Remember, in The Matrix, when Neo learned Kung Fu and Trinity learned to fly a helicopter? They simply uploaded the knowledge through that thingy in the back of their heads right into their brains and… poof! Learning may never be that simple, but we have the expertise and technology to make it easier than it is.
Learning On The Conveyor Belt
It seems as though, for efficiency’s sake, we chose years ago to solve educating the masses like we solved manufacturing – one-size-fits-all, assembly-line processing. That’s not to say that teachers do not give individual attention to students—quite the contrary. But the education industry presents an enormous juggernaut built on the idea that if some of the kids succeed in this model, then it is suitable for all of them. As the teachers on the front line will tell you, kids, neither learn the same way nor at the same speed. And yet we push all of the kids down the education path at the same rate. Some kids make it to the end, but many fall off on the way. Most of the students that successfully make it through the machine seem to have some outside assistance like at-home role-modeling and tutoring to help.
This Covid-19 crisis is providing us a fantastic opportunity to reset our thinking. Distance education is providing educators, colleges, and school districts with more information than they’ve ever had before.
Continuous Improvement Requires Better Information Flow
Part of the problem could be the lack of useful information to the stakeholders – parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc.. Better, faster information has improved almost every other industry. As parents, we’ve moved, in recent years, from receiving a report card or a status once every few months at a parent-teacher conference to more frequent information through Learning Management Systems. It’s still not enough to help all segments of the population. Successful children have the augmented support of family members involved in their advancement. But what of the kids that have struggling parents holding down multiple jobs?
Imagine a scenario where daily or weekly assessments happen automatically. The information from these evaluations are analyzed, and suggested actions are routinely delivered to the child’s stakeholders so that everyone involved in a child’s life has a set of options to help and augment.
Faster Feedback Leads to Faster Improvement
We’re using big data and machine learning to enable cars to traverse an arbitrary path while following a set of rules and avoiding obstacles. At a fraction of the cost and computing power, we can help people achieve their learning potential by speeding up and automating our understanding of where the students are, where they want to be, and the best ways to get them there.
We are at an inflection point in education. All these factors present an amazing opportunity to change our path. There’s more data available if we want to use it. Parents are better informed about the availability and possibilities of distance learning and adaptive computer-based platforms. The marketplace of AI/machine learning companies is growing in talent and speed. People are on balance relatively unsatisfied with educational outcomes during this pandemic.
Now is the time for teachers, education companies, school districts, colleges, parents, and lawmakers to band together to harness this opportunity. The kids will benefit.