Posts about Education

WWGD? – The videos (7)

At last! A week of videos comes to an end. Here are the last of the videos from the aborted v-book edition of What Would Google Do?:

Here I ask how Googley headhunters would operate:

And, finally, a video from Oxford about the future of the university:

Google U

Zephyr Teachout has a good column in tomorrow’s Washington Post predicting the disaggregated university. It’s very much in harmony with what I wrote in What Would Google Do? – that complete chapter here. I also gave a talk on the topic via Skype to the Media Education Summit in Liverpool this week; the audio (not very good) is here. The bottom line of all this: Education will follow the path of newspapers, toward a disaggregated, distributed, more efficient future based on abundance rather than scarcity, with control at the edge.

Eric Schmidt teaches the taught

Pardon me, first, for a moment of paternal pride but I watched Eric Schmidt’s commencement speech at Carnegie Mellon with extra interest because in a few weeks, my wife and I will be driving our son Jake (my secret weapon and webmaster) there to join a summer program for high-school students.

And so I listen to Schmidt talk about education itself in harmony with what I’ve been screaming, that education is built to prepare us all to give the same answers, not necessarily to invent the next Google. Education was built for the industrial age; indeed, when we visited CMU, we were shown one strange building on a slope that was designed to be converted into a factory in case this university thing didn’t work out for Mr. Carnegie. Now we need to reinvent education for the digital/knowledge/Google/creative age. Said Schmidt:

“To some extent you were penalized for making mistakes historically. Now you have to make them because mistakes allow you to learn and to innovate and to try new things. And that’s a culture of innovation that is going to create the next great opportunities for all of you as you come to run and rule the world and the rest of us retire.”

Schmidt also made many observations about the current Facebook and Google (his order) generation, some transcribed by TechCrunch‘s Robin Wauters, some by me:

“When I grew up, we had Tang, you had Red Bull. We used a programming language called Basic, you had Java…. We got our news from newspapers. You get yours from blogs and tweets…. We just didn’t tell anyone about our most embarrassing moments. You record them and post them to Facebook and YouTube every day. I am so happy that my record of my misachievements is not around for posterity…. We thought ‘friend’ is a noun, you think it’s a verb…. I did some research using my favorite search engine, of course. And the great depression spurred some incredible innovations: Rice Krispies, Twinkies and the beer can. You never would have gotten through college without these things. So good things happen in recessions….

“In our lifetimes… every human being on the plane will have access to every piece of information known on the planet. This is a remarkable achievement. God knows what these people will do….

“Don’t bother to have a plan at all. All that stuff about having a plan, throw that out. It seems to be it’s all about opportunity and make your own luck…. You cannot plan innovation. You cannot plan invention. All you can do is try very hard to be at the right place and be ready….

“How should you behave? Well, do things in a group. Don’t do things by yourself. Groups are stronger, groups are faster. None of us is as smart as all of us…..

“Trust matters in a networked world. Trust is your most important currency….

“In a world where everything is kept and remembered forever – the world you are graduating into – you should live for the future and the things you really care about. Don’t live in the past. Live in the future….

“You’ll find today is the best chance you have to start being unreasonable, to demand excellence, to drive change, to make everything happen.”

Reboot the university

In today’s NY Times, Mark Taylor of Columbia calls for the end of the university as we know. As I do in What Would Google Do?, he uses the new structure of our post-industrial age to rethink the structure and work of a university.

He argues for the end of departments — that is the end of taxonomy. He argues for collaboration — that is, specialization (do what you do best and link to the rest). He argues for the end of the centuries-old form of the dissertation — that is, taking advantage of the new forms of creation and information sharing we have at hand. And he argues for the end of tenure — that is, building around merit and value rather than protection.

At the same time, see this post from Mike Hamlyn of Staffordshire University trying to apply some of the precepts of WWGD? to his university.

Here is my entire chapter on remaking the university from WWGD?, in which I argue that we need to separate the functions a university now performs — teaching, certification, research, socialization — and use the power of the link to put together networks of learning, teaching, and knowledge sharing that cut across departmental and institutional — not to mention economic — boundaries.

A portfolio instead of a diploma

Teacher Mark Pullen wrote on his blog great thoughts on students leaving school with portfolios instead of just diplomas. The next day, he was reading What Would Google Do? and found that we agreed on this, I’m happy to say. Mark’s ideas:

After 13 years of work getting a K-12 education, why is it that all a student has to show for it is (if things go well) a diploma?

It seems to me like our goals should be so much different, such as:

In writing: students should have a very rich blog with hundreds of quality posts on it, as well as several major self-published pieces and several other items that were genuinely published by outside sources (editorials in the local paper, columns for a trade magazine, etc.)

In science: students should have at least one patent and/or at least one invention that they’ve actually created a prototype for (or, better, that has had copies of which have actually sold)

In math: students should be able to balance a checkbook, understand how to stay out of debt and avoid credit spending, and understand how to interpret biased statistics and advertisements correctly; they should also be able to solve any real-world math problem they may encounter in life (figuring out the reduced cost of having improved gas mileage, determining the amount of interest that would accrue on various home loans, figuring out which jar of peanut butter costs less per ounce, being able to make two-thirds of a batch of something, etc.).

In social studies: students should be able to read every article in the newspaper and understand (when applicable) the article’s significance and the historical events that have led up to the event being described. When applicable, students should also understand the geography of the location(s) being discussed, as well as the religious and political backgrounds of the people groups involved

Finally: students should be heading to their post-K-12 life with a plan for the future, rather than just heading to college because everyone is doing it. They should have an extensive understanding of a significant number of careers in their preferred field(s) of study as well.

Kind of cool: a patent instead of a sheepskin.

As a second 30 Days of WWGD? snippet for the day (because I’m a bit behind), here’s the bit from the book that Mark quoted:

* * *

Perhaps we need to separate youth from education. Education lasts forever. Youth is the time for exploration, maturation, socialization. We may want to create a preserve around youth—as Google does around its inventors—to nurture and challenge the young. What if we told students that, like Google engineers, they should take one day a week or one course a term or one year in college to create something: a company, a book, a song, a sculpture, an invention? School could act as an incubator, advising, pushing, and nurturing their ideas and effort. What would come of it? Great things and mediocre things. But it would force students to take greater responsibility for what they do and to break out of the straitjacket of uniformity. It would make them ask questions before they are told answers. It could reveal to them their own talents and needs. The skeptic will say that not every student is responsible enough or a self-starter. Perhaps. But how will we know students’ capabilities unless we put them in the position to try? And why structure education for everyone around the lowest denominator of the few? . . . .

The next role of the university is testing and certification: the granting of degrees and anointing of experts. The idea of a once-in-a-lifetime, one-size-fits-many certification of education—the diploma—looks more absurd as knowledge and needs change. Are there better measures of knowledge and thinking than a degree? Why should education stop at age 21? Diplomas become dated. Most of what I have done in my career has required me to learn new lessons—long past graduation—about technology, business, economics, sociology, science, education, law, and design. Lately I’ve learned many of these lessons in public, on my blog, with the help of my readers. That is why I urge other academics to blog and be challenged by their public. I believe that should count as publishing. Blog or perish, I say.

Our portfolios of work online, searchable by Google, become our new CVs. Neil McIntosh, an editor at the Guardian, blogged that when he interviews young candidates for online journalism jobs, he expects them to have a blog. “There’s no excuse for a student journalist who wants to work online not to have one,” he wrote. “Moreover, the quality of the blog really matters, because it lets me see how good someone is, unedited and entirely self-motivated.” Our work—our collection of creations, opinions, curiosities, and company—says volumes about us. Before a job interview, what employer doesn’t Google the candidate (a practice banned by law in Finland, by the way)? Our fear is that employers will find embarrassing, boozy pictures from spring break, but that’s all the more reason to make sure they also find our blogs and collected works. . . .