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The Future of Education: Maximizing the Intelligence and Synergy of Everyone 18 minute talk by Lance Legel for TEDxTeachersCollege

Lets take a step back for a moment. We have no solution for climate change. Our governments are largely incompetent. Our costs of health care are exploding while positive outcomes are not. Over half of American college graduates are underemployed, which means they dont have a job, or theyre working in a job that they didnt need to spend 4 years and tens of thousands of dollars for. And Americans alone have a combined trillion dollars in student loan debt. I suspect most of that is mine. Meanwhile, globalization and information technology are completely changing everything we know about everything. There is no element of knowledge, industry, or society that has been unaffected by the digital revolution, and the social and cultural connectedness across Earth that it has accelerated and amplified. The state of our society is not only very troubling, but its very different from 20 or 10 or even 5 years ago, and these changes do seem to be accelerating. The data about our physical world being created every year, is now greater than all of the data in history combined. And the projection is that the creation of this data is exponential: because our computers create data, which lead them through artificial logic to create more data, the smartest people I know see no bound on the amount of data that will be created about our society, our lives, our health, our education, and so forth. So theoretically in 50 years we could easily have a million times more data than we now do. Id be surprised if it wasnt a trillion times our current data. Finally, people are really confused. Scared. I dont blame them. I believe that most of the leaders in education and technology and - lets not mention public policy makers - they have generally abandoned us. With the exception of a relatively few competent and profoundly important companies and organizations, the common message that the common man or woman or child gets today is: Good luck. Im sorry. This is the best we can do. This is the

way it is. Stop complaining. Stop cheating on your homework with Google. Stop texting your friends in class. Stop thinking independently. Here, take this Renaissance/Industrial era school system, shove it down your throat, I hope it makes you feel better.

Its really painful. These are very systemic problems for our society. But there is one system the education system - that is most culpable and in need of a radical revolution ASAP. Why? Because you can now Google the hardest question that any rote learning style class is likely to give you, and then you can instantly discover the best answer that someone has ever given to humanity. Theres worlds of difference in what we understand about why we exist, about how everything works, in terms of the underlying physics that really do connect everything together in a statistically predictable way. We now have a much better grasp on understanding how we learn, languages that we use to communicate, and what are the best practices across all industries and fields of application, which every student in every particular domain should really know... but our existing education models cannot possibly keep up with. Based on the latest research across neuroscience and computer science and physics, some of which I discovered thanks to a TED talk, we now know - really for the first time in history how to mathematically describe what it means to be intelligent, what it means to perceive and learn, what it means to consolidate information in our brains and computers and apply it through instinctive and artificial goals to drive rewarding actions. So, companies like Google - but also Facebook and Amazon - and absolute genius professors and labs around the world - and leaders in technology more generally - have discovered statistical artificial intelligence methods that can be used to semantically organize huge amounts of data on the Internet, and recommend from it the most important

knowledge for any particular individual, in a way that is customized and intelligent and just basically pretty awesome for everyone who benefits. And everyone can benefit.
But this type of a paradigm, of thinking about knowledge in a statistical and personalized sense, and in terms of mastery-based learning, with consideration of information theory and so forth - this paradigm is completely inadequately understood, or even barely applied, by existing leaders in public school education, because these leaders are not only generally ignorant of it, but they are too invested in the way things are currently to ever want to consider it. We need to change this. First we make sure we all understand it. But as we do this, we need to have the courage to act upon what we realize is true about so many aspects of education, and tell the teachers of our kids, the principals of these teachers, the school board administrators of these principals: wake up and smell the roses.

Right now, every classroom in the world should be taking advantage of the most beautiful and historic and profound new libraries for learning that are freely available on the Internet. Im talking about multimedia libraries like Wikipedia, Kahn Academy, Coursera, Udacity, EdX, and TED, to name a few. Theres more than enough research and experiments showing how amazingly influential learning from these types of organizations can be on people of all ages. But what theres not nearly enough of is people like you and me who really care about implementing these changes. Were not just talking about middle and high school education. Companies like those Ive mentioned are now offering completely free courses in the most empowering knowledge ever discovered. So, let me be the one of the most vocal individuals to demand to colleges around the world as well, right now: wake up and smell the roses. To smell the roses that Im talking about, just look at the company Coursera, for example. On this platform you can learn anything from neuroscience to introduction to programming to a course on how to change the world. Ive enjoyed such courses. Almost every one of these courses assumes you know nothing about them to start with. They really hold your hand and give you the fundamentals you need to start thinking independently about important subjects. All of the courses are taught by professors who have been carefully selected because they are truly at the top of their field. Not just because theyre on tenure, or are good researchers, or whatever - but because they deserve to be teaching you. And it truly is their greatest honor, you see it in the eyes of the professor who sees this chance to teach hundreds of thousands - even millions - of students... they know this the greatest distinction in their career they could have ever imagined, greater than any award. And they make sure to deliver. Professors from Stanford, Princeton, Columbia - almost all the universities that you may have ever dreamed of attending, just so you can maybe get lucky to maybe be able to register in one of their classes, so maybe youd catch them on a good day to gather such wisdom for yourself. Well now you can, right now: In other words, people everywhere now have access to a completely unprecedented portfolio of wisdom, captured on just a few websites, that deserve to be the most popular in the world. And yet, sadly, still a very small minority of people around the world have actually discovered these gold mines. I must emphasize that all of the content on these platforms are immediately available for free, and organized in a way that allows students to earn grades and credentials and go on to great things for the world.

This is the power of the Internet - and this is just the beginning of how this power can and should change our educational systems: how we organize the worlds knowledge for people everywhere, and how we get the knowledge into the heads of those who need it most. But, when I talk about such glory of online courses with skeptical friends, I often hear things like But theres no interaction with professors, or The content seems static, or most descriptive of all I really just dont like them. And thats cool, because truly theres lots and lots of room for all of us to think about how we can better improve interaction - technology just being the medium for us to do so, a medium only limited by our wildest imaginations. For instance imagine one student in Spain talking about course material with another in Singapore, using a video connection that has all sorts of embedded features for sharing notes and such; or, imagine pretty little thumbs up and thumbs down buttons, clickable at any point in a video, to always be able to tell teachers Im confused about THIS and I love THIS. Together, that data alone could probably help my statistics professors be much less confusing! And for the first time students would really shape the class for themselves, the consumer. Students need to be able to give rich immediate feedback to teachers in an online setting so they can know that their greatest concerns and hopes are being addressed ASAP, so the future is brighter than the present. Going forward, something I think many more smart and creative and artistic people need to be working on, is creation of immersive Natural User Interfaces (NUIs), that make everyone using a website suddenly ask questions like Wait, am I even online? Or am I in a classroom? Or am I sitting under a beautiful tree reading my favorite example about the theory of relativity? It doesnt matter. What matters is that people are learning whats most valuable. The medium for learning is a blank canvas, and we need to always see it that way in our comparison of how we choose to paint our educational systems. Finally, Im not just talking about really sexy user interfaces. Im talking about using the very latest discoveries from computer science and applied mathematics to create probabilistic models that can recommend knowledge to students based on what we think they want to learn most, and what we know to be most important. In a sense this is exactly what the best human tutors have always done, but obviously every kid (and adult) in the world doesnt have a personal tutor for all of the most important knowledge in the world. Weve just got the amazing superhero in our lives called Google. But I believe that by going even further into R&D that seamlessly integrates fundamental understanding across computer science and

neuroscience, that every one of us can really have an absolutely brilliant and beautiful and inspiring personal tutor for learning new knowledge, available 24/7 for free. We need a place online where anyone can go, and be treated like they are an intelligent and highly valued individual - which I believe everyone could be - where anyone can know that all of their learning efforts are being considered carefully, that every interaction with an educational system is truly designed for their greatest learning and life benefits; we need a place with a focus on making education overall as valuable as it could ever possibly be in this digital age of limitless opportunity; and people on this website need to be able to very easily and beautifully discover all of the most amazing knowledge that the Internet has to offer. You may think Im talking in platitudes or dreaming a totally nave dream. I mean, we also need a pony that can fart rainbows while flying us downtown 10 times faster than the 1 train. But actually Im proud to say that everything Ive just described is absolutely possible, because at the very least I will soon be introducing one such place online, in an attempt to inspire the greatest out of us, an attempt at an online utopia like never before possible, that brings together all of the world of free education, where you can seamlessly and easily learn about topics in a cohesive way from across Wikipedia, TED, Khan Academy, Coursera and so forth... so that ultimately your education can be maximized by the smartest algorithms (and of course, the smartest people who created those algorithms), in concert with the very best teachers in the world, supported by the most beautiful visualizations and ways of interacting with all this data that the world wide web can enable today. In this way Im about to present one extraordinary new model for the future of education. One new online world where everyones potential is only limited by the passion that they have to learn, to grow, and to be the best at whatever they love. This world is applying the cutting edge of R&D in neuroscience and computer science, and I promise you its just the beginning. Whether its through the online world that Im making, or a better one that I couldnt imagine, I know that we are all on the verge of a critical systemic revolution in the way we fundamentally learn, that is going to affect every element of our lives, and change the world in more positive ways than anybody could ever imagine. So I hope I can inspire in you the pursuit of what I believe education should really be about: maximizing the intelligence and synergy of everyone. Thank you very much.