If you had the chance to read any of George's posts on the EdLab Blog, you would have quickly picked up on George's ability to embed the issues of education into a historical and global context. George shares his valuable insights into international developments and current affairs on the EdLab blog, as seen here, here, and here. For George's best of, "Trends in Ed: Armed Conflict and Education" see...
When the guys from ProctorU came to present at an EdLab Seminar a few months ago, I was struck by the fact that the founder was an economist. When I asked him how his training and experience as an economist led him to become an entrepreneur, he told me that his economics training gave him a better understanding of the role efficiency plays. This made sense to me, yet entrepreneurs oftentimes mock economics for not saying anything useful about starting a company or even running a company. Sure, economics does not make us any more informed about consumer tastes...that's for marketing.
EdLab is constantly seeking to find the keys to and analyzing the impact of disruptive forces in education. Indeed, many of the recent technological advances will serve to make education significantly cheaper. Yet there are some economic frictions that prevent disruptive and productive ideas from gaining further traction. The friction that I see as the biggest to overcome is the observability problem and what it has brought on.
Education is one of the few areas where output is very difficult to observe. It is hard to determine the value of an education at various levels. As it is, a studen...
I wasn't sure if this was real or not...but apparently it is and now social networking is a fashion statement. Browse the magnetu site before reading further. I don't want to be too harsh on the creators of the product but I must admit...I am repulsed.
There are many great trends in education nowadays but this seems like a particularly wasteful trend. The idea that 'social networking' of this nature will actually improve the quality and quantity of in-person interactions is too far-fe...
For those who missed my blog post where I gave a teaser to my project proposal which seeks to create an online credential system that allows learners to better leverage the vast amounts of free educational content online.
Salman Khan (of Khan Academy fame) is now advocating for almost precisely the same thing that I'm proposing, along with Fred. It's both awesome to know that I'm probably on the right track and yet it makes me anxious to get this idea going forward before it possibly gets corrupted by another party. A competency-based credentialing system is exactly what is needed for communications technologies to truly disrupt the educational landscape; otherwise the traditional institutions will always have the keys to the castle. For further analysis, see Reihan Salam's post here.
I will be presenting on this at next week's EdLab Development & Research meeting. For those interested in my project proposal, you can now find it here.
That's right. Education is magic. So says Bryan Caplan. We've covered Caplan's views on education; he strongly believes that education follows a socially wasteful signalling model. Yet one of the arguments we have not discussed in much depth is his belief that work experience trumps education. I would say this is true for more lines of work than people are willing to admit. Ask anyone working in high finance straight out of undergrad if what they learned in undergrad actually helped them. Their answer will be no. I ...
Fred recently blogged about how there is such a large surplus of educational content that he would like to consume and yet he is unable to follow through on most of these pursuits. I would count myself in Fred's camp with regard to my desire to learn and my inability to finish course material. All of this fits into a narrative Fred and I have been discussing through our posts, namely credentialization. People don't really want to learn, or are at least not sufficiently motivated by learning alone. People want credentials; they want a diploma, a major, or a certificate that said I achieved XYZ and am thus fully equipped to take on task ABC.
Given the amount of free online course content though, there is not a corresponding set of exams and assessments that allow online students to earn credentials for the content they learn. For these mobile learners, as long as the test they've taken is a credible measure, their credential has weight. There already exists the infrastructure for this to happen because of structured distance learning programs (think ProctorU).
Testing is a large market but tends to be monopolistic or oligopolistic in nature. Yet there really isn't a market for students who learn online out of internal motivation. If there existed a credential hub online where you could go to achieve credit in a particular subject or course, it would not only increase the value of learning and the incentive to take advantage of free educational content, but it would be the first big step to breaking down the emphasis on signals and credentials in education. To give this idea its best chance, the assessments should be focused on higher education courses, since there exist no standardized assessments in this realm and plenty of educational content.
Now the question arises, why should anyone even want to take an online test to gain an online credential? What weight does it really carry on the labor market? Don't we need a reputation first? This is a difficult question but I'm not sure a reputation has to come first. Reputation is built as more users find the assessment sand credentials useful and a reliable indicator of ability. We could certainly run studies to further the value of a credential/assessment-hub to that extent. There is also the issue of grade inflation in many higher learning institutions which can be succumbed by standardized assessment (everyone has more confidence in someone who received a B and a 5 in AP Chemistry than in someone who received an A and a 3).
There are a lot of details I iron out in my project proposal, but the basic gist is that there is the potential to build the equivalent of a low-cost College Board for online education and higher education simultaneously.
Please let me know if this idea seems interesting or has any legs so that I can send you the project proposal to get feedback
We've heard all about competitions/workshops where startups and budding entrepreneurs pitch ideas. There are already startup weekends for ed-tech. But what I'm about to propose does not fall into either category...
Let's start with what successful entrepreneurs are really great at: identifying new efficiency. While some entrepreneurs succeed in better identifying consumer tastes, those that can identify concrete ways to make firms and consumers more efficient win out at a much higher rate. Yet the startups have been most effective in high-tech, where identifying new efficiency mostly requires technical knowledge. In areas such as education, knowledge of institutional constraints is incredibly important.
My idea for an entrepreneurship competition would entail TC students (and possibly other potential entrepreneurs) to not pitch an idea but a problem. The task would be to identify an area of education where there are greater improvements to efficiency for the taking. The proposed solutions to these inefficiencies would have to be limited to entrepreneurial efforts (specifically not public policy). The greater the improvements to efficiency and the greater the specificity with which the problem and suggested solution(s) are outlined, the better the idea is judged. The competition would have two parts: a presentation and a q&a session with a panel of experts (a la Fed Challenge). The Q&A would be partially rooted in the entrepreneurs' presentation and partially in testing the entrepreneurs' knowledge of the particular issue being addressed. The panel of experts should be a mix of TC faculty and folks from the entrepreneurship world.
This competition takes a slightly different view of entrepreneurship on two fronts. One, it fleshes out some of the institutional concerns that come with addressing educational issues that don't exist in other sectors where entrepreneurship exists. Where else can you find as expansive a faculty that is knowledgeable about the variety of issues that plague education? Two, this sort of competition is not for those who might have a super-clear idea for their startup. Rather, it will help entrepreneurs keep efficiency considerations in mind as they build towards a concrete product. This competition should bridge the gap between entrepreneurial interest to concrete idea/product.
The workshop half of this project would be a little different too. We would use the many of the same experts from the panel of experts of the competition to conduct a workshop with some of these same entrepreneurs to help sharpen their ideas.
If you've read this far, you're probably interested and you're in a position to answer this question. Should the workshop precede or succeed the competition. If the workshop comes after, it almost serves as a prize in and of itself. If we conduct the workshop before, we could charge a lot more for participating in such a competition. Keep in mind that it will cost more to get faculty and other experts to help nearly everyone, as opposed to the winner or top 3 teams.
Let me know if you would like to see the full-fledged project proposal for this idea if you're interested!
[Wasn't connected to the internets when I posted this before leaving on Tuesday...I guess today will be a TiE doubleheader]
(Via extremetech) MIT researchers have now built a chip that effectively imitates how the brain learns new tasks and incorporates new information. It's truly impressive stuff with regards to how closely they simulate the activity of a synapse in a silicon chip of 400 tran...
Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at the Sloan School of Management at MIT, was on Morning Joe today promoting his book "Race Against The Machine. While his ideas are quite intriguing regarding the implications of rapid technological growth, his comments on entrepreneurship, education, and productivity were misleading at best. To pin the current economic woes on a lack of entrepreneurship and skills is to misread the short-term nature of our current problems. The financial crisis did not change the stock of human and physical...