Friday, December 9, 2011

Technology in education: a long way from Charles Babbage's difference engine and analytical engine

In a special section of Science Times in the New York Times this past Tuesday, Professor Daphne Koller, of Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, touts technology as the way to increase the availability and affordability of individualized education:

     How can we improve performance in education, while cutting costs at the same time? In 1984, Benjamin Bloom showed that individual tutoring had a huge advantage over standard lecture environments: The average tutored student performed better than 98 percent of the students in the standard class.
     Until now, it has been hard to see how to make individualized education affordable. But I argue that technology may provide a path to this goal.
     Consider the success of the Khan Academy, which began when Salman Khan tried to teach math remotely to his young cousins. He recorded short videos with explanations and placed them on the Web, augmenting them with automatically graded exercises. This simple approach was so compelling that by now, more than 700 million videos have been watched by millions of viewers.
     At Stanford, we recently placed three computer science courses online, using a similar format. Remarkably, in the first four weeks, 300,000 students registered for these courses, with millions of video views and hundreds of thousands of submitted assignments.
     . . . .
     . . . [P]resenting content in short, bite-size chunks, rather than monolithic hourlong lectures, is better suited to students’ attention spans, and provides the flexibility to tailor instruction to individual students. Those with less preparation can dwell longer on background material without feeling uncomfortable about how they might be perceived by classmates or the instructor.
     . . . In short, everyone has access to a personalized experience that resembles individual tutoring.
     . . . .
     For many types of questions, we now have methods to automatically assess students’ work, allowing them to practice while receiving instant feedback about their performance. With some effort in technology development, our ability to check answers for many types of questions will get closer and closer to that of human graders.
     . . . .
     Some argue that online education can’t teach creative problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. But to practice problem-solving, a student must first master certain concepts. By providing a cost-effective solution for this first step, we can focus precious classroom time on more interactive problem-solving activities that achieve deeper understanding — and foster creativity.

Daphne Koller, “Death Knell for the Lecture: Technology as a Passport to Personalized Education,” N.Y. Times, December 6, 2011.

(cgw)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_skills/2011/12/technology-in-education-a-long-way-from-charles-babbages-difference-engine-and-analytical-engine.html

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