Peter H. Diamandis
John Sculley Serial Entrepreneur Mentor (former Apple CEO)
I think the real opportunity in education is not in the classroom. That's probably controversial, but I don't think it's in the institutions of the schools. I'm sure they'll get better and there's some really bright people working on that problem, but the really interesting opportunity, I think, is when the student has the ability to be in control, and the student can start to access learning on their own. And the form it takes may well take the form of things we learn from video games -- things that we learn from interactive communities.
Why, in school, do we go to such a structure that says, "You can't talk to the kid next to you, and you're cheating if you do something together?" It ought to be the other way around. It ought to be, "Hey, how do we get kids to work together and they can learn from each other?" Because guess what? That's what life is like when you go out into the workplace. You actually have to do things with other people.
And so can we give them tools over the network, and the network may be a mobile network. It may be a tablet. It may be devices we haven't even thought of yet. But we ought to be encouraging people to be curious. They can get access to information that was never possible before.
And then we ought to encourage them to go work with other people, their peers, to figure things out and try things. And we ought to encourage them to fail. Really encourage them to fail. Not encourage them to pass a rote, standard test, but encourage them to fail and to pick themselves back up again and regroup and then try it again. And then if they succeed, pat them on the back, but if they fail again, hopefully they don't fail the exact way they did the first time, they learn something from it.
But that kind of failure, that kind of collaborativeness, that kind of using enabling communications technology and getting outside of the rigorous boundaries of institutions that were created for an entirely different economy, I think that's where the gold is.
Peter H. Diamandis Chairman/CEO, X PRIZE Foundation
So, we're beginning to experiment. We do have a technological bent, and in fact, a lot of the areas that will give us a world of abundance is about technology making things cheaper, and easier, and more available.
So, in the education space, for example, one of the X Prizes I'm working on right now -- I just had meetings the other night with Aneesh Chopra, the U.S. CTO, about this very specific idea -- would be to create a competition for teams to build an educational video game that is effective, addictive, and viral. Effective meaning that if you play the video game, you can't get to the end without having learned the materials. Addictive -- or "compelling" is a better word if you're talking about with kids -- if you would, that means that if you start the game, 80 percent of the people who start, end the game. It's really hitting those dopamine receptors and you're intrigued, and you're engaged, and you want to finish the game. And then viral, meaning that the game is designed to want you to get your friends involved in the game so that some 10-year-old kid picks it up and gets his entire class playing it. In the process, they've learned this level of math, or this level of reading. So, I want to create a brand new generation of video-game entrepreneurs, who are building these educational games that are as good as the best games out there, but in the process of being played, are teaching you the fundamentals.
First we need to ask, "Did they ever?" Let's look at some statistics compiled by the University of Michigan Health System. A 2009 study found that the average child aged 2 to 5 is in front of a TV 32 hours per week; for kids aged 6 through 11, the average is 28 hours. Although that includes recorded programming and games, 97 percent of the time it's just hitting the "on" button. One of the reasons it's so easy to accumulate those hours: 71 percent of tweens and teenagers have televisions in their rooms. That means less time interacting with family, reading books, completing homework, being active and going outside.
In addition, with all that TV time, kids can be on the receiving end of some unpleasant consequences, such as trouble sleeping, difficulty with schoolwork, obesity and rebellious behavior. An overwhelming number of studies have indicated that viewing violent shows is linked to desensitization to brutality, hostility, nightmares and fear. One longitudinal study revealed that kids who displayed aggressive behavior associated with violent television continued that conduct as adults.
So should we just chuck out our TVs? Not so fast; there are some positive effects. Although there is some evidence that watching television before age 3 can negatively impact cognitive development, between ages 3 and 5 a limited amount of educational TV may marginally improve scores on reading tests. It can also positively affect storytelling and comprehension, receptive vocabulary and letter-sound connections. Older young people can be helped too. Researchers from Ohio State and the University of California, Santa Barbara compared undergraduate women's responses to two shows about teenage pregnancy: a news report and a teen drama. Participants who watched the entertainment show indicated they were more interested in using birth control.
The results of watching television are mixed. Sometimes it can promote learning; other times, it's a hindrance. However, one fact about TV is apparent: it's passive. Certainly the audience can anticipate plot developments, have feelings for characters and discuss these with fellow viewers. However, most of the time is spent sitting and staring. During the past two decades there has been a huge increase in the amount of interactivity available through other media such as computers. If we're seeking ways to advance education and entrance young learners, looking forward to new technology could be a better answer.
Two boys from Des Plaines, Ill., sit and watch an episode of "Pokemon" on their home TV set in July 2001. Could the cartoon violence of the program be desensitizing them to real violence? (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
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