Dan Fonseca

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With the internet leveling the information advantage gap, will universities play such a pivotal role in higher education in the future?

As a student at Northeastern University, I often find myself moving along in the shuffle of today's society. When I look back at the day's work I realize I often learn more through the internet (especially through TED) then I do with typical higher education and the bureaucracy that goes with it. The question I am asking, can you see the internet and the new online education platforms changing the way we learn as a collective? In the future, how will we learn best?

I have many thoughts but these thoughts don't do much without proper feedback...

How can you see higher education changing with the future?


-Dan Fonseca


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    Feb 18 2011: As a fellow college student struggling with a similar (if not the same) existential crisis, I can honestly say that I hope that the internet changes the educational system. It's no secret that reform is absolutely crucial, but it seems like that reform is happening slowly and organically, though the system itself doesn't seem to be reacting quickly enough to the changing learning methods of the youth. Sure, there are computers in many classrooms and many more teachers are embracing The Internet as a valid source of information, but really, the transformation that's occurring is a broadening of the term "expert". Suddenly, people don't have to write a critically-acclaimed book on green capitalism to be taken seriously in the classroom. Experience has become academically important.

    As of right now, the education system is brilliantly designed to create a working force for every sector, from the working-class jobs taken by already-bottom-class persons to the PhD.s injecting themselves and their knowledge back into the schools. What I feel like the internet has done, as you said, is level the playing field just a little bit more. Wikipedia puts everything into layman's terms for the layman because other laymen write it (in theory -- and apologies for the gendered language). You can literally connect with the authors of ideas in realtime -- they're not a name on a cover, but a voice ready to engage, and by engaging, further evolves both the reader's and the author's own ideas. Open, egalitarian flow of mass amounts of information instead of a one-directional call-and-response. Incredible.

    I hope hope hope that universities (and, really, all levels of schooling) start to realize the possibilities of cross-country, cross-national, cross-global realtime communication. All of a sudden, the words lift off the page an onto a face that moves, and better yet, speaks back. Entire classrooms conversing with each other, person-to-person. That's my vision, at least.
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    Feb 18 2011: Goddamnit. My apologies for the 80 billion comments. I never know when my replies are actually posting.

    (n00b with campus internet.)
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    Feb 18 2011: Looking forward to some great stuff! TED community don't fail me now!
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        Feb 18 2011: Hey Max,

        I really like that response! As we both mentioned, experience seems to be at the heart of true education. Most people understand that theory is one thing while practice is another, essentially the divide between "book" smart and "street" smart. With the internet filling in that "book" smart role incredibly well, education has to be taken to the streets, literally. The question is, how?

        As an American,I look to my European counterparts and their common "gap year" with envy. This may sound a little critical but if American society didn't coerce us to immediately starting college, I think we could learn a lot from a little time of to grow. Like I hinted at before, maybe use that time to travel? Write a book? Start a business? How about simply working and earning some cash?

        I just feel that society pushes us around so that we can walk out of an institution with a fancy piece of paper that says we payed an enormous amount of money in order to get a "so-so" education. Can't we be more efficient? More innovative? More creative? I think yes. I just want to know how can we do it? What are the models out there? We can certainly do better.



        p.s. I can't delete all those comments, maybe you can? If not hopefully TED will!