Is Education & Technology at a Tipping Point?

Silicon Valley Forum event.  Twenty years ago most people (faculty, students, parents) had no access to the internet or web-enabled mobile phones.  Today many more do, and adoption rates in emerging markets such as India and China are accelerating fastest.   Ubiquitous access has important implications for “the business” of education, both short-term and long-term…  For example in twenty years, we can easily foresee nearly everyone with access to advanced smart phones with spoken language interfaces to all human knowledge (see IBM Watson Jeopardy! Supercomputer). In the short term,  South Korea will shift traditional textbooks to digital devices (Samsung) by 2015, no more “students breaking their backs lugging around dead trees.”

Yet especially in the US, the challenges are great… First, urban high school drop out rates are too high, perhaps some improvements recently, but still problematic.   Second, the life-long consequences of under-education are severe in the US.  Do faculty, student, and parents have access to courses, assignments, and grades on-line? Third, student loan debt is large and growing.  Do faculty, student, and parents have access to content and learning materials on-line?  Finally, the impact on US competitiveness of doing too little, too late is quite  foreseeable and negative.  When it comes to education and technology, we all need to remember Amara’s law:  “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”  We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Panel Discussion: Voice of Academia, John Danner, Rocketship Education, Dr. Paul Kim, Stanford University, Dr. Raymond Ravaglia, Ed. Prog. for Gifted Youth (EPGY)  at Stanford, Jason Willis, San Jose Unified School District, Moderator: Dr. James C. Spohrer, IBM University Programs Worldwide.

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