Megan Summers

Impact Entrepreneurship Group

This conversation is closed.

Is the internet, not formal education, the new great equalizer?

Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery. – Horace Mann

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    Oct 6 2011: As soon as they change the credentialization process, then yes. Right now it doesn't matter how 'educated' someone is, if they don't have a bought and paid for degree then their knowledge and know-how is almost worthless in the job market. If we had a system in which anyone could seek an education by whatever means worked best for them, whether it be the traditional college experience, online colleges, alternatives like khanacademy.org, apprenticeships, on the job training, or whatever...and a separate credentializing entity that did all the examining and awarding of degrees, then we would all be better served and an education wouldn't have to cost an arm and a leg. It's not as if universities are a repository of exclusive knowledge. A person could potentially sit in a library and become more educated than the typical college graduate.

    And just think of the potential for innovation across the globe both on and offline this would create.
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      Oct 6 2011: Agreed and the powers that be may fight that process. It would be nice to see the internet added as a tool and some kind of credential system in place
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        Oct 7 2011: I think that the K-12 system will change organically from within as more and more parents, teachers, administrators become more demanding of workable solutions...like the concept of flipping the classroom promoted by The Khan Academy. However, fundamental changes to so called "Higher Learning" can only happen from outside the current system. When a for profit organization can simply purchase a struggling private college that has existing accreditation in order to be able to award degrees to their graduates, no matter the quality of education, while Khan Academy (and others), a non-profit organization, lacks this ability, you realize just how much influence the profit motive has in that system. We must put pressure on our elected officials in order to orchestrate this change.
    • Oct 8 2011: I beeive the key words in your stsatement are: BOUGHT AND PAID FOR.
      'Formal education' has a pre-defined cost atttched to it, with no tangible result for its payment, other that a piece of paper, (bearing someone else's say-so), a confirmation that we've jumped through the hoops required to be permitted to receive that document.
      Also, keep in mind that these institutions are FINANCIALLY operated to turn a profit, (the purpose of a business is to turn a profit, AT ANY EXPENSE, using any and all means).
  • Oct 7 2011: These questions always strike me as bizarre and myopic. They are so self-centic to those of us who live and work amongst the poorest people of the world. What relevance does this false dichotomy, this binary between the internet and formal education, have to us? None. In Timor-Leste, according to the governments' latest statistics, 90% of the population use firewood for cooking, almost 70% live in serious to extreme poverty and less than 0.2%, mainly government workers and NGOs, have internet connections. Great equalizer huh? The great equalizer is feeding starving people, demanding access to decent health conditions, protecting the poor from exploitation and so on. Please try not to fetishize a technology that is overwhelmingly servicing an elite few and is most often the province of chatter with little real impact As we say here 'talk does not cook rice'.
    • Oct 7 2011: I agree with the sentiment here. These types of discussions highlight to me how educated, middle-class Americans are, by and large, so out of touch with the economic and sub-cultural reality of not just the world outside the U.S., but much of own citizens. We need to focus on first things, first. Water, sanitation, basic nutrition are still not part of the equation for billions on this planet.
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      Oct 7 2011: anyway i think that internet access exists even in poor areas. But the Internet does not address their problems.
      There are places to learn math or quantum mechanics, but I am not aware of a place to learn how to grow food in a dry area or how to get a microcredit.
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      Oct 7 2011: I'm repeating myself here, but check out the "Hole in the Wall School." If this were put into place (from donor computers), maybe the people would only be dependent on Western NGOs for a generation or two instead of much longer. They can learn about farming and microcredit on the internet, I think our money would be well spent putting these "Hole in the Wall" computers into villages and letting the education spread organically. Why not have privileged Americans raise money for water pumps, farming, AND donate computers and money for the internet. That way they could have clean water and eventually learn to maintain it themselves. Let the kids lead the way. This isn't an either/or proposition; if Western schools each adopted a village (and enjoyed the relationships and cultural exchange this would allow), we could very quickly drastically increase the literacy rate in a few generations AND being working on the problems you mention. And thank you for the work you are doing.
      • Oct 8 2011: Stephanie, thanks for your comment. I know the Hole in the Wall people. We a struggling at the moment with a prior basic - electricity. About 82% of Timorese do not have access to electricity. Solar power is coming slowly, donating and installing would be a magnificent help before or at the same time as computers. Generators are most often highly polluting, difficult to maintain and of course develop a cycle of debt - money for the petrol or diesel. Its solar power kits and computers that are needed, ideally together but if not solar kits first for my money.
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      Oct 7 2011: @Richard: Ummm...this discussion is not for 3rd world people without access to the Internet, so calling it myopic or self-centric IS bizarre. Of COURSE it's irrelevant to those living without the basics of climate control and (fairly) reliable electicity and microwave dinners and filtered water available on tap--or in bottles from the supermarket. This discussion isn't for those folks any more than a discussion of the relative dangers of cholera vs. malaria or leprosy vs. the plague are applicable to most of us here in America. Those folks are not going to "catch up" with the industrialized or information-based economies of the rest of the world no matter how much education OR Internet access we provide--at least, not in my lifetime. To those of us writing from comfy chairs with laptops over wireless connections sipping a non-fat, low-foam Chai Tea Latté (with a splash of Pumpkin Spice!) in Starbucks, however, the discussion is very relevant. I've heard a lot of rumblings, lately, about the lessened value of formal education, and how it has a reduced and lengthened time to recoup the ROI, and a lot of sage, elder folks are giving advice to young folks about the alternative educations available, like vocational schools and such. But I'll tell you this: as a society, we still respect (and for our leaders, we EXpect) those degrees. Consequently, the difference in where you will end up in life with and without a degree is going to remain large for quite some time, Internet or no. Further, the most valuable things I learned at school during my years of formal education were NOT the knowledge itself (most of which has a shelf-life and hard expiration date) but my learning about a larger world through encounters with people from other cultures, my skills at time management and prioritization, the moral and ethical guidance from my instructors, the ability to organize thoughts and speak and interact with my fellow students, teachers and those I mentored along the way.
      • Oct 8 2011: Ummm Thomas.... a conversation point about people who don't have access to internet because of poverty is not relevant to you, your laptop and your armchair, and by extension others? You do them a disservice, read their comments.

        Your statement "This discussion isn't for those folks any more than a discussion of the relative dangers of cholera vs. malaria or leprosy vs. the plague are applicable to most of us here in America" is tragically self-centred. Look around you.There are people FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD commenting about situations in both the 'developed' and 'underdeveloped' worlds. Must an issue discussed here only be for "most of us here in America"! Are you a site administrator?

        Re your "cholera vs. malaria" comment. Sure some health issues don't affect you and me directly, like malaria, which isn't a problem where I am from - Australia. However I happen to believe, alongside millions of others, that just because a problem doesn't touch me directly, it doesn't mean I shouldn't or can't discuss, care, donate, advocate, take action and so on. To do otherwise would be the very definition of myopia, also known as nearsightedness.
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    Oct 6 2011: The internet is a powerful tool in self-education. I personally am only in university because I need an Honors/ PhD to do research, but when I actually study, I prefer searching the internet or reading books and journal articles as opposed to relying on lectures.

    I can't help but feel that the rigidity of high school (even in Australia) wasted my potential. I spent most of my youngest and brightest years learning about things I didn't care about and would never use again. So little of high school stuck that before I started university I spent months re-learning maths from decimals to calculus, and my main resource was — you guessed it — the internet.
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      Oct 6 2011: Hi Desi,

      Thanks for the input! I'm in a similar situation in Canada. When there is a multitude of information at your fingertips, I find it hard to have to learn topics out of context (ie. learning about developing countries from a comfortable lecture hall or statistics for research three years before I'd be doing the research).

      Take care,

      Megan
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        Oct 6 2011: Exactly! Context and application are a big deal. If what I'm learning seem a bit abstract, I just pop over to read ScienceDaily and all of those concepts are grounded in the tangible.

        Sometimes it makes you feel bad though. I read something about Todd Rider and friends creating a drug that could target and destroy basically any virus by finding the viruses' double-stranded RNA. I thought, "Leave some for me!"
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      Oct 6 2011: Hi Desi ... I think the point that needs to be made is that there are levels of education (Elementary or Primary, Secondary and Tertiary) - and you feel that your secondary education was of little value to you. However, it is the secondary stage - where you were assisted (although quite possibly not with the greatest attention to affective domain) to make the neural connections that you are now using at the Tertiary Level. In some ways, its a shame that metacognition is not given a higher priority in high schools - although to some students that in itself may lead to resentment as yet another "irrelevant" subject.

      I don't know what subject, or what university, you are enrolled - but I'd nearly bet money that if you're in a science rather than liberal arts faculty, you're going to find as you travel the journey that the Internet will not meet your tertiary education needs as much as your campus's library OPAC.
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        Oct 6 2011: I understand the point you're making in the first paragraph, but I'd venture to disagree. Whatever I learned in high school, I learned from the many, many books I read and from off-topic class conversations that my teachers liked to have, and very little from the schooling itself. I generally consider my 'real' secondary education to have taken place when I completed my apprenticeship and became a qualified Pastry Chef; in the battleground of a kitchen, I learned more about myself and my limitations than I could have in any other setting.

        You're right in saying that the OPAC is useful (I am now in Biomedical Science), but even this is being supplanted by online resources. Sites like PLoS ONE and other journal databases provide easy access to relevant journal articles, there are many professionals who provide online resources (some universities have publicly accessible tutorials that I've found through Google), and even my uni library provides pre-paid access to journal articles, chemical handbooks, and so on.
    • Oct 6 2011: Desi, I agree with your take on formal education vs. the Internet. Most of what I use to make my living is self-taught; I did take college courses but they were mostly of the general education variety and not specialized. Do i ever use what I learned? Maybe. Some of the business management classes were helpful to understand people and their motivation. Most of my technical classes were outdated by the time I took them.

      I have toyed with the idea of returning to college to complete my formal education, as an increasing number of employers are requiring that piece of paper saying you have done your time and paid your fees. However, I am about five years from retirement, and the cost of completing my education would put me into debt at a time where debt is a real issue. Therefore, I will continue my self-directed learning and hope that more enlightened employers will continue to hire talented personnel without a formal diploma.
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        Oct 6 2011: There's a lot of value in what I'm learning presently so I have no real beef with university. The Australian Government also subsidises science students very heavily since this country has a shortage of them, which means I only have debt of around $5,500 per year. That's also very nice. =D

        I suppose what I'm saying is that I wish high school had the open-endedness of university. I would have gone hard into the sciences and technology instead of getting mired in the mess of postmodernist English.
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      Oct 6 2011: I am from a village close to Frankfurt and 21 years old studying Biophysics in 3rd semester. Im my experience school gives an idea about what exists out there. This is its Job and I think it is enough, that it is not the main purpose of University to do the same think on a deeper level for the sake of forgetting it again because I can't apply it to a real problem. I am glad, that it was no all day school, because then i would not have my IT skills I have today. I hat also some teachers who did some very free projects in History or discussions in english, math or politics which were a great experience. But all the facts and skills i got from the internet.

      Now I am at University and learning about electrodynamics for the 2nd time. Why? Well to forget and relearn it again when i might need it after Masters or PhD. I am only glad, that then I can use the same material from khan academy to do it.

      @ Amanda: As a young student, my experience is that the internet can replace University at least to Bachelors. And it definitely replaces my campus library, because a good part of the Books are available as PDF. I could need some help with learning biomolecular methods in the Lab, but that has to wait till masters (if i am lucky). So right now University almost useless besides connecting to other people during lectures. I am curious what tertiary education needs I have to expect, which can not be met by the Internet.
      The only thing I can think of are face to face discussions (although ted is doing a nice job here) and lab material + experience, which is not accessible to me and this will not change in near future.

      @ Desi: I always had some feeling that it is good to experience a real world problem to realize that the basics are missing. But I could't give this feeling a name. Context and Application hits the nail on the head. I think I am in the same situation: I am at University to get a PhD which I can put in my CV.
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        Oct 7 2011: Besides making information available, the internet should also be credited as a vehicle for inspiration just as books are. I decided to go to university after reading a book (Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time'), and two videos (Brian Greene's What's The Big Idea? speech [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tu-_PvllpJc], and one of Richard Feynman's interviews [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cj4y0EUlU-Y].

        These two men, along with many others I've learned of along the way (like Norman Borlaug), provide me with excellent role models as a person and as an aspiring scientist.
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          Oct 7 2011: Read the same book and i really like Feynman :-D
  • Oct 7 2011: I gain more as a independent learner in a year (with a full time job and family on the side) than I did in four years of undergrad studies at a top state university. I have found that it is access and reduction of friction in that access that makes the biggest difference. e-books, audio books, iPads, internet TV (multiple devices), social media, web apps, mobile apps all make learning better directed and yet broader at the same time. They also allow me to learn while on my morning run, driving in my car, in-between kid schedules and when I just want to relax in front of a good documentary on Netflix or TED talk on Hulu. It is my hope and belief that an increasing number of individuals will see that there is a world of knowledge, communities and support to self-direct a richer more meaningful and individual education than could ever be achieved in a one-size fits all institutional environment. I have a 10 year old and a 6 year old. I hope when they are of college age (maybe sooner), I can say, I put your college money in a trust fund for you, let's see what you can learn.
    • Oct 7 2011: One thing I learned at school and am very grateful for is the knowledge of how to learn and how to question what i learn about and apply my own moral filters. That knowledge I treasure every day and I hope that I am able to transmit some of it to my children.
      Everything else is personal effort. The internet provides both new tools and new libraries but to have it really make a difference one needs to know how to best benefit from it.
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        Oct 7 2011: You're absolutely right. Schooling is essentially teaching to learn but shouldn’t be constrained solely to learning institutions.
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    Oct 6 2011: This is one of my favorite topics! I am homeschooling my 7 year old gifted son with severe ADHD. He also happens to be on the Autism Spectrum, but he's quite high functioning. There simply isn't a place for him in public school that would provide an intellectual challenge AND make accommodations for his developmental delays. We tried private schools, occupational therapy, behavioral therapy, and even medication (no psychotropics). He simply needed a more individualized curriculum. Luckily, the internet, mentors, homeschool co-ops, other homeschooling parents, and various group activities allow me to provide much more enrichment than would be possible in a traditional environment.

    He can't write a paragraph (don't blame the homeschooling, this is our first couple of months attempting it, he was in an expensive private school from age 3 to 6), but loves Chemistry, Cosmology, Engineering, etc. He is able to learn about rather advanced science (for a 2nd grader), age appropriate math (he's a bit ahead), history that many public schools don't even cover at this age, and Language Arts that would normally be taught to younger children as he develops the fine motor skills and ability to focus that he needs to write properly.

    We are not religious or what most people would imagine a "typical homeschooler" to be, yet we have found many families just like us, taking a secular approach, and offering our children all that they need outside of the system. It's fascinating watching my son's amazing brain develop and experience the world, and I feel quite privileged that I'm able to do it.
    • Oct 6 2011: Hi Stephanie,

      My parents homeschooled my brother for a similar reason: severe dyslexia. He did not learn how to read functionally until he was 10 years old, but that didn't stop my mom from providing him with a highly customized education where he especially excelled in math.He is a helicopter pilot (and newlywed) now and a pretty brilliant guy.

      She told me recently that she experienced a lot of worry and guilt about homeschooling him. Now we agree that it made all of the difference in protecting my brother's self-esteem and initiative from a system that could have damaged it because of his unique brain.

      Good luck!
      Abby
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        Oct 7 2011: It's nice to hear a success story! We are learning, and adapting as we go, but I'm so glad we chose to give it a try. My curious, very intelligent, loving son, was beginning to hate everything about school and felt that there was something "wrong" with him. Simply because he couldn't sit at a desk for 8 hours a day. We are hoping that he will learn to love learning again, and that we can encourage his interests, creativity, and thirst for knowledge. I want him to be a lifelong learner, who knows how to find, judge, and understand good sources of information. We are using the many amazing tools available today, from educational apps on the iPad to Khan Academy, to ebooks. They all serve to get him interested and allow him to approach learning in the way he needs to as his brain develops. Am I positive this is the right decision? No. But I know that what was happening in a traditional school would never work for him. I hope we are able to find a school that will work for him some day (and plan to work to bring schools here that could accommodate him). Thanks again!
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      Oct 6 2011: Have you used khanacademy.org? You can find a TED Talk about it.
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        Oct 7 2011: I replied to you, but it didn't appear in the thread, may have accidently used the general reply box, so reposting: Yes! We love it. We don't use it as a base curriculum, as it is a bit dry for a 2nd grader as far as math those, but I consider it an invaluable resource and use it often. We also enjoy watching TED videos. Our favorites are about the "Hole in the Wall School" and the Redwoods. The iPad has been amazing for science and math, my son has taken quite the interest in the Periodic Table, atoms, and molecules.
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    Oct 6 2011: I think presently that someone who is educated enough to understand how to use the internet and be able to detect truth from assertion, can easily use it too educate themselves further. It's a case of being multimedia smart, if there is such a term.
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    Oct 4 2011: An interesting article pertaining to this conversation. Stanford's Sebastian Thrun is offering his course "Introduction to Artifical Intelligence" free over the internet. Non-Stanford students will get the same lectures, assignments, and exams, but a "Certificate of Accomplishment" rather than a Stanford credit. Does this make you think differently about the future of formal education?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/03/opinion/the-university-of-wherever.html?pagewanted=2&src=recg
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      Oct 4 2011: It seems to me that, in this case, the format is still "formal". Its delivery is merely expanded.. As mentioned in another string, it is the means by which the instructor synthesizes and distills the material that is the essence of "formal" instruction. As far as the availability of MIT or Stanford courses goes; it's great to have these distinguished professors ideas on a subject. On the other hand, their ideas are not the final word. There are even instructors at community colleges that have insight also.
      Because the big name schools have a greater ability to distribute their content, it will likely cause more equalization, but not with necessarily good results. More students get exposed to fewer voices. This also renders the value of a less-than-Stanford education worth less.
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      Oct 4 2011: As one of my favorite professors used to say: "Yes and no." I worry that a formal education might become more elitist because it will be economically less possible for more and more people to attend in the flesh. Going online will be the only way to get access for most and a "Certificate of Accomplishment" is like an honorable mention (how does it stack up to an actual degree?). I wonder about what is lost when we strip education of its face-to-face component. I know I would not be the person I am today without the interpersonal engagement with smart, energetic, and compassionate professors that I was lucky to experience. At the same time, I can imagine some engaging ways to organize an online class. I also wonder if the push for virtual learning will have a streamlining effect on formal education.
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    Oct 1 2011: I am a college student and I feel like I benefit more from online learning resources than in the class room. There is no distractions. www.khanacademy.org saved me in my calculus and chemistry courses.
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    Oct 8 2011: Internet is the ultimate democratization.

    Everything it touches gets democratized by design.

    Education isn't the exception.

    So, yeah... no doubt about it
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    Oct 8 2011: We have become a nation obsessed with needing to prove ourselves to someone else, rather than encouraging innovation, creativity, and risk-taking.

    I am not against college, I am against what it has become.

    A degree has become a permission slip to middle class status, and is no longer about personal enrichment. Anyone who does not obtain one is seen as unintelligent and lazy by many people in society.

    Currently, academia is designed around a specific kind of student. - the students who obtain high GPAs and have high SAT scores. Not everyone is suited for college and not everyone has the resources and support network to ensure that they perform well enough in their academic careers to get into a good school, let alone obtain a degree.

    High achievers usually come from families which value education, but some are not so lucky.

    Will you say to the people who were not lucky enough to have had support, that they do not deserve a chance at having a good life?

    Some people make better artists and entrepreneurs than academics, and many learn in different ways.

    While I understand the usefulness of a college degree, we are creating a large underclass of people, many of whom are intelligent, and hard-working because the belief that unless you have a bachelor's or higher, you are incapable of doing anything worthwhile in life, which is quite false.

    I have known people in my life who are doing just fine without it, and many who do have loads of education and experience that are struggling.

    It is more about the individual than anything else.

    When did America become a country that valued a piece of paper as the only way to obtain a decent standard of living over people forging their own path in life?

    Maybe Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Bill Gates tdidn't deserve happiness or success in life because they didn't finish college.

    That is the message we send people.

    It's time to rethink it.
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    Oct 7 2011: I framed this question on Mr. K's Classroom (Facebook) as: "Should we be putting our resources towards 'internet for all', rather than trying to provide a formal education for all? The Classroom thinks so."

    We have limited resources and formal education is expensive. I love the comments about Sugata Mitra's S.O.L.E.'s and hearing people acknowledge the unique qualities every human being brings to this world. We are born learners, we create structure and meaning for ourselves from the time we are born. We are then conditioned by what is known as 'formal education' - it's beginning earlier and earlier in people's lives. We're conditioned to think the way we're told to think, and know the things we're told are important for our future. But we can determine relevance through observation, and we are keen observers until that talent is destroyed by schooling. We determine relevance through meaningful social interactions, but we're often asked to push those interactions to the end of our day, when our 'learning' is done. I know there are thousands of incredible teachers around the world who don't embrace the destruction of our natural talents and individuality, but who still feel stifled by a formal education system demanding standardization and 'basic skills'.

    In the future, we will learn through connection to the actual world, not The Classroom. We will structure our environments so that young people can both learn and contribute to the world around the them, much as young people did for thousands of years before formal education came into existence. Having access to the internet deserves our attention - trying to get kids around the world into a 'formal classroom' does not. Do we need educators to act as guides, servants, explainers, coaches, mentors, etc.? Of course we do. Do we need to bring people of all ages, across all nations, together to learn what they are most driven to learn? Without a doubt.

    I'm an educator. I don't need a formal school.
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    Oct 7 2011: I am also trying to acquire a degree to research. For me, that is all about the reason that I work so hard to get through those classes. Aside from it, I see little value of sitting in lecture halls while my imagination could explore many topics that are needed to be solved throughout the world.

    In addition, bureaucarcy of educational institutions are incredibly stegnant, ineffective, and slow espectially pertaining to innovative ideas and usage of technology in education. Formal education must reform its existing way to teach so that it will be absorbant to the speed of technology advancement and make paralleled approaches (and solutions) to teach students.

    Of course, currently learning in the internet realm seems little organized in various ways, but it is a powerful learning tool at least to individuals who are willing to find effective materials for meeting their intellectual needs.
  • Oct 7 2011: This tool we use daily will continue to transform the world! Self education can be organized into communities of learners who make commitments to one another to learn new ways of interacting in the world, inventing things, streamlining processes and solving collective problems. For students age 8 on up, the tool is remarkable. Caring adults will still need to tend to those who must learn to use the internet in order that they may learn to read and write. These adults do not have to be teaching from a brick and mortar building however. Unless we embrace and understand the power of virtual learning environments, we will waste our resources on trying to improve a system that has outlived its usefulness. For those concerned that our students will grow up without social skills, or that teachers are replaced by computers, I suggest you consider teaching the skills needed to work socially through the internet. Teachers are even more important with this type of learning. Your job will simply change. I have been in public schools for the past 25 years as a K-2 teacher, reading specialist, Special Education Director and Principal of a K-8 school. Life happened and I needed o stay home from work this year to support my t3 year old twins. I was able to find a job teaching K-2 grade online through on online charter school. These kids thrive!!!!! Socially and academically. I am so convinced that we need a new instructional model. The students I work with have a Learning Coach in their home with whom they work with daily. I realize, this is not possible for everyone. Yet I am willing to investigate this model deeply. Students in this environment are working at their own pace in a proficiency based model., much like the Khan Academy Human contact with teachers happen minimally two times a week. There has got to be a way to retool our education model and honor all of the teachers out there who work their tails off each day. This is an important discussion!
    • Oct 7 2011: I think we need teachers more than ever, school...not so much.
      • Oct 7 2011: There are a few dimensions on this topic. Tooling aside, I think there is a role for both formal education, the village and the Internet. In a perfect scenario, formal education would teach you how to learn, the Internet would provide the learning material and the village would give you the values and the common sense you need to filter your learning.
    • Oct 7 2011: "I was able to find a job teaching K-2 grade online through on online charter school. These kids thrive!!!!! Socially and academically."

      I am curious as to what you mean by "thrive", especially regarding "socially"... hell, I am curious as to the whole process of teaching young students online.... if it is anything like an online college course, any metrics used to judge "social quality" that I imagine teachers using now (observing behaviors, interactions, etc)... well, how does that happen online for younger students?

      And, not to be offensive, but please consider breaking up your text a bit. You are presenting a wall of text that is difficult to read.
      • Oct 7 2011: No offense taken. The post was not as well composed as it could have been. Thriving in this environment is quantified by formative and summative assessment data with regard to academic learning.

        Judging social quality in the virtual setting is not that much different from teacher observations in the standard classroom. Students are still required to actively participate in class, take turns speaking and follow the directions of the adults, Each child is taught to use formal conventions such as saying" hello" and "good-bye" when coming into or exiting the classroom setting. .

        Additionally, students are encouraged to use the 'chat' feature before class starts and for 5 minutes after class ends. With young students, their learning coach is present and helps with the typing. This dialog is monitored by the teacher and mini lessons in social skills are taught during class when needed.

        Parents and teachers also discuss the need for students to be involved with groups of children in some way (sports, church, clubs. etc..). Finally, monthly outings allow teachers to observe the children interacting with one another in person.







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        • Oct 7 2011: To be clear, I am NOT a teacher, and I would not consider myself "well read" on lot of pressing education issues... just wanted to get that out there

          But what you're describing seems like such a drastic shift that, to some degree, makes me very nervous.

          I know that there have been examples here of how this has greatly benefited many students who would have struggled under "traditional" education in a "traditional" school, but we have to keep in mind that there ARE policy makers who are highly supportive of a greater shift to increased technological use in American public education (I've heard some Reps talking about the possibilities of actually reducing the number of days at school, etc, because of the possibilities for children learning from home via computers and the Internet).

          So, while I see that you do emphasize, encourage, and teach some of the basic social behaviors (saying hello, goodbye, etc), I feel these are very, very different online than in real life.

          For example, in a traditional school, a student may greet another, notice they seem "down" a bit, and try to cheer them up.

          Further, how do you know if a student struggles with helping others? Who is shy? Who might be struggling with an issue at home?

          This all depends on the exact format of online learning; I am unaware of the details, but if it is chat-based, then it seems very restrictive. Saying "hello" is very different from learning how to share, how to be truly friendly, etc.

          And while you do observe once a month, that seems like a very limited interaction to truly understand the individual student, help them adjust, see their progress, and all the other things that good teachers SHOULD be doing for our younger students.

          I'm not saying that this can't be done, at all, for anyone... but I have quite a few questions and concerns, particularly regarding how a shift like this may affect the social learning of younger students.
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      Oct 7 2011: Laurie, I would love to hear more about K-2 reading, we have just started homeschooling using a lot of tech, but of course, traditional books, workbooks, and texts as well (we adapt them to our needs, no busy work). My son is 7 ADHD/Aspie and struggling with writing and reading comprehension. He understands beautifully when read to and his decoding skills for reading are at a 7th grade level, but little comprehension when reading himself. He also has trouble with inferential speech/reading and has an especially hard time with writing. I am currently struggling with attempting to push him to keep the skills he's already developed or backing off for a bit and just reading with him a lot to give his brain time to develop a bit as we use other tools. He loves science and knows quite a bit, and is pretty good at math (definitely ahead of grade level), but can't write a paragraph and has trouble coming up with a creative sentence and keeping it in his head long enough to put it down on paper while paying attention to capitalization, grammar, and punctuation. He has had OT for handwriting, but I think it's made him hate it more. I do encourage fine motor activity. I would love to hear any suggestions you have and your opinion. My email is Learning Inspire (at) gmail.
  • Oct 6 2011: Neither is really an equalizer. Both limit access to their resources to select members of the population.

    As far as education is concerned the internet is a far superior tool. The bureaucracy involved in formal education makes the inclusion of new subject matter a painstaking process. So much effort and time is wasted making sure that the new information is not offensive or contrary to previous information. On the internet the information is presented and immediately subjected to individual scrutiny. True it is not always the scrutiny of experts, but that is not to say that people with knowledge on the matter are not among those who participate.

    A hybridization of the two would be the ideal. Formal education based on information shared through the internet.

    Still not an equalizer as the information is not readily available to all.
  • Oct 5 2011: There's no reason why formal education can't be symbiotic with the internet.

    If we're talking about formal education versus simple access to vast quantities of information, then the latter can only go so far.

    Formal education is valuable for it's structured approach - in a world where vast quantities of information is available at the finger tips, the ability to find and digest the relevant information is an important skill - one that only very few would develop naturally without external input.

    Additionally, accreditation is an issue - how do we know what you know in a quick and easy manner if you don't have the necessary accreditation? Part of this means that we relook at assessment - we should use a quick, fast, iterative feedback and dynamic data driven approach to assessment and accreditation.

    Imagine in the future, where we apply a search engine like algorithm to the quality of people's posts - people who have their comments upranked in discussions are more likely to know what they're talking about - but those upranks are weighted on the basis of other factors including the types of discussion and the rank of the person doing the upping - not unlike what google did for weblinks back in the late 90s.

    I think sites like Khan Academy and MIT open course ware show us a future where internet based education can be deep, meaingful, powerful, effective and efficient for all involved.
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    Oct 7 2011: I believe that education at all levels going forward needs to incorporate an "immersion" approach. Life is just getting too complicated to learn it in a two-dimensional kind of way (classroom). The world is now small enough and connected enough to become the new "classroom". We just need to figure out how to make the transformation.
  • Oct 7 2011: If, by the internet, you include all current forms of "social media", then the answer MUST be yes.
    The free-flow of ideas, in both directions, (such as this discussion), has the potential to surpass everything the human species has dreamed up, to date.
    We are on the verge of being a QUANTUM SOCIETY, each individual allowed to learn what they please, and share all that education with all others who wish to know.
    No rules.
    I've learned more from TED talks than anything I was ever exposed to, before the 'internet revolution'.
    ALL of my teachers, (back in the day), had 5-year-old teachers' editions, with the 'answers' in the back, (they didn't know the truth of anything). And the info they had was outdated.
    The biggest problem with the internet, is in the verification of these stated 'facts', the ability to put these 'facts' into an appropriate context, and the control of who is 'allowed' to have this knowledge.
    Anyone with a keyboard and internet connection can Google anythiing, and get a precise, one-meaning answer to anything.
    The issue becomes 'how correct is this information, to YOUR specific query.
    But we still require some sort of formal education system, to teach us how to use, or not use this technique of learning and teaching.
    I do not believe we (as a society) will ever allow it to fully replace our antiquated form of educational system.
    The internet makes us all equal, yet, for the most part, anonymous.
    We all have access to the same information. Sometimes it's mildly inaccurate (in context), massively incorrect (wrong), or outdated (from old posts, that cannot be removed).
    But at least we ALL have it, equally.
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    Oct 7 2011: For the young ones some direction and structure is required and craved - not to rule out the importance of spontaneity and creativity and self directed learning. I am amazed at the extra learning my children acquire on the internet through my neglect. But surely we must work in the group and bounce of other human beings. Get bruises in the playground and notice Jimmy's peculiar behaviour. The stand up in front of 30 kids and teach has always had its drawbacks but the physical/social life the traditional school offers remains important for brain development.
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    Oct 7 2011: It won't completely replace traditional institutions, but it will change them.

    I'm mostly hoping that it will decrease the costs of education, especially general credits.

    As for my own experience, I'm in a computer related field and it's a continually expanding industry. It's generally better to learn online versus an institution because of what I do. Schools simply can't keep up with industry standards.

    It still has a long way to go. Many online resources lack structure or decent documentation. Someone learning computer science would have a bit of a difficult time starting from scratch off of the internet (not saying it doesn't happen regularly) without some sort of curriculum to follow. Guides in how to progress education in a building block manner don't really exist right now. What programming language is good to start with? Do I follow along with some sort of programming logic guide? Do I start with something basic like scripting for the web or do I dive in head first into API development? How do you even know how to ask these kinds of questions without any foundation?

    $22k USD just to have a foundation is idiotic though. (It's what I did.) In some ways it was nice to have ground to start from, but I've learned far more online than I ever did in college - and it wasn't for a lack of drive. There's very little in my field that can't be sought independently.

    A doctor on the other hand... not so much.
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    Oct 7 2011: Formal education has a very successful structure and track record. But there are two very important sides to this conversation that should reflect the two main streams of education that support the jobs within our economies.

    Intellectual education and academia are responsible account for most University Programs in Canada. Many of these students have offices, that collect dust along with supervisors that corresponding via email. The majority of their work, research and management takes place right on their laptops.

    On the other side we have tradesmen that train at a variety of institutions ranging from interactive online classrooms to workshops and work placements. These students are receiving hands on training from seasoned professionals in their industry that pass down their craft like a legacy.

    I guess I am saying that there is a time an place for different educational institutions. As our population grows and different generations reach retirement, it will strain our economy as needs fluctuate. For instance, how many new universities in Canada have been built in the last 5 years vs the amount of Colleges. Consider that in tandem that the baby boomers are gearing up for retirement.

    Internet has eliminated the need for many types of education that are becoming common knowledge and is raising the standards for what we deem an expert or prof. Im certainly glad to have the wealth of information at my finger tips... I am also certainly glad that when I have surgery, my anesthesiologist did not get his degree on you-tube.
  • Oct 6 2011: I think the Internet is a great tool, but education is still the great equalizer. As noted inEli Pariser's book ,"The Filter Bubble," the internet is filtering information away from us that might not be to our liking. As as a result, the Internet is making us more segregated. Formal education forces us to socialize often with people who don't agree with us.

    A friend of mine is the head of education at our local Science Center. She takes low-income kids (most non-white) and teaches them science. In return, the kids work at the Science Center after school Her biggest challenge in getting them to think that they can succeed because "whites" have been told different rules. The kids dont' think they can succeed because they don't know the rules. Her team spends a lot of time showing themthat there are no rules.

    The great equalizer is understanding. Formal education gets us closer to that goal, but it's not perfect by any means. I'm afraid that our society is moving away from understanding and into a world where we only hang out with similiarly-minded people. That will keep us fromsucceeding.
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    Oct 6 2011: The Internet is a phenomenal tool but I expect that, certainly at this point, it is the opposite to an equalizer, especially versus a formal education.

    At the outset, a formal education equips one with a set of fundamental tools that enable the use of the Internet. For instance, one can hardly imagine using the Net without already being able to read and I don't expect that, without having the ability to do so, one would be able to navigate the Web to get to any educational resources aimed at illiteracy.

    Beyond basic literacy, one needs to be 'computer literate'. To be computer literate access to a computer or, at the very least, access to a mobile device is required. Either that computer or mobile device needs to be connected to the Internet for it to become any sort of connected educational resource. And that requires money, infrastructure, or public access. Even then, Web literacy or the ability to use the World Wide Web in such a manner that it is useful as an educational tool is a final hurdle to overcome.

    For those of us that have had the privilege to grow with the Internet in such a way that it seems utterly ubiquitous, it is difficult to imagine life without it and difficult to imagine not knowing how to use it. I presume a lot of us would have trouble functioning without the ability to access the Web for quick answers, updates, and at-your-fingertips entertainment. But, even among those of us that have been using the Net for years, many scarcely understand it let alone use it as a learning tool.

    For the Net to become a great and sweeping equalizer, everyone would have to have access, interest, and literacy (and similarly robust broadband). I'm not sure formal education has been much of an equalizer either. Very similar issues apply.
  • Oct 6 2011: The idea of a great equalizer rests upon universal access. Access to the wealth of wisdom and knowledge available on the internet relies on bridging the technological divide and finding a way to get young minds to the right sites, neither of which has been accomplished. Even if both conditions are met, relying on the internet as a primary source of education leaves out aspects of traditional instruction that are uniquely nourishing and effective.

    Educational systems as a whole - and especially in the United States - are fractured and unequal in what they provide to whom.

    I have taught in both traditional and nontraditional (unschooling) settings, and I don't see "formal education" as our current system, but rather as the guarantee of high quality, free, public education for all.

    The balance wheel of the social machinery is broken. Figuring out how to increase access to an uncensored web, and how to enable students to reach out beyond the biases of their environment and the internet's wild west to reach useful information, is an essential tool in fixing that machinery. However the guarantee of universal education cannot be ripped out without leaving a whole in society, and a balance wheel without a hub.

    The answer is therefore: Formal Education and the Internet hold - together - the potential to become a great equalizer that lives up to the promise of Horace Mann's quote.
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      Oct 6 2011: Agreed - except one addition: We need more inter-cultural education - how to understand communication with other cultures. In the global world this is not a nice-to-have competence as it used to be national closed markets. it is the key factor in my experience to bring the power of knowledge on the street - without it... very very difficult.
      You get an idea of the value of cultural competences if you keep in mind that the fusion of large companies often does not work because of different "company cultures"....
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    Oct 6 2011: More than ever, the schools need to teach critical thinking because the internet has no "filter" for truth.
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    Oct 1 2011: By the way, it's amazing that this conversation hasn't drawn more attention. This is what TED is all about! In fact TED has an initiative called TED ED that wants to play a role in educating students and teachers to the new "great equalizer".

    Hope it re-surfaces again soon - I'm passionate about education reform!!
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      Oct 3 2011: I agree. I have given talks on the definition of religion and was delighted to learn about TED and very soon start a conversation. The TEDsters taught me so much. I am astounded.
      Same thang with "Tolerance is insufficient: I suggest respect."
      However, if you are not a doctor want to know how many natural abortions occur, it seems to me you need help wth the research. There are too many "code" words. For the days before an embryo attaches, you may need a statistician as well.
      So, I see the need for overview courses: how to learn the necessary words for accurate research in a new field; how to use the internet for research; how to use the internet; where to find such courses on the internet for goodness sake!I
      n many areas, such as history, we already have amazaing power. For example, the other day I wanted to respect Abraham Lincoln's assessment that only God could be accountable for the Civil War. After about an hour of finding and reading key documents--actual texts of his letters and speeches and such, I formed an opinion. Of course, we cannot know what he meant.
      Phil
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        Oct 4 2011: Hi Phil.... What are you talking about?
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          Oct 4 2011: Getting out of your personal tunnel through conversations on TED.
          Learning the concerns and viewpoints of other people at a revolutionary pace, even though the sample may be small.
          Phil
  • Oct 8 2011: Yes, most of internet is equal for all, full of resources and free! Formal education is restricted, internet is accessible by all. It is THE great equalizer, in today's world!
  • Oct 8 2011: I'm not sure that everyone uses the internet like we (TED fans) do. I am certain that there are a good number of people who spend as much time on the internet as we do, but they never do any research on it. They check Facebook manically, they write YouTube comments [shudder], they look at inappropriate material, they send messages that could use some proofing.
  • Oct 8 2011: Simple enough:

    Unless you can use the internet to consistently direct a child's attention and effort in a focused way throughout several hours you will always need formal education (teachers in a structured setting). However, given the internet's ability to quickly engage and maintain a child's attention, the challenge is to use that unique tool to better use the skills of teachers.
  • Oct 8 2011: A CHALLENGE: Stop complaining and turn those that "fetishize" a technology into active supporters. I would have loved to have had the internet access in 1964 in Malaysia.

    I SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE, not just reading. I was there, lived it, improved, in a small way, their life. Example follows. Also, the "great equalizer" is not feeding people, etc. It is enabling people to feed themselves, etc. "Teach a man/woman/child to fish."

    I recall hearing, while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1964 in very rural Malaysia, a radio playing music. It was a battery powered radio, with an antenna strung up a +/-100 foot tall jungle tree. That radio, as well as a subsequent road into the village, provided access to knowledge that opened up the inhabitants to ways of learning and "doing" to improve their lives.

    The internet can do the same, in a SUBSTANTIALLY more effective way, including bringing the plight of the less fortunate to the eyes and hearts of the more fortunate, eliciting support in ways that print, radio and TV never could. The two way visual communication is a great tool for you.

    Real world example: with the support of the Catholic Relief Services we started a school lunch program utilizing food from the Service, cooking utensils from the local government, and labor of the teachers and parents.

    With the internet I could have more quickly set up the project, found more outside help, and provided more support for teaching youngsters and adults.

    Instant communication between Malaysia and the world could have provided additional assets with which to teach a man/woman/child "to fish" (we taught them how to raise fish by the way). More real world examples available.

    So, challenge those you chastise as well as those that respond here. Use the internet (instant photos/stories) to educate those that "fetishize a technology" about how it can be utilized in your country. ASK THEM TO STEP UP WITH ACTIVITY - WE BOTH KNOW TALK IS CHEAP.
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    Oct 8 2011: In some ways the answer is yes. You can see a word that leads you to its definition and then to further research and the next thing you know you are learning physics, or some other subject that you may have never been exposed to.

    What I hope never happens is that we are kept from exploring. I know that happens in countries with more censorship and I think it is just horrid--as bad as book burning.

    I hope the internet continues to be a library of life and that information be open to all!
  • Oct 7 2011: formal education and Internet are so far from reality that yes i would say they equalize ppl ... as in making ppl dummer ... Internet , tv , school and just about any occupation today in modern life puts us back ... way back in the caves . a lot of men and women don't even know how to provide for their basic needs . food shelter clothing .
    not only in 3rd world countries but also in modern cities . the simple fact of how many ppl are morbidly obese and
    how many ppl starve to death is appalling .

    reality is this Internet makes it easy to communicate but in doing so the quality makes room for quantity .
    if we compare that to education it is very similar . we have bigger classes , more teachers that cant be fired for misbehavior and this lowers the quality ( quite a bit!)

    so i would revere much more my grand parents that knew how to sow , cook and grow food than any accountants that can calculate how much the government will rip me off or the banker for that matter ( of course neglecting to mention his fees in that equation)
  • Oct 7 2011: Several postings have commented that their idea of school is different than anothers'...THIS is the POINT. In the US, our version of school is unique. If you want to know why our old model of education is working so well in third world countries now, it's because it DOES work, and is based on the industrial model of school. But industry is no longer the typical bedrock business of our economy. Our economy is based more on information and talent sharing, and this is the model of 'school' that needs to be explored.
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      Oct 7 2011: The industrial model is not working all over the world. Thanks to the Millenium Development Goals, the UN has brought facilities, books, and training to regions that previously had nothing. Yes, in this situation, our model does work as inquiry is part of human nature. The internet however, provides unlimited resources to all with access. The statistics on cell phone subscriptions are staggering, bringing knowledge to nearly every community on earth. That is a model that REALLY works. Now if we can bring some form of organization to it all, we will have an amazing resource.
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    Oct 7 2011: [quote] Christian Steins "so I believe some tablets /laptops stuffed with Wikipedia and educational videos will be the new great equalizer" [/quote]
    With the development of cloud computing and virtual machines, simple tablets that are no more then a touch screen, simple speakers, a wireless connection, and minimal hardware spec's combined with a central server that hosts the machines. With the many flavors of linux getting more and more user friendly, there is little worry about the cost of operating systems for large amounts of virtual machines. Websites Google and Wolfram alpha have web based tools that schools could use for all types of classes. Who needs out dated textbooks when a science student can learn about the human body from a 3D model, study the planet and universe with google earth, which includes Earth, Moon, Mars, and Sky. The right approach can turn the internet into the great equalizer, within our formal education system.
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    Oct 7 2011: Far from it Megan. The internet might replace the library as the easiest source to do research, but other than being used for distance learning in a structured environment, only the same type of people who succeed without a formal education would succeed using the internet alone. I do believe that the cost of education is in crisis, and I believe in the U.S. it has far more to do with administrative costs and the lack of educational focus. Properly addressed, maybe the internet can help. It would be wonderful if perhaps, Mr. Brin were to produce online courses similar to i-tune university, where tests and labs can be proctored on satellite campuses.
  • Oct 7 2011: Whilst I agree that the Internet has made inroads to the education system, it's still early days yet to claim that it'll be the next great equaliser after education. Contrary to what the title suggests, the inequitable access to technology will not make the internet the great leveller! I tend to gravitate to the view that the Internet is a tool employed to supplement the education process, not supplant it! Also, the Internet cannot be an independent tool wresting powers and controls from a human in the classroom. Input from a teacher to guide and facilitate the process of learning is undisputedly still evident in education!
  • Oct 7 2011: Before we venture into this question of great equalization, we must understand that even equality operates at different levels. Education was the first formal equalizer but internet is the first casual equalizer. Obviously is anyone is thinking that internet will replace traditional teaching, then I am sorry to say you are wrong. The virtual space may replace our classrooms but traditional teaching methods won't go away for at least the next century. Moreover the main problem which we are going to face is the surge of information on the internet. It would be hard to differentiate what one should know and what one may not need to know. Today everyone with a internet question thinks the world is in their hands, they can do whatever they like.To a large extent it is good but at times this may become a constant hindrance. Take me for example do you think i always knew whatever I am writing. NO, but many a times I argue something knowing that I was wrong but then I look on to internet and it is always there to support me.
  • Oct 7 2011: The internet is a tool. Traveling is much more fulfilling when shared. A classroom should never be led by a controlling guide. The internet allows for independent research, and when the findings are shared with others in a face-to-face learning environment, the rewards of contributing to knowledge are grand.
  • Oct 7 2011: If the internet is the great equalizer of the current primary school generation, then the telephone and the TV were the great equalizer for my generation and the radio was the great equalizer for my parents generation. An information source by itself is a useful tool, but without the direction and interaction that can only come from a traditional public/private/home school education the internet will not remotely provide uniform quality of education across our broad demographic spectrum. The internet may allow for a general acceleration of the education process, each individual reaching their own potential, just as calculators and more recently personal computers have. But the internet is no substitute for a teacher.
  • Oct 7 2011: yes it is. i'll be covering this topic in my work-in-progress documentary about higher education reform 'the elephant on campus'.

    www.elephantoncampus.com
    • Oct 7 2011: We are trading in a regulated and clear 'equalizing' curriculum for an 'equally' chaotic and vast data source from which we need to extract our knowledge. By psychological design it seemed for a long time that humanity preferred to define itself by its own conditioning (old-fashioned learning-by-rote being a testament to that). More and more people are realizing however that life by definition means constant change. The former supposes a static existence, the latter is a fluid reality.

      Yet, it is the degree to which every individual chooses to embrace either their own values and opinions or accept the larger dynamics of that ever shifting reality, that determines if they are equal to the other or not. This is the choice in both education and use of the Internet. For example: you can reject the conditioning of schools and drop out, but you can also cement your beliefs by clicking only on what appeals to you on the Internet. Equal opportunities in vastly different systems. As such, yes, it would seem that the Internet is the new great equalizer. Better yet: because of the rigid nature and hierarchical structure of formal education, which is lacking in the Internet, one could argue that education was never equal to begin with.

      As it is, education and the Internet are simply two tools of gathering knowledge and they reflect both sides of the spectrum. It is up to participating individuals to continuously propagate to and revise these tools for others so they truly can become equal for all.
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    Oct 7 2011: I agree that the present access to information is unprecedented. I further agree that primary and secondary schools can kill creativity and force our kids into a myopic vision of what it means to be “educated”. For example, the arts have long been pushed aside to make time for language arts and math. Nonetheless, I worry about the content of what people will learn. Other posters here cite the myriad educational material that is out there (e-books, audio books, online courses etc), but most of that has been sorted through a rigorous system of fact checking that is based on our traditional ideas of proper citations, avoidance of plagiarism, proper lit reviews etc.

    Moreover, a traditional university education exposes us to new ideas or ideas that we may not have ever been exposed to nor agree with. A traditional education challenges us because we are “required” to be involved with classes outside of our interests. These required courses help us to grow and become culturally well-rounded people. I shudder at the idea of a humanities student who avoids mathematics because, “It’s just not my thing,” or vice-versa. I fear that self-directed studies will further divide our society to extremes because all those required courses may be a thing of the past.
  • Oct 7 2011: I always knew that school was for people who didn't mind wasting time. Now i can compete evenly as an autodidact with those that have institutional educations. I didn't even know i could be self taught until the internet showed me that i could absorb information at a faster rate on my own.
  • Oct 7 2011: The internet by itself cannot cure inequality in education. It also requires a connection device (computer, etc..) and access. It then requires that the content found on the internet is set up and dedicated to unbiased & accurate educational efforts. Until we have those first two pieces of the puzzle (device & access) in the hands of everyone in the world, especially in 3rd world countries---there is still a huge inequality. The final piece of the puzzle is the user, who must both desire and have the skills, to find that educational material.
  • Oct 7 2011: The internet is what the Library of Congress used to be. It is not only a portal to most of the information available in the world (even cursory information about subjects more vastly pursued offline), but it is also a way to openly discuss that information and the opinions that surround it. There is as much a necessity for formal education as the free, unbiased and largely unregulated internet of today. I am under the impression that formal education makes available the 'facts' that are acceptable to the professional institutions that are represented in classes today, but the internet is an organic sea of factual AND opinionated considerations of all professions that changes every minute. In a sense, the internet has no equal in revealing modern information to the seekers of that information. In fact, because of this, the whole landscape of a profession may change during the the eight years one spends gaining his or her masters degree. The solution, therefore, is the student. While learning those things that are necessary and irrefutable (like detailed anatomy) formally, a student is nearly required to keep his understanding of medical treatments via the internet.
  • Oct 7 2011: I reason that educating and equalizing are two very different concepts related to the Internet. With a formal IT background and 15 years of experience examining and discussing the connectivity of the Internet, I find it first and foremost to have the most potential of all tools that we have ever created. Only now is it becoming apparent that the evolving strength is the connectivity and sharing of ideas between individuals. One may argue that we have exited the Information Age and entered the Idea Age. No longer is anything that is printed (on paper or screen) automatically valued as information. There is no time for it. It is an idea in germination however. And it spreads like a virus. Seth Godin made this point very clear in his book 'Unleashing the Ideavirus'. The documentary 'Press. Pause, Play' further advances the discussion about what happens to true artistic endeavor when everyone can create indiscriminately through the Internet. Ideas are great and we are becoming closer to our global neighbor, but is it all just noise? Still, it is not unlike sifting a river for gold and as such a great equalizer.

    Is it formal education though? Well, just as much as the term 'education' invokes paradigms of sitting in a classroom or following a standardized curriculum (by rote or not), one could argue that life itself is all education. Western society tends to view learning through the glasses of formal institutions, yet from a Buddhist point of view we learn every moment of the day. It is the choice to open one self up for the absorption of new and skillful information that qualifies it as education. Also institutionalized education is starting to install class-like thresholds. If you have money you can study. Or in some parts of the world: if you are a male, you can. Maybe education is not equalized.

    Then again 'The Miniature Earth' states that only 8% of the global population has Internet. And then there's Net Neutrality.

    Food for thought. Happy Learning.
  • Oct 7 2011: It is unclear in the question whether 'the internet' means just unfettered access to the web, or internet-based instruction specifically. I'm going to presume the former. I believe it certainly has the potential to be an equaliser of sorts - at least more so than formal education. It has become a reality in our time that the (formal) education you get is the education you pay for. It isn't much of an equaliser when a rural African is getting an inferior education experience in a broken down school in the bush and a few hundred kilometres away, others are attending expensive private schools with access to great teachers and advanced resources.

    The internet however can be provided 'equally' to all students at relatively low cost. With some guidance the learning experience can be both comprehensive and rapid. A simple search through many of the TED talks on education and the internet show how the internet is already used as an effective education tool. Further, one can have a much broader knowledge base (or more focused if you desire). One example from Rose Shuman's TED page is of banana farmers being able to look up on the internet ways to overcome a virus destroying their crops. They don't need to become botanists or agriculturalists to access information anymore.

    Other TED talks have shown how quickly kids can find and utilise information on the internet - even kids that have never used a computer before. As a teacher myself, I can categorically state that students finding information on their own, rather than being spoon-fed it, is a far more rewarding and effective form of learning.

    Finally, the internet has the capacity to reach far more students than the limited number of teachers in the world can. So from and experiential, cost and logistics point of view, I do believe the internet way outstrips formal education as a leveller.
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    Oct 6 2011: There is the "theater of school" that is very important. with the internet you can get stuck in your chair. In a classroom you can bump into people, interact with very like minded people. "happy accidents" occur. this is the foundation for the floorplan for pixar. I believe that the studio school is a natural return to the most basic aspect of school - pass on what we know to the kids so they do a better job.
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    Oct 6 2011: The internet is so unique in that everything is possible. Yes, absolutely, it can become a much better equalizer than formal("traditional") education, but it is nowhere near that stage. The two fundamental changes that need to take place in order for this to become true are: 1) a person's credibility should be based on their skills, expertise and knowledge, not a piece of paper; 2) better tools to sift the vast quantity of information that is out there in order to provide quality education. Thankfully, there are quite a few people and companies who are already moving in this direction(myself included). But again, we are very far from accomplishing what will ultimately replace traditional education (entirely).
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    Oct 6 2011: The Internet is a huge reserviour of data - not all of it correct. Without formal instruction, Internet users are at risk of using inaccurate, unauthorative, outdated and possibly biased information. But "instruction" does not equal "education". As a teacher, I can spend a whole day in front of 30 students "teaching". Not all of them learn at the same rate; not all of them will retain the same data. Effective pedagogy would ensure that as many individual students as practicable reach as many of the desired learnin outcomes as possible. The Internet is not capable of such educational professionalism.

    In countries such as Australia, where Internet access is readily available to the greater part of the population, it does not achieve equity in educational outcomes. If you gave every student in a class a set of encyclopaedia, you would have the same (or possiblly even more) advantage in educational outcomes. And this would be achieved without the attendant risks of diversions (eg games, music, "chat" etc) let alone the "net nasties" that younger or more naive students lack the skill set necessary to cope with the confronting nature.
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      Oct 6 2011: as you said, not all of them will retain the same data, not all at the same rate. And if they don't, there is almost no chance to klick repeat. So which kind of professionalism is it that you are missing?
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        Oct 6 2011: Your second paragraph is very true. Here in Australia they've got a program wherein they give every student a laptop in order to help them learn in a more modern and progressive way. Any of several things can happen:

        - The student leaves the laptop at home because it is too heavy or bulky.
        - The laptop has no real place in many units, so it goes unused.
        - Students are distracted by the internet.

        Few are the uses of a laptop in modern face-to-face education. It would make more sense if they gave kids a dedicated word processor like a Neo.
  • Oct 6 2011: As some mentioned before, internet is a tool, a great tool where we can find a vast amount of information (either good or bad information), the problem is that we need to have clear what we need, what we are looking for and how to use the information. And at this ponit is when formal education plays its role of guiding and forming the background for research or to gain knowledge. Of course we may have problems in the way some formal education institutions or some persons in those institutions lead education and it may occur that education may be influenced by interests. In the other hand, there are people that are not interested in learn essential information but only to look for trivia and fun, and in this case neither the internet not formal education may serve as a great equalizer, it depends on us, on what we want to do.

    For me it is first education, then internet as a research tool.

    For example at this moment I'm following an online course, for the first time of my life, and it has been amazing to discover the potential of the internet to learn more about a topic in which I am interested.

    However, in order that both internet or education may have a real role in the world, it would be important that both are done from the bottom up and with equal access for everyone.
  • Oct 6 2011: It appears that curriculum is being designed to teach to passing standardized tests - which is how teachers are or are going to be judged - performance basis.

    The internet may be the great equalizer to fill in the holes as students are only taught on how to score high marks on tests.

    The educational institutions are also playing games; I recently had the opportunity to tutor a bright young man (5 th grade), so I requested a syllabus from his school. It was mostly greek to me (BS engineering, MS Marketing). What the H@ll is a "number sentence? Oh, now I get it - it's a word problem. Why the change? Obfuscation? It took the internet to help me translate the syllabus into real English! Filled in my gap!
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      Oct 6 2011: This is my big problem with schooling. It produces people who are good at remembering things and being told what to do, but not so good at formulating new approaches and deciding things for themselves (this stuff is left for them to learn in the workforce).
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    Oct 6 2011: Horace Mann cites education, not necessarily "formal education" as the great equalizer. the internet is merely a tool (a very large, powerful and incredibly beneficial tool) to facilitate the collection, organization and distribution of information. In many ways, the "formal" aspect of education is also a tool that collects, organizes and distributes information.

    The goal of education should be to promote human creativity and critical thinking, to further understanding of interrelationships and provide a construct for individuals to learn from the successes and failures of the past.

    When tools are used to support these goals, the tool itself is less important than how that tool is used.

    If used improperly, formal education can be outrageously expensive and offer students information bereft of practical application or societal benefit.

    If used improperly, the internet can provide instantaneous, global communication of inaccurate information that instead spreads ignorance.

    I cannot agree with Horace Mann more. The challenge for educators is to utilize the best tools available for the task at hand. My guess is that it might just be leveraging the tremendously positive capabilities of both the internet and formal education.
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    Oct 6 2011: Formal education offers something unique to learning that the internet cannot. As Socrates stood and lectured his students in the sciences, arts and humanities, there was an intangible, symbiotic relationship between teacher and student that promoted great learning. Your computer cannot offer that. If one fails to see the value in that relationship, then the computer is the appropriate location for learning. It's not an "either or" scenario. Both are critical to successful learning. The internet has spawned the largest knowledge base in our civilization's history, yet teaching someone about ethics, literature, art, sciences, etc. requires a human touch. Discourse about a Shakespearean play within the classroom environment provides a deeper, richer experience than any of us could obtain reading it off of the net.
  • Oct 6 2011: Being able to listen to successful people talk about their expertise has been monumental in forming the way I understand the way the world works. This is something that had never been available before the internet. However, I should be noted that only 1/6th of the world's population has internet access. There is work to be done to provide these resources to everyone.
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    Oct 6 2011: With the direction we as a society are headed, the Internet is going to be the great divide. Like the difference between horses and cars. Those who ride, and those who fly by the seat of their pants....those who know how to use it, those who try, and those who still send letters via snail mail, and wonder why it takes so long to reply. The internet is a plethora of knowledge, all at your screen/fingertip. I can look up the same information a college graduate spending his parent's hard earned money doing, as long as there is an internet connection. I have the same knowledge.... I'm not sure about anyone else, but that would make me feel pretty equal.
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    Oct 6 2011: Universal Education is one of the building blocks of the global society in which we live.
    One thing that I know to be true is that the "one size fits all" approach that today's formal education provides is not effective.
    Today's generations are able to find the knowledge they seek on the Internet. Educators will be more effective if they are also able to use this tool in its many manifestations.
  • Oct 6 2011: As an instructor who has to teach some courses online, I have found that online learning leaves behind the non-traditional student and the low-income student because they did not grow up online. Their learning curve with technology distracts and hinders them from interacting with the course content. At first blush, this seems to support replacing "Education" with "Internet" in Mann's quote, but (and this is a big but) that would be contingent on your definition of "social machinery." Are they anti-social? They have strong relationships, good friends, and sociable personalities (as much as any of us...).

    Additionally, the "internet" can mean so many things relative to social behavior. Does this include a person who only goes online to play single player games on the internet? Does this preclude a person who prefers face to face interactions and chooses to stay offline?

    Maybe, instead, we should ask: "Is there a great equalizer?"
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    Oct 6 2011: The formal education of fifty years ago looked a lot different than a formal education today. And one two hundred years before that was something we might not even recognize. The form or place of education is probably less important than the content that is being taught. Perhaps we are all becoming both student and teacher with the Internet being the medium for an educational conversation to take place.

    Someone said, the age of Thomas Jefferson was the last time a person could know everything. After which knowledge crossed so many areas that the average person had to specialize their subject of learning. Perhaps our era will be the last one where people actually knew facts, and stats, and ideas, rather than how to access ideas.

    Perhaps in the future it will really be more a matter of filing, than learning.
  • Oct 6 2011: Formal education has never been the great equalizer. Formal education has always depended on the region you lived in and the class of your area. John Gatto and Friere make better points at this then I ever will. Secondly Personalization of the internet will kill education except for the rare few who love to learn and purposefully prevent (source Eli Pariser) education and challenging what a person may experience. The internet has the potential to teach but largely it wont nor does it. That is the success of corporatism to make media as dumb down as possible to prevent the population from advancing in any kind of substantial way because it gets in the way of profits.
  • Oct 5 2011: The idea of seeing the internet as the great equalizer is only plausible as developing the required sustainable infrastructure that allows anyone willing to learn to gain access to the internet. Education is a right and access to information is part of this right.

    Open sourced education interrogated into public transport infrastructure of a city through the use internet and media based technology. This will bring education to the people who can not afford the high price of quality education.

    Universities need to unlock there doors to HD web cameras and share the knowledge. There are shortages of teachers and more than any thing is that of quality teachers but with the use of available technology that is available today, simulcast lectures and video broadcast can be viewed from not just behind your desk in a lecture room. This not only stops education from being place bound but time restricted as well. In regards to quality of education over the internet compared to face to face education of a classroom can be achieved through mentorship not only by educators but your fellow peers as well. This can be done by forums such as this to obtain the required feedback one would need.

    My mother always told me that they can take all your money and belongings but they can never take your education away from you.
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    Oct 4 2011: I'm left thinking of the internet as the information the "WHAT" - where formal education provides both the "HOW" and "WHY" - information without a basis for it's application is reckless and possible dangerous.
    • Oct 4 2011: Imagine our children with a "unreal teacher" what can we think in a good education for them?
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    Oct 3 2011: It depends.....on what level of education you are seeking.

    I am not confident that the internet yet provides the same opportunity as high quality offline formal relationships can, nor the cycle of challenge and research that formal education requires. With that said, online tools that facilitate high quality collaboration can perhaps offer that equalization you speak of.

    Sadly though I see just an increase in the amount of information consumed for entertainment. Internet usage rarely seems to be about personal development and expansion in the way that I think higher levels of formal education lead to.
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    Oct 3 2011: Maybe, but what I like about Internet is that, although it's a "device" made by humans, contrary to other devices made by them, there is no discrimination against anyone

    And it's one of the most important parts of our today's society
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      Oct 4 2011: I beg to differ, the internet does discriminate.

      There is very little the illiterate can accomplish on the internet. This is not a major hindrance in the developed world but a huge factor working against those who can most benefit from the information riches contained within.

      Secondly, the internet operates much the same as a library. It simply stores and serves up information content put there by others. It does not teach by and of itself while it may have content that is capable of teaching.

      While I personally believe the internet is not a substitute for formal education I do believe it is a fantastic complement to it. Because it does make knowledge more accessible to more people it will go a long ways towards equalizing economic opportunities just as the printing press did a few centuries ago.
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        Oct 4 2011: I agree with Damon. I would add that even in the "developed" world not everyone has a computer let alone a ISP. Access is still limited to the more economically privileged. One of the challenges is to provide not only adequate access for all but also finding smart ways to sift the available information into useful content chunks that enable an individual's self-improvement project. Being literate, as well as, media literate, and having the economic means makes a big difference in using the internet to enhance a life.
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          Oct 5 2011: My sentiments exactly, you put it very clearly.
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        Oct 6 2011: The amount of video lectures, how-to videos, online video courses, interactive games/exercise, and documentaries available on the internet alone are enough to serve as a monumental resource for even the illiterate. All they would have to do is be shown how to get to the right sites (a handful would do). Or to be shown a specific list of videos to watch.

        Furthermore, an illiterate person could begin their journey in educating themselves by becoming literate, perhaps with some help, using internet resource alone (videos or interactive games would be the only real viable options in this case that come to mind).

        I agree with your other points. It is true that there is a learning curve to self-education on the internet. In fact, I consider it a new kind of literacy. Internet literacy is the education paradigm on our century. And it is creating a great divide among even those who are formally educated.
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          Oct 7 2011: Even with how-to's and the other tools you mention you still expect the illiterate to need assistance in order to learn how to use the internet. Learning to read is not an easy process for anyone, children or adult. It takes time and effort to accomplish. I know this as I can speak a couple other languages, albeit poorly, but I am completely illiterate in them.

          Beyond basic reading ability you must add computer/internet competency as you mentioned to access the collective knowledge stored on the internet. These issues combine to form a barrier to access that would prevent even the most well intentioned illiterate person from effectively utilizing the net to help level the playing field.

          I do not believe it impossible for the illiterate to benefit from the internet. I do believe the medium discriminates against them by the very nature of its primarily written format.
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        Oct 7 2011: The videos on "The Hole in the Wall School" would illustrate a different point of view. Children were quickly able to teach themselves English and so much more without any help from adults. Thought you might be interested, it's one of my favorite TED videos.
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          Oct 7 2011: I just watched the lecture you referred to

          http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/sugata_mitra_shows_how_kids_teach_themselves.html

          Very impressive. I'd like to note that the self learning was limited to children that operated in groups. Assuming those qualifications are met, it is clear that the internet is non discriminatory. The question becomes, does the internet discriminate against illiterate adults whether alone or in groups.

          Thank you for sharing this talk with me.
      • Oct 7 2011: Damon, I agree, the power of the resources available via the internet cannot be adequately capitalized on among the illiterate. However, it can have a profound impact on the lives of the illiterate by reaching those few in the community or surrounding communities who are literate, but have no access. This in turn creates value that may make resources (time and money in particular) available to increase the literacy rate of the population, creating a virtuous cycle. Similar to the way the printing press lead to much higher literacy in the west, the internet could do this in the developing world, but much faster, with far greater scope of content and at a fraction of the cost of printed books.
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    Oct 8 2011: When we listen to a TAlk in TED, how is it different from listening to a lecture in a formal education?

    When we discuss a topic in TED conversation, how is it different from discussing a topic in a formal class?

    The Internet can become a powerful tool for formal education. The internet and formal education might not be two things that we compare with each other; instead, we might want to think that how formal education can make best use of the internet; on the other hand, how informal-learning in the internet can learn somehow from the traditional classroom

    Formal education is an important phase for life-long learning. Even Steve Jobs and Bill Gates benefit greatly from formal education.

    Or think it in this way:

    If you want to learn something, say: Project Managing: where could you get the best teaching material, and best learning experience?

    Why do we love TED? TED provides enriched and quality information. Still, if you want to learn a specific subject more deeply, systematically, formal education might be a better choice.
  • Oct 8 2011: I think the internet has the power to give students who may not have had a voice at school the courage to express themselves. It also offers connections and possibilities far beyond the traditional classroom walls. However, the two are not mutually exclusive. In some formal education institutions the internet is at the heart of university courses by being the focus for study, not just a tool for learning. Innovative educators such as Dr. Michael Wesch at Kansas State University encourage creativity, inquiry and critical thinking in their students.

    Check out http://mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg/?p=303 and
    the video collage of students’ reflections: http://visionsofstudents.org/
  • Oct 8 2011: It would be if it was free and accessible to everyone. My schol recently underwent major technology upgrades which included home access to some great programs. Very very few students log on at home. Flipped classrooms could not work in this community. I teach in a school with more than 50% free and reduced lunch but even the ones who are okay financially don't have free access to the Internet. One story - her father is on Facebook all the time!
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    Oct 8 2011: I don't necessarily want to be cut open by a surgeon who earned his certification online. But the internet offers remarkable advantages over traditional education, especially when it comes to teaching yourself. It's one thing to have a stack of books. But when every complicated word or concept is a blue link offering endless pages of information on anything you'd like, formal education in some cases can't compare. I don't need to sit through a 12 week computer science course slowly drifting at a pace in which all student can keep up. I'm better off learning java or linux with wikis and forums.
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    Oct 7 2011: This book has some interesting thoughts ' The Rise of Colleges' by George Makdisi
    Edinburgh University Press, 1981 - 377 pages
  • Oct 7 2011: I believe that the internet is a great tool that can be used in pursuit of the great equalizer, but don't see it headed that way. So many people are programmed to look towards an "expert" for informatiion, and only use the internet for media consumption or social interactions but not as a tool for learning. Many people I see in different walks of life have little or no interest in learning anything beyond what they need to function on a basic level and what is the latest gossip in their little corner of the world. Students use it to do what they need to get through classes, rather than really learning material. Of course there are exceptions, especially for those who have been disappointed by more traditional routes of learning. It is then that the possibilities of the internet open up to them. IMO, the great equalizer is either an inherent or instilled love of learning. If you have that, then you'll use whatever tools are available to you or will seek them out. Of course it is always helpful to have people who recognize this and make resources available and are willing to show other how to use them, whatever they may be.
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    Oct 7 2011: When it comes to higher education, there will be blurred differences between these 3 tools:

    Online teaching - Online evaluation - Personal Master classes

    I share with you a presentation about Education 3.0

    http://prezi.com/op-nfm1mbnrk/education-30/

    Cheers,
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    Oct 7 2011: Thoughts on Dale J. Stevens Uncollege movement? (He was a grade 5 dropout, as well as a college dropout)

    http://blip.tv/140confevents/140edu-8-2-11-dale-stephens-5469901
  • Oct 7 2011: the key is in the definition of the term formal education. It is formal if there is a recognition to the level of the education acquired. Therefore it is if there is an acknowledgment in terms of a degree.
  • Oct 7 2011: I think public libraries are the great equalizer for learning, providing a technology infrastructure that gives unfettered access to information, whether it is in the form of printed materials, audio, video, or internet-based, that people can use to build knowledge. Libraries meet people where they are, whether young children just learning to read, or aging adults needing to learn to use a keyboard and mouse for the first time.
  • Oct 7 2011: I believe in developing counties, we are not having the infrastructure nor the resources to establish a decent formal education system. We need to use technology to bring education to the people who can't afford it or have no access to it. And I believe give the people the information and they will educate themselves, maybe not according to formal standards, but it will help them to make ends meet. For what I have seen in Malawi it will be difficult to establish an decent Internet infrastructure, so I believe some tablets /laptops stuffed with Wikipedia and educational videos will be the new great equalizer
  • Oct 7 2011: The internet is wonderful source of ideas and information and entertainment for those who are sufficiently educated to access it. So as a formal education is required to actually use it then no, it's not.
  • Oct 7 2011: The internet will not solve all problems or teach all lessons well; it may not ever parallel in-person experience, but it certainly starts to level the playing field for those with logistical challenges such as access, timing or financial constraints.

    Not everyone can or will make it to/through formal education; the internet provides a reasonable, viable option that simply didn't exist for the prior generation or for those in third world countries a decade or two ago.

    Bravo efficacious, distance learning; but I realize now that I was so fortunate to attend a traditional university.
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    Oct 7 2011: I lack a "formal" education (no college), and my high school experience was appalling. Today, I am an effective movement coach who is often a last resort for those who have spent precious years of their life needlessly suffering from pathologies that no well "educated" doctor or therapist could help resolve. My clients include doctors, lawyers, athletes, school teachers, homemakers, and service workers. I have successfully coached scores of people, and continue to evolve my work through experience, research by internet, books and seminars, and collaborating with other professionals sharing current knowledge.

    There are, and will always be, a multitude of ways to learn, grow, and become amazing practitioners of life. It's not the knowledge itself, but the application and experience of it, becoming wisdom to build new possibilities upon. Formal education institutions (as they stand today) are too rigid, bogged-down by dualistic egos, red tape, and overworked teachers who are brilliant yet can't fully do what they were put on this Earth to do so are burnt out (I personally know several). This is stifling creativity and potential. Currently, the internet is the only knowledge sharing source accessible to a wider population, able to keep up with the flow, relevance and pace of life itself, which has sped up considerably over the past couple decades. It's allowing individuals to awaken to their true potential, albeit a somewhat chaotic process after being repressed.

    There will be a new role for formal education, hopefully more mentoring and apprenticeship, AND the recognition that some people can create a whole new, necessary profession, just by being intuitive, observant, and motivated. No matter HOW someone became who they are, as long as they are contributing and thriving in a relevant way that is directing humanity toward a great future, it's all good. This is the great equalizer: our differences and our unique gifts are our collective strength.
  • Oct 7 2011: On a intellectual basis, Internet is far more powerful than college education in a way that the resources on the internet is limitless. Sitting in the lecture hall is the process of passively receiving what the instructors would like you know and what the instrutors think essential, leaving the student little room for a criticle thinking process. Whatever work is a hand-on experience that requires more of active learning than passive receiving. I don't do all regular courses at the university while I do work in the lab as a research assistant which I believe is more constructive to me as both a student and a person.
  • Oct 7 2011: Another factor contributing to inequality is language. Although English is becoming an important language in the world's largest countries (China, India)--and we have some internet based translation tools----we have to remember that sometimes the best internet education is in the form of a video---which, will require translation on the user's end.

    The world is unable to appreciate many of the world's best and brightest people (teachers, speakers, business owners) who could be of great help to the world---because we don't all speak the same language. Video education is the next "big thing" in distance learning, but it will only reach a target audience who understands the speaker's chosen language.
  • Oct 7 2011: Prior to modern media outlets our source of information came almost ubiquitously from books; teachers being the chosen interpreters of that information. A good teacher would impart their interpretation in interesting or memorable ways while others would simply follow the directives laid out by curriculum documents and texts. Either way, they all had one objective: to fill your cup.

     Of course with the emergence of radio and television this process became more automated and there were new and possibly differing outlets for cup filling. (still talking formal education - not Saturday morning cartoons). A teacher could play a reel-to-reel film or documentary, or present a live event in front of the class for a more entertaining cup fill.

    Today we have lightening fast and presumably unlimited access to more information than we can handle...our cups  'runneth over' so to speak. No longer are we tied to brick and mortar for our source of knowledge but we have a virtual flood of knowledge which is now constantly pouring into and over our cups.

     So is the Internet the great equalizer because we have finally arrived at that place along the timeline where knowledge is 'free' flowing and abundant? It sure is if your looking for a convenient cup filling - unrivaled in fact. Still - we all know that access doesn't necessitate equality or equity.  If that were the case, our 'internet generation' graduates would have all become brilliant rocket scientists and musicians, humanitarians and environmentalists by now. So why aren't we celebrating the euphoric afterglow of the arrival of the great equalizer? Two reasons:

    1. It hasn't arrived yet. We might call it 'formal education' but it will be like none we are used to seeing in our schools.

    2. Many of us are too busy selling our cups on Kijiji so we can create an app that does it for us. ;)
  • Oct 7 2011: Your individual brain and the use of it is the equalizer. Teachers, before the institutional/ system nullifies them, have a great potential to guide/direct you/ a child to either maximize or shut down further use of brain or creative / individual output. Large class sizes do not help. Left/right brain usage, exposure to the arts and music all help. Eploration on the internet, like early explorers I.e. Christopher Columbus, Livingston, et als did on land also helps.
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    Oct 7 2011: Knowledge is no longer an immutable solid, it has been liquified. It is actively moving in all the currents of society itself. - John Dewey, The School and Society, 1900
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    Oct 7 2011: At this point of time, we need to think about the word 'equlizer'. As many people know it, the traditional economics is reaching the limit and being at the end of its tether. It had been supposed to bring us a fair distribution of wealth, but just failed, and instead, made it worst. Traditional formal education is just the case as well. It didn't perform a role as a equalizer faithfully. A fair opportunity of education became out of sight. It's no wonder. We can say 'it's a chain reaction'.

    Now, internet emerged up as a wolud-be equalizer in nearly all fields of sciences. It seems to have worked well. Is it true? Definitely not!. Internet is just like the pasta approach; throw a noodle into a boiling wate to see what sticks. The establishment says 'we made the internet for you guys and stop whining!. They are engrossed in soothing us without asking us what the real problem is.

    There is no doubt that internet is a good complementary tool to formal education. And, it is a tremendous resource of information. It's quick-responsive, ubiquitous, inexpensive, around-the-clock, not giving a scolding and not asking 'who is your father?', 'where are you from?', etc. We have , however, been given an environment in which we feel free to study and learn through internet without staying away from the fears that we might be a loser.

    First of all, to support the internet up as a 'real equalizer', we have to check up our social surroundings, and make our society prepared to accept the internet as a equalizer.
  • Oct 7 2011: If "formal education" is defined as a "one-way" conversation, a mere article for reading and no understanding, then any written knowledge can replace it. However, education needs to be more than that, it needs to be able to perceive feedback from the reader, not just right or wrong answer, but understanding comprehensively. Not just literature, but science also, or how else am I going to get my partial credit? =P
  • Oct 7 2011: Education is not one thing. Ken Robinson points out that although schools tend to kill creativity, they do other things well. Education, as the Lady Hillary reminded us, 'takes a village'. Education is a sum of a variety of parts. Knowledge is certainly available on the internet, in greater than ever quantities. But judgement, curiosity, balance, perseverence and other qualities of individual passion cannot be attained online.
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    Oct 7 2011: I know! There are tons of good sources available just look at KhanAcademy.org and Openculture.com. But how would someone know to look there? That is one part of the internet literacy puzzle. I am fascinated by this idea of internet literacy, especially as it pertains to other leaps in literacy from an historical perspective, just think of the invention of the alphabet and the printing press. These technologies had far reaching implications in the advancement of social justice, e.g. without the printing press there would be no Protestant Reformation and so on and so on. I wonder what this new literacy will have in store for us! This was supposed to go with Nathan Knight's response to my response...Don't know what happened. Sorry for any confusion.
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    Oct 7 2011: I think the internet forces, and that is the great chance, formal education to redefine its purpose, when i.e. khan academy can answer your math question and show you how a credit crisis develops. An interesting thing is competition between lectures. At school I cannot choose my teacher. On the internet I can compare a few and take the best.

    So if the internet can replace frontal teaching, the question is what elements of school it cannot replace and which new tasks school can address. I think we agree, that for kids at primary school the internet is the wrong place . However there it is a good tool to refresh the teachers skills and letting them share experience to improve class.

    At secondary school, i think it would be great to have a project and real world problem based approach for class. There are some much problems in the world. Today only some Think Tanks deal with these issues, which are not democratically elected nor do they serve the society. And many local problems they don't address at all. School is a great place to deal with this issues and by doing that learning the basics of math, science and society. I can even think of politicians looking for advice at schools and considering pupils and students as experts on a specific topic. Pupils and Students can share they ideas with other schools, NGOs, Experts and improve them to get real world solutions. They can really participate in these problems and start to solve them. If every class can only solve one problem, this would be huge. Because problems are complex, the solutions need some time and get readdressed all the time. This way the solutions will become mature.
  • Oct 7 2011: The Internet is a resource for educating. As is a library or interactive wipeboard. Easy to confuse resources with system.
  • Oct 7 2011: Formal education gives one the foundation set of values and skills with which one explores and exploits the limitless information and potential of the internet. One without the other can result in disastrous consequence for the person and society.
  • Oct 6 2011: Everyone enjoys a unique learning experience. Internet is, for me, the greatest connector for humanity. Each of us is responsible for our own safety and verification. I trust it remains open and as free as possible. I would never support control for the sake of fear.
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    Oct 6 2011: I think the internet in its raw form is like the biggest library in the world + all the books and information that never deserved any significant time and attention. No matter how much we curse our primary and secondary education, we cant truly understand its importance unless we go completely out of the scenario to understand ourselves. A simple experiment, two kids be never exposed to the world, any form of media, information and should be just taught the language and basic habits, mannerism, survival instincts etc. Once they grow 12 give one internet and another 4-8 years of fast paced formal education, what will happen ?
  • Oct 6 2011: It´s a very strong complemment, but we´re no way prepared to leave the original school. It must be reinvented?
    Yes, but never end with it. I live in Bs. As. (Argentine) and here any kid have internet access, but 100km away, it´s not common, and also, kids needs a place that motivate them to read, search and work, that shows them a path,
    then they´ll do it by themself, but we really need school. Imagine a family in which adults have a "mechanic" work, and when they are back home only watch superficial tv magazines etc. Do you think their kids will feel motivated to develop maths habilities or something not 100% pleasant? Maybe they´ll play guitar and learn music online, but at the moment they discover they need to know other things, they will need a basic knowledge that they couldn´t take at a very first moment.
    We need to change school, and web is a very powerful tool to make it happen,
    but we need to think that those who really need the education, are the ones who don´t have it access near, so we need a first approach, and that´s a renovated school, after that, that´s an individual choice.
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    Oct 6 2011: Formal education and the Internet are not necessarily analogues. The Internet is a tool for dispersing and interacting with information, while a formal education can be a myriad of programs created by humans for any number of purposes.

    Many argue that the formal education system began in order to train people for the Industrial Age, where we took jobs that required learning redundant/algorithm-based skills, essentially trade skills (secretary tasks, arithmetic, etc.). Many of those jobs are becoming obsolete as technology provides a superior solution (Calendar/mail apps, Office apps, etc.). Therefore, formal education from this standpoint is obsolete, if not counter-productive.

    The Internet is ultimately a tool for communicating and depositing information; before the Internet, we had libraries for this. Thomas Edison had an extremely limited formal education, but spent hours upon hours in the Detroit library as a kid learning all he could. The Internet provides an exponentially similar opportunity. Not everyone will take advantage of it, just as everyone around Edison didn't use the library in the way that he did. In this sense, the Internet (so long as the majority of information is free) is indeed an opportunity-equalizer.

    Formal education can lead one out of ignorance, given correct subject matter and context (as previously discussed). Y Combinator, for instance, can be seen as a hybrid formal/informal education in founding startups.

    Certainly, though, Internet access is the equalizer in terms of the beginning of one's opportunities.
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      Oct 6 2011: The uniqe thing about the internet is that it allows for publishing, republishing and distribution of materials that were previously not easily accessable. Materials whose copyright and protection made distribution by means other than the internet time consuming or impractical. Now at relatively little cost to the person distributing these materials and almost no cost to the person downloading these materials you can educate yourself.

      Case in point is Cisco's student guides. They provide the answers to their tests. You can't obtain a student guide without taking a class with a Cisco learning partner. These classes are expensive. So people scan the book and distribute it on the internet. You can read the book and pass the class without paying a Cisco learning partner thousands of dollars once you have access to these materials.

      The distributor has effectively become a point of publication and the internet allows this to be done efficiently, cost effectively, with little time and energy required by the uploader or downloader and with little risk of prosecution for copyright violations. Anonmous republication of materials that normally would cost a great deal of money. This is the power of the internet.
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    Oct 6 2011: My personal story demonstrates this is true. I am a Bachelor of Arts who regretted choosing a career path that did not open up opportunities to work on projects requiring critical thinking, analysis and problem solving. I wanted to go back to school to become an engineer but I didn't have 2 years or 30,000 dollars to get another bachelors. Instead I passed IT certification tests and now I am a Unified Communications Engineer working for HP. The main source of all the materials that provided me with the knowledge to pass the certification tests was the internet. It was free if you knew where to look for them. So I gave myself an edcuation worth the equivalent of 30,000 dollars. And not just me but all my friends. By doing so I doubled my personal income and my personal happiness. I never could have done this if I was convinced I needed to go back to school to get another B.S. in Electrical Engineering. Now I tell people that if they want to work in IT unless they want to become a manager or unless they plan on getting their masters or PHD to not bother with a 4 year degree. The time, energy and money invested in IT certifications has a hugely greater payoff. I know one 17 year old HS student who before he takes his first college course will have earned a CCIE in routing and switching. His very first job before he turns 20 will be 80,000k a year without a bachelors. No bachelors can ever guarantee you that salary only give you the hope that it is possible. In the future this trend will continue and our knowledge of the world will become more compartmentalized. People will realize a 4 year education at the cost of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours spent learning a broad diverse set of topics simply cannot compair to a narrow focus certification track that promises the opportunity for greater short term and long term income earnings potential. The internet has allowed for all of this.
  • Oct 6 2011: Internet can enhance education. It has much to offer, but human interaction through emotion and the senses are the basic foundations for scaffolding. Formal education leaves much to be desired.
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      Oct 7 2011: I agree. Flawed though it is, face to face is the best way. Internet use is only supplemental.
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    Oct 6 2011: The differentiator for a professional expert used to be that he (and there were more men in these roles) had been given access through education to a body of knowledge which was not widely available, which made it very difficult for ordinary mortals to challenge his views.The internet is breaking down that barrier, as what used to be specialist knowledge is more available to those who can make intelligent use of the internet.

    So we are seeing a degree of equalization already in the nature of the openness which cllients are beginning to expect from their experts, be they doctors, lawyers or whatever. The model is moving from a hierarchical one based on restricted access to knowledge to a team model, where the expert is valued for their skill but cannot demand unquestioning respect as a matter of right.
  • Oct 6 2011: Absolutely. However, in just using the word 'internet' it is incredibly important to understand that there is knowledge and there is junk. Sorting out the junk from the gems in internet information can be difficult for people and students that don't learn the art of critical thinking. Try having a conversation about a controversial topic on Facebook for example. Many people can post a link but can they analyze the information being presented? Furthermore, will they have questions and do further research? You can often find people promoting information on the internet as a way to promote their already existing beliefs instead of challenging them. Finding useful and objective information is a job within itself.
    All of that being said, I am an online educator. I have seen the power of proving useful information to a population of students that normally would not have that opportunity in an existing brick and mortar school. These students are finding knowledge, learning to motivate themselves to learn and most importantly, experiencing success.
    Things I am most excited about for the future: 1) The ability to video conference, share info in a visual, auditory and multi-sensory format so that we are not entirely dependent on the written word to communicate (and therefore, helping us socialize 'face to face' again). You can see this in tools such as Blackboard Collaborate, websites such as Ted and now with Google + 2) Higher education to embrace the power of online learning and provide more opportunities for students who don't happen to live in the same location to earn post-graduate degrees from prestigious programs. These school would benefit from the 'market' of talented people out there untapped (and untouched) by the highly-selective, money and prestige driven process of finding the best and brightest. As evidenced by some of today's leaders within business and government, this process is not always generating the best and brightest America has to offer.
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    Oct 6 2011: Of course Internet is a power tool for education. Think about iTunesU or even Youtube, or the projects like Khan academy. I think we will see soon an open Cyber University where you can attend any course, any topic, any time from anywhere, get an online feedback from professors, take your quizzes and exams, and either get a free certificate or pass a sophisticated exam like GMAT and be certified.

    Internet of course is a great equalizer as well. Poor countries take a great advantage from it, and if not language barrier, there would be more countries showing faster economic growth.
  • Oct 6 2011: What is the purpose of education? If all it is for is to stuff facts, step by step instructions or other information into ones head then yes - the internet can easily replace education. But that is NOT what education is for. Education should be about training people to analyze, discern and understand. The internet can help, but it cannot provide these goals. The Internet is fundamentally a tool, education is a process, and this process needs to be facilitated.

    It also depends on what you mean by equalizer. The internet democratizes knowledge and allow people to create and corrupt information. Access to education in many ways creates elites, but only if some are prevented from accessing that education. Also, equalize where - the highest aspirations or the lowest common denominator.

    Fundamentally the INTERNET is a GOOD TOOL, EDUCATION is a GOOD PROCESS. They are not comparable and work best together.
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    Oct 6 2011: Like it has with many things the Internet will change eduction. For years education has been a sacred cow. It was very difficult to enter into the field. The internet is changing that and hopefully some schools, or perhaps a very rich company, will catch up and change education. We could use things like

    1. inexpensive online or (ipad style) interactive textbooks
    2. Uniformity of teaching with pre-recorded video lectures (such as the Khan Academy)
    3. Interactive forums and lectures for live learning (streaming video)
    4. Personalized education. Those that learn from reading text books and straight lectures can learn in that environment while people that need to see video examples or images can learn their way.

    Items 2 & 4 do not have to be mutually exclusive as you can have 2 or 3 videos teaching the same subject from 2-3 teaching styles.

    5. Ability to learn at own pace, have a job, and get work done at 2 am or 6 pm.

    I just wish this would come faster. My daughter is graduating high school this year and is being pressured for that almighty degree from an educational system that is fast becoming a relic
  • Oct 6 2011: On balance, but not scientifically so, the "which is the greater equalizer, formal education versus the Internet," question is somewhat moot considering values and morés (or the lack thereof of "good" ones) are transmitted at home, and students in either environment 'tend' to seek self-supporting outcomes in spite of the scientific process...heck, a good portion of every degree program is not based in or on the scientific process, and those that are more science-based tend to minimize qualitative-but-valuable.
  • Oct 6 2011: I definitely agree. It is the new very informal equalizer of mankind where people are scaffolded to each other's level of information and social behaviour. Sooner rather than later I expect a global 'Net language' that all computer users will be familiar with and their original languages including English will gradually (also sooner than expected) step back. The youth of today are the decision makers of tomorrow and they will easily let go of traditional methods of education and of life. I foresee 'virtual living' where people will have to use a guide to step outside the home because they will not need to in their daily life. Many parts of the world will lag but in general youngsters have found a collateral supply to the clogged traditional education vessels.
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      Oct 6 2011: The lingua franca of the internet is already English. In fact, the internet is the strongest driving force behind the globalisation of English, since 70-80% of the net (depending on whom you ask) is in English.

      Probably the biggest change to language use on the internet that I can foresee is the integration of graphical memes as cliches, as we're already doing for 'facepalm', 'rageguy', and others.
  • Oct 6 2011: I think that depends on the direction employers and higher education institutions take in the next 5 to 10 years. On the one hand, the two could become symbiotic, like the example being set by Stanford with their "Stanford Engineering Everywhere" program (seen here: http://see.stanford.edu/). However, this is still many steps from anything close to being deemed on par with a university degree. the question is two fold. First, will there be a movement towards an inclusive online learning environment within higher education that is more accessible to a more diverse range of students? or will they instead continue in a direction of "protecting the integrity" of their degree, and maintaining a classical approach to enrollment and teaching styles. THe second question is what the employment market will deem acceptable and worth while educational experiences. we already see more and more employers moving to on the job training and experience as opposed to lusting over the most highly decorated ivy league students. The concept of "a la carte" online education could jive very well with this trend in the business world. however, this too depends ultimately on the employers' choices over the next few years. if they decide to get in bed with colleges, like many businesses often do, they could very well continue the current trend of inflating college degree potential without a real out for students. The bottom line is that whichever way this goes, it will come down pure and simply to the profits of big business and universities. The most profitable route will prevail. So, as a college student, I would tell students everywhere, use both mediums as much as you possibly can.
  • Oct 6 2011: Live in a BIG city (NYC, BA)
    Meet people (meetup)
    Work
    Read
    __________
    = Best Education
    • Oct 6 2011: I would say that is very Educational, but not the best Education. Also, a fairly closed - minded statement when there is SO MUCH to learn that you cant find in a "Big City."
      But hey, I do like NYC a lot.
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    Oct 6 2011: The Digital World: Isn´t it the NEW DARWINISM ?

    At no less than Robert Tercek states this provocation - or truth?
    If so, the iNET would be no help to improve the conditions of men. Our Interview / Film with Robert: http://bit.ly/o5Gx7B
  • Oct 6 2011: I don't believe that FORMAL education has been a great equalizer for a while. Its quality often varies with price, which is more of a divider than an equalizer; it can often fail as a means for one's personal growth; and as a result of both of these, it is often not accessible or worthwhile for many people and is thus a divider between those within it and those who are not in the system.
    The internet, however, is absent of these problems. As the internet is free, and as much of the good information of the internet is free, it is an equalizer. Furthermore, it has almost infinite potential as a means for personal growth. And finally, people have the ability to connect through the internet in extraordinary ways, so there is no "in" or "out" group.

    Lastly, EDUCATION, in any form, may still be "the great equalizer," and if the internet can grow in offering free education as many sites currently do, a proper and responsible merging of internet and [formal] education may become the greatest equalizer the world has ever encountered.
  • Oct 6 2011: The internet is an amazing tool for acquiring information. The day of the encyclopedia is over. Knowledge is at your fingertips, whether you want it or not. The problem is, will that make us a nation that is expects everything to be at a super fast pace? Call me crazy, but I miss the days of having to go to a library for research. It forced your body to be in motion, to be out in the fresh air. It forced you to socialize with the various people in the outside world. You had to lift and turn and hold various sizes and weights of texts. You had to carry and sit at long tables. Things are happening too fast and most people can't keep up. And that is what we are- people. In this internet crazed society, we hide behind/ in front of screens, typing away. Sure we can find out the life span of a butterfly but how about going outside and looking for a butterfly? Are we losing connections with ourselves and others? I agree that High Schools need to be specialized. There are too many days wasted talking about irrelevant topics. It is overwhelming and uninteresting to the average student. The internet will definitely bridge that gap. Though I can honestly say that nothing can take the place of a good old fashioned college classroom, where a professor provokes the class into an amazing discussion.
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    Oct 6 2011: Higher education has the environment to foster minds, yet I feel that often, the academic aspects often come up lackluster. For example, most students take their computers to class and surf on the internet, which is very inefficient for how much money your paying to 'learn'.

    For those who wish to study-independently and learn there own way, the internet is the ultimate resource. I still find it mind boggling to have the entire catalog of human knowledge at my fingertips. Literally, whatever I want to learn, I can, through several different educational mediums; musical instruments, mathematics, language, etc.

    And I also think that business and the all mighty dollar disturb educations true aim. Today I received a book on International Business that my local bookstores were advertising as ~$130 (USED!), which I bought on Amazon, shipping and handling included, for less than $7.

    Something is obviously broken here.
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    Oct 6 2011: The internet is a tool of communication. Communication is a process of giving, receiving, and/or sharing information. Information - in direct or indirect experience - generates knowledge. And knowledge is a major component of education.

    The autonomy of the internet provides an inherit educational process that allows everyone to be the teacher as well as the student.

    From this perspective, I would say: Yes, the internet is the new great equalizer.
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    Oct 6 2011: Wow, formal education gives me the leg up that allows us to use the net from a better vantage point. I wouldn't trade 1 for the other.
  • Oct 6 2011: I would say that for the internet reallyto become a great equalizer, formal education should focus their teachings more on how to use this Medium to obtain, evaluate and filter information found on the internet.
    But I totally agree, that throught the Internet, less fortunate countries that don't have an infrastructure for knowledge as found in the western world, might one day really have access to all of mankinds knowledge, without having to play catch up on building libraries and universities.
    I doubt though, that the internet will be able to actually replace formal eduscation, as social and human interactions certainly make up a very relevant part of a childs education, which facebook and social networks barely can replace.
  • Oct 6 2011: The internet and formal education can never be a great equalizer unless access to each is equalized. Broadband infrastructure is insufficient in many rural areas (in the US) and formal education is being downgraded because of insufficient funding.

    Although access to the internet can be had free of change at many libraries and public education is still available, each is limited compared to buying broadband and computers and private education.
  • Oct 6 2011: The Internet is like any book, pencil or ruler - it's a tool. In the hands if a teacher, education can happen. Otherwise, the Internet is chaos for learning albeit in a fragmented, random fashion. Creativity can be encouraged or discouraged by education, but true creativity comes out even through adversity. Cases in point: Steve Jobs. Thomas Edison. Galileo Socrates. Just to name a few.
  • Oct 6 2011: Not sure the question makes sense -- the way you pose it it reads as if formal education is/was an equalizer; I think your point is to the contrary, right?

    If I may rephrase...yes, the internet is becoming a great equalizer. The thrilling part of web 2.0 is that people EVERYWHERE will have access to a formal education anytime/anywhere.

    Or am I reading this incorrectly?
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      Oct 6 2011: Hi Bridget,
      Thanks for the input. My personal bias is that yes, the internet is the great equalizer, but at the same time, I wanted to start a discussion, because I do see value in "formal education" , but believe the current institutions need some healthy competition and alot of reform.
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        Oct 6 2011: These may not be overly simplified explanations. There are times when the lines between each type of learning get blurred, as well. It isn’t always as cut and dry as it seems, but these definitions can give us a general idea of each type of education, as complementary ones.
  • Oct 6 2011: i so wish i could say it's the internet. but no. access without knowing how to prioritize, assess, analyze, judge... is great, but not enough.
    one needs to know WHAT to do with the knowledge, how to use it, apply it before i would say internet is enough. not all on the internet is true, free of bias, beneficial. to know you are being misled by someone is only the beginning. it can lead to protest, but how would you fix it?

    for some, lucky ones, raw knowledge will ignite their mind and great thing swill happen. the majority though, needs formal education, unbiased teaching and then the freedom to use it, apply it.
  • Oct 6 2011: To be able to use the internet in an educative way, to take the most from it, and to know what to look for in the first place, you need to first have some formal education. The internet is only a tool, after all, it can't, for example, teach any kind of attitude towards society in an informed and balanced way, unless the user is incredibly lucky which sites they visit.
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    Oct 6 2011: The ONLY thing that concerns me is the depth of the education. I am guilty as hell of reading/learning JUST enough to do what I need to do, programming-wise. I think that maybe I would have skipped over fundamentals because I learned "just enough" on my own. Anyone else know what i mean by that?
  • Oct 6 2011: Of course, I am only in my current career because of the internet and my ability to utilize the tool. The internet took me personally from working at a car wash to being a Sr. Tech at a nationwide corporation. I am making more than some of my college graduate friends and they consistently tell me I am brilliant. I am not more intelligent than they are in any way but it seems that the consistent use of this universal source of knowledge has increase my capabilities in way my peers wish they could attain. I am not trying to brag, i am a humble idiot, I simply recognize that without this tool and the wealth of information easily traversed though my fingertips is what has made my life a person success story. The internet has balanced out life potential, if you just take the time to learn to use it. From rags to service tags, the internet took me the whole way.
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    Oct 6 2011: The education tools and schools forming on the internet are going to become to pervasive and sophisticated that they will inevitably envelop all modern and traditional forms of education. Just as the introduction of the computer itself has done, most classrooms with be integrated with the internet and its vast array of tools and resources.
    That is not to say that formal education will fade away. Most obsolete technologies and traditions stay around, at least to some extent, but they will be increasingly less relevant to the crucial goal of educating people all over the planet.
  • Oct 4 2011: Never, and from my point of view as teacher we should avoid it. Our children need us.
  • Oct 4 2011: Sadly, the more I think about this question, the more I question whether either the internet or formal education are actually "the new great equalisers". It seems that it is too often the lowering of standards in education that creates an illusion of equality. Equality of what are we seeking here? Equal opportuity? Then yes, the internet increasingly provides opportunities whereas access to education is often limited by financial constraints as well as physical proximity.
    What use is made of the educational opportunity provided though will be determined by individual "hunger", and I suspect that that is more a product of inspiration from a mentor whether formal or informal, personal or social.
    It could also be increasingly negated by the subtle censorship that conspires to only show us in our (google) searches what we already know or are interested in .... thus limiting the educational value ...
    Thank you for this thought provoking question ....
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      Oct 5 2011: Good point.

      I couldn't resist a comment, though:
      "It could also be increasingly negated by the subtle censorship that conspires to only show us in our (google) searches what we already know or are interested in .... thus limiting the educational value ..."
      I agree with you as well, if you want variety and context EXCEPT what you are looking for, try Bing :-P
  • Oct 4 2011: I agree with "The internet makes self-education easier" but in the same time can easy to make mistake.
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    Oct 4 2011: I hope you are right Megan, especially now that so much is available to anyone who has access to the web. In the end everyone is self educated really, It only happens when they decide to invest themselves, whether they are in an official learning environment or at home. Yes it appears easier in college but Lincoln did pretty well on his own. Live Mentors can be wonderful and group interaction works well for many people but plenty of people do pretty well when given the opportunity. I think we need to do some sort of end run around "formal education". Break their monopolistic hold on power, shake the ivory towers and ivy covered halls and make them compete on a level playing field. Some sort of independent National Assessment program that can validate self empowered learners so we don't have to mortgage our futures with student loans that too often lead nowhere. I myself aced thirty credits worth of CLEP tests in one day only to find out they had no actual value without the imprimatur of an institution. Had I gone on to get 60+ credits and then applied to a university the writing on the wall was clear. They would have acknowledged at most a third of them and then told me that in just two or three years of dues paying they would "probably" award me their coveted diploma. I already had a Bachelors from an internationally accredited European university but that impressive multi-syllabic phrase has no meaning apparently. As Sir. Ken Robinson says "bring on the revolution!
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    Oct 3 2011: Megan you ask the right point. The very best of Internet is the universalization of information. Now we have to see how prevent the "infoxication". I used Internet an some others net in my work. And I work from 30 years ago in one of the richest libraries in all the world. The Vatican libraries.

    We use our private net and the Internet is awsome in expansive power, but we need to learn how select the information to transform in knowledge. Internet is no substitute for formal education. Is a tool, a swiss army knife as Walter Radtke said. You can do a lot of things with this instrument but not all the things.
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    Oct 3 2011: I think having both would go a long way towards making anyone ........equaler. Haha
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    Oct 3 2011: Yes, absolutely. The Internet is a global scale Swiss Army knife and one of its functions will be to replace brick and mortar teaching institutions. I'm in favor of turning all curricula, from grade 1 through grade 12 into a computer gaming format with regional and world championships. Just like how Western TV media brought down the repressive Soviet Union, so will the Internet bring down repressive regimes world wide. The entirety of our foreign policy should revolve around putting laptops in the hands of every human on the planet.

    In order to have an "equalizer" you have to have democracy, period. Any other social or political form has a built in caste system.
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    Oct 3 2011: Thank you for posting this question! If anything, the Internet is the new (or perhaps the first) lowest common denominator for formal education. Nothing can replace the value of the limitless combinations of hints, nudges and explicit instruction within one person's social sphere on any given school day. The social interactivity is, to me, the thing that begins to separate the "armchair smart" from the true contributors to society.

    I guess it comes down to how you measure the value formal education. Yeah, the Internet can make everyone who uses it smarter, but, really, so what... if it can't inspire you, or help you improve your EQ in some way?
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    Oct 3 2011: Great question, how did I miss it?
    I think you are not asking weather internet does replace education nowadays, but rather if it is not the current equalizer...
    Like others I have to say yes and no, for very different reasons.
    While you and I may be comfortable at the computer, and have access to the web in our cars, at work, in the livingroom and in the patio, there remain many -MANY- that don't have access to technology, or drinkable water for that matter. In that sense, far from being an equalizer, the internet -and technology in general- is one the things that separates us (them from us) the most because it is even furthest from reach than regular education, which might be brought by a group of missionaries in their remote spot of the world...
    Let's remember that, as global as our world is today, there is more than just our immediate environment, there is more than us, there are huge inequalities that remain unresolved.
  • Oct 3 2011: No absolutley not!! It is the new great "equalizing" tool as far as theory and demonstrations are concerned. But just because you know how and have seen a video does not mean you can... Sometimes you need someone to work with you..
    Chad
  • Oct 3 2011: Yes, and no. No two people utilize the internet the exact same way.

    When I'm at a dead end and cannot seem to think of the next thing I want to learn about, I use the heroin of the internet: Stumbleupon. However, I could also use this nifty little internet-addicting app to find time-wasting online games to relieve my stress from work.

    Also, not everyone knows how to use computers or the internet. I know! Unbelievable! Even though my great-grandpa could use e-mail and surf the web, a younger counterpart (who shall remain nameless) never had a computer class and never owned her own computer and actually wound up asking me how to change the size of her font, what "save as" meant, and how to set her desktop background!

    Homeschooling, public school, and private school are the flame, so to speak. Then it's up to us to keep putting wood on the fire. I hope I never stop learning.
  • Oct 2 2011: With the internet, people can learn about anything. It just depends on what they WANT to learn. I know from experience that I can sit in front of a computer for four or five hours straight without any distractions teaching myself how to program in HTML and Python, but when I sit down for thirty minutes to write a quick page or two about the chapter I just read for English, that concentration is just gone.

    Formal schools won't be completely replaced by the internet because of our lack of will to learn when we are being forced to. I've spent many hours learning on the internet, but also many more wasting time because I'm not interested in my school subjects.
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    Oct 2 2011: The internet makes self-education easier, but it remains to be seen if it makes it more attractive. While I might spend an hour on Wikipedia, somebody else might spend that hour playing Farmville.

    I remember the day I graduated from school. A slightly older fellow clapped me on the back and said, "Now you don't have to read books!" It took me a moment to realize he wasn't joking.
  • Oct 1 2011: I don't think so.

    Formal education represents a distillation over time of things generations of educators think are worthy of better learning and better understanding. These things include the building of skill sets that will increase the capacity to learn and understand, for example progressive mathematics, science and writing skills. There is also a fairly tight mentoring feedback loop in a formal education. The internet contains a broader amount of information available to a person interested in self study. Having little or no critical feedback while you are learning structured subjects does not really develop the skills to a point of competency. The internet is full of information that is flawed, erroneous, or intentionally misleading. I really do not think it is an either/ or proposition. I think most people will be better off in life if there receive a formal education. The internet is a tremendous resource, and might be also considered an essential element in the education of future generations, but it should not be considered a replacement for a formal education.

    A twist of your question might be " Is a formal education delivered via the internet through e-learning, video lectures, interactive activities and events, more effective than a classroom experience?" Again I think the answer is probably 'no' , but it is a much closer judgment. In this instance, the decision is a comparison between the direct observation, feedback, intuition, and communication skills offered by a qualified teacher versus the breath of information, variety of courses, video lectures, and interactive experiences offered by the internet. It is closer, but I think a teacher has direct observation and sensory skills that are essential and still light years beyond computers.

    For best results, a human must still be directly in the education loop. The Internet as an education and life-long learning tool is also essential. Teachers need to include internet education in ciriculms
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    Oct 1 2011: In many respects yes, the internet is the new "great equalizer" when it comes to education. But there will be more to it than just that. Education is in the beginning stages of a seismic change that will take place over many decades to come. It will be lifted out of the classroom and connected squarely, firmly to the world.
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    Oct 1 2011: in that sense, everything is a great equalizer that reduces costs significantly. i can agree to that notion. bring about scientific and technological progress!