Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Is Today's Classroom a Land Truly Lost in Time

Preamble: the Glass Classroom has nothing to do with MOOCs or online education. This is a concept to coalesce attention on the lack of technical progress in education and provide a new, innovative framework to move forward. The concept isn't focused on one aspect of the problem, but the entire ecosystem. The future classroom is a place where the instructor and student is aware of progress and outcomes in real-time. They can collaborate, adjust, explore and engage with unimaginable fidelity. Again, the Glass Classroom encompasses the entire educational ecosystem.


Is Today's Classroom a Land Truly Lost in Time?

To answer that question consider this point: when a professor meets a new class for the first time, there's one fact that hasn't changed since Harvard was founded in 1636. They have zero information about their students, except a list of names. The parallels with 1636 don't stop there, the curriculum is designed and instrumented the same way too--assignments, quizes, tests, etc.

It's remarkable, but if you want to enjoy a trip back to the 1600s, the modern classroom at your local college is a great way to get that experience on the cheap.

While other professions have harnessed the power of electronic systems and intelligence to advance their discipline, education remains a land truly lost in time.

To provide contrast, consider aviation, and the aircraft and pilot. Less than 100 years ago, at the dawn of aviation, flight was a seat of the pants experience. Over the decades, the application of technology advances and instrumentation have empowered the pilot with efficient access to the aircraft's status, navigation and helped advance all aspects of the industry (safety, performance, etc.).

Take a closer look at aviation and its transformation. What's really changed through the application of technology? The answer is, aviation understood natively that efficient flight depends on standardize information feedback loops that provide information from remote areas of the aircraft to the pilot in command. Centralized information and control management empowers the modern pilot to operate efficiently, even in one of the most complex and dynamic environments known--flight. If we draw a parallel with education today, the modern professor uses the same methods of instruction and assessment they did in 1636.

Aviation isn't the only example of technical transformation. Modern medicine, meteorology and others have adopted technology to advance and extend human capacity.

To my point, education hasn't embraced technology to advance the classroom or profession. The classroom today is no more instrumented than it was when Harvard was founded in 1636. Admittedly, this fact is stunning given the advances and modernization elsewhere.

The introduction of a computer or iPad into a classroom changes little beyond how information is accessed or viewed. In a sense, we've tossed technology into the room--and hoped it would help.

How do we fix this? Great question--take lessons learned from aviation, medicine, meteorology and others and gather the curage required to inspire innovation in the classroom. We owe this to the next generation of students and advancement of the profession of education.




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