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Tablet PCs Hack Education

Tablet PCs and other mobiles have been used to hack education for seven years.

In this case, hacking education means disturbing conventional practices used in schools in order to increase learning and to make learning easier.

Ken Collura introduced Tablets into schooling at Bishop Hartley High School shortly after Tablets became available. Uses of Tablets in their classrooms changed the way their students learn and teachers instruct. Together, they demonstrated a potential of mobile PCs for education in and out of schools.

Subsequently, uncounted thousands of students in many countries have completed and submitted uncounted hundreds of thousands of teacher assignments with Tablet PCs in hundreds of schools.

Fred Wilson recently conducted a six hour session he titled Hacking Education. Wilson’s a venture capitalist looking for more ways businesses can improve education.

He has captured the vision of what I call the emerging mass market of independent learning and learners in what I call an emerging open learning paradigm.

While Wilson phrases some reasons differently for this market, most Tablet and other mobile PC users and software as well as hardware developers will recognize his reasoning and share his values for increasing learning through offering more venue choices to learners.

Many of us see ourselves participating in creating this emergence. I see it possible using off-the-shelf-learning-resources to accelerate learning through a New Era School Initiative (NESI) in Fall, 2009.

Wilson’s Hacking Education

Before the session, Wilson outlined his thoughts on why the education system (broadly speaking) is (broken) failing our society and why hacking it seems like both an important and profitable endeavor …

We need some way for the kids and their parents to take control of who educates them (and how that education occurs)… .

In short, Wilson calls for “a revoluition of the ants” to take down the large education institutions and replace them with more choices for families and learners.

He sees the problem against more choices resting in schools, the colleges and universities, the testing institutions that inform them, and the unions and political system that support them.

We must, he says, move away from an (education) economy based on scarcity and embrace one based on ubiquity in an age of the Internet.

He suggests that funding exists to start companies that offer new ways for people to learn, including over the Internet, through open sources, etc.

Here’s a quick summary of Wilson’s big takeaways from the six hour gathering:

1. The student (and his/her parents) is increasingly going to take control of his/her education including choice of schools, teachers, classes, and even curriculum through the web. It transfers control from institutions to individuals and its going to do that to education too.

2. Alternative forms of education (home schooling, charter schools, online learning, adult education/lifelong learning) are just at the start of a rising trend.

3. Students will increasingly find themselves teaching as well. Peer production will move from just producing content to producing learning as well.

4. Technologies and approaches will reduce the marginal cost of an incremental student. Imagine that it will go to zero at some point and get on that curve.

5. It is high time to question everything about the process by which we educate our society.

6. Investment opportunities that work around existing schooling will be more attractive.

7. Availability of work products will make credentials and accreditations less important.

8. Testing and assessments will increase in importance.

9. Learning venues will change.

10. Learning is from bottom up and education is from top down.

Welcome, Mr. Wilson, to the table. I hope you brought your Tablet or another mobile PC. Learners need VCs and Angels to encourage the kind of open and accelerated learning your gathering discussed.

You offer thoughtful support for using mobile electronic communications media to focus on more choices for more people to learn more efficiently in more open learning venues, etc. as envisioned in the New Era School Initiative (NESI).

And, thanks for your blog. I think teachers, education software and hardware developers, as well as parents will find it a continuing source of ideas, encouragement, and provocation.

Please keep up the good work.

  1. Thanks, Anonymous, for submitting a comment that started, “This is dishonest propaganda of the slimiest order …” I delete comments from Anonymous and other SPAM. This is an invitation for the author to resubmit with her or his name. That way, readers can consider the merits of the comments for themselves.

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