Dr. Woodie Flowers: What is the Future of Education?

Dr. Woodie Flowers: What is the Future of Education?

September 15, 2019 9 By Ronny Jaskolski


600,000 college freshman take calculus every
year. 250,000 fail. That’s ridiculous. Forty-two percent. If you make the assumption that each failure is worth two thousand dollars, that’s very conservative. 250,000, two thousand.
Wow, half a billion dollars. In this country in particular, we’ve lost sight of education because we’re doing this teach to the test training thing, and we think that
what we measure is the Holy Grail. But people like Angela Duckworth are pointing out that
grit may be more important than ‘IQ.’ The correlations with what you end up getting
done in life don’t fall under the check box, quiz, ‘IQ’ category. Let me distinguish what
I call real education from training. The discussion I think gets clarified if you make some distinction
like that. For example, learning calculus is training. Learning to think using calculus
is education. Learning a CAD program is training. Learning to design is education. Learning
the codified pieces, the stuff that’s been written down and published in textbooks for
the most part, and the things that are understood and evolving now, the pieces are mostly about
training. The wise integration of those things into solutions that you see for relevant
problems requires education. Training is a commodity. The comparative advantage is in education. I am not in favor of a university as a job-training place. To understand what
educational institutions like universities should do, you need to look at: What is it that requires presence? That’s the most valuable thing we have. It would be really silly if
I was showing you PowerPoint presentations of calculus equations. Go do that on your own. Outsource training to digital media, but do it well. None of this amateur hour
stuff where it’s a professor talking to a blackboard with one camera. Stop. Just stop.
Now lets do something well. Create high quality, well produced, modular, feedback-equipped, digital-learning systems so that they get better every day, and if that happens we would have ‘textbooks,’ or the material that’s currently in textbooks, that grows in efficacy or quality in a compound
way. I believe that’s an uber-Gutenberg thing. That’s a big deal. For the first time in human
history, we would have continuous growth in the quality of that stuff. And big data? Big
data is really important. Lets apply it to pedagogy. You can have the best data ever
on how things scaffold, etc. So lets do that, and then focus on education, which has a lot
more to do with human-to-human interaction, has a lot more to do with the quality of coaching
& expertise. That’s the core thing that we’ve got to get right. We’re going to be in a very
different place; a lot of stuff that had been in boxes, they’re going to become ad hoc
things. The boundaries between high school and university, and university and work, and
everything and workplace and family are going to get blurred. It would be an incredible disservice
to think that you could train university students for a job rather than help them learn how
to think. We owe it to young people to try to make it happen for them because if they’re
just well-trained they’re not going to have a place. If they’re well-trained and well-educated
they’re going to help untangle some of the messes that we made.