The information age has fundamentally changed the job requirements of a teacher. A vast majority of the world’s basic knowledge is now ubiquitous – stored and easily accessible online from almost every computer and billions of mobile devices. Why, then, are we still forcing students to buy expensive textbooks and hiring teachers to lecture on subjects whose content is largely available from a quick Google search?
Before the 15th century, only a small subset of people on the planet had access to society’s accumulated knowledge. In the past 500 years, while the accessibility of knowledge has advanced dramatically, teaching methods have largely remained the same. Imagine the standard high school algebra class: the same set of materials is being taught in every school across the country by hundreds of thousands of teachers of varying competency. Yet a quick Google search reveals enormous amounts of free online materials on the subject that anyone can use to learn from right now on their own. So why do we still employ thousands of teachers to convey those exact same materials to students?
Rather than have restless students sit in a lecture and be instructed on a subject, we should teach them how to discover the subject themselves, and let them be free to explore. Teachers (sherpas?) should point students towards online resources like Khan Academy, and students should be left to explore different areas that interest them on their own with some basic guidance as to the minimum required competency of the subject they must achieve. The teacher would act more as a mentor and guide, working with individual students on conceptual issues that arise in their learning, and ensuring they find the best resources on the subject along the way.
I hated school – and was a terrible student throughout most of it –, yet I love to learn. This doesn’t make sense. Teachers should not teach – they should inspire their students to learn, instilling curiosity and holding their hand through the discovery process.
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Juventas Fugit is designed and written by Justin Wohlstadter, who, when not writing in the third person, can be found in a coffee shop talking about startups, thinking about the future of education, and generally procrastinating something important.
- Passions: startups that positively affect the world, education innovation, good design, learning, and meeting those with an equally insatiable curiosity.
- Play: working on something really neat....
- Previously: was director of product design at Enterproid. Before that I built the early-stage venture arm of Penny Black and co-founded BOLDstart Ventures, where I was lucky enough to invest in some awesome startups including Rapportive (sold to Linkedin), Blaze (sold to Akamai), GoInstant (sold to Salesforce), Klout, Indiegogo, Enterproid, ShowMe, LocalResponse, and many more. And before all of this I was involved in a bunch of other crazy, less successful startup ventures involving fire extinguishers, measuring philanthropic impact, and creative spaces.
- Pedantry: most of the important stuff I taught myself or learned from friends, but I’m fortunate to have also (barely received) degrees from Harvard and Oxford. At Oxford I wrote my dissertation on how internet innovation will disrupt access to higher education.
- Procrastination: can be found on Twitter, Linkedin, AngelList and other web spaces, and be reached via email at my first name at this domain.