Stanford’s Course on Digital Ed Explores Teaching’s Future

Stanford University’s School of Education is offering a course this academic year called Education’s Digital Future that will examine how digital education works, and will assess which models are most successful. The course brings together students, faculty, K-12 teachers from the local community, programmers, venture capitalists, policy experts, and anyone else who is curious enough to show up and sit in on a class. An impressive list of speakers from a breadth of backgrounds is scheduled, including:

“Adrian Sannier, senior vice president for product at Pearson, a leading education services company; Candace Thille, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s famed Open Learning Initiative (OLI); Catherine Casserly, CEO of Creative Commons; Tom Vander Ark, formerly with the Gates Foundation and now a venture capitalist focused on education; Prasad Ram, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Ednovo; and Steve Midgley, a consultant with the U.S. Department of Education.”

The goals set out by course conveners Mitchell Stevens, an associate professor of Sociology and Organizational Behavior in the Graduate School of Business, and Roy Pea, the David Jacks Professor of Education, are threefold: to think broadly about the purpose of education and the role of institutions and schooling; to consider how digital education fits into the larger context of an ever-increasingly digital world where people work, play, innovate, communicate, and socialize immersed in technology; and evaluate the recent data on digital learning and teaching as well as best pedagogical practices in general.

“The idea was to create a low-barrier town square where all relevant players could gather, talk, listen and sift out the substance from the hype. Stevens, who came to Stanford in 2009 from New York University, acknowledged that the whole thing is an experience unlike anything he has ever taken part in, “a pedagogical challenge I never envisioned having.” But it’s a challenge he has fully embraced.”

The course focuses on digital learning both in higher education and in K-12 settings — where the challenges sometimes differ. Topics covered include massive open online courses (MOOCs) which have been a major focus and concern for many at the university level, and the possibilities opened up by digital learning to shift common conceptions about the boundaries of education, particularly around the K-12 level.

“But school districts and public school teachers were not front and center in the panel’s presentations, a deficit that questioners immediately pointed to. They also wondered who or what is going to pay for all these innovations (schools? government? foundations? companies?) and how the new financial or fiscal infrastructure would be coordinated with existing school district structures.”

Anne Mishkind

Anne Mishkind

Anne Mishkind holds a Master of Philosophy in Political Thought and Intellectual History from the University of Cambridge. She has worked in education advocacy and media and has a strong interest in education reform.
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