Friday, May 9, 2014

Personal Notes On Education [Unofficial]

Fundamental Shift In Education - A Requirement Of Our Time

Fundamental shift in education is a requirement of our time.

Searchable facts are available online. When you have the Internet at your fingertips aided by Google you can learn anything ever known to mankind.

Computational devices / apps {e.g., WolframAlpha} are available. We don’t need to do multiplications or divisions or even algebraic calculations anymore. Computer based Numerical Computing and Symbolic Algebra Systems (SageMathematicaMatlab) and Statistical Computing Systems (R) are available. All we need to learn is to turn real world problems into computer programs that can solve our problems.

Exponential growth of human knowledge means that much of what you know today would become obsolete ten years from now. So lifelong education is the norm.  

Breadth of knowledge will become increasingly important. You need to know what you need to know and once you know what you need to know, you can find it online.

Boundaries between different fields of study are opening up. We organized different fields of study (Physics, Chemistry, Biology etc.) more than hundred years ago. We organized everything related to life under Biology. The study of atoms and molecules and reactions was named ChemistryPhysics concerned itself with forces and matter of the universe and their interactions with the ultimate goal of reducing all forms of interaction into few fundamental laws (one law - "The Theory Of Everything"or so the Physicists say - if you are a bit ambitious!). But now in the light of new knowledge and better tools, new organization of fields of study is required.

As we gained knowledge about the chemical processes of life, we organized our knowledge under the name Biochemistry. Fields that used to be completely separate are merging in the light of new knowledge and better tools to tackle common problems. For example, Biology and Computer Science, once separated, have combined to form Computational Biology / Bioinformatics as a result of explosion both in genomic and more generally biological data and computational power. New fields of study like Bioengineering, Biophysics, Cognitive Neuroscience, Computational Materials Science have popped up. As we look forward into the future, we can see Computer Science and Physics combining to form Physical Digital Integration and creating a world that is much different and better than ours. 

With the proliferation of global collaboration platform The World Wide Web, we need to direct research in the right direction – one that centers on solving real problems collaboratively, not just publication of random research papers (for getting promoted!).

In short, a complete reorganization of Education as it is today. Are we ready?


  1. MOOC (certificates, relation with employers, transferable credits)
  2. Data Science (Knewton – tagging contents with concepts, learning from students’ interactions, learning to recommend {personalized education}) (Teachers can keep track of students’ progress.)
  3. Reinvent Books. Ebooks 2.0 (interactive, multimedia-rich, social) – Apps – Games - Edutainment (Gamified Education, UVA/Topcoder – gamification elements, social elements)
    1. Social - people sharing parts (a specific chapter, quotes, etc.) of E-books.
    2. Authors getting paid - for number of pageviews
    3. Blog, Forum, Social Media, Communities around books.
      1. Currently Authors build sites, Social Media pages for their books.
        1. Book: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything 
        2. Site: Freakonomics

  4. Free access (premium subscription?) to books (ad).
  5. Children (even College students) going through lectures at home; and solving problems, getting individualized help at school.
  6. Growing morally responsible citizens. (Being morally responsible leads to more success and happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment in life.) (missing in traditional education)
  7. Personalized Learning
  8. Presenting study materials in brain-friendly way. Building stuffs - People naturally find it exciting.
    1. instructables 
    2. Maker community
  9. Get involved in different learning/educational communities (e.g., Maker community) to learn more about how education should be like.
  10. Content: web-based (hyperlinks)
  11. Lifelong education (World is changing rapidly. So are jobs and our roles. Exponential growth in knowledge.)
  12. Reaching students in developing countries
  13. Developed countries -  increasing tuition fees
  14. Worldwide collaboration (Wikipedia, QA sites,…..)
  15. Reinforcement / better systems of feedback in child learning
  16. See Head First series learning principles. [8]
  17. Research platform – one that centers on solving real problems collaboratively, not just publishing random research papers.
  18. Students learning by finding answers to questions, solving problems (not just exercises) (rankings), doing projects (motivation – show others). (Projects, lab work show that whatever is learned in books / web has real world equivalents, applications.)
  19. Schools can encourage finding answers to their questions online (turning it into a habit). Schools can work on forming good habits – reading books, enjoy doing intellectually satisfying work, being good citizens. (It's all about providing the right feedback or more precisely – reinforcement learning. A step further – gamification.)
  20. Parental motivation, Cultural thinking patterns (Indian, Chinese descendent students in US) play a huge role.
  21. Curious ideas: Education in Second Life,
    1. Cross Reality - MIT Media Lab & Second Life
    2. Harvard class invades Second Life

  22. Learning to Program (& share):  Scratch, Alice. Designing devices by dragging-and-dropping parts and assigning parameters.
  23. Humanities for all (how to go about in life? People, society); not just science, math, tech and business. (Think) Creativity, design.
  24. Industry – Educational Institute collaboration (employment) – Udacity – job, IBM – Brooklyn High School.
  25. Encouraging everyone to learn from absolutely everything in life.
  26. Study - children. 
    1. Children are exploratory in nature. 
      1. (They have to be exploratory. Otherwise, how would they learn the rules of this complex world?) 
    2. They watch everything with fresh eyes - creative. 
    3. Enjoy learning.
  27. Learning by doing - DIY, Open Source, Personalized manufacturing.
  28. Education and Learning is not confined to classrooms. We can learn from everything we see & experience around us.  
  29. Multimedia - You learn more when you see things in action.
  30. Change in culture. 
    1. Example: FIRST by Dean Kamen. 
    2. Celebrity Scientists / Engineers.
    3. Textbooks are boring. The way concepts are presented is boring.

Problems in Online Education
  1. Very low retention rate: Not enough motivating as traditional classrooms.
    1. Social features - motivation;
    2. Gamification - as students move forward they feel more in control of everything - feeling of mastery in the real world - “if you can complete this, you can go out and build that”;
    3. Monetary value: rich pay; poor - “solve challenges and get a free course!”
    4. When it’s free everyone can click and start learning (Wikipedia), but completion of a course requires motivation
  2. One-on-one interaction
  3. Reviewing and grading; Current models: 

  • Peer review 
  • Automated 
  • Paid

  1. Interactive Content
  2. Online discussion forums
  3. Offering industry skills that companies want their employees should learn
  4. Certification - job
  5. You can learn at your own pace; go back and learn something if you have lackings and then come back to where you left off. 
  6. Content 
    1. Interactive
    2. Multimedia-rich
    3. Problem Solving & Gamification

EdX [7]
  • Interactive (Questions after short videos) => You are compelled to focus.
  • Self pace. Lectures.
  • Instant Feedback => Students take a lot of pride in getting their answers right!
  • Gamification. (e.g., build online circuit)
  • Students learn by teaching. Discussion forums.
  • Business Model: License MOOC courses

Current MOOCs

  • Lacks: Strong community, tribes
    • [Maker: Strong community]
  • Very few: Course offerings with traditional Universities

Personalized Learning
Data - Learning
Online courses + Active Learning at Institution
Course Content that generates curiosity, story-telling, etc. Excited Students. Traditionally, teachers assume that, its the students’ job to pay attention. So teachers don’t usually apply the techniques that people from other professions do to “engage” their audience.  

Education & Learning Platform
  1. Design a Computer-based Educational and Learning Platform.
  2. Implement.

Develop authoritative course + textbook (E-Book 2.0) collaboratively with experts on different areas and sub-areas of knowledge. Engage communities.

Education Platform Of The Future

Vision Of “World Wide Education Platform” (WWEP!)

The vision

People all over the world would go to a few education providers online for all their education and learning.

"In 50 years, he (Sebastian Thrun) says, there will be only 10 institutions in the world delivering higher education and Udacity has a shot at being one of them." [1]

Main Themes of “World Wide Education Platform”
  • One Mobile Computer with broadband access per child 
  • Content
    • Authoritative Courses
    • Interactive Content 
    • Programming, Computing
    • E-book Subscription
    • Wiki, QA. 
    • Learning by doing: Projects, Open Platforms, Open source software, DIY
    • Teaching Meta-Learning Skills
    • HTML5 based. (Type of device won't become a roadblock.)
  • Personalized Education
    • Content Discovery: Search, Recommendation, Hyperlinks
    • Big Data 
    • Gamified Experience
  • Community driven
    • Wikinomics
    • DIY Communities 
  • Lifelong Education
  • Works collaboratively with existing Educational Institutions (Schools, Colleges, Universities)

Minimum goal of education should be to teach people required skills so that they can learn whatever they need, acquire whichever skill they want to excel at, on their own.

Current Platforms
Khan Academy




  1. A Guideline For Research In Neuroscience
  2. Vision Of Collaborative Research Platform
  3. Research Problems I Want To Work On
  4. Fundamental Shift In Education - A Requirement Of Our Time
  5. Vision Of “World Wide Education Platform” (WWEP!)
  6. Managing Complexity
  7. Anant Agarwal: Why massive open online courses (still) matter
  8. Head First Labs

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