Educators share ‘hacks’ to improving higher education, using technology to help students learn

technology-education-knotHal Plotkin, the senior policy adviser to the office of the undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Education, couldn’t write until he was in seventh grade.

Even when he finally could, Plotkin said Wednesday, it was not a teacher who taught him, but his girlfriend, who was embarrassed of his performance in their English class. “People can learn from teachers, but also each other,” he said.

Plotkin related this tale of peer learning during an event hosted by Future Tense, a partnership between Arizona State University, Slate, and the New America Foundation. The discussion, called “Hacking the University,” brought together several educators to share their solutions, or “hacks,” to some of the biggest problems facing higher education.

Some, like the ideas of Bryan Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason University who proposed that the government completely stop funding higher education, were radical. Others were similar to Plotkin’s, a more gentle suggestion of a shift in the role of universities and their faculty.

All were connected one way or another to technology’s increasing role in educating students.

Adrian Sannier, the chief academic technology officer at Arizona State University Online, said he envisioned a future where a guild of educators helped spread the use of digital tutors powered by adaptive learning. He pointed to the Khan Academy in Idaho as an example, as well as to Khan’s new adaptive learning dashboard.

“It’s building the largest, most detailed database of how people learn ever assembled,” Sannier said.

But if the technology is already so impressive, why aren’t more people using it?


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