Can Technology Rescue Education?
Education is one of the biggest information markets. In the U.S. alone, it’s a $8 to $12 billion market, just for K-12 textbooks. It is a tempting business. But it’s a brutal market. Textbooks are bought by committees and have long, political sales cycles. Incumbent publishers get locked in.
If ever a market deserved to be broken open, it’s education. But how?
Technology, of course. But not just through electronic books and distance education. Digital content is flexible. Teachers can tailor courseware to students’ learning styles, if they have the tools. A smart, modern curriculum replaces dated, one-size-fits-none textbooks and homework worksheets with targeted cocktails of books, collaborative content, and testing. And it’s an open community of teachers that will build it.
It sounds utopian, but there are businesses pushing this — and successfully. One is Curriki, a Scott McNealy-founded startup run by former Sun exec Kim Jones. She says teachers in elementary education feel isolated. Curriki helps them communicate and collaborate on materials to improve their methods.
Not only does Curriki help create more flexible curricula, but it’s actually getting love from state educational boards, many of which are both running low on funds (Curriki is free for non-business customers) and mandating studies into tech-enabled educational methods that traditional publishers just aren’t set up for.
Fixing education, “is not about computers,” Jones says. But technology can give teachers the tools they need to interact more personally and effectively with students. And in this strange case, weak budgets are actually good for business.
Digital Education (Report in MIT Technology Review)
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