Category Archives: education

The girl who knew what God looks like

If you care about education then don’t miss this 2006 speech by Ken Robinson. He suggests the Western education system is ill-suited for helping children nurture creativity, and yet in a rapidly shifting world — where today’s schoolchildren will retire in 2065 and we can’t predict the future of 2015 — creativity is the most important skill for humanity’s survival. Plus he’s damn funny.

Via Jim Mitchem.

The credit crisis visualized

Improvements in online video quality are seeding new educational tools. Not only can you watch free lectures from MIT or Stanford, you also occasionally find brilliance from upstart designers. Here’s a wonderful animation of how cheap credit and low interest rates convinced investors to upend capitalism as we know it.

By Jonathan Jarvis as part of his thesis at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. His other work is worth viewing, too.

iTunesU points to a future where colleges are free

Your iPod can open up the universe.

If you frequent the popular Apple iTunes music store you may have missed iTunesU, a little link to free lectures from Stanford, MIT, Yale and other leading universities. Glance elsewhere online and you’ll find the similar MIT Open Courseware site, Peer 2 Peer University, and loads of lectures on YouTube. These are not online degree programs but rather information troves posted for free by the universities, all up for anyone to dive in and explore.

Consultant Mark Pesce writes that this online course load is approaching an inflection point in which knowledge about knowledge becomes universal. Soon you will be able to pick from the best lectures on a given subject, from hundreds of lectures rated by studious peers online; you’ll access reading lists, class notes, and tests from any school in the world (who wants to compete on the global stage); and the virtuous cycle of universities competing to be the best will end the era of the best education being only for the wealthy.

There will always be value in brick-and-mortar: College parties and classroom physical debates open eyes, context, and job connections in a way that online viewing does not. Or perhaps even that will change.

In the future you will never finish a degree

What if you could experience any university virtually, meeting peers with 3-D avatars, and leap to only the best experiences? Education would flow outside the ivory walls of top institutions and tight four- or two-year intensive cycles to become an ongoing life learning model for those who wish to continually develop their minds. Perhaps in 20 years the nature of degrees will change from end points (where an MBA or doctorate is some ideal finish line) to check points. You reach level 2.0, then 3.0, and continually evolve. And at higher levels, you contribute back into the knowledge network to pull others forward.

The entire business model of universities would shift as well. Unfortunately colleges, like businesses, profit from the friction between supply and demand — and as knowledge flows freely the participants will want it for free.

No tuition. But advertising? You bet.

So instead of pulling $50,000 in annual tuition from each student in a small elite pool (and spending much of those funds on robotic library book pick-and-pack retrieval systems or college gyms approaching 5-star hotel spas, required to attract future elite students), universities will give education away for free to millions — in exchange for third-party sponsorship offsets, or smaller surcharges for degrees, or for an investment stake in the ideas, patents or even lifetime incomes of the brilliant minds who turn the knowledge gained into economic power. Purveyors of education will still make money, but they will do so at scale.

Is it too much to hope that higher education will become a pleasant commodity, a standard of living for billions instead of a Lexus badge owned by a few in rich nations? Maybe. Perhaps the value of degrees is the mystical cachet that comes from knowing only a few can attain the title. But then, basic literacy was once only for princes and priests, too.

Learning to speak

This is a little deep, and only vaguely related to advertising, but you’ve been good and can handle it. Here goes. Does communications have to have a point? Think back, way back, to being a child, no, a toddler, maybe 18 months, just before language and words structured your thoughts and you just toddled outside to see the blue sky and green grass and smelled the world in all your toddle-toddlehood. We all learned to intake information not with logic or words … but sound, images, colors, aromas, sparks, feelings. That’s easy to forget in traffic or meetings or The New York Times.

Watch a few seconds of this clip and try to remember. Just remember. Then go back to your Excel and Twitter, suffer words and numbers, and sling those arrows into PowerPoint.

Ah, we can never go back.

Tx Make the Logo.

Harvard slashes tuition. Americans thank the Lord.

In a rare bit of good news, the intersection of supply and demand slipped a bit at Harvard University yesterday. Harvard announced it would slash its tuition to a new scale based on a percentage of a family’s income. Families earning more than $60,000 a year would pay just a fraction of their annual income as tuition, and families in the mid-tier of $120k to $180k would pay only 10% of their income. This means a family earning $140,000 a year would pay only $14k annually to send young James off to a top school … a far cry from the 200 grand it now takes to send kids to four years of Ivy League ed.

This is an extraordinary move. Is Harvard’s enrollment down? Is Harvard positioning itself as an industry leader? Does Harvard think the future of elite intelligence lies in Middle America? Doe Harvard find those bratty kids from private schools just too annoying? Dunno. The competitive advantage or PR buzz may not last, as other colleges and universities pick up the wave. We hope. Schools here in the states are way too damn expensive. As the elite schools compete fiercely for elite students, the elite students with less means will now flock to Harvard.

Of course, today 90% of Harvard’s students probably come from super-elite families earning more than $180k a year … and if so, Harvard just won a PR coup while putting a fraction of its revenue at risk. Nice pricing strategy.

Holiday gift idea: Howtoons for kids

Saul Griffith is one of these renaissance MIT types who starts business incubators, makes it big and gets profiled by Fortune. Today he is figuring out new ways to generate power from high-altitude wind.

But we like his Howtoons the best. Howtoons is a comic book / blog that teaches kids ages 8 to 15 how to make cool stuff, like a marshmallow shooter, out of household items. Griffith started this as a little side project, since he was disappointed in the current education for children on how to do anything real with science other than log on to computers. If you want to slip a little engineering to your kids this Christmas, check the book out at Amazon.

Blame it on NASDAQ. U.S. kids are running from IT.

Be careful what business news you share with teenagers — they have long memories.

Today new college freshmen are abandoning IT and computer science studies, and switching to economics. The number of frosh chasing economics degrees is up 40% in the 2003-04 period from five years earlier, while new computer science majors are down 50%. The trend is so significant that big players like Microsoft are seriously worried, and launching new training programs to jazz up computer classes.

We can’t blame the popularity of Freakonomics for this (the book was published in 2005, after the trend began). Academic types believe three things led to the youth shift: the aftermath of the 2000-2001 dot-com bubble burst, in which teenagers saw parents’ savings wiped out in the NASDAQ implosion, shown above; the much-talked-about outsourcing of computer jobs from the U.S. to other nations, which further scares youth about future job prospects; and the simple fact that many CS courses are SO BORING in the first year.

The dearth of American computer talent will be filled by experts from abroad. The magazine The American reports that in April, the first day H-1B visas were allowed for U.S. firms to hire skilled foreigners, the government received 150,000 visas for 65,000 openings. The good news for today’s college kids: If they do study computer science, they’ll be among the few U.S. citizens qualifying for tomorrow’s wide-open technology job market.

Biomed scientists target themselves

Health care professionals, biomed scientists, grad students and other brainy types have a hard time keeping abreast of the 16,000 new science publications indexed by PubMed every single week. The internet, crowded with commerce and YouTube, makes it hard to sift through the abstracts and papers. How to keep up?

SciVee has launched a brainiac site with the science class version of YouTube: researchers post video introductions with the text of their papers, users easily find digestable content, and the web community (one hopes) makes the most brilliant research float to the top. SciVee was thought up by Philip Bourne, prof at University of California at San Diego, with NSF seed funds and major wattage from the UCSD Supercomputer Center. No word yet on how or if advertisers can crack in to this sweet audience, but we’re sure they’re trying.

If you want to know how Arabic medical texts addressed pericardial pathology 900 years ago, SciVee is your thing.