An Interview with Michael Horn on the future of EdTech

Michael Horn, author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools talks about disruption in the EdTech space.

We are so excited to welcome Michael Horn, author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, and a force for positive and innovative change in the world of education, as an advisor for Pedago. We met with Michael a few weeks ago to talk about disruption in the EdTech space. Here’s what he had to say.

In your book, Blended, you explain how in-classroom learning can be melded with technology to create effective learning experiences; why do you think there was no one doing this until recently?

MH: Until just recently, education had been essentially the same since the printing press. There were the traditional teaching methods for the general populace, mixed with tutoring systems reserved for the elite and for those who had enough social capital.

Finally, disruptive technology—online learning—started to appear. When MOOCs arrived, people conceptualized the online learning movement as video tutorials—filmed, staged lessons. The disruptive innovation theory gave us a way to talk about this new movement more broadly, though, and see where it was going, which allowed us to realize that there, online learning represented a bigger moral opportunity and a chance to think about education in a truly novel way that could benefit all students. The theory gives us a framework to understand that we have the potential to use online learning to transform education in a massive way, beyond these filmed lessons, and create a personalized learning solution for every student at a cost we can afford.

What do you see in the near-term future for EdTech?

Video is just a small part of my vision for what the EdTech world has the potential to become. We need to move toward creating different modalities for different kinds of learning. Learning through games, virtual reality—these are great ideas, but they don’t work for every subject. We need solutions that can be customized based on the subject matter to facilitate active learning.

You talk a lot about disruption—how do you qualify disruption, and how do you see it playing out in the EdTech space?

One of the ways that we measure disruption is through asking the question: does your technology have a low-cost value proposition you can bring to market now, while still improving it over time to tackle more complex problems? There aren’t a ton of these on the market yet in the EdTech space.

Some might suggest that MOOCs are disruptive, but I would disagree. There’s a limit to the amount of dynamic education you can provide through MOOCs and video content because interaction between learners and educators is so limited.

Disruption starts by tackling simple problems, then moves up-market to tackle more difficult problems. That’s why there are so many companies tackling math right now—because it’s rules-based. It’s harder to address higher-end education. I’m excited to see what starts coming out of the EdTech space to tackle these harder concepts.

Last question—what’s one of your best learning experiences?

In all seriousness, my first time trying Smartly blew me away. But, if I have to choose something else, I’d have to say my class with Clayton Christensen at Harvard Business School because he combined theory lessons with real-life applications using case studies, so the learning was very concrete.

Want to hear more from Michael? Stay tuned to Smarty’s blog or find Michael Horn on Twitter (@michaelbhorn)! Visit Smartly at https://smart.ly.

What’s it like to be a Quantic Content Developer?

Taylor, a top-notch Smartly content developer describes his experience writing for Smartly.

Quantic content developers come from all of over the world and have varying educational and professional backgrounds, but one thing unites them: they’re great at taking hard concepts and breaking them down in clever, humorous ways so that Quantic customers enjoy learning something new—fast!

Taylor, a top-notch Quantic content developer and PhD candidate at the University of Kansas with a background in Economics and Quantitative Analysis, describes his experience writing for Quantic. Find out why he thinks it’s important to learn macroeconomics for everyday life and what his absolute favorite thing he’s written for Quantic is!

1. What’s your name?

Taylor Drane

2. Where are you based?

Lawrence, Kansas

3. How and why did you start writing for Smartly?

I was referred to Quantic by a current writer.

4. What’s your professional and educational background?

I am currently in the PhD program at the University of Kansas where I also received my Masters in Economics. I completed my undergrad at Franklin College in Indiana where I received a Bachelors in Quantitative Analysis and a Bachelors in Economics. I have also completed two internships at Jabil Circuit where I worked for their treasury department and their business unit.

5. What are some of the courses and subjects that you’ve written about in Quantic?

I have written for the Macroeconomics courses; specifically international trade and fiscal policy.

6. Why do you think it’s important for students and business professionals to understand economics?

There are a multitude of reasons why economics is important. From a political perspective, it is usually the most important issue, especially in the past decade. If you turn on the news, you’ll likely hear about topics like the Federal Reserve, GDP, fiscal policy, exchange rates, etc. To have an informed opinion, one must understand how the economy works on both a micro and macro level. From an everyday perspective, economics is all around us. If you care about your education, your wages, your lifestyle, and your future, then you should care about economics.

7. What’s your favorite whimsical or snarky answer message you’ve written in Quantic?

First let me say that 99% of the humor and wit in the lessons I have written should entirely be credited to my editor, Tiffany Chen. She is far more creative than I am. Though it was not a message, there was an international trade lesson focusing on economic development in the world. We were using a fictional fruit world where all the nations were named after a fruit. Cherryland happened to enact some policies which enabled them to develop faster and they were able to “enjoy the fruits of their labor (pun fully intended)”.

8. What’s one of your favorite images used in Quantic?

Also in the economic development lesson, we used an image displaying two desks side by side. One side had a typewriter, feather pen, and a sheet of paper while the other side had a laptop, tablet, and a smartphone. The question was who would be more productive.

9. What do you admire about Quantic learners?

If someone uses Quantic it is because they have the desire to learn. While this may seem obvious, the desire to learn is a very powerful and admirable trait. There is a huge difference between having to learn something and wanting to learn something. The former will yield mediocre results but the latter will result in true knowledge.

10. What do you do to keep your learners in mind?

I try to tailor each lesson to match the perspective and needs of the learner. So from the beginning of the lesson-creating process until the end, I am always asking myself questions such as: Is this important for the needs of the person learning? Does this example seem plausible to them? Essentially I try to keep myself in the shoes of the learner at all times.

11. Anything else you’d like to mention?

I think that Quantic is not only filling an educational void, but is filling it with a quality model that is perfect for the learner in this day and age. Keeping in mind the goals and the environment of the learner has led to a learning platform that combines technology and pedagogy in a way that has not been done before.

The Brave New (Wired) World of Online Education

For all our modern advances, the jury is still out regarding the most effective ways to teach online.

It is a brave new world, indeed, in which milk, cars, and spouses can all be acquired via the Internet. But for all our advances, the jury is still out regarding the most effective ways to teach online.

Many online learning platforms consist of passive video lectures and podcasts, or universities repackaging classes for the web. To illustrate, imagine you have students who have never seen a pizza before and want to learn how to make one. Working with current online teaching methods, they’d likely not throw the dough, choose the toppings, or get feedback on their work. They would probably have to sit quietly through written descriptions and video lectures online.

The prevalence of this passive approach demonstrates a key challenge in the pursuit of engaging, effective web-based education: the issue of interactivity. While more studies are showing that interactivity breeds engagement and information retention, instructors and platforms are still struggling to employ effective levels and modes of interactivity.

Researchers at Columbia University’s Community College Research Center examined 23 entry-level online courses at two separate community colleges and made some interesting discoveries on this phenomenon. Their assessment was that most of the course material was “text-heavy” and that it “generally consisted of readings and lecture notes. Few courses incorporated auditory or visual stimuli and well-designed instructional software.” While technology that supported feelings of interpersonal interaction was found to be helpful, mere incorporation of technology was insufficient—and recognized as such by the students. The research noted that, “Simply incorporating technology into a course does not necessarily improve interpersonal connections or student learning outcomes.”

The research specifically called out message boards (where instructor presence and guidance was minimal) to be insufficiently interactive to engage students in a way that they found clear and useful. The consensus of their research was that “effective integration of interactive technologies is difficult to achieve, and as a result, few online courses use technology to its fullest potential.”

Another interesting look at web-based learning and interactivity is a 2013 study conducted by Dr. Kenneth J. Longmuir of UC Irvine. Motivated by the fact that most “computerized resources for medical education are passive learning activities,” Professor Longmuir created his own online modules designed for iPad (and other mobile devices). These three online modules replaced three of his classroom lectures on acid-base physiology for first-year medical students. Using a Department of Defense handbook as his guide for incorporating different levels of activity, Longmuir utilized text and images side-by-side and had an embedded question and answer format. From student comments, “The most frequent statement was that students appreciated the interactive nature of the online instruction.” In fact, 97% of surveyed students said it improved the learning experience. They reported that not only did the online material take a shorter time to master than in-person lectures, but the interactivity of the modules was the “most important aspect of the presentation.”

While Dr. Longmuir was reluctant to draw hard conclusions about this particular online course’s efficacy (due to variables in student procrastination, students skipping important material, etc.), there are a few clear points to be taken from both studies. For one, engaging, interactive content is the exception, not the rule, in today’s online learning environment. Both studies suggest the importance of interactivity in online learning—if not definitively in test results (though that’s a possibility), certainly in how students feel about their engagement with the material. This isn’t surprising since research is showing that lack of interactivity in traditional classrooms is detrimental, as well.

While the science behind producing effective online learning courses is still in development, the need for meaningful interactivity in new educational technology seems like a no-brainer. If we hope to teach our students to make that pizza, the most effective way is not to drown them in video clips and PDF files; we should create online learning experiences that mimic—or even improve upon—the interactivity and satisfaction that pounding the dough themselves would provide.

 

Pedago Announces Partnership with Top Business School INSEAD

Smartly partners with the top business school INSEAD to prepare incoming students for classes through business fundamentals courses.

Today we’re very excited to announce a new partnership with INSEAD, one of the leading business schools globally.

INSEAD, the pioneer institution to offer MBA programs in Europe over fifty years ago, is given superior rankings by Forbes, Financial Times, and Business Insider, and is ranked number one in Europe and Asia-Pacific by the QS Global 200 Business Schools Report (registration required to view), which ranks institutions according to the preferences of over 4,000 actively hiring MBA employers across the world. INSEAD faculty created Blue Ocean Strategy, a revolutionary and highly-celebrated approach to business modeling, and the founder of INSEAD, Georges Doriot, is dubbed the “father of venture capitalism.” In short, they’re kind of a big deal, and we’re honored to be working with them!

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INSEAD holds cutting-edge research and innovation in teaching as foundational pillars of their institution, and in line with these core values, they’ve offered us the opportunity to work closely with them and their incoming students to explore the ever-expanding and changing world of online education and educational technology. At Pedago, we believe that technology can accelerate learning outcomes by enabling education wherever the learner may be. We strive to create a more fulfilling and effective online experience.

We’d like to take this opportunity to welcome INSEAD students of the class of 2015 to our program. We thank in advance all participants for being a part of this milestone in our development.

Pedago releases 3 AngularJS projects to the open source community

In the past week, Pedago has released 3 open source projects on our github page.

In the past week, Pedago has released 3 open source projects on our github page.

iguana

Iguana is an Object-Document Mapper for use in AngularJS applications.  This means that it gives you a way to instantiate an instance of a class every time you pull down data over an API.  It’s similar to Ruby tools like activerecord or mongomapper.

super-model

Iguana is dependent on super-model, which should someday include much of the functionality that activemodel provides for Ruby users.  For now, however, it only provides callbacks.

a-class-above

Both iguana and super-model depend on a-class-above, which provides basic object-oriented programming (OOP) functionality. A-class-above is based on Prototype’s class implementation, and also provides inheritable class methods and some convenient helpers for dealing with enumerables that are shared among classes in an inheritance hierarchy.

This is our first foray into the management of open-source projects, so we’ll be learning as we go along.  We’re trying hard to make these useful to the community, so we have packaged them up as bower components and spent time writing what we hope is useful documentation.  We used groc for the documentation and focused on documenting our specs in order to provide lots of useful examples, rather than documenting each method in the API.  We hope that this will be more helpful than more traditional API documentation would have been, and would love to hear comments on how it’s working for folks.

We hope that other AngularJS users will find iguana, super-model, and a-class-above to be useful and decide to contribute.

Enjoy!


Curious about Pedago’s interactive education? Enter your email address to be added to our beta list.

Questions, comments? You should follow Pedago on Twitter.