Sunday, May 16, 2010

If you want to understand the future of education-- consider this!

James Fallows has written a fascinating article in the Atlantic How to Save the News that describes the ways in which Google has been working with news organizations and experimenting with ways to continue to have high quality news reporting.

As I read this, I keep substituting the word "education" or "university" for newspapers and keep asking myself how can be take advantage of these ideas.

Here is a quote about newspapers that has application to education and universities.
"Burdened as they are with these 'legacy' print costs, newspapers typically spend about 15 percent of their revenue on what, to the Internet world, are their only valuable assets: the people who report, analyze, and edit the news."
Fallows goes on to note that most of the cost of newspapers in for paper, printing and distribution, not the core aspect of reporting the news.

Now substitute these legacy costs for education-- classrooms, books and you begin to see where we are going.

Fallows describes the conceptual shift that newspapers are going to have to make. He says,
[in the past] "'publishing' meant printing information on sheets of paper; eventually, it will mean distributing information on a Web site or mobile device."
The conceptual shift is from viewing the work as "distributing information." In a similar way most educators have defined "education" as face-to-face lectures with some form of testing. We are going to need to begin to see our job "engaging people in learning activities" without reference to the form or location of those activities.

Education will also have to think about its business model in the online world. Fallows suggests that the the new business model for the news business is as follows:
"The three pillars of the new online business model, as I heard them invariably described, are distribution, engagement, and monetization. That is: getting news to more people, and more people to news-oriented sites; making the presentation of news more interesting, varied, and involving; and converting these larger and more strongly committed audiences into revenue, through both subscription fees and ads."
This may seem obvious, but Fallows goes on to describe tools that Google has been inventing such as "living stories," "fast flip" and "youtube direct" which seem to have interesting applications to teaching. More importantly, these innovations remind us that teachers need to be asking technologist for the tools that will help us with distribution, engagement and monetization. There are undoubtedly some betters ways to do instruction online that are currently available.

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