Ericsson have produced a new video on the Future of Learning. It is about what technology can do for education.
There is often a sense that technology is a toy. That if it engages kids it is because it is more exciting and bright than tired, old books. This is, in many respects, the rhetoric at the heart of moves towards ‘interactive’ textbooks. The issue, of course, is that while that may be true, the real potential for technology in education is to break us from the requirements of standardization.
Standardization in education came from resource constraints. We have a fixed number of teachers and, in the past, a lack of access to technology. But that resource constraint is being shattered. That means that standardization can feasibly be challenged. No longer do we have to education children based, as Sir Ken Robinson would say, on “their date of manufacture.” We can allow both self pace but also multiple channels that may resonate and work with different children. One example of that highlighted in the video is Knewton. But it is just one of many experiments in non-standardized learning including Khan Academy andCodeacademy.
Perhaps no place more does this issue arise than on the issue of memorization. My biggest parental challenge in education comes from convincing my children to memorize things. Now when it comes to a foreign language or even spelling that may make some sense (but it isn’t a given). But just last night my daughter was busy learning the countries and capitals of the EU. She was suffering immensely from a problem I didn’t face when I was growing up; that break-up of Yugoslavia. That made the memory challenge exponentially harder.
So I helped her by testing her on what she had learned. But all the way, the question was why? Why was she memorising this? Why in this way? The best we have is that sometime in the future some political issue could arise and it will be important to know what the capital of Slovenia is. But even that is weak. Can’t she learn that later? There is no clear rationale.
What is more, the exercise was even obscuring the point of about the EU. Along the way, I asked her: what’s the capital of the EU? “The EU has a capital?” she responded. “Yes, it’s a form of government. It needs a home.” In other words, the forest had been completely obscured for the trees. (By the way, it turns out that, in this case, there is no one capital).
Anyhow, if you haven’t been following these developments, this video is a good place to start.