Recently their has been a upwelling of ideas, concepts, and new companies that are trying to improve the education system. The themes are topics discussed in this blog post are inspired by inspirational speakers and companies that are actually laying the groundwork for a better tomorrow. As Edison would say, “Innovation is one 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” To prime the subject material, I have included lectures and movies made on this topic. Watch Aamir Khan’s Taare Zameen Par and Three Idiots. David Kelley, one of IDEO’s partners, has also been thinking a lot about education. Here is Kelley’s mainfesto on improving his own program at the Stanford d.School.
What I like about this company is that it is taking advantage of the iPad’s amazing user-experience. They are also smart in that they are using Apple’s app store as their primary channel to deliver the application. That is a great way for the user to purchase and use an application, especially one that is centered around reading and learning. But the idea is even better than that. The iPad was built to deliver content that users could interact with. It completely revolutionizes the way users experience the content in front of them. Apple’s creative director, Jonathan Ive, says “it takes away all the distraction” that comes with a desktop computer. If one really thinks about it, traditional operating systems function much like an airplane cockpit. One has pop ups and bars indicating the status of everything. It is a sensory overload. The iPad remove all this complexity from the interface and makes it much easier for users to concentrate on the content that is in front of them. Steve Jobs was right. In order to really make content on the internet less distracting, one really has to contain the content in a self service application which isolates it from other content, so the user can focus on what they are reading, listening to, or watching. This is why I think Inkling is a winning company. They have chosen the right technology and the right channel to deliver it. Just watch, and you’ll know what I mean. The only thing I am wondering is, why no self-tests? Facebook connect? Why no flashcards? When I look back to college, the ways I learned best were by testing my knowledge by taking sample tests that I found on the internet. Take for example Chemistry. If you are taking Inorganic Chemistry in your first year of college, you might be asked to memorize element names and polyatomic ions. Immediately what comes to mind are flashcards. Then once you have memorized elements and polyatomic ions, typically the teacher will ask you to name ionic compounds, acids, and molecular compounds. For this you need practice tests. The program should generate sample tests for you and then once you are done with them, you should be able to compare your scores with other people in the class. Maybe they have thought of this, but I’ll find out soon. Interviewing with them tomorrow.
Bill Gates Hearts Academic Earth
Academic Earth is also an interesting startup. Education and Web 2.0, simply put, is untapped potential. I see Academic Earth becoming a repository of recorded lectures, seminars, lecture series, talks at universities, and much, much more. I think what will make it better is audience participation. The education sector has largely ignored the Web 2.0 revolution. Students in today’s day and age are addicted to online content. For every recorded lecture, universities should encourage students to leave comments and video responses for extra credit and grade enhancement. They should really build value in the content they are delivering. The problem is that universities have failed to acknowledge that the web is, in itself a participatory platform, which makes it much easier for people to join in discussion and discovery of new interests and thereby synthesize information from a multitude of sources to develop an interdisciplinary knowledge base and skill set. Isn’t this the point of higher education? For every academic department, why are there still sites that simply list majors, staff, and faculty. These are static, useless pages, that build absolutely no value in the content (lectures and research) being generated. Why not involve students in the dialogue? There should be blogs for class lectures and discussions, events, visiting lecturers etc. Each university department should build value in student and faculty participation, through open discussion and dialogue. In this way, students will begin to form their own interests and “follow” certain topics in academia. The only way to encourage an interdisciplinary education, is by enhancing the discovery process and channeling new ideas through open dialogue between students and faculty. Why not have groups and meetups centered around certain themes and topics. The type of fluidity that one experiences on Twitter, Meetup.com, and Facebook groups is just not there in education. I am not the only one stoked about improving education. Apparently, Bill Gates is also. Read TC’s article on “Bill Gates Hearts Academic Earth.”
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