TED was sold, many people thought it would lose its luster but to Chris Anderson’s absolute credit, he not only helped it maintain that luster but he was the one who coined the “ideas worth spreading” tag line and upped the mandate to take this somewhat elite model and propagate the ideas and insights from TED to the world. He also managed to extend the reach and frequency of TED gatherings from the once-a-year model to all over the world multiple-times-a-year through TEDx events. That kind of extension usually dilutes the brand but in this case it has been a multiplier. TED is arguably more well-known than ever and it is still going strong.Fred, I know what you mean about Davos and other similar conferences but TED has always had a lot more substance to it. The videos are a great way of capturing a lot of it but there is still so much that happens BETWEEN the talks that have yet to be captured for world at large.

  15. Brad Lindenberg

    I see many similarities between these concepts and our agile development processes during the design and scoping phases of a product. Pose a big question, put a couple of engineers and designers together and encourage them to build something.The pre-requisite to success here is having A player self starters on your team in the first place.I would like to see him try this:Install a Linux open source computer1) Drop 5 manuals on the desk on CSS, HTML, basic database info and even basic php info.2) Give then a simple example site e.g build a tool to store 140 character strings and display them on screen3) ask them to replicate the tool4) come back in 3 months:)

    1. William Mougayar

      I like the startup analogy. It is exactly that. Share the dream, give resources, come back in 2-3 months.

  16. JF Brandon

    I wrote my final dissertation on this system of education, worked on introducing a SOLE-type learning space in Bolivia and met Sugata personally. What I learned was that the greatest impact wasn’t so much that they learned ‘knowledge’ but that they learned critical thinking skills. I can’t stress how important a skill that is nowadays – unfortunately our education system doesn’t imprint that skill well enough.As a co-founder in a start-up (DShape 3D Printing) and someone who spent more time learning outside of school rather than within it, critical thinking is probably more valuable than any degree to an entrepreneur. Im not putting myself up and putting schooling down, but it’s amazing how uncritical some well-educated people are. And how uncritical more coming out of the Public School System. To become educated with a certain type of laser focus that is a blessing and hindrance all at once. And if you had a shoddy education and are missing those crucial critical thinking skills, self-learning becomes a discouraging slog.The flow of conversation between children trying to answer a question reminded me so much of the sort of conversations i see among other startups. The key part of my research was that learning is a social activity – one doesn’t need to be a hermit to be a learner. Nor a silent, empty vessel to be filled by a teacher.The other side of critical thinking is persuasive ability – it’s not just you that you have to convince, but others. Saying “I have a degree in So-and-so from WhereverU” usually means you’re a lazy scholar. Getting rid of that appeal to status and being persuasive on the grounds of reason and facts (which can be checked by the Internet) is the other powerful reason why SOLE will matter more. Not just for a startup, but for a more equitable, democratic and informed world.

  17. ShanaC

    This video reminds me of Socrates and Alcibiades (Alcibiades studied under Socrates.). Mostly, it is because the video is just a delayed form of the socratic method.Be careful what you do when you make an education system made of questions and not answers

  18. BillMcNeely

    The video hit home for me. My son is 7 going on 8 and he will be out of school in 3 weeks. He has an interest in computers and the internet because he sees I do, but my wife and in laws ( who we live with) do not see the value in the technology and we should stay in the Empire ways.My son loves it when I take him to the science museums and has an interest in that sort of thing.I don’t want to see another summer go by with him stuck in front of the TV. He has been identified by the school as being capable of doing more advanced school work.The video gave me pause in what I am doing as a parent and the resident teacher in my home.Thanks for sharing.

  19. Dave W Baldwin

    Thanks for the present! I have been taking care of things for the Electronics, Digital Electronics teacher who’s wife went into the hospital and passed away. From earlier where I explained FemtoPhotography (using no computer) to Middle Schoolers through putting up with those who think they know everything about a computer but can’t change a light bulb, everything was touched in that vid.The hardest challenge is that machine full of those teachers who can’t really communicate and end up confusing others more than allowing their students to use their cognitive gift. Let the collaborative begin!


    “…yearn for the sea…”.I hope you don’t get mad Fred, but… We already know and we are ready, where is the funding? We’re ready to “Get on with it”. Now we need the resources. We can’t give those resources to the current system as they are the ones that have us behind in this. We need a re-think, a disruption, that can “jump” us forward to where we already should be.

  21. andyidsinga

    the granny method is profound – glad I watched.

  22. jason wright

    There’s a whiff of ‘Mount Olympus’ here, and India’s caste system is repulsive.

  23. Ashley AItken

    The US seems to be leading the way in transforming the higher education sector and also education policy (for example, Barack Obama’s reference to alternative forms of accreditation in his State of the Union address). I agree with your point in your post about online learning about getting your hands dirty to see how these different tools and ideas will play out.