Part 2 : Setting the stage for future education : democratization of the learning process and nurturing confident learners.

The key elements, the seeds of innovation, will allow a new organic form of education to spring to life.

Unlimited Shelf space.

New forms of education are not achieved by  simply recording the lectures for later broadcast.  We have to rethink 2 aspects of education :

  1. That it must take place in the classroom
  2. Only educators can create new courses.

This kind of thinking restricts the potential proliferation of new courseware.

How Amazon.com and eBay.com changed the landscape of commerce.


The retail world had very similar restrictions just a few years ago. Because of limited shelf space may new products could not be introduced. Amazon.com and e-Bay gave us unlimited shelf space at a near-zero cost. This combination of super cheap and unlimited shelf space has caused an exponential growth curve in the introduction of new products.

Is it true that you can only buy products you see from a shelf at a shop?

So is it true that education can only happen in the classroom by an authority?

Removing the classroom constraints to learning is similar to removing the shelf space constraints to the marketplace. At the same time that we have been experiencing the exponential growth of information our education systems have not kept pace. Only a small percentage of the information being developed today is being passed on to future generations in the form of classes or course-ware.

My notes : That is why it is so difficult to get on-time knowledge delivered to students’ and parents’ awareness : there is a vacuum between what is happening in the world and what needs to be taught in classes or course-wares.

This growing gap between information and courseware is what we call a “courseware vacuum,” where supply has clearly not kept up with demand.

CERTIFYING ACCURACY – TRUTH vs. UNTRUTH

With so much information out there, how can students tell Truth from Untruths?

We can’t really depend on a central authority. To begin with, a high percentage of what is taught in classes today is theoretical, ranging from theories of gravity, to theories of evolution, to music theory. None of these topics end up being 100 percent provable as yet.

We’ve also  realized that virtually every aspect of society has its own version of truth – religious truths, scientific truths, legal truths, etc.  Instead of telling people what to believe, we have to teach them how to think intelligently – a sort of checks-and-balances system where individual groups can create their own central truth authority and place their tags of approval or disapproval on courses. These tags will be a central feature of the search criteria used by the smart profiler and the recommendation engine.  

What’s the value of such a system?

  1. First, it creates ways for virtually everyone to participate, and in fact, demands participation.
  2. Participation is an essential ingredient in a truly pervasive education system.
  3. It allows the learning system to develop organically
  4. The growth of learning,participation and information doesn’t need any central gatekeepers telling people what they can and can’t learn.

CONFIDENCE BASED LEARNING

While many different learning methodologies will be experimented with, one that holds considerable promise is confidence-based learning. Some experiments in this area have demonstrated a significant reduction in learning time. Confidence-based learning is designed to ensure that learning actually takes place and mastery of a topic is achieved. It is much more than simply delivering information to students. It ensures learning by assessing precisely what people know and what they don’t know without guesswork and doubt skewing the results. It then works to rapidly remediate a learner’s gaps in knowledge and confidence. Here’s a summary of how it works.

Determining what people need to learn :

  • What ignorance, doubts and misinformation do the learners currently have?
  • Unlike traditional learning methodologies that measure only how many questions someone answers correctly, confidence-based learning assesse correct answers that are answered with confidence, indicating competency vs. those answered with doubt, guesses or wrong information.
  • It also assesses incorrect answers that are answered with confidence, indicating misinformation

Knowing the difference between a person who is guessing correctly and one who answers correctly with confidence can have a major impact. Confidence-based learning is designed to close knowledge gaps at the moment users are most inclined to learn – right after being evaluated and their own misinformation and doubt has been exposed. If confidence-based learning is somehow designed into the courseware-builder that the speed of learning can be increased dramatically, by as much as 50% or more.

My note : This is the 2nd part of a as-yet unknown number of posts distilling the message of the team of researchers who, together with Thomas Frey, wrote this paper on his website.

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