教育技术论

先前曾讨论过规模教育产业的三大关键,有效性,可复制性,和低成本。

实现这三大关键点最终都会归结到在技术上。不是因为教育理念和管理方法不重要,而是因为技术是米,理念如油,管理如烹饪技术。常常由于后两项并不弱,真正发展的空间自然在前者。

目前,在教育产业中有效性暂时显得和技术关系不大,但这只是由于智能学习平台还在最初级的阶段。这是暂时的。如果受这种暂时现象的蒙蔽,草率得出结论以为新教育产业公司的成功将主要依赖于比别人更好的教学方法和经营模式,而不是技术,这轻则是个局限性错误(使成功受到限制),重则会是一个致命性错误。

没有技术,学习效率不可能大幅度提高; 没有技术,最好的教学方法将无法复制;没有技术,最合理的经营模式将是空洞而软弱无力;没有技术,靠勤奋和认真达到的果效将由于成本昂贵而没有经济价值。

说到靠技术才可能大幅度提高提高学习效率,让我来给一个简单的例子。 My job requires me to often study the background of a new invention. It’s not an easy task. Wikipedia at least doubled the efficiency of this task, mostly thanks to its extensively cross linked content. This has nothing to do with my own efforts, nor any “wise teacher’s” advice. My own efforts and methods could bring a 10-20% improvement, but not double or even more. It’s the shear force of the technology. Wikipedia is not even an intelligent learning platform. Such a platform could do much more.

我常常想起去年四月时在上海听到PY的一句话:如果有一个合理的学习平台,八年的医科学习可以缩短到两三年。我真的相信这是可以的。我也相信目前的小学生数学教学,靠将来实现的智能学习平台,效率至少可以提高一倍。

The most exciting thing is a vision of providing a more natural, more intuitive and more individualized learning tool. It’s about 生产力创新. Without this vision, anyone who enters into Street of education would become just another bunch of guys wanting to make some money off the needy parents.

其他要素,如教育方法、教育态度、老师培养、管理及市场等,都很重要,但是我坚信即使一个公司这一切都做的不错,若没有先进的技术,将仍然没有足够竞争力。

Startup vision in education tech

One of the most striking characteristics of successful entrepreneurs is their ability to attract many talented people’s commitment with very little money in the beginning.  It is not merely what they do, but also the things that coincide with what they do.

Several things must occur simultaneously for a company to arise as a star:

(1) a golden opportunity that actually exists (not a mere illusion); 
(2) a clear vision of that opportunity; 
(3) a compelling articulation of that vision; 
(4) a group of people inspired by the articulated vision; and
(5) a series of actions taken by the people to materialize that articulation based on tireless energy driven by the vision.

A startup company needs all these essential ingredients in order to succeed.  What helps me make up my mind to get involved in a startup is seeing most of these ingredients emerging from the startup.

Before one is excited to predict that a certain startup will be the next Alibaba or Google, or even just a modestly successful company, one should consider the reality. 

If one looks at statistics only, a startup has about 90% of a chance to fail and be forgotten, 9% of a chance (roughly 1 out of 10) to become a mediocre survivor, 0.9% of a chance (roughly 1 out of 100) to become moderately successful, 0.09% of chance (roughly 1 out of 1000) to become highly successful, and only less than 0.009% of chance (roughly 1 out of 10,000) to become great.

But statistics is not a story, much less an inspired story.

Those who see a vision given by inspiration have their fate determined, sometimes even against their original will.  And you don’t have a choice once you are compelled by a vision. That’s how an inspired story is made, and told.

I have always had a dream to change the way people learn.  I also have a dream of making the Internet a more useful place for people, especially children, to visit and stay in. 

Have you noticed that in many if not the most parents’ minds, the Internet has become a representation of “evil”?  Seeing that most children go on the Internet to either waste their time playing games or chatting nonsense with another empty mind, I must say that the present Internet is exactly what most parents think it is, mostly useless at best, and often harmful.

In the past decades of the Internet revolution, the Internet has rapidly become a backbone and freeway for modern commerce, but very little attention has been paid to people’s learning life using the technology. (I deliberately avoid the word “education” because it has a slightly different meaning.) 

The efforts on the so-called online education and e-learning have so far not been made by true visionaries, but by utilitarians to take advantage of certain obvious convenience of the electronic communication means. 

The big players have been busy grabbing “land” in the Internet space and building “shopping malls” and “casinos” (by which I refer to all entertainment business), or even worse things, but have not been interested in building “schools” on the Internet to improve people’s learning life. 

Think about the present Internet.  If you want to find information, you go to a search engine; if you want to find a product you go to an online shopping site; if you want to make friends you go to a social networking site; if you want entertainment, you go to one of the many entertainment sites; and if you want to do business, you go to an e-commerce site (B2B, B2C or C2C). 

But if you would like to learn something systematically, you can hardly go anywhere. 

The search engines have done a splendid job in collecting and presenting a vast amount of information to people.  But the knowledge and information is not presented in a systematic manner, nor in an organized learning context, and much less in an optimized personal context. 

To put simply, there is no school on the Internet.  

Would you call a society civilized if it doesn’t have a school? Of course not.  In that sense, the present Internet is a primitive place where very little formal learning is taking place.

I want to see a company that will change all that, a company that will build a virtual school on the Internet, not just finding ways for the existing conventional schools to use Internet as a supplemental tool. The virtual school will use virtualized learning and teaching resources that are based on both human resources and AI resources, using an artificial intelligence system which collectively and cumulatively learns from people’s learning to become the smartest, most effective, most adaptive and most personally optimized “artificial teachers”. 

This is what is captured in U.S. Patent No. 8666298 “Differentiated Integrated Individualized Education”. Not only did I write the patent but in fact deeply involve in the invention (ideation). The patent is the world’s first foundational edtech patent disclosing the AI assisted personalized education system.

This redefines the meaning of “learning” and “teaching”.   When it comes to online education, people have always thought of electronically connecting the student and the teacher for communication (and found nothing so uniquely exciting about doing that), but no one has seen that the Internet is the teacher. 

I envision an education tech company that becomes the world’s “Learning Mall” where people of all ages go to find the most suitable “learning machines” to learn any systematic body of knowledge or a set of skills.

“I learned this at the Learning Mall,” as people would say one day.