Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on our partner site Today’s Campus Magazine – Covering the people, campuses, and companies that are making business news in higher education.
If you attended the Consumer Electronics Show and you’re reading this, you visited the HigherEdTech Summit at some point on Thursday. The primary message? The traditional practices we’ve kept over hundreds of years are failing students, literally, and we need to jump, head first, into new education models. As moderator Jinny Goldstein of HigherEdTECH put it, “I think that the gauntlet has been thrown down for those of you in highered.” But what does that mean, exactly? What will these changes look like?
According to most, it will be mobile, custom, and open. Walt Mossberg from The Wall Street Journal set the tone by immediately mentioning a dangerously impressive fact: “tablets will out-ship laptops in this coming year.” I call it a dangerous fact because it’s not yet relevant to the education sector. This fact represents the wide expanse of consumption, of which education is a small subset. While 86% of students have a laptop, only 15% own a tablet. Don’t get me wrong – I’m incredibly hopeful for change, but I’m also very skeptical.
The big guys are buying into the idea, though. McGraw-Hill’s Stephen Laster warned, “Ignore the [laptop to tablet] movement at your own peril.” Some speakers went even further. John Ittelson, Professor Emeritus at California State University, claimed to see “30% more student contact with their course materials” since implementing iPads containing all 22 of their required medical textbooks, allowing students to carry all their materials with them. My question: how did they accurately gauge student access BEFORE the materials were collectively delivered via tablets? I worry we’re all starting to see what we want to see.
However, Promethean’s Rob Goldberg had it right when he clarified, “It isn’t the device or the particular modality, it’s getting the right content.” To be fair, Laster also made it clear that McGraw-Hill isn’t simply focusing on content, declaring “We believe in flipped classrooms.” I loved his candidness in announcing, “It’s absurd to bring people into a classroom just to listen to a static lecture.” Amplify’s CEO, Joel Klein, expressed similar views in saying, “This is not about device…. This is about transforming the educational system in a big way.” I’d argue it’s not one big way, it’s thousands of little steps forward, combined with a few larger leaps which will finally revolutionize education.
Clearly, mobile is a part of a movement in education which is much larger than itself. So what’s this change for which education has been yearning? “Personalized learning, customized learning has always been the holy grail of education,” says John Bailey of Whiteboard Advisors. “It’s about mixed modalities,” according to David Sanchez, Education Elements. It’s not about accessing content on a particular platform, it’s about consuming a variety of information through several different forms of media, a multimodal approach. Mohit Bhargava, President of LearningMate Solutions, told about one student user of his software, GoClass, who said “I can learn everywhere.” Maybe that’s the key to the importance of mobile devices in learning. Be it a laptop, tablet, or phone, devices must allow students to learn anytime, anywhere, at the moment they have the desire. Considering our must-have-it-now society, this makes sense.
You may not suspect Sean M Corcorran, General Manager of Steelcase Education Solutions (essentially a furniture company), to add much to this conversation, but you’d be wrong. Corcorran led us through a few beautiful classroom designs, resolving that “We can design a new learning ecosystem, not with obsolete templates, that supports new pedagogies, new technologies, multiple teaching styles, multiple learning styles, flexibility, rapid reconfiguration, and inspires today’s students” – through physically redesigning classrooms. Scott Hasbrouck, CEO of Ginkgotree, brought the conversation back to instructional design, and dogged cookie-cutter course materials, refuting the current system with “Faculty don’t need pre-packaged curriculum.” So should professors be writing or compiling all of their own materials? Maybe, but only if the finished product is as organized as today’s textbooks.
Vineet Madan, another McGraw-Hill rep, cautioned to be wary of essentially “sending students into the Library of Congress” when compiling open educational resources, due to the vastness of the content available. Joann Spyker from Copia Interactive voiced her concerns about “huge limitations in open source content,” including “vetting the content, and keeping up with the technologies.” Not everyone agreed. Matt MacInnis of Inkling gave a solid 5 year prediction: “The vast majority of people not using a print textbook are going to be subscribing to a service.” I believe it, and I’m betting on it.
The last speaker of the day was former Secretary of the Treasury for President Clinton, Lawrence Summers. He summed-up the day in his statement, “Things will take longer than you think they will, and things will happen faster than you thought they could.” In education, will this ever not be the mantra?