Skip to content

The startups are circling education

The field of education (primary, secondary, higher) needs to embrace itself for an onslaught of technology startups. Where educators have failed, entrepreneurs see opportunity. Seb Schmoller points to an “educational technology startup” and comments:

What interests me is whether Know Labs was already involved (or even there?) when the AI course was originally advertised, or whether the scale of the response either led to the formation of the start-up, or brought it into involvement with Stanford.

The startup – Know Labs – is “looking to change the future of education” (Fascinating. Why has no one thought of that before?). I’m interested in seeing how the Stanford AI course is run and how they manage the numerous voices and activities of participants. The scale is different than what we’ve experience with our open online courses and will require different approaches. Stephen Downes’ gRSShopper has been central in our courses. I’m not sure if a central aggregating service will work with over 200 000 participants. Course organizers face a key question – how to create a marginally coherent narrative in open courses? The pedagogical model of the Stanford AI course may be such that this isn’t an issue. If the course uses a knowledge broadcast pedagogy, rather than participatory social pedagogical model, then the problem is solved: simply broadcast your content, have learners complete quizzes, and automate feedback. The drawback of this model is that it overlooks the importance of learners sharing their sensemaking artifacts (code, diagrams, images, reflections). In CCK08/09/11 as well as PLENK10, sensemaking artifacts serve as important feedback mechanisms by which learners can share how they are developing their knowledge. I’m sure we’ll see this in our fall course again.

Quick advice to Know Labs: whatever your platform becomes, design it to optimize learner sharing of their sensemaking artifacts, not instrutor broadcasting. It’s an obvious statement, but if you want to unleash the creativity of participants, tools need to be designed for them, not for instructors.