There are two possible ways to predict the future.

1. Take what currently exists and imagine improvements.

2. Take what currently exists and imagine replacements.

This is the difference between refinement and revolution. Take a device like smartphones. Are they are an improvement? Well you could argue they are just improved phones but actually they replaced land line phones so that makes them a revolution.

Each revolution in technology tends to unlock other advances. This used to take a long time but now it happens more rapidly because our science instruments are being improved and also because knowledge gets around much faster than it used to.

All of this leads to the Law of Accelerating Returns as defined by Ray Kurzweil. This means that technological progress tends to accelerate over time. As I like to put it, we are linear minds in an exponential time.

Ray Kurzweil tends to look at the future in revolutionary ways.

Imagine if we can use the cloud as an extension of our brain capacity! All of this is why I think that mass education in it’s current form is going to be replaced, not just improved. Back in 2011 I asked if mass education as reached the point of diminishing returns. It is becoming more clear to me that it has. We spend more money on mass education for essentially no improvement. Technology like Ray talks about may go around the problem.

 

Posted by: crudbasher | July 8, 2014

Great Article About Higher Ed Disaggregation

I was sent this great article by my friend on Twitter @dgburris.

In it author Martin Smith talks about how higher education is similar to the music industry. This isn’t a new idea to these pages but it is laid out in the article in a good and clear way. Consider this a primer on what I think is going to happen to higher education.

H/T QZ.com

This last decade of the music industry presages the coming decade of education. Choice is expanding at every level, from pre-k to graduate school. The individual course, rather than the degree, is becoming the unit of content. And universities, the record labels of education, are facing increased pressure to unbundle their services. So what will the future of education look like? 

  • The price of content will freefall over the next seven years. We heard the first rumblings last year when the Supreme Court ruled that U.S. copyright owners may not stop imports and re-selling of copyrighted content legally sold abroad, paving the way for a global market for textbooks.

  • The supply of learning content will swell. This might sound counterintuitive, but as we move toward a global market for content, creators will be price takers, unable to command much negotiating power given the sheer scale of distribution platforms (think iTunes). While it may make less sense for a professor in New York City to write a book, it makes a whole lot of sense for one in Mumbai.

  • Education will be personalized. With learning content available on demand, students will increasingly be able to build degree programs from a wide variety of institutions offering particular courses.

  • Universities will be masters of curation, working as talent agencies. They’ll draw royalties and license fees from the content professors create and curate. In many ways, the role of the best universities will become even more focused on identifying, investing in, and harvesting the returns from great talent.

Yes yes exactly right. The author goes on to say that this will cause great upheaval in the industry. Again, I agree completely. Of course the scenario laid out above is what I think will happen without outside intervention (meaning government). The government is now such a large player in society that it throws off economics trends. For example, the ride sharing service Uber is banned in some cities with taxi companies. There aren’t really any good reasons for this except it will hurt the taxi companies. This is the government picking winners and losers.

The other thing I think the author doesn’t address is the rise of machine generated content. Once computers can generate lessons for students the price will hit the floor.

Barring outside meddling, higher education in 20 years will be marked by a few large learning providers using mostly automated systems with notable brand names (MIT, Stanford, Harvard), plus many many independent providers who will cater to niche markets.

This is the Stormfront of change I have been talking about. Like most transformations it is scary, but in this case it is inevitable.

Posted by: crudbasher | July 7, 2014

15yr Old Creating Advanced 3D Printer

The Internet empowers the creative.

H/T BBC News

Thomas Suarez is typical in that way. He is working on a patent-pending 3D printer which, he says, will work 10 times faster than the MakerBot model he uses at home.

But in most other ways, Thomas is anything but typical. At 15, he is a seasoned businessman.

The teenager tinkers with 3D printing technology when he’s not in school or codes new apps for smartphones or Google Glass (which he wears all the time outside of school).

He also has his own company, CarrotCorp, formed when he was 11 years old and making his first apps.

 

Sounds like a remarkable boy. I’m sure he learned how to do all this in our wonderful public education system that is preparing our children for the 21st century? Right? Um… no.

Thomas is completely self-taught when it comes to coding and business, although he gets help from his parents on the business end.

He thinks it’s a mistake that his school in Manhattan Beach and other California public schools do not offer more technology courses.

“A lot of kids my age want to learn, but there’s no place to go because the schools aren’t teaching programming,” Thomas says.

“It’s really frustrating actually. It was really frustrating for me and it still kind of is that we don’t have any programming classes or any real tech classes at my school.

The article goes on to talk about a prototype LA public school called the “Incubator School”. It sounds really cool because it is all project based learning and most importantly the students get to direct their studies. It will be interesting to see what sort of funding that sort of school requires.

Posted by: crudbasher | July 1, 2014

More Automated Content Creation

According to Wikipedia, of the 7.1 billion people on Earth, approximately 26%, or 1.82 billion of them are under the age of 15. Assuming a student teacher ratio of 30:1 (which is too high), we would need 60 million teachers to educate them all.

Obviously that is not very practical. So how do you do it?

The only way I can see to do it is to have automated content creation tools. You give a piece of software information about a topic and it can generate multiple lessons. Ideally, it could generate a lesson that is geared towards each individual student based on a profile that is built as they learn.

I have therefore been watching for automated content creation stories. Here is a recent one.

H/T benzinga

A vast amount of reporters’ time and resources is spent on producing approximately 300 earnings reports each quarter, AP Managing Editor Lou Ferrera said in a company blog post. Automated technology, on the other hand, could produce 4,400 short earnings stories (150-300 words) in the same time period.

[...]

Automated Insights Vice President of Sales & Marketing Adam Smith told Benzinga that the algorithm takes data sets and mines it for patterns, trends and correlations. It also looks at the user and the user’s history.

The algorithm then pulls those insights out and organizes them based on what’s most important for the user.

“What makes Automated Insights different from other code-deciphering services is that it has the ability to tell a story like a human, using narrative prose,” Smith said.

Quite impressive and only the beginning. The education market is much too large for these sorts of technologies to not be tried there too.

Posted by: crudbasher | June 27, 2014

An Internet Connected… Toilet?

Yesterday I wrote about how there will be 2.4 billion devices on the net in the next few years. I have also said that the Internet will benefit creative people the most.

Here’s an extreme example.

H/T Instructables

It’s a toilet that sends events to the Internet. Think about that. You can wire a toilet to send events to the Internet. Now what this tells us is it is so cheap and easy to do this that somebody did.

What will students do outside of class in the future? Is it possible that we are entering an age where we undo mass production? Nobody knows.

Still, this is awesome!!

Posted by: crudbasher | June 26, 2014

2.4 Billion Connected Gadgets By 2018

I haven’t written anything about the recent Google and Apple tech shows where they unveil new things. Mainly this is because nothing really revolutionary happened. Apple is continuing to tweak their software and added support for health tracking devices. Bah, that’s borning.

Google announced a bunch of tweaks to it’s software, and some wearable device support. Gosh I feel like I’m repeating myself. I did however find a nugget of useful news in the Google stuff. They are making a stripped down Android phone called Android One that will be a basic low cost smartphone. I heard it will be sold for less than $100 and won’t be offered in the US yet, just in India.

These low cost devices will still be much more powerful than the original iPhone. This sort of technology will transform the world, especially the developing world. That will lead to this forecast that 2.4 billion devices will be only by 2018.

 

H/T Campus Technology

Smart connected devices are growing at an unprecedented rate and are expected to hit 2.4 billion units per year by 2018. According to new research, that growth will be driven by smart phones and cheaper (sub-$500) gadgets, which will begin to push traditional PCs into the margins.

It’s a race to the bottom driven by Google. They make their money based on how many people are using Google search, not how many phones they sell. In my opinion that gives them an advantage over Apple.

The implications for education are profound. Imagine a billion people in the developing world looking for learning online! Some company is going to create an online learning platform that will teach them all, and that will transform the educational landscape. Keep in mind, Facebook has 600 million users and only about 2000+ employees…

Posted by: crudbasher | June 25, 2014

Video Of Don Tapscott – What Is The Net Generation Like?

There are some people who I pay attention to but don’t usually agree with. Don Tapscott is one of them. He is a big name in education but while I find his research interesting, I don’t think he is a radical enough thinker. Even so, I still watch what he says.

I came across this video from his website where he talks about the Net Generation. This is the generation now hitting college. This is the first generation to grow up with the Internet.

Here’s the video.

I want to draw your attention to two sections in particular.

First is from time 6:38 where he talks about brain development. I am encouraged to see this work. My son is in the 0-3 year old range (16 mo) and I can attest to how fast he is learning things. The other day he took my iPad, unlocked the home screen (I don’t have a combination on it), flipped through the pages of apps and launched Netflix by carefully pressing the icon. (the red icon is where he can see Curious George). Now I have taught him NONE of that. He just watched me a little and then has been experimenting himself. It is completely remarkable how fluid and adaptive his brain is at this age.

The other section I liked starts at 10:25 where he talks about how his son read one of his books and started a Facebook page for it. This tells me several things about Internet technology.

  1. Internet technology is not limited by age.
  2. The cost of entry is essentially zero so anyone can use it.
  3. The power of the Internet is to allow aggregation and organization of resource by idea not by location. He talks about this and calls it self-organization. (time 11:50)
  4. The risk of creation is also essentially zero so many people try it.
  5. There can be rewards for doing this but they are actually pretty rare.
  6. If the material reward is low, then people are creating online for different reasons.

It’s a good video and worth watching. Like I said, I don’t agree with him on everything but he’s a valuable resource for education thinking.

Posted by: crudbasher | June 23, 2014

Kerbal Space Program Is Like Minecraft In Space

I used to play video games quite a bit. Heck, I taught a class on how to make them for 10 years. Playing video games was research. :) Still, once I got married I played a lot less. Once we had our first child last year, I pretty much stopped playing completely.

This past month though I have found a new game. It’s called Kerbal Space Program by an indy game company called Squad. It’s a strange game. You don’t really have missions or a particular purpose. Instead, you get to control a race of cute green aliens called Kerbals. They have a spaceport and a collection of rocket parts. You then build rockets and send them to explore the solar system. You can also build space probes, and even aircraft.

Beneath the hood though, you will find out there is a strong physics engine. To navigate to other planets you need to understand a bit about orbital mechanics. In fact, it’s a bit of a steep learning curve. I’ve been playing for a month and while I can do navigation, I’m still not perfect at it. You have to manage your resources carefully. Fuel is a precious commodity. As you build your craft, you have to balance weight and thrust in order to be able to perform your mission. I think a game like this could be useful for teaching a number of concepts to students in a fun way! The company has even created something called KerbalEdu where schools can get discounts to let students experiment with physics in the game.

There is a large and active community of players out there who post tutorials on how to do things. There are also a large number of mods you can install to either make it easier, or to increase the challenge.

Now I am a space fan and have been for my whole life, but this game can be a lot of fun for anyone who likes problem solving. It’s not easy, but when you successfully touch down on another planet it is a very satisfying feeling. :)

 

Posted by: crudbasher | June 20, 2014

NanoDegrees – The Next Step In Learning?

I wrote a post a few years ago about The Most Dangerous Man In Higher Education. In it I talked about how Sebastian Thrun is creating a software system to enable the whole world to learn higher education concepts at low or no cost. He was one of the pioneers of the MOOC concept at Sanford. He is  not in it for the money, he’s in it to solve a problem. This makes him very dangerous to the traditional university model.

His company Udacity did not disrupt higher education yet but their latest idea may help do that.

From the Udacity blog:

[W]e are launching nanodegrees: compact, flexible, and job-focused credentials that are stackable throughout your career. And the nanodegree program is designed for efficiency: select hands-on courses by industry, a capstone project, and career guidance. Efficient enough that you can get a nanodegree as you need it and earn new ones throughout your career, even if you need to switch paths since a career isn’t always a straight line.

This is a model that is life long, focuses on skills, not basic knowledge and is do it as you need it. All of these are characteristics of what I think learning will be like in the future. This splitting up of the degree into pieces follows my Disaggregation model exactly. Learning is not tied to a building or a place. People who leave that behind will find their options opened up a great deal.

This last part of the blog post really caught my attention.

We know we still have a long road ahead, but today is the first step on a new path for education by industry. This will be a way for companies and students to stand out in their field and embrace modern vocational and lifelong learning. Nanodegrees have industry backing, valid credentials, compelling courses, and relevant career guidance. Most importantly, we’re dedicated to making them work for every single student. 

This is education by the people who will be hiring students in the future. It will be very relevant and carry with it the weight of industry experience. Will it have more weight than a class taught by a professor who is 20 years removed from their industry? Perhaps. If this model works, I see it being copied and moved into other fields too. If it doesn’t work then at least it’s another iteration along the path towards something that does.

Awesome!

Posted by: crudbasher | June 19, 2014

Lego Fusion – Blurring The Line Between Real And Virtual

This is amazingly creative.

You can build a lego building on a special flat brick, then use a smart device to take a picture of it. It then converts the construction into a virtual representation which you can then use in a virtual world.

H/T Engadget

Each Lego Fusion set consists of 200 bricks along with a special “capture” brick building plate that’s meant to be paired with a corresponding app. To play the Town Master game, for example, you would build a two-dimensional facade on the base plate, say the front of a house with a door, two windows and a roof (buildings can be up to 16 bricks high and 16 bricks wide). You’d then launch the app’s camera function to focus on the printed pattern, which is used as an identification tag. This essentially lets the app figure out exactly the size and colors of the Lego bricks you’ve built on the plate, enabling it to import and translate that physical creation into the digital realm. The app is then intelligent enough to transform the two-dimensional front of a house into a three-dimensional virtual building to be placed in the game. 

Just wow. I have to say, Lego has just really stepped up it’s game in the last 10 years.  They could have just kept making brick sets but they into everything. I did see the Lego movie and really liked it. They have MindStorm robotic sets, and now this new tech. I can only see what they will be making in 5 years time!

The next step to this is to use bricks to build an object but have that object show up as something else, then pop it into a game. Instead of looking like a Lego house then why not have it look like a real building?

Just awesome!

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