Friday, November 22, 2013

Global Virtual Education: A Challenge to Google, Apple, Microsoft & Cisco: Part II

In my last post, I issued a challenge to the technology sector to step up and broaden their vision in regards to online education. Instead of using generalities, in this post I would like to get down to specifics on what the technology sector could do if given the right incentives.
My first suggestion is that these companies need to change their mission statements to include:"to re-invest in human capital". The rationale behind using this statement is this: if we are to inspire students to be architects of the future that we are all compelled to live in, they need to aspire to something that they value as integral to their future. A number of years ago if you asked students what they would like to do in the future, you would hear statements like I would like to be a doctor or I would like to be a lawyer or a scientist and a number of other esteemed professions. When we ask students the same question today you hear fewer responses like the above and more responses such as I don't know. We are starting to hear responses from students such as I don't care because I don't see anything worth aspiring to that hasn't been compromised or corrupted by human failings so what's the use! So what does this mean other than an indictment of our societies?

What we see more and more is a disengagement of students from the norms of our societies because they are not engaged as active stakeholders in the unfolding future. This situation can only change if we establish things in our society that are future oriented to re-engage our students. When students would rather spend a majority of their time engrossed in keeping up their Facebook page or keeping up with the tweets on Twitter than engaging in furthering and enriching their education, we are losing great intellectual potential that could have great benefits for our societies.

This brings me back to the technology giants. The relationship that they have with global education needs to change, especially as more and more students join the virtual education systems. The technology companies have the means and power to create future oriented structures that will inspire students. We already know that the present offerings of technology companies have influenced students as young as five years old by introducing them to hardware and software tools that would have been unheard of years ago. What they need to do in a new relationship is to be come partners in furthering "real world project based learning" with online educators. This type of enhanced learning would allow students to experience that their efforts have real effects that are valued by our societies. Ask yourself this question: "Why do students enjoy playing virtual world games so much?" Besides the fact that such games stimulate all the senses, students also experience immediate feedback that because of their actions the future is changing.
When I was an educator in the brick and mortar school I involved students in collaborative projects involving NASA and also projects involving robotics. The goal of such projects and understanding was that student actions had a real effect on what was happening in the real world.
Here are some specific suggestions for the technology companies to think about:
  1. The creation of virtual online worlds tied to online education is something that the technology companies could support and have the means to do so. These virtual online worlds could be made available to students as a means of exploring new concepts in the courses that they are involved in. These virtual online worlds could be integrated into mentoring matrices where students enter the world and are able to interact with people on the leading edge of the disciplines related to their course and indulge in what if.. scenarios that would help them clarify their thinking.
  2. Due to the extensive world contacts that the technology companies have, they could identify real world projects that would match up students with the project hosts to tackle the envisioned project. Much along the same line as I was able to do with matching students up with NASA projects. The experience for the student would be inspirational and exciting. The possibilities could touch on everything from Nanotechnology to medical robotics.
  3. Technology companies could host conferences devoted to students much in the same way as they host conferences for educators. The one difference would be that such conferences for students should not only serve to introduce them to new technology but should also involve them in real world project based learning as demonstrations at the conference.
  4. Another possibility is for the technology companies to establish higher learning institutes to foster the develop of new paths for student learning. This has been started in Japan with institutions established to promote online gaming development.
  5. Another idea is to fully develop accessibility to the online world. In remote areas such as in villages in India, some satellite Internet access has been developed in remote villages for the purposes of education. This idea needs to be pursued on a global scale.
One of the problems with doing such things in the past has been national borders and national loyalties. In the past, technology companies have offered special offerings to students within their national borders to the exclusion of those outside national borders. Given the nature of the Internet, this is an archaic concept and needs to change. In the past when I spoke to conferences, there was a continuum of reactions from the audience that progressed from shock to curiosity and excitement.

So, this is my challenge to the technology sector. YOU NEED TO CHANGE!  As for the return on the investment for your investors, fully engaging our students in the creation of the future will have benefits for all. Remember! The future belongs to those who have the courage to build it.
Tweet this message to the tech companies! 
More later...

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