Online learning is experiencing what would appear to be its golden age (even though it’s been around for quite some time). Technologies have evolved to the point where it’s now possible to deliver engaging educational course content to hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously, in the context of an online "classroom" that supports questions, interactions, and exchange. In principle, all a student needs is Internet access, and the knowledge is there to grab. The technology platforms to deliver learning content in this way are becoming widely available, in many cases for free, which leads to an obvious conclusion: online learning content is going to explode. Anyone who wants to publish and has the means will.Read More →

PhotoSpin Office Imagery © 2001 PhotoSpin www.photospin.com

Open is the new black in the world of education. From open educational resources (OERs) to massively open online courses (MOOCs) to Mozilla’s open badges initiative, there is tremendous excitement and buzz about how the philosophy of the open-source software movement might transform aspects of traditional education. As people explore these new frontiers, it’s useful to look back and see what lessons we might learn from the past. Eric Raymond’s seminal essay on open-source, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, is the best place to start.Read More →


This week saw the third-annual SXSWedu conference in Austin, Texas; it’s an event that has grown rapidly since its inception, driven by the explosion of interest in the intersection between technology and education, and by the rising chorus of voices calling for educational improvement and reform. While smaller than its SXSW cousins (interactive, film, music), SXSWedu drew intelligent and passionate voices in education from around the world, across an array of topics. As someone relatively new to the edtech space, I found it to be an exciting and inspiring event, filled with thought-provoking content and interesting people.

In no particular order, here are some thoughts on the four days I spent in Austin with a great group of innovators and educators.Read More →


The third annual education conference at South by Southwest (SXSWedu) gets underway today, and it promises to be an exciting event filled with great ideas. The roster of speakers is global, and includes luminaries like Bill Gates, along with many other key players in the world of pedagogy and edtech entrepreneurship. Themes span the hot education topics of late (e.g., MOOCs, big data, Makerspaces), broader questions of policy and reform, and exploration of new approaches to effective teaching and how technology might help.Read More →


The Illusion of Agreement (via 37 Signals)

The educational world has its own shibboleth, and so do the worlds of policy and business. As these three worlds come into contact, the terminology and buzzwords used by each collide. People make assumptions that they are talking about the same thing, but in many cases they’re not. Educational establishments have language rooted in tradition (though even the terminology used between US and international educational systems is somewhat different). On the other hand, business people (especially those in startups) often seek terminology for the purposes of marketing, rather than precision, and it’s no different with the rise of edtech startups. One set of terminology that’s riddled with confusion is the language used to describe achievement.

In an effort to cut through the buzzwords and imprecise usage, here’s my objective take on the language of educational achievement.Read More →

Education was a major theme in President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address. From K-12 through higher education, he laid out the ways in which the world has changed, how our current system is failing students in many ways, and what he proposes to do about it. A few of the key points he made: Only 30% of kids in the US are enrolled in a high-quality pre-school; it should be universally available Between now and 2020, our economy will need millions of new jobs in science and engineering By 2020, nearly 2 out of every 3 jobs will require training beyond high schoolRead More →

This is the second in a series of posts about the pillars of the revolution in education.

The most critical pillar of our educational system is obviously learning. Education without learning is like a car without wheels: it’s not going to get you very far. So let’s pull apart this first pillar of education and see where new technologies and online opportunities are having an impact.

For this discussion, I’ll define learning as the process of knowledge acquisition for an individual, through whatever means available and independent of the benefits it provides (either to the individual, employers or society). The facets of learning can be broken down using process as a lens:


So what’s happening with technology in the different facets of learning? A few generalizations seem clear at this point:

  • Technology is impacting almost every facet of the learning process in a fundamental way, and more deeply than technologies have in the past
  • Questions about scalability, student-teacher interaction and online assessment must be addressed; fierce debates rage on these topics and more regarding the best approaches
  • Effective integration of technology in the learning process will require training and support for educators, but it’s often missing due to time and budget constraints
  • The political and economic realities of educational institutions create inertia and foster an environment of antagonism between edtech entrepreneurs, educators and administrators; collaboration will be a key to success
  • Progress is being made in the realm of guiding principles (e.g., the Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age), but serious disagreements still need to be resolved, political and otherwise
  • Change may come slowly, but it is coming, and the pace of change has accelerated

Let’s dig a little deeper on technology and its impact on learning, using the facets above as a guide.Read More →