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Posts Tagged ‘education’

Using Inspiration to Aim Education Towards Innovation

November 29th, 2009

On 23 November 2009, President Barack Obama announced the new Educate to Innovate program (full transcript). The program is an initiative to stimulate America’s students to develop skills and consider careers in science, engineering, technology, and innovation.

What’s exciting about this program is that it aims beyond merely demanding improvements in public test scores for math and science from school districts. Unlike the No Child Left Behind Act, which — in a nutshell — is legislation targeted at making schools show improved standardized testing scores, the Educate to Innovate program instead aims directly at inspiring students to learn.

The program also ties in participation and investment commitments from the nation’s businesses, in an attempt to provide initiatives beyond the boundaries of the class room:

Time Warner Cable is joining with the Coalition for Science After School and FIRST Robotics… to connect one million students with fun after-school activities, like robotics competitions. The MacArthur Foundation and industry leaders like Sony are launching a nationwide challenge to design compelling, freely available, science-related video games. And organizations representing teachers, scientists, mathematicians, and engineers — joined by volunteers in the community — are participating in a grassroots effort called “National Lab Day” to reach 10 million young people with hands-on learning.

Students will launch rockets, construct miniature windmills, and get their hands dirty. They’ll have the chance to build and create — and maybe destroy just a little bit … to see the promise of being the makers of things, and not just the consumers of things.

And the program doesn’t rely solely on the contributions of corporations; it also seeks to leverage the participation of teachers, science and technology professionals, and volunteers.

Of course, the players upon whose participation the program is counting are only part of the story. What’s additionally refreshing is the breadth of the approaches proposed to achieve the program’s goals. Academic competitions and after-school programs are fairly classic, but I’m rather pleased to see a proposal to create video games designed to catalyze the development of scientific skills — it speaks to an understanding of America’s youth communication culture. America’s young people aren’t engaged by slide shows and documentaries. They demand interactivity.

But interactivity isn’t all young people need. They also need role models. So the President also announced a new annual science fair at the White House, saying [emphasis mine]:

If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you’re a young person and you’ve produced the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too. Scientists and engineers ought to stand side by side with athletes and entertainers as role models, and here at the White House we’re going to lead by example. We’re going to show young people how cool science can be.

And finally, I was pleased to hear that part of the initiative’s core goals is to attempt to broaden the appeal of science, math, and technology to populations that aren’t traditionally the most likely to pursue such studies:

Through these efforts … we’re going to expand opportunities for all our young people — including women and minorities who too often have been underrepresented in scientific and technological fields, but who are no less capable of succeeding in math and science and pursuing careers that will help improve our lives and grow our economy.

Here’s a video of the President’s full speech (originally posted on the White House blog), which discusses additional pats of the initiative and offers several logistical details:

Additionally, here’s a video in which Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John P. Holdren answer questions about the “Educate to Innovate” initiative:

All in all, the initiative clearly has extremely ambitious goals.

And there are certainly a slew of improvements our educational system needs that this initiative simply doesn’t address, for while making a generation of critical-thinking, innovative, and technically-savvy Americans is a worthy goal for several reasons, the education system must also take care to prepare us for “everything else” in life, like health and nutrition, personal finance, and social and civic participation, just to name a few.

Even so, I’m terrifically heartened at the innovation and sensibility that’s demonstrably been applied towards defining the initiative’s fundamental methods. It speaks to an understanding and harnessing of lessons learned in recent years about the power of social participation to drive individual accomplishment.

Modernizing Education

Sketching the Migration to Digital Education

August 18th, 2009

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent proposal to adopt so-called e-textbooks for his state’s public school system has triggered a flurry of press coverage, as well as new products like the Kindle DX and CourseSmart‘s iPhone app in the market.

The idea has critics. There are concerns regarding the economic feasibility of the idea, as well as the intellectual property management, and naturally the functional requirements for such devices.

An overview of these matters includes the following:

  • Economic Feasibility

    1. How will the costs behind distributing the readers (the actual hardware units) to every student be covered?

    2. What business model(s) will be available for textbook publishers?

  • Intellectual Property

    1. What safeguards do publishers have against unauthorized distribution of their materials (eg, piracy)?

    2. What safeguards does the educational system have against vendor lock-in?– schools should never become beholden to any one company.

    3. What about ownership of the software itself? The operating system, the format of the interactive materials, etc.

  • Functional Requirements

    1. What sort of hardware capabilities must these devices offer? Of course, they’ll have to display text in layouts with photos and diagrams, but what about video? What about 3D rendering for visualization purposes, or network connectivity?

    2. What sorts of interactions must these devices allow students to conduct with the educational material? Will it support touch-based hyperlinking, annotations, or some sort of data sharing? What about end-of-chapter quizzing?

Clearly there are several matters that need to be thought through, but here’s a “sketch” for a potential solution.

Read more…

Modernizing Education, Public Brainstorm ,

Schwarzenegger to Education: Learn From the RIAA’s Mistakes

June 12th, 2009

Arnie discussing the imperative to modernize the publishing infrastructure in California’s education system by moving to digital textbooks:

As the music and newspaper industries will attest, those who adapt quickly to changing consumer and business demands will thrive in our increasingly digital society and worldwide economy.

It’s one thing to hear the tech nerds of the internet speak of the RIAA’s clueless clamoring into the digital phase of the digital publishing landscape, but quite another to see such a high-profile politician so plainly paint the RIAA as a poster child embodying the inability to adapt to changing market realities.

I can’t help but speculate that this imperative takes aim at two birds with one stone. I find it difficult to imagine it to be mere coincidence that California-based Amazon dropped their Kindle DX — introduced with a marketing message explicitly speaking to its value proposition to text book publishers — with such an uncanny confluence of timing.

Business Sense, Modernizing Education , , , , ,