By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki
There was a wonderful article by Christopher Sims in the Wall Street Journal on September 28th, titled “How Humans Can Win Race against Machines“.
The first premise is that educational progress has stagnated, as reflected in the reading and math scores of American K-12 students and the growing skills gap between the best jobs and workers who are able to fill them.
The second premise of the article is that automation and machine intelligence are pervading business in a wide variety of areas, not just robotics in manufacturing, but analytical and intelligent software in manufacturing, product development, customer service, finance, marketing – really across the full range of business processes.
And the third premise is that the application of software and yes, automation, in the education field is lagging. We’re not talking robot teachers here, but machine-assisted learning. The basic teaching paradigm of a teacher giving a lecture to a class is a century old, and the industrial age educational model is older than that.
Humans need to out-learn the automatons, or more pointedly, need to be able to develop them and to control them. This means more education in software – understanding how it works, knowing how to write it. In fact one could claim that software coding skills and developing the understanding of the logic behind software and of how complex software systems work are as important as language and mathematical skills for students in the 21st century.
Now we know that schools are changing in response. Blended learning and flipped classroom models are increasingly being adopted. Digital learning is all the rage. But the basic K-12 educational model is still quite 20th century, while the revolutions of big data, cloud, social and mobile technologies are sweeping the world outside the classroom.
The WSJ article quoted the chief executive of Knewton, Jose Ferreira, who stated “The idea that everyone gets the same textbook is a ludicrously archaic idea”. His company provides adaptive learning software that determines which lessons and problems are appropriate to provide to a given student at a given time.
We at Curriki certainly agree with Mr. Ferreira’s observation about uniform textbooks, while we also agree on the need for minimum core standards. But let’s hold no child back, let’s develop each child to her/his full potential and let’s customize education wherever possible. Software can help do this.
The learning of the basics can be assisted with software, freeing students and teachers for more group project-based learning and for individual coaching and mentoring. After all, we now have the Internet providing access to enormous repositories of knowledge and a wide diversity of learning materials. We must take advantage of this.
Mr. Ferreira goes on to say, “In the future, everybody is going to have materials – textbooks, games, whatever – in a materials portfolio that updates in real time…”
The future is here today – at least in part. At Curriki there are over 70,000 resources in a freely and globally available library, with powerful search capabilities, and the portfolio increases every day. It’s a digital library where you can check out resources, and you never to have to return them. But if you contribute more, you will be aiding learning outcomes around the world. With your support, this portfolio will continue to grow rapidly and update at an ever-faster pace.