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In a very controversial blog post I wrote some time ago, I argued that “if  teachers can be replaced by a computer screen, they should be.”   By that I meant that if we are offering students nothing more than what they can get online, then it is easier, cheaper, and more convenient for them to get their instruction online.  In fact, with the increasingly good backend instructional methods of some online courses, some computer screens are better than some mediocre teachers, even at individualized instruction (Carnegie Mellon’s statistics course is particularly good at learning from your mistakes and then your right answers and giving AI-driven hints adapted to your particular best ways of learning).   So that’s the challenge.


Think about World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov.   When the computer Big Blue beat him, instead of being depressed he teamed up with Big Blue and, together, they can beat anyone.   The same is true of great contemporary teachers, some of whom know how to work with the computational devices and student habits of today to be even better, to offer something more.


In the “flipped classroom,” you learn on line through video’d lectures and so forth and then go to the prof for individualized instruction in what you don’t know.  In today’s installment of my Fast Company series “Changing Higher Ed to Change the World,” I talk about the “cartwheeled classroom” that operates on the model of Kasparov and Big Blue, using the digital to create collected, collaborative, interdisciplinary global learning environments that change students’ lives and the world beyond.   I use the model of Duke’s Haiti Lab to illustrate what this new model of teaching can do.


Here’s the url for that article:

And some quotes from it:  “When you decide to change higher ed with the purpose of changing the world, you aim high. Because of academic freedom–freedom of ideas but also freedom from having to produce an income or a profit–you can achieve what few other investments achieve: a return on our society’s future, not just on quarterly Wall Street reports. “

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Cathy N. Davidson

Cathy N. Davidson

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