Personalised education & tech

As I have written about before, I am pretty interested in education.  There seem to be some pretty fundamental flaws in the modern education system, but it still seems unclear to me what exactly a good solution looks like.

The problem with modern education seems to be the whole standardised testing thing, and forcing all children down the standard curriculum path rather than recognising that intelligence and ability takes different forms etc.

In Seth Godin's TED talk, he explains these problems and describes the idea of having personalized education experiences, making a comparison to car manufacture:

Precise, focused education instead of mass batch stuff. That's the way we make almost everything we buy now, right?   It used to be you could have any colour of car you wanted as long as it was black - so we could keep the assembly line going. But now, we make ten thousand kinds of cars, because they can! So we should make ten thousand kind of education.

And that's absolutely right. In both car manufacturing and education, the tools and technology have moved on - we have the technology to cost effectively make loads of car, just like we have the technology, with things like Coursera, Khan Academy, iTunesU etc, to deliver lessons and lectures on pretty much any topic, covered by some of the experts in the field.

He also repeats some of the ideas that Sal Khan talked about, such as "homework at day, lessons at night" - the idea that watching lectures/reading etc should be done in the evenings independently, and then the daytime, classroom based stuff, where there are teachers and real human lead interaction focuses on solving problems, exploring ideas etc.  This idea is great for two reasons: 1) teachers engaging with students on problems, peers discussing ideas or concepts, interactive learning - this seems much more likely to get students enjoying learning new things (which is really a much better bi-product of the education system than just "knowing things")  2) Being able to study independently, reading and watching lectures is much closer to the real life world of work - one of the benefits that is sometimes preached from the home-school camp - having to learn independently makes it much easier to fit into the modern workforce.

Further more, standardised testing creates an environment of graded achievement - parents want to know what their children have achieved, and how they compare to other students or what they have achieved this week - which only serves to put more pressure on teachers to try and teach-to-test, and makes it hard to spend longer period on in-depth study and exploration over an extended period.