The Future of Education: Optimizing At The Highest Levels

by Scott - No Comments

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One thing I’ve become increasingly cognizant of is that the intake of information is only part of an effective learning process. The greatest learning occurs when we actively apply our knowledge. This notion has been popularized by the phrase “learning is doing.”

One of the challenges we face as a race is that only a small percentage of people are poised to actively apply their knowledge to solve the world’s greatest problems: problems such as curing cancer or creating sustainable solutions to address the diminishing oil supply. It seems kind of odd that their is not a greater concentration of talent focused here considering the scale at which innovation can make humanity better off. This is not a call out, just an observation. I have no room to talk. Building an internet product to improve content consumption is a far cry from curing the world’s diseases. It’s probably an unrealistic challenge to provoke hordes of brilliant people to stop what they’re doing to devote their lives to solving the world’s biggest problems for one reason or another. Thus, maybe a better solution is to find ways to accelerate the progression of those people who already have made this choice. Let’s get them off the JV sidelines and up to Varsity faster.

Knowledge and experience are the main things that separate me from the people who are poised to solve these problems. Both assets are intertwined, but in many cases knowledge, or signaling thereof, predicates experience. I have to go to Medical school and perform a residency for x amount of years, before I can open my own practice. Believe me, I think this is a good thing, but I think the one-size fits all approach in some cases is inefficient and is preventing bright minds from attacking hard problems faster.

An increasing number educational institutions and pioneers are beginning to take into account that each person’s optimal learning process is different. By providing a more catered approach, the velocity at which people can actively apply their knowledge increases. They can get on the field faster.

As a witness to this movement, I can’t help but wonder whether the collective institutions who incubate the folks attempting to solve the world’s greatest problems are taking the same approach. Specifically, I’m thinking about highly niche, secondary institutions. Is their methodology at which they cultivate minds catered at the individual level? I don’t know, but it seems like maybe it should be if not.

I feel like there is a very high ROI for humanity if we focus on optimizing the learning processes of people within the fields where the world’s greatest problems lie. I’m not referring to only improving their ability to intake knowledge. I’m talking about using technology to tighten feedback loops. I’m talking about providing behavioral analytics with the same level of granularity that we use daily to test the effectiveness of our marketing campaigns. We can only improve what we measure. Though, I do think it is important to recognize that within these disciplines knowledge often predicates experience and experience is what enables people to go after creating transformative change for the human race.

I have no idea the approach these institutions are taking. Maybe they are infusing the cutting edge teaching methodologies and optimization tools I read about. I just feel like it’s a worthy pursuit to try and get as many people within these disciplines playing at the highest levels as quickly as possible. Optimizing their learning processes is one way this can be achieved. The returns on such efforts bear exponential rewards for humanity.

*Since first publishing this article a friend directed me to this articles that highlights how certain studies refute the effectiveness of personalized learning approaches: http://huff.to/tjV4il.

I still maintain that finding ways to optimize education at the highest levels is an extremely worthy pursuit. I’m just not sure how to go about doing it.

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