Jamia Wilson

Executive Director, TED Prize

This conversation is closed.

What do you think is the future of learning?

In the spirit of Sugata Mitra's TED Prize invitation to the world to "ask big questions, and find big answers," tell us how you imagine learning will change in the years to come.

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    Mar 9 2013: The more things seem to change, the more they remain the same. The future is already here.
    Those who are really serious about learning will learn, they will ask the right questions and find answers. They wont be encumbered with numerous excuses for not learning.
    Technology will not do the learning for anyone.
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      Mar 10 2013: However, it will allow choices, so that students can travel down the road that attracts them.
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        Mar 10 2013: Choices are not new in the world; even if the 21st century-kind of choices are.
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          Mar 10 2013: There will always be the basic choice; Am I part of the timeless, limitless souce of all things or am I all of a limited, temprary thing?
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    Mar 8 2013: Learning is person dependent. No technology can pour knowledge directly into human brain. However only tool sets/medium may change.
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      Mar 10 2013: Possibly we should give up the idea of filling their heads with information and teaching them how to learn.and how to locate the answers they want.

      In my boring 1950's high school there was nothing to keep a healthy young man awake, except girls and most of our days were lost in daydreaming. The educaion they were forcing on us was not relevent too us at all, but it was the ticket to higher things, so we thought. 50 years later , we look at our life and say "What have I done?"

      If you can say "I found God." your life is success. It doesn't matter how your lived, it worked, because you found your way home.

      What we know is a commodity. Each specialty has a need it fills and can finance our trip through this life on Earth. We may care for gardens or we may care for millions, each in the end, is no more or no less than an aspect of the timeless,ongoing force of creation.

      That said, we have the problem of educating children that are born into technology. We still like the old Norman Rockwell classroom idea. Dress it up and call it a lecture hall and it's still the same thing. The old education paradigm has not shifted with the times.

      Over the internet, on demand, children can have access to the very best presenters, with the very best graphics and links to whatever is required and we can free taxpayers of the backbreaking expense of an outdated system. Students would be free to learn what they want, when they want, Teachers can go freelance helping where needed.

      Summerhill proved with thier impressive results, that a school where the kids were free to learn at their own pace, helped by the teachers only where needed, scored high on all government tests. It was mainly ignored in public schooling. The system has changed little from the days of 1955, except that more kids are driven to school today.

      We are not preparing our childern for the world we are living in. We are teaching them what we think they'll need to now, in a future we can't understand.
  • Mar 8 2013: Hi! I'm currently a first-year college student and I've recently become disillusioned with the whole thing, ha. :) I think that a number of things have happened in the last few decades that will eventually restructure the way we receive education.
    1. The Internet! It's both a miracle and a burdensome monster. But of course, the Internet made it possible for anyone to get an education--you can literally look up ANYTHING. As a result, the future of learning is obvious: everything depends on whether you can own a computer or get to an area where you have internet access. It hasn't completely removed the social stratification of education, of course, but it's getting closer.
    2. The future of education is very different. From what I've noticed as a young, inexperienced student, I see middle class complacency everywhere I look. I don't see my peers getting excited about what they're learning or grateful that they got the chance--and I'm not exempting myself from this phenomenon by any means. I think we've come to take education for granted in a country that offers it to us free as we grow up, and in a remarkably accessible way as we get older. Given the option to learn or to be entertained by the myriad technological devices we have, what do we pick? Of course I don't speak for everyone, but I'd say it's probably the latter option. I think this complacency is turning us into a generation of stratified skill--those with no education, those with lukewarm interest in education and learning, and those with hyper-utilized skill and extreme interest in learning. The issue is, as innovation becomes more difficult to create, it's going to be isolated to the third group. Learning, I think, is suffering because of all the wonderful things we've been able to afford as the middle class' power has increased, and I think we're going to suffer later because of that.
    3. Other countries are getting ahead because of both factors. And I think that will leave America behind, and unskilled.
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      Mar 10 2013: How would you feel about an open classroom education, on the internet, with the best presenters and the best graphics, explaining what you need to know, in a clear understandable way? How would you like to receive your education on demand, focused on what interests you, with credits obtainable from multiple sources?
      • Mar 11 2013: Hi David! I've read that this kind of education can happen through sources like Udacity and Coursera once they really take off, and I'm involved (but not fully engaged) with some Coursera options online. I've got to say that this sounds incredibly appealing, but that there are so many aspects of higher education that go missing when it completely surrendered to the Internet. In terms of just consuming information, it sounds great--no fuss, no complicated expenses, I can ask questions when I want to and have a plethora of resources devoted to answering them. But I find that I've learned so much from my peers about the way that people learn, live, and adapt. They have changed the way that I think about number of issues, including political, ideological, and religious ones, because I have realized that decisions aren't just based on logic gleaned from knowledge, there's a fair amount of emotion and cultural bias behind them as well. Simple example of this: I was always the sort of person who couldn't come to grips with the fact that other countries didn't wholeheartedly embrace democracy (very, very naive, I know, but I'm just out of high school!) because in a simple pro-con, long-term mental simulation, democracy is a great idea! Talking with my peers--not political science classes, not history of the world--has shown me how other cultures within and outside of the United States approach different topics. I don't think that's something that books can replicate; we are intrinsically social creatures and need human connections to truly understand how to best interact with our world. That's just my opinion--I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.
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          Mar 11 2013: Thank yoiu for your input. It is very valuable, as you are one of those who would be directly effected by any changes in the system. Assumimg that home (or small group) schooling were in place and students could study what they wanted, when they wanted, we may just find that their social lives would be greatly improved as school attentdance would be out of the way.

          The boredom of studying irrelivant subjects would be greatly eliminated as students made their own course decisions. Perhaps you decide to change your career, which we are told can be increasingly expected, you have only to focus on the information.

          True, this only applies to theory. Practical, hands-on learning can only be experienced direcrly. so on-line learning would still have to be supplimented with guided training.

          The most important thing is that alternative education paradigms are discussed and we consider outside the box thinking. The existing system was established over 200 years ago to prepare us for participating in bureacratic orgqanisations.

          The world has changed completely since then, yet we are trapped by inertia in a woefully obsolite system
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    Mar 8 2013: My direct answer to you question is, I imagine it wiil change because it must. All the information we need on any subect is at our fingertips. Children need computer training and personal skills. training on any subject desired can easily be availble online, by the best teachers. The old education paradigm cannot apply in the infromation age.
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    Mar 8 2013: People are still arguing about education and schools. Your question is clearly about learning. Maybe we should start to learn how to learn first and share this information as quickly as possible.
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      Mar 9 2013: Re: "Maybe we should start to learn how to learn first"

      Maybe we shouldn't. What is your argument for or against?
      What other animals need to learn to learn?
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        Mar 9 2013: Good question Theodore. Wouldn't this question be better in the debate category?
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          Mar 9 2013: No, it is specifically addressed to your conjecture regarding learning to learn. Do you care to explain your reasoning? What prompts you to think that "Maybe we should start to learn how to learn first?"
          Perhaps you can also offer a reply to my question: What other animals need to learn to learn?
    • Mar 9 2013: Hello John. What are the particular facets of learning that you think are suffering/improving? From my experience as a student, I see less passionate learning and more drudgery in secondary and higher education. I can't decide if that's a consequence of our fast-paced society, standardized tests, or redundancy in education. Learning and the education system impact each other, though they're not singularly responsible for changes in each respect.
    • Mar 10 2013: It is about learning, I agree, but it is more about not hindering and stopping children from learning their own way - when and what and how! My opinion is that learning is our natural living instinct - like breathing. If the natural drive for learning is being constantly regulated or stopped, it is forcing or stopping others life stream and leading to premature death - tolling the suicide and disease rate.
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    Mar 8 2013: It will largely depend on how far into the future you're thinking, as well as WHO this future is pertaining to.

    For the next 20 years or so, I'd guess that education will become in large what Pat Gilbert said: auto-didactic, privatized, and online. Education (quality education) will become a privilege again, unless you live in a "consciously capitalist" country like Switzerland. In which case, yay for you :) In a place like the good ol' U.S. of A. public education will probably become increasingly outdated, while private institutions will charge an exorbitant amount of money for a "world class" education that will in large be culturally insensitive.

    For those who SEEK education, it will be increasingly more rounded with all the tools available to us, including: our elders, travel, the internet, libraries, TED (;~), some schools, peers, progressive programs and projects, etc.

    Education has always been and will always be beneficial for those who (ARE TAUGHT TO) value it.
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    Mar 8 2013: Acceleration, self learning, privatization of schools, online learning/schools
  • Mar 14 2013: in short, the future of learning will give individuals freedom, motivation to learn,

    individual creativity and initiative will be rewarded as the new economy of the future will.
  • Mar 14 2013: @Libor - Interestingly this is what I had written yesterday - In the Societal Structure that we see around - Not all the time the "How arrived at" by investigating What , Who , Why leads one to the Aha !! moments.

    Though it seems the real CREATIVE POWER remain in “HoW” ONLY !!

    The Aha !! The WaHoo!! The Awe moments come through “HoW” often remain unnoticed due to current practices of emphasis on -What, Why, Who and so on – These are the True moments of INSIGHTS that can bring long lasting change – be it in the life of someone, or in a community or a country or for the entire humanity !!

    Do these moment occur like a big bang or constitute as a chain of small Aha !! WaHoo moments – happening all the time that eventually get combined as a BIG WaHoo !! Insightfulness – that manifests as a CHANGE !! That Affects All ? this needs to be seriously looked into
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    Mar 14 2013: Also the future will delve into the methods in a way as what Krishnamurti had said: To know HOW to think requires a great deal of penetration, understanding, but to know WHAT to think is comparatively easy. Our present education consists in telling us WHAT to think, it does not teach us HOW to think, how to penetrate, explore; and it is only when the teacher as well as the student knows how to think that the school is worthy of its name.
  • Mar 13 2013: Learning on an "as-needed" basis is the future of education. Students get excited to learn about a topic when they NEED to learn about it. Example: a student thinks that they might have a venereal disease because they have symptoms. Research into the the symptoms begins with a search of the internet leading to an increased knowledge-base for that student, regardless of whether they actually drill down to the 'correct' answer/diagnosis. Many students are bored in traditional education settings because they are forced to learn about subjects in which they have no vested interest. With all of the content one could ever want to learn already available via the internet, the need to learn that content prior to needing it is irrelevant which makes contemporary education irrelevant. The key to future education is to find ways to make learning efforts intertwined within the student's life. We all WANT to learn when we see the NEED for learning. Very few of us wake up each day planning on learning about something that is irrelevant to us currently. However, have an asteroid take aim at Earth and we all start to learn a bit more about physics and math. The successful education strategy of the future will necessarily meld learning with need.
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    Mar 11 2013: I reckon , after a year of transcendental contemplation on the learning and its future, it will be mimicking stimulation via mastery simulation. Mastery in this context is a remarkably well applied knowledge ( in some subject). In short, why some learn well and some not ? Like father like son: Nature? No, nurture i.e. nature of mimicking is in the core of nurturing. So how to distill the master's mindset? If you can get in the master's shoes you learn about the base-foundation they built their mastery on. This may take time yet further learning will go fairly easier and quicker. It is not all based on ambition and comparing. There are magic ingredients that defy words. Things start to fit and make sense. You follow not just words but thanks to these 'monkey' neurons you build the memory and thinking patterns as well as muscle patterns e.g. speech, abdominal, posture and breathing patterns that are important for foreign pronunciation. It is biomechanics and mindmechanics. Tagging the patterns and creating models (robots?) that are followable, then pointing out to the ways on how to use-follow the example is the first step to this future.
  • Mar 10 2013: Here is a great example for future schools: http://www.whenyouwish.com/project/maya-universe-academy (with their Ted-Video-Talk about it, but skip the low tone intro to 4:32)
    Generally I think there will be a great difference between traditional schools having no computer or better lets say internet connection like in rural areas there in Nepal. There they can establish such great school projects for free and even learning and living direct self-sufficient democracy from little on.
    On the other hand where they are connected to the web, they could even combine such models using the www.
    on a bigger scale for their project. Or would this be to a fast and corrupting the original idea? Please feedback - thanks!
  • Mar 10 2013: Iv been thinkin alot around this. Personally i think it should be alot more individual. When you go to school you orignially go there for the sake of education.

    However there are so many other aspects that you dont choose and that dousnt help you in your education. Social and psychological.
    It effects you and it could be very negative. If you want to meed people in a study group or get help from tracher sure, let that be an option, But i think that if people can learn for their own sake in their own way it can be so much easier and better.
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    Mar 9 2013: i don't know how education will change, but i know that it will be surrounded by fear mongering all the way. we will hear how these new methods will destroy society, make the next generation dumb or evil, and end the human civilization. the hyperbole will exceed your imagination, trust me on this.
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    Mar 8 2013: I feel 4, 6 and 8 year university degrees are obsolete; there is no longer a reason for it to take that long.
    2, 3 and 4 year degrees are the future, and the notion that universities need to teach kids to be PC/liberal is also obsolete.
    People learn much faster now than ever before, and being racist and/or sexist has gone the way of the 8-track prayer.

    Now they could "START" teaching students to garden, eat and cook healthy, exercise and maintain a home and budget, and that that would make graduates more desirable to employers.
    And isn’t that the only goal a university should have?
    • Mar 9 2013: Hi Don,
      As much as I would like to agree that university degrees should take less time than they already do--or that professional degrees like the M.D. should be accomplished in a shorter amount of time--I think that the ultimate goal of a university isn't to make students more desirable to employers but to create an educated, curious citizen of the rapidly changing, more globalized world we live in. That, unfortunately, takes time and exploration, diverting our attention from "core" classes that would allow us to receive degrees in a shorter amount of time and exposing our minds to other ideas. I don't think any student truly regrets taking classes that weren't technically devoted to their own goal; rather, they wish it hadn't taken so much time. From my experience I don't think that universities are all that concerned with political correctness anymore but more with promoting secularism and pluralism, so I'm curious as to what you mean by that?
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        Mar 11 2013: Hi Rachel,
        From the student’s view point getting desirable employment is the only thing that matters, and not to have their political and religious views suppressed.
        Let’s face is universities only support individual differing viewpoints as long as they agree with their viewpoints.

        And you need to consider what makes a desirable employee, besides the foundation of know the field the employee will be working in. The ability to communicate and work with others of different personalities is important, but should not be the primary goal focus of the education.
        So all political and religious classes should be switched to a national online class system, this would remove the teacher own personal views from the teaching.

        Also employees need to be creative and continually learn, and not just member how solve problems based on how it was done before. Let’s say you were hiring a civil engineer would you hire the kid that knows everything Isaac Newton and Archimedes had done or the kid that can figure out have to use Google-Earth and AutoCAD to improve the way your company is doing things.

        So I’m not saying drop the social classes; just that they need to be updated for the current times and to be reduced in importance and to rebalance the focus.

        P.S. Based on too many of the doctors I have seen, I think the M.D. degree program needs a major overhaul.
        • Mar 11 2013: Hello again Don,
          I do completely understand that from the student and employer's viewpoint, knowledge is the real commodity while critical thinking, etc. are great embellishments. However, I base much of my thinking on this point from a book called the Medici Effect (http://www.amazon.com/Medici-Effect-Elephants-Epidemics-Innovation/dp/1422102823/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363020806&sr=8-1&keywords=the+medici+effect). In essence, this book argues that in an ever-changing atmosphere of invention and development, true innovation can only come from intersections of fields rather than lateral improvement in fields. For example, combining perspectives from unrelated fields--like business administration and brain research--can sometimes elucidate concepts that were previously hidden from our eyes. If we're not exposed to those ideas and how to relate them to what we truly want to know, how else will we develop innovative ideas? Universities are businesses too, and I think more than anything that they want to know their students are capable of either developing that innovation at the school itself or giving them a good name for doing so. I think I'm trying to say that we might not want to reduce their focus, but instead emphasize the cross-applicability of different ideas and fields.
          I completely agree with you on the front of classical vs. applicable education; there's no use in reciting the derivation for an equation if you can't apply the equation itself, absolutely.
  • Mar 8 2013: Expect anything Self-learning has always been important, but it's a shame with the pooring of America (see Ravi Batra's book) It's going to be harder to do what we used to do.
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    Mar 8 2013: Jamia, That, unfortunately, is a political question. The US system is still closely aligned with the Bismark system to provide the needs of the military and industrial complex. The US system is very simple ... President Carter made Education a cabnet level post and took all of the power away from the states and the local boards ... very simply put ... we are under the golden rule ... He who has the gold .. rules. The US got their butts whipped by almost every country (89 total participated) in the PISA testing. Thus a national embarressment. Arne Duncan immediately implemented the Common Core Standards and everyone will implement them or funding will cease to your state. No pressure there. So here is the sad truth: 1) the power of education is the textbook publishers and the test writers; 2) the blackmale is at the executive level; 3) Because No Child Left Behind is still there, the states must also conduct high stakes testing; and 4) the teachers who have zero control and zero input now are told to stuff 50 pounds of education into a 5 pound bag and they will be rated on the students test scores in the high stake testing arena.

    Until we get a honest appraisal of the educational system and rennovate the system to include 21st century equipment and methods to meet 21st century needs and demands we will continue to be a political toy at the hands of elected officials who made campaign promises and throw money at a problem.

    I have a solution and it involves competent / non-competent learning through modular developed courses. This would also include two tier curriculums: 1) College prep; and 2) Industrial and manual trades.

    We have to stop thinking the answer is the goal and start believing that application is the goal.

    2000 characters limits my thoughts. I wish you well. Bob.
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      Mar 8 2013: Bob

      My understanding is that if you test that the teacher is forced to teach to the test. But at the same time what happens if you don't have testing?
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        Mar 8 2013: Pat, Perhaps this is as simple as terms used. How about if we change the terms "high stakes testing" as we now employ ... to read ... evaluation / demonstration / application ....

        That would assure us that a chef could actually prepare a meal ... not just recite the ingrediants. That the math students could apply formulas to real world situations .... and perhaps that students could not only read but comprehend.

        In my competent / non-competent theory .. I attempt to take the pressure off of the instructors and put the onus on the student. It is my opinion that schools offer a "opportunity" or maybe even "exposure" to a learning environment. I can force you to go to school but I cannot make you learn ... you can stand in a garage all day but that does not make you a car ... and a whole bunch of other silly sayings.

        Just as a thought ... does our current testing evaluate the student, the teacher, or the system?

        As always good to hear from you. I wish you well. Bob.
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          Mar 8 2013: Hi, I can't see the difficulty with testing in the new iWorld. The student proves they understand the subject and when they do, the next step becomes accessible. If a student wants to cheat, they will fail to compehend the next lesson. I know this is simplistic, but my point is this; Internet schooling will certainly take over as it is more cost effective and we'd best prepare for it.
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          Mar 8 2013: We are on same page when it comes to application.

          Should the test be on application?