Step into the future of higher education

Reading Time: 8 minutes

From Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Jose, California, Dr. Deborah Snyder and John Duhring, authors of a new higher education series in advance of their upcoming book, tentatively titled “Old School, New School, No School,” provide a new perspective on what higher education means and how it can be more effectively experienced across the globe. This column also appears in “View from the US.”

This segment focuses on the future of education that may not be so far ahead of us after-all and the importance of character. 

By Deborah Snyder, PhD and John Duhring, Cogswell Polytechnical College, San Jose, California

Investvine_J-Duhring-Article-isolation

Look To The Student, Not The Stage

When it comes to reforming higher education, scholars and EdTech companies alike extoll the value of the “guide on the side” as opposed to the “sage on the stage”. Others debate the value of “skills” vs “knowledge”. These arguments evaporate when considering what forces adaptation and learning at a behavioral level.

Recent investigations of brain activity surface surprising evidence: learning is caused by motion. The process of adaptation forces decisions that effect change. Physical movement, tied to kinesthetic sensing, creates new neural pathways. Students are quite literally building new worlds as they engage in college life and class work. Limiting the scope of their construction efforts narrows their options. Elite-level higher education is predicated on expanding student options. Without a doubt, colleges will adapt more effectively by considering the undergraduate student experience more deeply now than ever before.

investvine-playing-sony-console-controller
“Can video games help stroke victims?”

A recent New Yorker article asks the question: Can video games help stroke victims? It details new possibilities for stroke patients with impaired arms. “Using a robotic sling, patients learn to sync the movements of their arms to the leaping, diving dolphin; that motoric empathy… will keep patients engaged in the immersive world of the game for hours, contracting their real muscles to move the virtual dolphin.” The astounding result is that strokes might no longer be viewed as catastrophic events anymore than a ruptured ACL is now. That these might be treated by non-invasive methods promises to remove strokes as the #1 cause of long-term disability in the US, effecting as much as the nearly 1 million incidents each year. How this new therapy applies to student learning might change the lives of many millions more.

The Johns Hopkins Medicine facility run by the Department of Neurology featured in the article is named the Brain, Learning, Animation, and Movement (BLAM) lab. They describe the opportunity they face: “We believe the time is ripe for a new fusion between academia and industry … Neuroscience innovations seamlessly translated into highly lucrative products in the entertainment industry (have) the capacity to self-fund on the order of hundreds of millions… Johns Hopkins has the unique opportunity to rival MIT and Stanford in bridging two worlds that should no longer be kept apart in biomedical science.”

At the root of their method is to educe movement by patients through immersion in and interaction with “Pixar-level” animations. John Krakauer, the Director of the BLAM lab, describes what happens with stroke patients in current hospital environments. He might just as well be talking about how many students are treated in college: they are put in rooms where they feel isolated and unable to move. Since the objective in both scenarios is to “re-wire” the brain and nervous system, what he describes has relevance to a discussion about what happens in higher education. The theme he hammers home, which he hopes his audience takes away, cannot be understated. “You really need to bring artists and scientists together”.

Screenshot of John Krakauer’s TEDx talk
Screenshot of John Krakauer’s TEDx talk

Investvine Look to the Student Article Enriched Environment

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We have this window, and we are not using it”, he says. It turns out that mice recover from strokes if you give immediate training feedback. He shows how there is a special time period in which the brain is highly active within moments after a stroke event, which provides an opportunity to adapt and develop new pathways to regain full function. The ideal scenario is to put mice into “enriched environments”:

“You put them in with their friends. You give them toys”, he says. Providing a “fair ground environment” leads to increased levels of motivation, reward, interaction, enjoyment and fun in which mice recover completely WITHOUT RECEIVING TASK SPECIFIC TRAINING. His experiments have proved that environments which foster enjoyment, play and experimentation improve recovery. After his team developed a video game environment supported by an exo-skeletal system that enabled human stroke patients to extend their arms over a wide range of motion, he was astonished by the delight exhibited by his first test subjects. “We are very hopeful that we will bring fun and play back into the brain injury recovery environment”, says Krakauer. The interactive experience of being a dolphin engaged in an undersea shark battle forces patients to exercise, to adapt and to learn at a very deep level. “The ability to be in a controlling environment… is unbelievably pleasurable”, observes Krakauer.

Teamwork between talented people from unexpected disciplines was required to develop these new training mechanisms. Krakauer suggests computer scientists should work with animation artists and robotics experts in order to develop the systems that can effect motion, adaptation and learning at this level. His trans-disciplinary team works “cheek to jowl” with neuroscientists, clinicians and therapists. He says, “You have to bring people together who at first blush you may not think should be in the same room”.

How This Plays In Higher Education

In 1985, Nobel Laureate Paul Berg was frustrated that university students were studying about DNA in textbooks rather than experimenting in labs. “Wet labs” require test tubes, expensive machinery and chemicals, yet they enable the kind of play, exploration and experimentation that enables adaptation and learning. These laboratory functions were too complex to simulate on the personal computers of the day, but Berg was able to inspire Steve Jobs to focus his NeXT computer company on education and to develop simulations. Not surprisingly, when seen in retrospect, Steve Jobs purchased Pixar at about the same time. We can only imagine that he was thinking about college students interacting with animations as deeply as the BLAM lab now works with stroke victims.

As reported by the New York Times in 1987, ”People learn best by being in a learning environment, which means that ideally, you’d offer a physics student a personal linear accelerator, or a ride on a train going the speed of light,” Mr. Jobs said in a 1986 speech. ”You’d take a biochemistry student and let him experiment in a $5 million DNA wetlab. You’d send a student of 17th century history back to the time of Louis XIV.”

Investvine-argonne-lab-education

It’s over 25 years later now, and the challenge in education is no longer about the technology. All that Jobs envisioned and more is readily available using smartphones, networks and services.  How students establish control over the technology and apply it to their own desires holds more promise than ever before. Their notebooks, code repositories, websites and collaborative ventures show what they have made, what they have learned, and give us insight into the world they are stepping into.

Dr. Krakauer and Steve Jobs might agree that our current educational systems are geared towards turning students into “money-making machines”. Malaysian author Firoz Abdul Hamid brings a global perspective when she speaks about boredom in the classroom resulting in a generation of jellyfish-like graduates, brainless and spineless, who only consume. Without a doubt, restricting students to drone-like roles in order to fill jobs can lead to sub-optimal use of their skills and a disregard for the consequences of their actions. If this sounds like schools are a kind of prison, there is also ample evidence that prisons make effective universities, if standards of ethics and honor are not factored in.

In his classic TED talks, Sugata Mitra describes “self organized learning environments” as being the future of education. He brilliantly describes the origins of modern schools, distinguished by rows of desks and students doing exactly the same work alongside each other without talking. These schools came about at a time when the systems used to rule the British Empire required ledger books to be tranferred around the globe by ship. The innovation of the time was a world-wide bureucratic computer, powered by human calculators, that was put in place to manage the global enterprise. Schools were designed to provide workers Investvine_J-Duhring-Article-Learning-Environment-1who could be just as effective in New Zealand as in Canada. Mitra exclaims that this system is not broken. It works well to this day. The problem is, it was designed for a world that no longer exists. His “school in the cloud” project is focused on creating a new system based on how students learn. A system in which encouragement, curiosity and peer interests spark adaptation and growth.

Not willing to continue to work at unfulfilling jobs, a growing body of post-graduates around the globe are creating their own learning environments. Co-working spaces have sprung up to help career changers, down-shifters and entrepreneurs to foster their ideas, form teams and try out new approaches. One example, located in the Balinese village of Ubud, caters to global citizens who are “looking for a more meaningful way of working and living”. Turn Point’s founder Steve Munroe describes a new framework for higher education, which enables “just in time learning”. He himself jumped out of a mainstream career when he noticed, “The life I saw and the life I felt were not in alignment”. He decided to quit his job as a UN administrator to create an enriched learning environment where elite-level education and adaptation could take hold.

Similar co-working spaces are springing up around the globe. They encourage mixing, exploring and creativity. Members value the benefit of associating with others who are focusing on their strengths, who figure out what motivates them, what gets them out of bed in the morning. They help each other walk through ideas to surface actionable choices. They test out new ventures. Some work at their “day job” while they play with side projects on evenings and weekends. The freedom they feel, to “go anywhere from here”, might be summed up my Monroe, who says, “One day, your life will flash before your eyes- Make sure it is worth watching!”

Enriched environments that eliminate feelings of isolation and facilitate movement, play and exploration increasingly exist in high-tech companies. These open, studio-style offices invite walking meetings, show-and-tell presentations, the formation of missions and the recruitment of teams to execute them. Bringing movement into the workplace encourages alliances. It fosters interactions where workers speak of their own experience in ways they never would in a formal “meeting” atmosphere. Their sense of identity and purpose can develop from the feedback of their peers, not merely the expectations of their roles. As an example, Facebook’s new Seattle offices will feature a rooftop park-like setting with walking trails and breath-taking vistas, as well as stadium seating inside for larger meetings.

When college students interact in environments such as these, they form alliances that can last a lifetime. When they embark on projects together, they ask themselves who they are and what they stand for. They identify their own passions and as well as the roles they are called upon to fill. They stand up to be seen. Above all else, they develop an ethic through their efforts. They become “mission-ready” through their own activity, through the roles they play and the projects they join.

Steve Jobs spoke of making the world a better place, of making a dent in the universe. To do that, he had to ask where he and his company fit in this world.

“What we are about isn’t about making boxes for people to get their jobs done, although we do that well”, he said in 1997, shortly after returning to Apple after it acquired NeXT. “Apple’s core value is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better”.

In an Apple message to teachers from 1997, Jobs said, “Some people think that the primary use of technology in schools is wrote learning, drill and practice, so kids are prepared for the tests they take in school. But that’s not why we are all here. We are here to teach these kids how to learn, how to preserve their magical curiosity and how to express themselves creatively. In business, the people that get ahead are not the people that know the facts. The people that get ahead are the people who know how to get the facts, and who know how to get insight into them and how to creatively express that insight… to sell the rest of their colleagues and eventually their customers.”

This expression of higher education- to gather data through a keen awareness of who to model and who to listen to, to make sense of the data with others in such a manner as to act with purpose and commitment- takes even someone like Steve Jobs years to develop. These are the result of hard lessons learned through serious work and focus. It suggests a new model for colleges and universities that centers around undergraduate student learning. At a time in their lives when their bodies and minds are adapting to everything around them, surrounding these students with peers and mentors, enabling them to move and create in order to experience their own capacity and to find their own place, their own voice, this is the start of higher education. This is the beginning of a four-year cycle (more or less), in which they will experience their own resilience, their own backbone, their own truth.

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From Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Jose, California, Dr. Deborah Snyder and John Duhring, authors of a new higher education series in advance of their upcoming book, tentatively titled “Old School, New School, No School,” provide a new perspective on what higher education means and how it can be more effectively experienced across the globe. This column also appears in “View from the US.” This segment focuses on the future of education that may not be so far ahead of us after-all and the importance of character.  By Deborah Snyder, PhD and John Duhring, Cogswell Polytechnical College, San Jose, California Look...

Reading Time: 8 minutes

From Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Jose, California, Dr. Deborah Snyder and John Duhring, authors of a new higher education series in advance of their upcoming book, tentatively titled “Old School, New School, No School,” provide a new perspective on what higher education means and how it can be more effectively experienced across the globe. This column also appears in “View from the US.”

This segment focuses on the future of education that may not be so far ahead of us after-all and the importance of character. 

By Deborah Snyder, PhD and John Duhring, Cogswell Polytechnical College, San Jose, California

Investvine_J-Duhring-Article-isolation

Look To The Student, Not The Stage

When it comes to reforming higher education, scholars and EdTech companies alike extoll the value of the “guide on the side” as opposed to the “sage on the stage”. Others debate the value of “skills” vs “knowledge”. These arguments evaporate when considering what forces adaptation and learning at a behavioral level.

Recent investigations of brain activity surface surprising evidence: learning is caused by motion. The process of adaptation forces decisions that effect change. Physical movement, tied to kinesthetic sensing, creates new neural pathways. Students are quite literally building new worlds as they engage in college life and class work. Limiting the scope of their construction efforts narrows their options. Elite-level higher education is predicated on expanding student options. Without a doubt, colleges will adapt more effectively by considering the undergraduate student experience more deeply now than ever before.

investvine-playing-sony-console-controller
“Can video games help stroke victims?”

A recent New Yorker article asks the question: Can video games help stroke victims? It details new possibilities for stroke patients with impaired arms. “Using a robotic sling, patients learn to sync the movements of their arms to the leaping, diving dolphin; that motoric empathy… will keep patients engaged in the immersive world of the game for hours, contracting their real muscles to move the virtual dolphin.” The astounding result is that strokes might no longer be viewed as catastrophic events anymore than a ruptured ACL is now. That these might be treated by non-invasive methods promises to remove strokes as the #1 cause of long-term disability in the US, effecting as much as the nearly 1 million incidents each year. How this new therapy applies to student learning might change the lives of many millions more.

The Johns Hopkins Medicine facility run by the Department of Neurology featured in the article is named the Brain, Learning, Animation, and Movement (BLAM) lab. They describe the opportunity they face: “We believe the time is ripe for a new fusion between academia and industry … Neuroscience innovations seamlessly translated into highly lucrative products in the entertainment industry (have) the capacity to self-fund on the order of hundreds of millions… Johns Hopkins has the unique opportunity to rival MIT and Stanford in bridging two worlds that should no longer be kept apart in biomedical science.”

At the root of their method is to educe movement by patients through immersion in and interaction with “Pixar-level” animations. John Krakauer, the Director of the BLAM lab, describes what happens with stroke patients in current hospital environments. He might just as well be talking about how many students are treated in college: they are put in rooms where they feel isolated and unable to move. Since the objective in both scenarios is to “re-wire” the brain and nervous system, what he describes has relevance to a discussion about what happens in higher education. The theme he hammers home, which he hopes his audience takes away, cannot be understated. “You really need to bring artists and scientists together”.

Screenshot of John Krakauer’s TEDx talk
Screenshot of John Krakauer’s TEDx talk

Investvine Look to the Student Article Enriched Environment

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We have this window, and we are not using it”, he says. It turns out that mice recover from strokes if you give immediate training feedback. He shows how there is a special time period in which the brain is highly active within moments after a stroke event, which provides an opportunity to adapt and develop new pathways to regain full function. The ideal scenario is to put mice into “enriched environments”:

“You put them in with their friends. You give them toys”, he says. Providing a “fair ground environment” leads to increased levels of motivation, reward, interaction, enjoyment and fun in which mice recover completely WITHOUT RECEIVING TASK SPECIFIC TRAINING. His experiments have proved that environments which foster enjoyment, play and experimentation improve recovery. After his team developed a video game environment supported by an exo-skeletal system that enabled human stroke patients to extend their arms over a wide range of motion, he was astonished by the delight exhibited by his first test subjects. “We are very hopeful that we will bring fun and play back into the brain injury recovery environment”, says Krakauer. The interactive experience of being a dolphin engaged in an undersea shark battle forces patients to exercise, to adapt and to learn at a very deep level. “The ability to be in a controlling environment… is unbelievably pleasurable”, observes Krakauer.

Teamwork between talented people from unexpected disciplines was required to develop these new training mechanisms. Krakauer suggests computer scientists should work with animation artists and robotics experts in order to develop the systems that can effect motion, adaptation and learning at this level. His trans-disciplinary team works “cheek to jowl” with neuroscientists, clinicians and therapists. He says, “You have to bring people together who at first blush you may not think should be in the same room”.

How This Plays In Higher Education

In 1985, Nobel Laureate Paul Berg was frustrated that university students were studying about DNA in textbooks rather than experimenting in labs. “Wet labs” require test tubes, expensive machinery and chemicals, yet they enable the kind of play, exploration and experimentation that enables adaptation and learning. These laboratory functions were too complex to simulate on the personal computers of the day, but Berg was able to inspire Steve Jobs to focus his NeXT computer company on education and to develop simulations. Not surprisingly, when seen in retrospect, Steve Jobs purchased Pixar at about the same time. We can only imagine that he was thinking about college students interacting with animations as deeply as the BLAM lab now works with stroke victims.

As reported by the New York Times in 1987, ”People learn best by being in a learning environment, which means that ideally, you’d offer a physics student a personal linear accelerator, or a ride on a train going the speed of light,” Mr. Jobs said in a 1986 speech. ”You’d take a biochemistry student and let him experiment in a $5 million DNA wetlab. You’d send a student of 17th century history back to the time of Louis XIV.”

Investvine-argonne-lab-education

It’s over 25 years later now, and the challenge in education is no longer about the technology. All that Jobs envisioned and more is readily available using smartphones, networks and services.  How students establish control over the technology and apply it to their own desires holds more promise than ever before. Their notebooks, code repositories, websites and collaborative ventures show what they have made, what they have learned, and give us insight into the world they are stepping into.

Dr. Krakauer and Steve Jobs might agree that our current educational systems are geared towards turning students into “money-making machines”. Malaysian author Firoz Abdul Hamid brings a global perspective when she speaks about boredom in the classroom resulting in a generation of jellyfish-like graduates, brainless and spineless, who only consume. Without a doubt, restricting students to drone-like roles in order to fill jobs can lead to sub-optimal use of their skills and a disregard for the consequences of their actions. If this sounds like schools are a kind of prison, there is also ample evidence that prisons make effective universities, if standards of ethics and honor are not factored in.

In his classic TED talks, Sugata Mitra describes “self organized learning environments” as being the future of education. He brilliantly describes the origins of modern schools, distinguished by rows of desks and students doing exactly the same work alongside each other without talking. These schools came about at a time when the systems used to rule the British Empire required ledger books to be tranferred around the globe by ship. The innovation of the time was a world-wide bureucratic computer, powered by human calculators, that was put in place to manage the global enterprise. Schools were designed to provide workers Investvine_J-Duhring-Article-Learning-Environment-1who could be just as effective in New Zealand as in Canada. Mitra exclaims that this system is not broken. It works well to this day. The problem is, it was designed for a world that no longer exists. His “school in the cloud” project is focused on creating a new system based on how students learn. A system in which encouragement, curiosity and peer interests spark adaptation and growth.

Not willing to continue to work at unfulfilling jobs, a growing body of post-graduates around the globe are creating their own learning environments. Co-working spaces have sprung up to help career changers, down-shifters and entrepreneurs to foster their ideas, form teams and try out new approaches. One example, located in the Balinese village of Ubud, caters to global citizens who are “looking for a more meaningful way of working and living”. Turn Point’s founder Steve Munroe describes a new framework for higher education, which enables “just in time learning”. He himself jumped out of a mainstream career when he noticed, “The life I saw and the life I felt were not in alignment”. He decided to quit his job as a UN administrator to create an enriched learning environment where elite-level education and adaptation could take hold.

Similar co-working spaces are springing up around the globe. They encourage mixing, exploring and creativity. Members value the benefit of associating with others who are focusing on their strengths, who figure out what motivates them, what gets them out of bed in the morning. They help each other walk through ideas to surface actionable choices. They test out new ventures. Some work at their “day job” while they play with side projects on evenings and weekends. The freedom they feel, to “go anywhere from here”, might be summed up my Monroe, who says, “One day, your life will flash before your eyes- Make sure it is worth watching!”

Enriched environments that eliminate feelings of isolation and facilitate movement, play and exploration increasingly exist in high-tech companies. These open, studio-style offices invite walking meetings, show-and-tell presentations, the formation of missions and the recruitment of teams to execute them. Bringing movement into the workplace encourages alliances. It fosters interactions where workers speak of their own experience in ways they never would in a formal “meeting” atmosphere. Their sense of identity and purpose can develop from the feedback of their peers, not merely the expectations of their roles. As an example, Facebook’s new Seattle offices will feature a rooftop park-like setting with walking trails and breath-taking vistas, as well as stadium seating inside for larger meetings.

When college students interact in environments such as these, they form alliances that can last a lifetime. When they embark on projects together, they ask themselves who they are and what they stand for. They identify their own passions and as well as the roles they are called upon to fill. They stand up to be seen. Above all else, they develop an ethic through their efforts. They become “mission-ready” through their own activity, through the roles they play and the projects they join.

Steve Jobs spoke of making the world a better place, of making a dent in the universe. To do that, he had to ask where he and his company fit in this world.

“What we are about isn’t about making boxes for people to get their jobs done, although we do that well”, he said in 1997, shortly after returning to Apple after it acquired NeXT. “Apple’s core value is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better”.

In an Apple message to teachers from 1997, Jobs said, “Some people think that the primary use of technology in schools is wrote learning, drill and practice, so kids are prepared for the tests they take in school. But that’s not why we are all here. We are here to teach these kids how to learn, how to preserve their magical curiosity and how to express themselves creatively. In business, the people that get ahead are not the people that know the facts. The people that get ahead are the people who know how to get the facts, and who know how to get insight into them and how to creatively express that insight… to sell the rest of their colleagues and eventually their customers.”

This expression of higher education- to gather data through a keen awareness of who to model and who to listen to, to make sense of the data with others in such a manner as to act with purpose and commitment- takes even someone like Steve Jobs years to develop. These are the result of hard lessons learned through serious work and focus. It suggests a new model for colleges and universities that centers around undergraduate student learning. At a time in their lives when their bodies and minds are adapting to everything around them, surrounding these students with peers and mentors, enabling them to move and create in order to experience their own capacity and to find their own place, their own voice, this is the start of higher education. This is the beginning of a four-year cycle (more or less), in which they will experience their own resilience, their own backbone, their own truth.

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