Education 2.0

In what turned out to be the most popular TED talk of all time, Ken Robinson asked us to wake up and smell the coffee: our system of education is stuck in the Industrial Revolution where it was invented.  Moreover, it’s killing creativity, crushing spirits, and preparing students, not for success and wellbeing, but rather unemployment and dysfunction.  Waiting for Superman confirmed this this, adding that the public schools in the U.S. are bankrupt, both financially and morally.

Yet, all around the world, there are signs that the Berlin Wall of education reform is crumbling. Here are a few shining lights:

TEDucation

No single institution or movement has done more to spark educational change than TED.com.  Hundreds of millions of people are watching their videos and learning from inspiring individuals sharing ideas and experiences that cannot be learned in a traditional school environment.  And there’s an acceleration effect because many of the talks are about education and the transformation that’s going on in areas you would never know about otherwise.  Best of all, these talks are free.

Working from Within

There are groups like Decision Education Foundation which go into schools and augment their capacities by teaching skills that should be part of every curriculum.  And there are individuals like John Hunter who teach lessons which cannot be learned at home or on the internet (unlike the three R’s).

Not Waiting Around

There are many groups who are not waiting around for Supermen like Hunter to save the existing system.  Rather they are working alongside it to make it more effective.  There are after school programs, like Self Enhancement, Inc., which miraculously has transformed an entire population of at-risk youth into a community of high school graduates (100% in 2008 and 2009) many of whom go on to thrive in higher education settings.  Dave Eggers, the bestselling author, started a grass-roots initiative to provide extracurricular tutoring in which the tutors get just as much benefit as the kids.  And there’s El Sistema (“The System”), which famously produced the virtuoso symphony conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, but which more importantly is transforming our idea of what education is.

Reinventing the Model

Others, like John Hardy, are taking taking the idea that education can be revolutionized, and are just doing it.  And in doing so are challenging our most basic assumptions, such as “adults know what’s best for kids to learn and how to teach it to them.”  What if there were a school with no classes, no grades, no tests, and the students (age 5 to 18) decide what they are going to learn and how to run the school?  If you are thinking “Lord of the Flies”, tune in to hear about the Brooklyn Free School and free your mind….

Turn On and Tune In

It’s no surprise that formal education is moving online.  But did you know that it’s top notch and free?  Check out the Khan Academy which has delivered almost 100 million lessons to students around the world in math, physics, finance, history and more.  And why pay over $300K attending Stanford to get a degree in Computer Science when you can take the same classes for free online?

We Are Superman

It turns out that kids really can teach themselves and each other, when provided with the right guidance and framework.  And it’s not just in resource-rich areas like Brooklyn.  In India, Kiran Bir Sethi and Shukla Bose are showing the way.  But it also turns out that kids don’t need guidance from adults, they just need access to learning tools and for adults to stop interfering.  If you haven’t seen Sugata Mitra’s experiments of providing free internet terminals without instruction to rural Indian kids who don’t speak English, you need to watch what happens.

It turns out it’s not just kids who can learn from one another.  The Barefoot College is turning grandmothers into solar technicians and teachers of solar technology.  Oh, and again, a common language is not necessary in either case.

It turns out, it’s not just schoolchildren and the elderly that can learn from one another.  Skillshare is connecting individuals who want to learn anything to people who want to teach them.  Why not teach a class yourself in your local area?  After all, we are all Superman or Superwoman in something.

So, what are your favorite examples of Education 2.0?

  • I think  “the teaching company” is excellent  though i don’t really care to wait to get the dvds in the mail and have to store them.  I’d rather just be able to download presentations.   Tragedy and Hope and The Gnostic media are good primers for the foundations of rational thought.   . The old formula for education has been hijacked and no longer serves the student.  Thanks for the new links. I will mine them for new ideas.     John Monti

  • Michael Hunter

    The Stanford classes are not the “same classes”.  For the two classes I paid attention to this term there have been extensive discussions about how they differ.  But I think that is unimportant.  The classes run this term show that good intro college courses can scale (DB class is 70K with about 10K committed to the advanced track) and be interesting.  The “same classes” would actually be less interesting then what is being done.