The classroom is supposed to be a center for fierce debates, gripping lectures and riveting discussions. In reality, I enter the classroom and feel like I turn my brain off. Current methods of education are boring and increasingly obsolete.
Teachers are expensive and inefficient. They cannot possibly cater to the individual needs of all their students. The conventional university classroom eliminates freedom of choice and contrives students to pre-set schedules that are often inconvenient. The snail-like pace of the classroom makes it impossible for younger students in particular who struggle to focus.
In his 2001 essay, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Marc Prensky argues that American “students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.” Students are increasingly wired to handle the rapid dissemination of information. Younger generations were raised with constant stimulation with easy access to the world’s information at their fingertips. These trends will only accelerate in years to come as technology pervades the inner-workings of society and everyday life.
This is not a debate about the psychological affects of a technologically-dependent culture. That is an important debate for another time. Rather, it is about providing younger generations with the best education by keeping their minds active and promoting a love for learning. They grew up with computers, iPads, social media, video games, and ubiquitous internet.
The traditional methods of classroom education are outdated and ineffective for younger students.
Education does not need to be boring for students to learn. It can be fun, stimulating and exciting. It can make kids laugh, smile and generate colloquial discussion.
To make matters worse, the average private four-year college costs $31,231 per year. The total tuition along with room, board and fees at Elon University, where I am a senior, will be $44,599 next year. George Washington University, one of the most expensive universities in the country will set you back $66,660. Private colleges are expensive and leave an astoundingly high percentage of students in debt after graduation. The high cost of education promotes inequality and reduces quality of life. Mediocre results do not justify the arduous sacrifices of students and their parents.
The steep rise in college tuition has coincided with increasing access to free education. My favorite is YouTube where I enthusiastically subscribe to CrashCourse, Seeker Stories, and Shots of Awe. Each channel provides me with unprecedented access to the sharpest minds in the world in a way that is more visually stimulating than anything most classrooms offer. Coursera, Udacity, Lynda, Audible, Khan Academy and many more websites make learning easier than ever before. These websites cover topics from science to philosophy, to art and history.
To be sure, there are teachers who make the classroom experience irreplaceable. But most students would admit they are few and far between.
From the comfort of my bedroom, my iPad pro immerses me in ways no teacher can. I can pause videos when I need time to think or re-watch parts of a video when I need clarification. Even though classroom teachers can rerecord, edit and add visuals to their presentations to ensure an optimal lesson, the digital world can rewind, stop, and fast-forward in a way that reality cannot do. Students control the pace that works best for them. Online education is increasingly immersive and engaging in a way that the classroom is not.
As my love for learning online has developed, I have implemented enjoyable habits to fuel personal growth and worldly exploration.
My daily emails give me access to premier thought leaders on the topics I am most passionate about. People like Ben Thompson, John Green, and Seth Godin have impacted my life more than any university professor. This isn’t a knock on the incompetence of professors, but rather a comment on the liberating and under appreciated potential of technology and Internet network effects.
The education revolution is just getting started. Despite dystopian novels like Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, I am optimistic about the pedagogical promise of virtual reality. Virtual reality will revitalize education when it becomes as mainstream as the iPhone.
Virtual reality turns a history textbook’s academic description of America’s founding fathers signing the constitution into a passionate debate with Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock and George Washington. Students will feel like they are a part of history. Time and distance will cease to be barriers. Intellectual enthusiasm will replace the elementary school boredom that plagued our younger years.
Instead of a benign photo of Jerusalem, students will travel to the Western Wall and the adjacent Al-Aqsa Mosque to grapple with religious tensions that have endured for centuries. Middle schoolers will explore the Galapagos Islands for an immersive glimpse at Darwin’s theory of evolution before exploring Einstein’s lab to witness his discovery of the General Theory of Relativity. They will practice their Spanish in the cafes and streets of Guatemala, Spain and Argentina instead of listening inside of the dull confines of an outdated four-walled classroom lit by cheap, glaring fluorescent lights. Education will be a bewildering and rewarding experiential journey, not a laborious chore.
The best part — Moore’s law and the ubiquity of smartphones enables the mass distribution of virtual reality. The Internet’s integration with contemporary society promises increased access to the top minds of every niche. We can move past student boredom and postgraduate debt. It is time for our education system to embrace the convenience of technology instead of shunning it.
The delta between the old and the young has manifest itself in the inefficiencies of the classroom. Younger generations are exponentially in favor of using technology to discover the world, tackle complexity and challenge assumptions. The education revolution is just beginning. Fasten your seat belts and prepare for the unprecedented demolition of a decrepit classroom status quo.