Khan Academy, Khan Lab School, and the Future of Education

Last fall, I spoke with one of my former English teachers about her work with Khan Lab School, the experimental Bay Area campus founded using the philosophy of Salman Khan. I have finally read Khan’s book The One World Schoolhouse, which describes the main problems with the American education system, the potential solutions Khan himself has drawn from the success of Khan Academy, and his vision for the future of K-12 and higher education. While I have some reservations about the proposals from the book and hope I can eventually tour Khan Lab School itself, I respect how clearly Khan explains the drawbacks of the traditional assembly-line model of education and the logic behind his proposed alternatives. Whether or not his One World Schoolhouse will become reality over the next few decades seems beside the point: Khan helps us articulate which parts of our education system cause so much frustration among students and educators alike and challenges our fundamental assumptions about the structure, methods, and objectives of the classroom.

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Online Adaptive Learning Technology

When educators consider the future of online and hybrid education, they frequently stress how digital platforms might personalize the content and activities provided for individual students. With sophisticated algorithms capable of determining what information students need and how they learn using past results, computer-mediated education programs could design assignments and lectures for each member of the classroom without overburdening teachers who already have nearly-unmanageable workloads. This article discusses the Habitable Worlds course from Arizona State University, which has students explore the historical development of biological organisms and the viability of extraterrestrial life using “digital courseware.” This courseware monitors student progress, presents feedback, and adjusts how its students learn and practice the content of the HabWorlds curriculum. Digital courseware may someday increase the pass-rates for general education classes and improve the quality of mainstream courses, but I question whether software, monitored or otherwise, should make automated decisions about student capabilities and classroom objectives. Click the link below for more information:

Digital Learning’s Pioneers Are Cautiously Optimistic

EdSurge Online Education and Adaptive Learning Article

Pokemon Go and Augmented Reality, Continued

I wrote the other day about the overwhelming success of Pokemon Go and the applications of Augmented Reality (AR) technology for education, but after I spoke with some friends about my previous editorial, I realized I did not fully express the value of AR compared with any competent Google search. One of my friends asked how my hypothetical AR system differed from static databases of information, and our discussion helped me realize how much I originally undersold the potential of AR.

Scenario 1: You visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and see the following painting inside one of the galleries:

Guardians of the Secret

If you read the placard, you might learn the title of the work (Guardians of the Secret), the name of its artist (Jackson Pollack), the date (1943), and some additional information about its context and significance. With AR, you might automatically receive verbal commentary about the painting from professional art historians, examples of other Pollack paintings for live, side-by-side comparisons using your device, and a short video of Pollack splatter-painting. Continue reading

Preschool Computer Programming with Wooden Blocks

This article discusses the gradual integration of computer science into K-12 classrooms and considers how preschools might teach students the basics of coding using colored blocks. The author surveys the objections instructors have raised against screen-based instruction and concludes tactile methods of learning code will not only help students prepare for increasingly-digital schools and workplaces but also harness the benefits of kinesthetic activity for long-term skill development. Much like the recent Google Bloks project, this article calls for means of acquiring online and computer-mediated skills without electronics, which could help schools with smaller budgets and less technically-trained instructors better serve their students. Click the link below for more details.

Why Pre-K Computer Programming Should Be More Hands and Less Screen

Preschool Computer Programming Editorial

New Technology from Google EDU

This article discusses four recently-released technologies from Google EDU, whose Google Classroom already has over ten million active users. The Expeditions application lets students and instructors visit virtual locations with relevant information about each site using their cell-phones and cardboard binoculars. I personally hope this project will help schools with increasingly-limited resources provide their students with more meaningful hands-on experiences “outside” the classroom.

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Computer-Generated Poetry Competition

The Neukom Institute at Dartmouth College recently held its annual PoetiX competition, where judges assessed whether ten carefully-selected poems had computer or human authors. Unsurprisingly, the judges had little trouble differentiating the human poems from their machine-written counterparts. The NPR podcast linked below discusses why automated programs cannot write perfect sonnets and will also let you compare human and software-generated poetry.

NPR PoetiX Competition Summary and Podcast

Edmodo: Virality vs. Profitability

This article discusses the education company Edmodo and addresses the problems companies face when they have markets for their products but have not converted their users into actual sales. Education startups face particularly high barriers for success: teachers and their institutions often cannot afford much education technology, and many educational applications attract users with free services and rely upon premium options and advertisements. Click the link below for more details.

Can Edmodo Turn Virality into Profitability?