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Live Chat today at 4pm Eastern: "Why School? How Education Must Change When Information and Learning Are Everywhere"

Author Will Richardson will be joining us for a live Q&A today at 4pm Eastern!

Continuing with our series of TED book chats, for the next week and a half we'll be discussing Will Richardson's new TED eBook, "Why School?"

Traditional educators, classrooms, and brick-and-mortar schools are no longer necessary to access information. Instead, things like blogs and wikis, as well as remote collaborations and an emphasis on 'critical thinking' skills are the coins of the realm in this new kingdom. Yet the national dialogue on education reform focuses on using technology to update the traditional education model, failing to reassess the fundamental model on which it is built.

In TED's new eBook, "Why School?", educator, author, parent and blogger Will Richardson challenges traditional thinking about education—questioning whether it still holds value in its current form.

The book is available for Kindle, Nook, and iOS devices (which have a great new custom TED Books app):

Kindle copy: http://www.amazon.com/Why-School-Information-Everywhere-ebook/dp/B00998J5YQ
iOS app: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ted-books/id511071050?mt=8

You can also read more on Will's blog: http://willrichardson.com

So, let's get things started... when information is everywhere, what is the purpose of traditional schools?

Topics: education
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  • Sep 28 2012: I'm currently taking my Bachelor of Education and we've been having a lot of discussions about this subject. There has been a lean towards more inquiry based learning here in Canada, more specifically in BC. There is less focus on teaching students subject material and more focus on teaching students how to learn and how to determine if information is reliable or not. Teachers trying to get students to simply memorize information is pointless. Since information is constantly changing for my subject area, physics, there is no point in me teaching straight facts. Its better to teach students how to learn for the sake of learning. That will prove to be more useful overall.
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      Sep 29 2012: This has been very much the case for at least a decade in the US as well.
  • Oct 8 2012: I am sitting with my class waiting for the buses to arrive to take them home. I work in the largest district in Missouri by square mile. It also happens to be one of the poorest as well. School for my students means something different than school for many others. It is a clean, healthy place where they can get food to eat and people that care about them. I worry about how the idea of schools may change where school itself is no longer a physical space, but an online learning environment. This would be devastating for my community. What are your thoughts, will we see this happen?
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      Oct 8 2012: That's the point of the book, that we need to change schools but not do away with the powerful learning that happens in physical space, face 2 face classrooms. I'm not convinced it can be replicated online, especially for young kids. Learning online is a huge part of what we want kids to do, but it still needs a foundation that local spaces can only nourish.
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      Oct 8 2012: Vital perspective! Thank you for adding it to the conversation. I see one of the lasting values of schools as community hubs that provide healthy relationships with kids--that includes taking care of shelter and food.
  • Oct 8 2012: Hello there :)

    My name's Saulo and I'm from Brazil. I'm currently 17 years old and I'm quite fed up with this archaic and outdated system we have at present. It's not endemic in Brazil, though. It happens in every corner around the globe. People wrongly assess diplomas alongside with formal education being more important than the practical application of that matter per se. They just care about whether you have a diploma or not.
    I'm on my penultimate year of high school and it's being really tough to keep up with this. They oblige us to load our brains with lots of information we're most likely not to ever use! Scarcely have we time to even think about what we're learning, as we are expected just to do well on a standardised test that pretends to value how intelligent or likely to succeed we are. That's totally wrong! I learn a lot of things from books, people, the internet... Furthermore, school doesn't teach us the necessary tools we need to learn, it only teaches us how to perform well in a test. It doesn't set us for life. I strongly feel that I've wasted many years of my life stuck in a classroom :(

    In a nutshell, I'd like to know whether it's really necessary to go through all of this (finish high school, go to college and follow a well-worn path that has been previously set for us to take).
    The thing is, I aim to become a successful entrepreneur, I fancy learning by any means, but I'd far rather if it were in a more intimate and informal way.

    Thank you for your attention, greetings from Brazil :)
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      Oct 8 2012: Hey Saulo...thanks for chiming in. Looking forward to my visit to Brazil in January!

      Certainly, many have become successful via dropping out and following their passions. It's still a more difficult path, however, but I do think it's opening up more and more. There is a huge groundswell of creativity and innovation here in the states, and I think as schools do more to nurture that, the learning experience will get better and better. Whatever you do, don't lose your passion to succeed!
    • Oct 8 2012: Well spoken young man for 17 (compared to most US teens), and good questions.
    • Oct 8 2012: Perhaps you should apply for the Peter Thiel Fellowship.

      http://www.thielfellowship.org/

      And I see many young people are using college campus with all its infrastructure labs, equipment, people etc. to incubate their Startups. Good luck!
  • Oct 8 2012: Will,

    I am a vice principal in a secondary school in Ottawa, Canada. I just read your book over the past couple of days. It really hit home, because our board has invested heavily in the instructional coaching model. At the secondary level, this has involved a coach working with groups of 4 to 6 teachers in a school - typically full days, every other week. The work involves co-planning a task, observing one teacher deliver it in their class, and debriefing around student artifacts. The task usually involves a critical thinking strategy.

    I mention all this because I think this approach will get at a meaningful classroom practice, which can bridge us to the new paradigm envisioned in Why School.
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    Oct 8 2012: The purpose of "traditional" schools was to train a labor and managerial class. That purpose is now defunct. "School" needs to be reframed through the question "how do we best support learning?"
    • Oct 8 2012: Suporting education and learning is being discussed during the presidential debates and I think that both candidates are thinking about how they can do this.
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        Oct 8 2012: I wish I could agree. I don't think either candidate really sees the education world in any real different light from the one we've had for 100+ years. They want to make it better. I want to make it different.
        • Oct 8 2012: I totally agree with you! Education doesn't seem to be important to either candidate. We all know testing is not the indicator of learning. We need educators making these decisions...not politicians.
        • Oct 8 2012: There was so much hope that Obama would see it different, but no child left behind morphed to a race to the top...left behind or last in the race, both are disappointments.

          If exams - high stakes or otherwise - remain the focus as the key product of a high school education we are going to be spinning wheels that so desperately need to get some real traction toward meaningful systemic change. Did I read that some cities or boards in the States are voting to drop out of the testing process? Do students at High Tech High have to complete the same tests as the rest of the students in California?
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      Oct 8 2012: And the problem is that the answer to that question is not quantifiable and sortable and rankable. But it is the absolute correct question.
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        Oct 8 2012: It's only a problem in the frame of our current thinking for how assessment has to occur!
      • Oct 8 2012: I was wondering if you have reached out to any experts in terms of Performance, Authentic, and Ipsative forms of assessment who understand this new conversation around Education Transformation. There are a relatively confined set of (traditional) skills that children need to learn as well as new literacies, competencies, and dispositions that will help them thrive in a 21st century world of constant change. Is there any way that these experts can point the way to reconciling the standardized measurement of chosen learning outcomes, as we promote a very diversified and holistic vision of what students will produce and learn?
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          Oct 8 2012: It's hard, because the expectations and tests and results for "success" are so ingrained in our tradition around education. We're asking people to rethink it, not tweak it. Tough argument for many.
    • Oct 8 2012: Truer words were never spoken.
      We teach kids how to perform well in standardised tests, but do we really prepare them for the real life?
      Do we give them the necessary tools to do so? I don't think so.
      Students are prepared to be robots, mindless workers instead of thinkers, doers.
      By the time we understand this, I hope it's not too late.
  • Sep 28 2012: I am an educator with 20 years experience from middle school to college and I agree we need to rethink the entire purpose and goal of education. We know it needs to become more collaborative, performance-based (as opposed to test-based), and interdisciplinary. Let's use these great new technologies to teach skill and drill through game-based curriculum while using our teachers to supervise application of these skills in real-world scenarios.
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    Oct 8 2012: Thanks, Everyone!
  • Oct 8 2012: Will,
    If you were building a new high school or middle school today what aspects of construction or design would you consider to support your vision and idea of what school should today and the next 25 years? From the learners perspective what would that building look like? I'm referring to school as a noun instead of a verb in this case.

    Ryan
  • Oct 8 2012: Information and learning may be everywhere, but not access to information and learning. How can we create more access to online learning, and real life learning within communities; learning networks?
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      Oct 8 2012: It's a great question, and I wonder why this isn't more of a topic during this election season. Broadband is growing, but it's not where it needs to be. Mobile devices connect us, but they are not the best for creating and sharing complex artificats of our learning.
      • Oct 8 2012: It seems as though we are unwilling to invest in our infrastructure. This would add thousands of immediate jobs while laying the foundation to our future.
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      Oct 8 2012: Digital equality is an important topic that we aren't talking about enough yet.
  • Oct 8 2012: Will, can you give an idea of how your vision of "school" would work for students with moderate to intensive special needs? As a teacher of students with special needs, I try to incorporate PBL and inquiry based lessons as much as possible, but struggle...
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      Oct 8 2012: Depending on the needs, it can be difficult, I know. But allowing all kids to pursue learning in the context of what they have an interest in or a passion for is the starting point for all of this. Certainly, we need to provide access and the full range of opportunities that technology brings to kids who have obstacles to overcome. But I really think we can make much of that more engaging to kids at every level if we nurture their passion for learning rather than extinguish it with the current, content heavy curriculum.
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    Oct 8 2012: And, when it comes to basing tests on "googleable" facts like your Gupta Empire example... students have been complaining (rightly so, IMO) about this for at least the decades since I was in school. :) What do you think is the main reason schools continue to stick to this style of education? Is it just that it's so much more cost-effective than measuring actual knowledge and skill?
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      Oct 8 2012: It's because that content mastery stuff is easy to measure, plain and simple. How can you easily measure perseverance, creativity, ability to find and solve problems, etc? While those things are more important than wide content mastery now, they are much harder to measure.
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        Oct 8 2012: Those things are best measured through relationships between teachers and students. Unfortunately, we are not in an age of trusting such information.
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          Oct 8 2012: Yeah, you would think we'd trust teachers to tell us what's happening in terms of learning and our kids. Funny thing is, the best predictor of future success is not SAT or test scores; it's GPA. Shocking! ;0)
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        Oct 8 2012: Do you think the era of sending kids to a classroom to all learn the same information simultaneously is coming to an end? I'm trying to picture what wide-scale free-form learning might look like, and all I can come up with is something like homeschooling... or "unschooling"!
        • Oct 8 2012: It must come to and end!
          We're all different! How come they think we should learn pretty much the same stuff and be expected to reach a specific score on a standardised test?
          I'm on my penultimate year of high school here in Brazil and I'm quite fed up with it by now. I study at a private school, as most public schools here suck.
      • Oct 8 2012: So I wonder what's the answer? We're going to run up against a strongly held assumption around measurement that makes up the modern (Western at least) world view. Do we continue to communicate with our communities about increasing local involvement in schools? Do we get into epistemology and discuss the limitations of reductionism, etc.? or do we just try to demonstrate the promise of local teacher judgements and build trust that way?
  • Oct 8 2012: For those children whose education and future employment opportunities and lifetime earning capacity has been handicapped by having spent the last 14 yrs in a frankly inadequate educational system that turned out to be a waste of time (and for some, money too), what will society or government do for these kids to either compensate them for the loss, or remediate the situation?
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    Sep 27 2012: the whole world is behind when it comes to the gadget fad and it's most noticeable in politics, commerce and the law. schools are actually doing well compared to them (in NZ anyway).

    education models depend on the country. information has never been so opinion-like and the lines between propaganda and information are blurring fast.

    iDevices won't solve the problem of where to send kids while their parents are working.

    teachers are even more important as children need support and guidance even if they are using an expensive touch screen.
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    Sep 27 2012: The world of education is miles behind in the application of technology - I wrote to the UK secretary of state for education 20 years ago about this - fell on deaf ears of course. The change away from traditional education will only happen due to 'cost cutting' and the (current) lack of money to fund schools/colleges properly. Having three kids I can assure you that what they achieve through college/university further education is very little anyway (social skills and life skills of having to live on their own excepting).
    It seems crazy that we are still attempting to teach 'facts' instead of 'understanding'.

    So I have developed a new way of achieving what the kids really need for 'life & work'. It is essentially a very short 'hot house' training using theatre/technology/involvement/projects/role-play to create an amazing life changing 3 weeks. Called 'Super Fast Track' I hope it can be developed and used for every young person (anyone want to fund it?) see the detail for how it works:

    http://www.commonsensethinking.co.uk/sft.html

    Jp
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      Sep 27 2012: the 'facts instead of understanding' approach has been a direct result of assessment practice. removing the artificial yardstick that is assessment will go a long, long way towards freeing schools from the staid, linear approach they have had to education in the past.

      this bureaucratic approach to assessment is, of course, usually driven by politicians and ministers who seem to only want data (meaningless, if you ask me) that can be expressed on a simple chart so that they can justify funding (or more accurately, funding cuts).

      for younger students, there needs to be guidance and support (even in this wondrous age of 'free' information). this does not have to be a Teacher (as in the profession) but one thing i have noticed is that many parents feel removed from the education process, thinking that they had best leave it to the folk with the qualifications.

      herein lies the real shift that needs to happen in education - realising that education is not something that can only be correctly administered/delivered by a degree-ed person in a classroom but in fact, mostly is and should be, coming from parents.

      i have a feeling that people, these days, think they can replace the 'teacher' with a tablet and a contract with a tel-co.
    • Sep 29 2012: John, Thank you for posting the common sense thinking information. The "Supper Fast Track" program looks very interesting. The list of core skills and concepts are truly essential and should be learned by each individual. Best wishes for implementing this exceptional project.
  • Sep 27 2012: This is a little bit utopian, schools will still be necessary for one reason: People don't naturally like doing work. Even in school you have people slacking off all the time. Only a tiny percentage of kids actually like learning the rest just do their time.

    I'm sorry to say it but Education is complex and the more demanding the skills the more time, work and dedication you have to put into it. Just waving around things like "the internet will solve everything" is a bit of nonsense. Some people will be able to use the net, but most people won't get much out of it.
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      Sep 27 2012: in my experience, giving kids self-directed access to the internet generally means they end up playing games..
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        Sep 28 2012: It is true that games are more appealing than education. I'm a shameless victim of this case.

        However, I do think that education can be just as appealing as games. Stuff that I've considered fun are art, building stuff, web design, cool graphics/visuals, music, etc.

        I've noticed that a lot of kids like to play with tablets. There was a story that even a six-year-old illiterate boy can use the iPad intuitively, no learning curve required. And on the iPad I've seen a ton of kids play this game called Minecraft.
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          Sep 28 2012: tablets are easy to use but it seems to me that there is usually little benefit to things that are easy to do.

          granted, the new-entrant and junior school is the best place for tablets because of the interface.

          there is striking the balance between edutainment and real work when it comes to learning. a good teacher makes the lessons as fun and interesting as they can.

          my real beef with technology in schools is the enormous expense. schools are becoming "captive markets" for the gadget industry.

          ps. i love my video games too.
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        Sep 29 2012: "tablets are easy to use but it seems to me that there is usually little benefit to things that are easy to do."

        Can you give me an example of one thing that is not beneficial that is easy to use? Would this also imply that things that are hard to do are usually more important and more beneficial?

        I believe almost anything can be made easy enough to use with the right design. I'm sure there are some things that are inherently difficult by nature too, but there should also be good designs as well.

        "there is striking the balance between edutainment and real work when it comes to learning. a good teacher makes the lessons as fun and interesting as they can."

        Why does it require a good teacher to make something fun? Shouldn't there be a way to design the content to feel fun? Like couldn't you have Bloons Tower Defense 5 be a way to teach Resource Management and Business?

        "my real beef with technology in schools is the enormous expense. schools are becoming "captive markets" for the gadget industry."

        Yeah, I mean I hate it when people want to use new technology to teach something just for the sake of using new technology. That's just gimmicks right there, and it shows a lack of fundamental understanding of using a tool.
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          Sep 30 2012: I guess I'm talking about skill acquisition when I'm talking about easy vs hard. I saw an article in an I.T. magazine that pointed out that more 4 year old children can use an iPad than can tie their shoelaces. One is easy, the other is (relatively) hard for 4 year old's still developing their motor skills.

          "Would this also imply that things that are hard to do are usually more important and more beneficial?" - most definitely.

          One of the major skills of a good teacher is to be entertaining. This has been the case since teachers and students first started interacting. You might have heard this described as being 'engaging'. Jargon has changed more often than the fundamentals.

          Once a student is at a certain age, they may have acquired the skills to self-direct their learning in which case they may be able to use technology to further their own learning. You can bet that they needed a teacher to get to that point. (note: the word teacher does not have to mean a person with an education degree who works in a school and gets paid by some ministry of education. It can be any person that steps into the role - mum, dad, uncle, tutor, mentor, older cousin, friend).

          I can't tell if you are being sarcastic or not in your last comment but you don't seem to be addressing the quote. I'll try and break it down a little further for you.

          Digital technology in schools is expensive to acquire and maintain. You may not be aware that schools have very limited budgets and so until this issue is addressed adequately, you cannot expect schools to keep up with the costs of providing this technology to every student. No amount of TEDtalks will fix this one.

          You'll also find that another issue is the copyright/licencing issue. This is only just beginning to rear it's head and there will be many pitfalls for schools and individuals alike along the road to digital heaven.

          A craftsman can use a tool. Owning a tool doesn't make one a craftsman.
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        Sep 30 2012: "I guess I'm talking about skill acquisition when I'm talking about easy vs hard. I saw an article in an I.T. magazine that pointed out that more 4 year old children can use an iPad than can tie their shoelaces. One is easy, the other is (relatively) hard for 4 year old's still developing their motor skills."

        Ah I see. Well to counter-argue that, say if I was just learning how to program stuff, I don't want to learn how to code through punch cards and hand-write my codes. I mean sure, I'll learn to be a better coder because I would be much more aware of my bad practices, but I would also waste a lot of time trying to do that when there are better more efficient ways to code.

        "Digital technology in schools is expensive to acquire and maintain. You may not be aware that schools have very limited budgets and so until this issue is addressed adequately, you cannot expect schools to keep up with the costs of providing this technology to every student. No amount of TEDtalks will fix this one."

        They seem to be doing fine paying huge expenses on textbooks, I don't see why they can't just forgo those textbooks and use that cost for digital technologies. A Nexus 7 tablet is only 200 dollars, just saying. I've had to pay 300-400 dollars for textbooks that I hardly ever use.

        "I can't tell if you are being sarcastic or not in your last comment but you don't seem to be addressing the quote. I'll try and break it down a little further for you."

        My last remark was basically equivalent to your last remark: "A craftsman can use a tool. Owning a tool doesn't make one a craftsman."
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    Oct 8 2012: I'm afraid this fascinating conversation is coming to an end. Will, thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us! I look forward to reading through the related books you mentioned near the end of "Why School", and I'll be continuing to follow your excellent blog. Such an important and interesting topic!

    To our participants, thank you as always for sharing your excellent questions. We hope to see you again soon for the next TED book chat!
  • Oct 8 2012: Hi Will,
    Regarding assessment. I understand we are completely rethinking education, here. And with good reason. Even John Seely Brown, in his long tail and learning as enculturation ideas, talks about a virtuous cycle between niche interest development and coming back to the "fat part" of the tail to learn that core knowledge and then students returning to their niche interests to apply it. He says a core curriculum based around critical thinking (and I would add literacy and numeracy to a point). Could Performance Assessments (I know they present many challenges for reliability, etc.) that are open ended and authentic provide some common ground between competing views on approaches to education?
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      Oct 8 2012: Yes. But again, the devil is in the details. how much of that "fat part" are we going to require and how are we going to assess it. That's the biggest question we're facing right now. Does EVERY child need EVERY thing in the curriculum? What, really, do ALL children need?
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    Oct 8 2012: I am against any strong normative statements about how schools and education should change. I think better way is to spot changes and trends already taking place and just direct it.
    Carl Jung complained about over-protectiveness of the European educational system (in a way that repressed talented students and favoured average) whereas he liked American approach that, in his opinon, focused on assisting inquisitive minds.
    With this indredible access to information, I think teachers will become imporant mentors on how to filter information and how to think analytically. Learning process will take place outside the classrooms as well and will be self-paced and individual according to the interests and abilities of children (students) - we can see that in the case of Khan Academy.
    One of my many questions regarding this topic is: What would Carl Jung of the future be like?
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      Oct 8 2012: I'm not sure Carl Jung would be happy with the current system that tests kids ad nauseum for most of their schooling years. But I agree with you that teachers will be even more important now to help students assit their inquisitive minds.
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      Oct 8 2012: Love the question. Carl Jung emphasized that our most important field of inquiry was psychology, correct? And despite his work and many other psychologists since him, we are seeing extremely high rates of addiction, personality disorders, and other mental health issues. So it would seem the Carl Jung of the future would be just like the one of the past, perhaps using slightly different language. He would emphasize relationships between healthy mentors and children, with time to be outside, grow food, and reflect.
  • Oct 8 2012: Today we face the complexity of social and economic opportunity presented by the globalization and internationalization which had huge impact on the higher education. Probably we will see more and more incompatibility in the whole education system. The reform is inevitable and irresistible.
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    Oct 8 2012: I am in the (apparently very rare) position of feeling that most of what I learned in school was, in fact, essential. It was a lot of information, but my understanding of the world today wouldn't be possible without that depth and breadth.

    I'm aware that my education was both excellent and fairly progressive, but it certainly fell squarely within traditional definitions of schooling -- what is your response to an honest opinion that that system worked for me?
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      Oct 8 2012: I'd say Great! But "worked" is relative. I had great teachers, great friends, and school "worked" for me, too. But it could have worked a lot better had I not had to study a whole bunch of stuff that was all in the service of the test and the curriculum. I've forgotten, as have most, about 80% of what I learned in high school especially because it had no real relevance to my life. What I could have done with that time... And now as a parent, I want my kids to develop as learners more than anything else.
  • Oct 8 2012: Will, taken to its logical conclusion, it makes me think that credentials at colleges and universities suffer from the same problems as you describe in schools. Many specialized programs can potentially also suffer from the skills-knowledge race Do you see that as well? Maybe, great teaching is great teaching in any environment, and post-secondary instructors also need to better model the way they network and collaborate in their field.
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      Oct 8 2012: The whole credentialing thing is getting interesting. Badges...MOOCs...etc. It's all going to change in the next 5-10 years in some pretty innovative ways, I think.
  • Oct 8 2012: My 2 cents to this very interesting discussion: see my TED talk from TEDxAmsterdamED (Education) of two weeks ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEDM3zzYN_I

    I talk about moving away from a (societal) system which is only based on achieving status, towards a new system which is built upon creating value. It's a very personal talk and was very well received. I hope you like it too!
    • Oct 8 2012: Claire, I look forward to checking it out. Every aspect of this discussion has helped me question the parts of the teaching practice we take for granted. Thanks.
  • Oct 8 2012: Giving students access to experts in various fields is a key factor to making constructivist, inquiry-based approaches successful. In reality, linking students with the outside world seems is not a possibility, unless the teacher is present and monitoring every interaction. I see the networking element of students with experts and the community at large as taking time. I am thinking grades 7-9 and realize that this might be less of a concern in high school. Do you know of any strategies of creating "walled gardens" for young teen aged children to start availing of those opportunities and assuring their parents and teachers that they are safe?
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      Oct 8 2012: Sure. Edmodo is one example. But I might be a bit more sanguine about the idea that we can teach even young kids to use and make good decisions about how to use online spaces for learning. We have a HUGE role to play in that.
      • Oct 8 2012: Great. Just set that up a couple of days ago for my classes. Good to know we may be on the right track! I know of examples of younger kids making their way on the net as well. I guess inviting experts to work with students online through Edmodo will be a possibility (and I will include that in the parent letter and forms).
    • Oct 8 2012: I'm confused. I thought the point of "constructivist, inquiry-based approaches" was that you don't need experts. Yes, you need experts (in both the subject and pedagogy) to design the activities and tools, but they don't need to be in the classroom. On the contrary, the students (with gentle prodding) become their own experts because they relate to the content without intermediaries. This works best in STEM fields, which have clearer right and wrong answers, but logical reasons why an answer is one or the other and ways to transform (debug) the wrong into the right.
      • Oct 8 2012: Max, I think some of the best potential for collaborative learning is when there is no clear right and wrong answer. Hope that helps.
  • Oct 8 2012: Will, do you see the end result of the Why School ideal looking a lot like the home education movement?
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      Oct 8 2012: No. I think schools, at least in the short term, still have a great deal of importance in communities and for families. In this time of two income earning families, the idea that even a majority of kids could homeschool seems doubtful to me. That's not to say that there won't be a lot of different constructs to what classrooms look like, however.
  • Oct 8 2012: "The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed," said William Gibson in 2003. I'd like to argue that the opposite is true - we now have excellent methods of distribution, but the content itself is lacking. The first part is pretty self-evident; the internet connects people as never before.

    But do we have the best content? Hardly. Instead, in the last decade we've ridden the wave of Moore's law to excellent technology, but our understanding of human nature has been left behind. We now have the technology to do what Seymour Papert wanted to do in the late 70s, when he wrote Mindstorms, but we're not doing it. Instead, the ed-tech "innovators" focus on repackaging old pedagogy, primarily lecture. The students' chance to explore the subject matter is defeated by trying to get the right answers. What Papert suggests in his book is that right answers don't matter nearly as much as the process used to obtain them. Humans do not think they way computers operate, so why do we treat online education like a file transfer?
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      Oct 8 2012: Thanks for the comment, Max. I'm actually just re-reading Mindstorms. ;0)

      I think we have amazing content stored on the Internet, but the job now becomes ours to find it, vet it, and learn from it. We can't be waiting for someone else, schools included, to be delivering it to us. Totally agree as to the dysfunction of the current system's attempt to teach and measure only a small slice of what can be learned.
      • Oct 8 2012: One of the key benefits of traditional education institutions is that they curate and organize content. By separating wheat from chaff and putting topics in sequence, they provide a much higher quality product. It's certainly true that some of the decisions they make need to be revised, but I think that there will always need to be someone doing the job. You can't just hand a kid an internet connection and say "learn something". Even once they can determine what's incorrect, outdated, biased, irrelevant, and so on, there's no way to know what to read or do with what's left.

        This is especially problematic when there's always the possibility of another great find if you look just a little bit more, which leads to skimming many pages rather than deep reading a few. Another benefit of the traditional university: once you've paid tuition and moved to campus, you're going to focus on what they give you.
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    Oct 8 2012: Will, do you think there's enough depth and organization for the knowledge currently available online to essentially "replace" classroom curricula? Could a high school student really get as far in physics with Khan Academy/etc as they would with a year of traditional education and materials? Do you see that level of freely available knowledge as inevitable?
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      Oct 8 2012: I do think there is enough depth of information...it's our job now to make sense of it and organize it whether as individuals or networks. And I do think that if the end goal is to pass a test of discrete skills, then online resources will soon (if they can't already) make that happen. Taking physics for the sake of checking the physics box is much different from taking it because you have a need or a passion to learn it, however.
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    Oct 8 2012: Agreed with you on that. But how does these changes can be done while at the same time, teachers are still with their "traditional minds" and still cannot adept to these modern changes?
  • Oct 8 2012: Or maybe I should have asked what SHOULD either society or govt do to compensate/remediate those children whose education over last 20 yrs was a complete waste of time/failure (thereby impacting their future job opps and earning capacity.
  • Oct 8 2012: Hi. I have a question. Can I buy those ted titles? If so for how much??

    Thanks (please reply)