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VTC just one of the “radical” ideas to reinvent education

January 26, 2011 - 0 Comments

Recently, Fast Company, a publication that focuses on innovation in technology and business, took a look at the philanthropic actions of Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook. Mark recently cut a $100,000,000 check to the City of Newark Public Schools. The act was instigated by a chance meeting with Newark Mayor, Cory Booker, whose ideas to improve his city’s floundering educational system impressed the young billionaire.

Fast Company took the opportunity to look at the current state of education and debate if money is truly the catalyst needed to get Newark’s schools moving towards improvement. After all, Newark spends more than double the national average on their students and only graduates half of them.

They also used the opportunity to poll both readers and experts about what they would do if they had $100 million to spend on education. Not surprising, the handful of education experts they polled welcomed the challenge (and also wished they had this problem in real life) and had very differing ideas.

These “radical” ideas for spending the $100 million on educational programs were less “radical” in the “outrageous” sense of the word, and more “radical” in the 80s definition of the word. They were far out! And we agree with quite a few of them. Especially the one expert’s idea to make the classroom better through video teleconferencing (VTC).

The idea for utilizing VTC in classrooms was intended to bring high quality and previously unavailable educational opportunities to students. Learning French? Why not converse with students in Paris? Studying underwater wildlife habitats? Why not virtually tour the Great Barrier Reef? The fact is, VTC can help take one-dimensional lessons and turn them into once in a lifetime educational experiences.

Although VTC is an effective way to deliver virtual fieldtrips and other educational opportunities to students, the technology could be used across many of the other “radical” ideas to help schools more effectively and efficiently execute on them. Here are some examples:

Radical idea #3: A new focus on music, art and dance – many schools are cutting their arts and music programs due to lack of funding. Although arts education is fundamental, it’s expensive. Instead of needing a specialized unit of art and music teachers, schools could instead pool and share art and music teachers and resources via VTC.

Radical idea #11: Every student meets daily with a tutor – the logistics and cost of pairing a student with a daily tutor makes this idea something that could only be executed with a spare $100 million in a school budget. However, enabling students to reach out to teachers or tutors for specific homework help via video from campus or home would be an inexpensive and effective way to ensure that after school academic assistance is available for struggling students.

Radical idea #4: Give parents time off for parent/teacher conferences – this concept was proposed to help strengthen the relationship between parents and teachers and make parents more invested in their children’s educations. However, it’s highly unlikely that parents would be able to get time off for conferences like they do for jury duty, even with $100 million. Instead, parents and teachers could be kept in more constant contact via VTC. No time off would be needed, and teachers and parents could interact much more frequently than they could in person.

When you look at the state of education in the United States today, there’s no question that some “radical” ideas are needed to get things on track and help us to better compete in our evolving global economy. However, it doesn’t take $100 million to start thinking radically. Maybe all that’s needed is a new way of working….and learning. Let’s break down the walls between our kids and a better education…and do it with VTC.

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