The Future of Education

Yesterday, after waking up and selling some Brighton handbags in the morning, I took a trip down to the city for a Meetup event discussing The Future of Education. The panel of speakers included San Kim, co-founder of ShowMe, Jen Medbery, founder of Kickboard, Brian Tobal, co-founder of Veri, and Danya Cheskis-Gold, Community Manager of Skillshare. I’ve been meaning to attend a Meetup for a while, and this just seemed like something I didn’t want to miss. These are the types of companies I hope to one day become involved with. I’ve played around with ShowMe (great idea) and Veri, and I’ve taken a few Skillshare courses. (I love Skillshare!) The only company I wasn’t familiar with was Kickboard, which is a tool used in schools that allows teachers to efficiently record data on student work and achievements.

I had never been to Dogpatch Labs before… that was a cool experience in itself to see several different start-ups all working in their respective areas around one large studio. Bryan Birsic moderated the event. It was nice to hear these four people discuss their respective company and the plans they see in the future for both their company and education in general. Each of these companies has a very different goal in the education sector. Veri and ShowMe can be used as tools for self-learning, or they can be used to make in-class lessons more engaging. Kickboard was really created to help school teachers become more efficient, while Skillshare is trying to reinvent our idea of post-secondary education, making its easy and affordable to take classes on anything you’re are interested in. Because of these differences it was occasionally difficult for some of the panelists to address each issue, but there were certainly a few common themes.

I think the most fascinating parts of the discussion were in regards to our accreditation and College/University system we now have in the United States.  When hiring for a position, many companies in this country still look to make sure a person has a Bachelors Degree before they even consider moving a candidate along in the hiring process. You would assume college graduates typically show heightened responsibility and self-motivation, but a college education may not provide the exact skills needed for many jobs out there. We already see instances when a company hires someone without a college diploma that has experience in the field instead of hiring a college graduate. In a start-up community, where engineers are worth their weight in gold, if the company was given the choice between a college drop-out that codes like a god and a mediocre coder with a Graduate degree, it obviously would make more sense to hire the guy with god-like coding abilities.

Jen Medbery made a good point that although this is the case in certain industries, (start-up companies being a big one) a Bachelors Degree is still a common requirement when applying to many different job.  Also, unlike coding, where you are given opportunities to show off your skills at hackathons, GitHub or your own personal site, there are a lot of professions out there where it is almost impossible to prove that you can do the job before you actually start doing it.

This talk made me churn a few thoughts over in my head. I mentioned in a post several days ago that I do see great value in a college education, but in many instances it probably won’t fully prepare you for your eventual career. But what I find more annoying is this: after 3.5 years of working for good grades and an entire semester of student teaching, all I have to show for my efforts is a Diploma, several History papers, and 2 flashdrives filled with powerpoints, worksheets and lesson plans I created for my students. As thrilling as that might sound to you, I’m not sure that is the type of stuff I should bring on my next interview. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if at the end of your college career your university forced you to compile your best work into an online portfolio? If from the first day of school you weren’t just working towards graduation, you were actually creating a tangible item that demonstrated your growth and development over the course of college? If our Career Resource Centers stopped teaching us how to write the “perfect” resume, and helped us develop a comprehensive compilation of our skills.

I know there are a few colleges out there that already do this type of thing. But not all of them do, and college is expensive and comes with false hope that there is a job waiting on the other side. Considering the time and expense the average college graduate devotes to their education, I think it only makes sense the students walk away with more tangible items than a diploma.

That last bit was a tangent, but I’m happy I was able to attend the event and I really plan to go to more in the future. Just like in Skillshare classes, it is great to get together with a group of like minded individuals, I talked to some very cool people last night. I also really enjoyed being around people involved with innovative education companies. It refreshed my desire to eventually become a part of that industry.

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