Tag Archives: The Washington Post

Education Delivery within 30 Minutes, or Your Money Back!

by Hap Aziz

No, education is not like a pizza (nor is it like a box of chocolates), a commodity to be delivered–even if there is a transaction involved. However, many people do equate the process of educating with the task of information delivery, where students’ minds are vessels to be filled by the wisdom of some source. While that might be a component of the very complex and textured process of learning, it isn’t everything of course. One of the challenges to understanding the process is in identifying what all the components are, and after decades of “research,” it appears to me there are still major gaps in our understanding.

The article “Is Khan Academy a real ‘education solution’?” written by Valerie Strauss for The Washington Post is a more critical look at the approach the Khan Academy takes by “flipping” the classroom. I like the points that Strauss makes in her piece, especially regarding the issue of learning efficiency, and how we might come to know the efficiency of the process. While Strauss asks the question, I want to point out that we truly do not measure what is going on in the brain in terms of learning and cognition–not in a way that would give us a very clear and accurate picture of the effectiveness of various teaching practices. Last year I wrote a blog entry on that subject, “Practicing 18th Century Education in the 21st Century Classroom.” Also, it is worth mentioning that while there are common themes that may be effective for large groups of learners, the most efficient education processes are going to depend on customization to the learner. There will be no one-size-fits-all solutions. To a large degree, the Khan Academy videos fall in this bucket, but there are avenues for customization through the integration of interactive elements that “direct” the video clips–though this will add greatly to the complexity and cost of production.

Ultimately, though, if we are to know with certainty what education processes work for individual learners, we need to be able to take a look at what’s going on in learners’ minds. Outside of the occasional NASA experiment, we’re really not doing a whole lot of kind of research.


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Filed under education, education technology, effective practices, Hap Aziz, neuroscience

Are SMART Boards Smart Purchases?

by Hap Aziz

In my last blog entry, I wrote about the use of smart devices in the teaching and learning environment, wondering in my public forum whether or not there is true educational value to the high-tech tools. In my ongoing reading on the subject, I came across this article by Stephanie McCrummen published in The Washington Post online about two years ago. While the article speaks directly to the Smart Technologies device (essentially, a “computerized” white board), the observations here can easily be extended to a variety of educational technology products.

McCrummen raises some troubling points, especially given the level of monetary investment involved by school districts. The evidence in support of the use of these devices is very thin, and (in my mind at least) does not justify the level of enthusiasm for integrating them into the classroom. I think this is a key takeaway from the article:

Chris Dede, an education professor at Harvard University, said whiteboards are popular precisely because companies designed them to suit the old instructional style with which teachers are most comfortable.

Rather than inventing new ways of teaching and learning experiences for students, we are developing technologies that replicate the ages-old classroom experience. Educators are not, for the most part, pushing the industry to innovate to keep up with new education techniques. It’s like a bad holiday–you see the shiny new present, but when you tear off all the fancy wrapping paper, it’s still the same old stale fruit cake from the year before.


Filed under education, education technology, Hap Aziz, smart technologies