Effective Technology in Education Innovation

Khan Academy, which began in 2004 as a small collection of youtube tutorials by Salman Khan, a graduate of MIT and Harvard, has become a library of free educational videos that has has earned the recognition and support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Google. With over 3,000 mini lectures in 15 subjects, mostly in sciences, technology, and math, Khan Academy’s mission of “providing a free world class education to anyone, anywhere,” is reaching across the globe, from rural Asia to classrooms in America, and is transforming the paradigm of education with a de-centralized, student-centered approach to learning.

At KhanAcademy.org, video lectures are simple, the only audio being Khan’s voice and the only visual a colorful virtual whiteboard. They are also short, each lesson about fifteen minutes long, despite covering subjects in diverse fields levels K-12. However, Khan has found that he simplicity lends accessibility. In an interview with 60 minutes he said, “I’ve got a lot of feedback from people who say it feels like I’m sitting next to them and we’re looking at the paper together…I think that’s what people like, the humanity of it.” In addition, the website also offers practice exercises and peer-to-peer tutorials, and software to track one’s own progress.
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Imagination at Work

What is your preferred way of leaving a meeting, by fireman pole or by slide? Companies that work in the realm of creative innovation have designed environments for their employees that encourage imagination, activity, and fun.

Lego’s Denmark office is such an example. The design of the open ground floor, scattered with couches and Lego displays, encourages interaction amongst designers during the creative process. And when business meetings must take place upstairs, the slide provides a quick get away.

Lego’s employment philosophy is intrinsically tied to their product, proclaiming that, “Creativity is at the heart of the LEGO Group. So we build it systematically into everything we do. In the same playful and highly imaginative way that children transform a pile of bricks into a jumbo jet or a fairytale palace, we bring imagination to work everyday – in the way we go about our jobs, our experience-based approach to learning and our inventive career development.”
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SOPA, PIPA, and the Crisis of Trust

Yesterday saw a ‘blackout’ of several popular websites, including Wikipedia and Reddit, whilst other popular websites like Google and Craigslist displayed messages on their homepages, protesting against two separate anti-censorship bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP [Intellectual Property] Act (PIPA).

Both are meant to attack the problem of foreign Web sites that sell pirated or counterfeit goods. They would impose restrictions forcing U.S. companies to stop selling online ads to suspected pirates, processing payments for illegal online sales and refusing to list websites suspected of piracy in search-engine results. But, protesters say, the bills would actually do very little to prevent piracy and illegal websites, and instead may result in the extreme censorship and even takedown of websites that rely on user-generated content, like Wikipedia or YouTube.

The protest is the first of its kind, where some of the most visited websites on the internet have voiced their discontent with the proposed law. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, while having issued statements against the two laws, have been noticeably absent from the protests, aside from a status update by Mark Zuckerberg:

The internet is the most powerful tool we have for creating a more open and connected world. We can’t let poorly thought out laws get in the way of the internet’s development. Facebook opposes SOPA and PIPA, and we will continue to oppose any laws that will hurt the internet.

The world today needs political leaders who are pro-internet. We have been working with many of these folks for months on better alternatives to these current proposals. I encourage you to learn more about these issues and tell your congressmen that you want them to be pro-internet.

This points to the larger issue of trust, and the lack of it, that is apparent in these legislations. Curbing access to the internet, censoring online content and preventing free expression (singing a cover of your favorite song on a YouTube video would be made illegal under these laws) only leads to discontent and a greater crisis of trust. Like in the recent episode in Egypt where the government attempted to block internet connectivity, citizens are left with little illusion about the government’s protection of their rights to information and expression.