On the year’s last PTO meeting in my fourth grader’s school, we were proudly told that the school would be getting 24 new iPads as part of the annual school gift. A welcome gift and indicative of a change movement that is going on in many enterprises including the traditional temples of knowledge and learning, our schools. Apple had already jumped in the game with the iPad deployments but now it is positioning its eTextbooks for the marketplace with big name textbook publisher partners (McGraw Hill and Pearson) who will offer its digital books through the iBooks app at a significant discount compared to the paper based equivalents. One look at the school iPad deployment numbers and you can easily see why. At last count, the San Diego Unified school district and the Chicago school district had deployed 25,000 and 10,000 iPads and more than 600 school districts in the US have a 1:1 iPad:student ratio. Introducing interactive books and iPads into the learning environment is just the starting point, but a significant one (enterprise investments in technology are subject to atleast a 3-5 year cycle). These interactive books will be a more appealing way of content delivery to a generation that is very comfortable with (and demanding of) technology. In time, more features could be added that make these books more ‘social’ – like making it easier to share notes from within the pages of the book or running summary usage reports (akin to the Khan Academy model). In less than a generation, this could have the potential for a complete overhaul of how children learn in school.
Education in the digital age was also one of the topics at last week’s All Things D conference where Stanford President John Hennessy and Khan’s Academy founder, Salman Khan laid out many compelling ideas - online lessons and flipped classrooms changing the way students interact in the classroom, web lessons incorporating peer tutoring and linking student learning to job market outcomes (the last about offering micro-credentials in a specific area independent from encouraging learning for the sake of mastery of a subject, hence parting the vocational and intellectual quests that are usually a bundled offer in college education). The Kaufmann Foundation report, College 2.0 that was just published also shares many innovative ideas for the next generation of education models.
A leading thinker in the field of school education, Sir Ken Robinson, has for years highlighted the need for changing the paradigms in education that were originally set up in the 50s (check his inspiring TED talks) and instilling more creativity in the way children learn. Technology could become the primary driver in effecting the philosophy around ‘formal’ education and help improve the current learning environment. Today’s students are fortunate to be surrounded by many sources of learning (see my earlier post) but in order to accelerate and thrive they will need to cultivate skills of seeking, finding, filtering, curating, and collaborating around knowledge.