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When technology enters the classroom

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With 131,047,045 free lessons delivered online as of this month the Khan Academy is just one of the not-for-profits  changing access to learning for the better by providing free world-class education to anyone anywhere at no cost (so far) to the learner.

Khan Academy founder Salman Khan talks about his innovative approach to education in this TEDx Talk. Source: YouTube.

The relatively short lessons are well organized, visually interesting and relevant to much of what is taught in today’s schools grades 8-12.


And that’s just one example of free online learning.

Another increasingly popular knowledge source is “Ted Talks – “Ideas Worth Spreading”. “Ted Talks” provides hundreds of lectures on a wild variety of topics freely available online. These days conversations over dinner or a glass of something in a restaurant are just as likely to begin with “did you see the Ted Talk about……?” as they are about the hockey game.

When change comes to public education and beyond that universal access to learning, that change will include everything from classroom technology and practice, building design, and the emergence of truly individualized learning programs.

All that has all been part of the conversation among educators since the unfulfilled promise of the Sullivan Commission Report of 1988 was essentially ditched in 1989 by a nervous government in the face of popular uncertainty.

But starting now, and in much the same way as online music changed peoples’ music buying habits and revolutionized the music business, online learning will inevitable impact the traditional delivery of public education.

Most organizational change ultimately comes from a sense that a business or organization either changes itself or dies. Pressure for change often arrives as some form of external innovation perceived as a threat by those inside the organization, - “we’re losing market share; we need to change”.

It seems reasonable to question why at least some of the energy expended both by government and the Teachers’ Union on the politics of public education might not be more usefully redirected towards working collaboratively in finding ways to use, fit, correlate or modify these online learning gateways and technologies to the benefit of B.C.’s students.

In fact all of this may signal the approach of a time when schools will move inevitably and exponentially towards creating and using online lessons to accommodate “individualized learning” and “class size” will become less of the load bearing central building block for old school contract issues currently confounding traditionally delivered public education.

Geoff Johnson is a retired Superintendent of Schools[email protected]

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