This past weekend, when I finally broke down and started to work on my holiday gift list, I came across a concept that uses technology to transform education. It’s called a massive open online course, or MOOC.
The source was an ‘encore presentation’ of NPR’s Weekend Edition featuring Stanford University’s Dr. Keith Devlin — NPR’s resident “Math Guy” — teaching a course to 64,000 students. (When I was young, we called encore presentations reruns, and ‘previously-owned’ cars used, but I digress.) This revolutionary use of technology has the potential to transform the existing university system — a system that is suffering an economic breakdown, with spiraling costs and unconscionable debt burdens.
Dr. Devlin’s key insights include:
“[W]hat MOOCs are really about are building learning communities of people . . .
“Obviously, at a time when resources and costs are of a concern — and when are they not, I suppose — this offers a hope of quality teachers reaching maximum number of students.
This is what gives us goose bumps, because we think for the first time ever anybody in the world with a broadband access can actually have a sense, a virtual sense, of sitting next to a world expert somewhere at Stanford or MIT or Harvard or somewhere. And that’s really kind of a unique situation.”
You can find the full transcript here.
The MOOCs, which have Devlin so excited, along with the noted Khan Academy’s parallel work for younger students, share the concept of leveraging technology to fundamentally alter the dialogue between student and educator. At K12 Insight, we see every day that our approach facilitates a ‘candid conversation,’ which profoundly alters the relationship between district leaders and the stakeholders they serve.
While it can be quite a challenge to engage with parents too busy to attend evening meetings or the reserved third-year teacher, these voices are just as valid as the activist sitting in the front row of the assembly at every public board meeting.
Maybe they’ll even get goose bumps!