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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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  • 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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