Best of EduTech 2011
The end of the year inevitably brings out “best of” lists. And continuing the trend of “Top 11 in 2011” is Michael Staton’s “11 Tech Factors That Changed Education in 2011.” Staton’s company Inigral develops social software for student recruitment and higher education retention; it was named one of the top 10 innovative companies in education by Fast Company. Staton’s list picks trendsetters that are “quickly impacting how young people relate to and absorb education.”
I’m most intrigued by number 1 – the “Uncollege Movement.” The “who really needs college” uprising gained steam this year when PayPal co-founder (and early Facebook investor) Peter Thiel announced the first winners of his “20 under 20” Thiel fellows. From hundreds of applicants Thiel chose 24 entrepreneurs (he couldn’t narrow the field to 20) under the age of 20 to receive a $100,000 grant and access to a network of high-profile mentors so that, in two years, these budding entrepreneurs could turn their business hopes into reality, reports Jennifer Wang in Entrepreneur Magazine. The only condition: Thiel Fellows cannot attend college while in the program. Why? Because Thiel believes entrepreneurship can’t be taught in a classroom, and that college with its commensurate mountains of student debt serve to hinder, not advance, young talent today. Hence the “Un-college Movement.”
So, if you aren’t Thiel Fellow, but traditional college doesn’t light your entrepreneurial fire, what do you do? Writer Anya Kamenetz describes the way forward for “Uncollege” credentialing in her book The Edupunks Guide to a DIY Credential (is it too late rename my blog “Edupunks”?). Kamenetz’s book offers a “comprehensive guide to learning online and charting a personalized path to an affordable credential.” In assessing the impact of the “Uncollege Movement,” Staton wonders how soon (not whether) employers will accept un-collegians as readily as they do traditional graduates.
And my favorite trend is number 11 – “Schools are scaling, and so are professors.” Staton recognizes how online university learning has the potential to democratize higher education by bringing name brand schools and degrees like the University of Southern California’s Masters in Teaching to a lap top near you (a huge development this year). Readers of this blog will recognize the other trend – the scaling of instruction from world-renowned professors through popular online courses offered to anyone and everyone. Stanford’s Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thru headlined this effort with their wildly popular online course in artificial intelligence. “Now that the cost of distributing content is zero and the potential to reach anyone is limitless,” writes Staton, “all-star professors should be teaching every class.”
Beth T. Sigall
December 22, 2011