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The Informed Brain in a Digital World
Interdisciplinary Research Team Challenges

The Informed Brain in a Digital World Interdisciplinary Research Team Challenge 2:
Develop methods to efficiently design and measure the efficacy of Internet teaching technologies.

Challenge Summary
Over the last one-hundred years, a series of new technologies have each promised to revolutionize teaching. Slides, film and videos were all plausible technologies for replacing the classic form of instruction, in which a teacher lectures a class. Despite the many new technologies that might have changed teaching, conventional classrooms are still dominant. The World Wide Web – with the ease of posting videos and designing interactive online tests - is an attractive mélange of technologies that offer up considerable potential for influencing and improving education. Will things be different this time? How will we know the efficacy of the new Web-based teaching and learning technologies?

One reason why the Web technologies may be different is that many, many more people are authors.  Pelli and Bigelow estimate that the number of authors is growing tenfold each year. The new transformation extends widespread literacy to widespread authorship. This will have an enormous impact on the range of available educational material or at least material that could be useful in educational settings.

A second reason is that Web usage, unlike slides or videos, is integrated into the typical day of many people.  By integrating educational materials into daily communication and social networking tools, the new technologies have advantages that were not part of the earlier innovations.

Education is based on testing, credentialing, and building affinity groups.  The Web is likely to be able to perform each of these functions, but the way in which it does so will differ from traditional classroom teaching. How can we measure whether the new ways are effective? How can we use these measures to guide and improve the efficacy of these technologies over time? The variety of uses of Web technologies for teaching, for learning, and for research across the disciplines is impressive, but how can we assure that there is sharing and promulgation of those uses for re-use and re-mixing among the disciplines and learning environments?

Key Questions
What can we learn from the history of introducing new technology into Education? Is there any difference with the new technologies that suggest we will have different outcomes?

Are we prepared to measure the efficacy of the new technologies and use this ability to nudge them into useful directions?

New software applications and new possibilities arising from them are being promoted to help authors produce educational material. Will this increase authorship and change the range of materials?  What is the reasoning at academic and textbook publishers and in the software industry?

In the US and many other Western countries, education and research are completely intertwined.  What are the implications for research Universities if the education model is transformed? 

What are the implications for middle school and high school if we rely on instructional materials that are distributed, used, and take advantage of Web technologies?  What is the new role for teachers and teacher education?  Does it change dramatically? What is the uptake of such technologies in our public schools?  Has the use of modern information technology improved teaching and learning in the K-12 grades?

Suggested Reading
Bhattacharjee Y, Clery D, Dede C, Greenfield PM, Hines DJ, Jasny BR, Mervis J, Miller G, Normile D, et. al.  Special science online collection: Education and technology. Science (Special Issue) 2 January 2009;323(5910). (Accessed online June 20, 2012: http://www.sciencemag.org/site/feature/misc/webfeat/education_technology/.)

Gates Foundation. Next generation learning: The intelligent use of technology to develop innovative
learning models and personalized educational pathways. 2010. (Accessed online March 28, 2012: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/postsecondaryeducation/Documents/nextgenlearning.pdf.)

Khan S. Let's use video to reinvent education. TED (Video) March 2011.  (Accessed online March 28, 2012: http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html.)

Nochese F. Khan Academy: My final remarks. Action-reaction: Reflections on the dynamics of teaching 10 May 2011.  Accessed online March 28, 2012: http://fnoschese.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/khan-academy-my-final-remarks/.)

Pelli DG and Bigelow C. Nearly universal literacy is a defining characteristic of today’s modern civilization; nearly universal authorship will shape tomorrow's.  Seed Magazine 20 October 2009. (Accessed online March 28, 2012: http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/a_writing_revolution/.)

Robinson K. Schools kill creativity.  TED Presentation 2006 June.  Accessed online March 28, 2012: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html.)

Stanford University.  Stanford University EPGY.  (Accessed online March 28, 2012: http://epgy.stanford.edu/research/.)

Thompson C. How Khan Academy is changing the rules of education. Wired Magazine 15 July 2011.  (Accessed online March 28, 2011: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/07/ff_khan/.)

Thrun S. University 2.0. Livestream (Video) 2012.  (Accessed online March 28, 2012: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/50648/events/698/videos/112950.)

Watters A. The wrath against Khan: Why some educators are questioning Khan Academy. Hack Education 19 July 2011.  Accessed online March 28, 2012: http://www.hackeducation.com/2011/07/19/the-wrath-against-khan-why-some-educators-are-questioning-khan-academy/.)

Widom J. From 100 Students to 100,000. ACM Sigmod 24 February 2012.  (Accessed online March 28, 2012: http://wp.sigmod.org/?p=165.)