One Small Step for (a) Man: One Giant Leap for Education

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I read this blog post and I was completely blown away with what my old company, McGraw-Hill had up their sleeve. If I read this correctly, they have developed an interactive digital learning system that balances the needs of the individual reader’s pace of learning and gears the lessons accordingly. This new adaptive e-book, named Smartbook, could be a completely relevant revolution in learning techniques for all students going forward.

“This is about breaking a model that isn’t really working” in education, said Brian Kibby, president of McGraw-Hill Higher Education, in an interview.

Now, I like the direction that this takes us. The learning process can be accelerated to a degree that students start to learn more quickly and advance through curriculums with better comprehension then at any time in the past.

“It changes what is normally a static product to something that’s individualized to the learner,” said Ulrik Christensen, Chief Executive of Area9, the McGraw-Hill partner that developed the technology behind SmartBook.

The only drawback I can even remotely see with this learning system would be in the basic reality of our “human-ness” during the course of answering the initial five questions. If a student is given the opportunity to excel, they may not make the choices that would point them in that direction due to a reluctance to push the envelope. The option to take the red pill or the blue pill, ala The Matrix, might not lead them to the fastest path to the academic summit. I don’t want to say a child may opt for answers that throw off the results due to laziness, but a reluctance to continually work at the highest level may not be all that enticing to a young mind in the midst of expanding the boundaries of knowledge.

All reservations aside, this is an incredible piece of technological forethought and innovation. The years of educational publishing and market research that McGraw possesses would make me believe that this educational leap will be hugely successful. Though I am sad to see the age of textbooks disappearing before our very eyes, the content and the process are the most important features that need to be considered as our children walk through our current educational system. Finding the path of least resistance to graduate the best in future minds should be the prime objective in any educational strategy going forward. How we get there will take many different and disparate avenues, but ultimately we must be successful in shaping the leaders of tomorrow.

To finish up with the space analogies, I would much rather be quoting the “One small step” from Neil Armstrong, than the “Houston, we have a problem” from Jim Lovell in terms of our educational system and learning process!


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