Friday, April 22, 2011

Scalable education

I got a lot of great responses on my previous post about scalable education, and wanted to share them back out here. I also got a lot of questions on what I meant by "scalable" education. Let me speak to that first.

Thesis: the number of students getting a good education today is about 20 times the number of good teachers. Under our current classroom model, "number of high-quality teachers" is the limiting variable. By scalable education, I mean models of teaching that could feasibly grow to orders of magnitude greater than 20 -- systems that would allow one good teacher (plus the right support system) to teach 2,000 or 2,000,000 kids.

Here's a loosely annotated list of links to proposed models of "scalable education," sorted from least to most:

Jump - New curriculum deployment. Not bad, but not revolutionary.

PBS documentary on "digital learning" - This is a mixed bag. Some models (e.g. the Smithsonian scavenger hunt) are neat, engaging students in new ways. I was less impressed with several segments that are just trading classrooms for classrooms plus computers.

Teach for America - TFA's teachers do a lot of good, but they also tend move on quickly. (This may be changing.) On the other hand, TFA is very proactive about maintaining their alumni network. If this is going the be revolutionary, it will be as a policymaking network, more than a teaching force.

itunes-U - Possibly revolutionary. But content delivery < education.

TED - "The first major educational brand to emerge in a century." Very cool topics, but see previous.

Harvard's Distance Education - Lectures are free; course credit with the Harvard brand cost $. Many universities are doing this; Harvard is probably the best known. This is changing things, but I'm not sure how competition is going to play out in this space.

The Khan Academy - My number one vote for a potentially disruptive model of education.

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