What if…

Posted on 19. Mar, 2009 by jon in Education

whatifOK, I’m about to go a little out there. But a thought occurred to me as I was checking out the site tonight and seeing all sort of cool things happening ranging from lots of people Twittering about us to us being on the verge of hitting 30,000 posts in the forums to new classes in all sorts of amazing subjects ranging from social investing to holistic nutrition. It pretty much hit me straight between the eyes.

What if that moment we have all been waiting for had arrived?

Bear with me here for a minute. If you’re reading this blog it’s probably because you actually give a damn. You care about education. Maybe your education. Maybe education in general. Maybe education for people in places who weren’t quite as blessed as we are.

And you’re probably here because you think that education can be better. That you shouldn’t have to suffer for a mediocre education at a price that increases at an ever-increasing rate (health care is the only thing that has increased in price at a faster pace than tuition over the last 20 years). That no one should for that matter. That high school drop-out rates that exceed 50% in some cities in the U.S. are a national travesty. And that our inability to re-train workers being displaced by shrinking industries shouldn’t have to be an international catastrophe.

Like a lot of other people you’re waiting for a change. So let me suggest something radical. What if that moment has arrived?

hackingeducation1Two weeks ago I was out in New York City to attend Hacking Education, an amazing event put on by Union Square Ventures, a top-tier VC behind such success stories as Etsy and Twitter. The guest list ranged from people who are about as distinguished as they come to 25 year olds with the best resume on the planet. And they all came together to discuss one thing: How to revolutionize education.

Sitting in that room that day, listening to the ideas (and contributing a few of my own!), I couldn’t help but feeling that maybe this is it. Maybe the change that people have been talking about for some long is actually happening. And certainly not at all just at a place like eduFire. But with other amazing edge startups like TeachStreet, Knewton, Smart.fm and LiveMocha.

And so while the whole world seems like it’s off it’s rocker with talks of bailout and corporate greed maybe there’s something else going on here. Something more powerful than any of us yet have realized. An opportunity to create a true system of Global Intelligence. A chance to turn teachers into rockstars.

earthThat’s a big frickin’ opportunity. Massive. And with big opportunities come big responsibilities. Especially in times like this it’s easy to throw in the towel. To see another depressing piece of news and just say “Screw it.” Or not. Or instead to realize that we can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves and go out and build amazing stuff that will change the planet.

That’s what we try to do every day here at eduFire. Build something that will help someone. Maybe a student who is look for some extra help in an important subject. Maybe a teacher trying to earn a decent living doing what they’re most passionate about.

And we’d love to have you help us out. Because ultimately at the end of the day it’s not about us as defined by the people on our team. It’s about *us*. What we’re all building together and the legacy we’ll leave to the generations that will come after us. By supporting the platforms that are trying to change things and supporting each other you are playing a role in being a part of this change.

So I’ll leave you with a few action items before your day is done. With each one of these that you do you’re playing a role in being a part of the change:

Know someone who is studying for the GMAT? Tell them about Grockit. It’s a ridiculously cool multi-player game that helps you study for the GMAT alongside other students.

Know someone who does local (face-to-face) teaching? Have them sign up on Teachstreet (if they’re in the US) or on School of Everything (if they’re in Europe). You’ll be doing them a big favor!

Know someone who is learning a language? Tell them about Smart.fm and LiveMocha, two of the most butt-kickingest language learning sites out there.

Last but not least we’d of course love your help too. :) We’ve put together a special Spread the Word page on edufire that you will give you a bunch of ways you can help us out. We’ve also added new “Post to Twitter” and “Post to Facebook” links on all of our Classes (more details here). As I mentioned before, every little bit helps.

blackbirdI’ll close by saying that I’m really, really excited to look back on this moment in 5 or 10 years and say “Wow, that was it. That was when it all started.” The collective moment that we’re sharing, one infused with hope and optimism for a future that doesn’t exist but is brighter than any we’ve ever envisioned before. That moment is perhaps the one we’ve been waiting for.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
-Lyrics from “Blackbird” by The Beatles

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  • The education marketplace may radically change over the next 5-10 years. With falling costs of producing and delivering digital content, the education market could face radical disruption to the traditional business model. Think about the following…

    1. Falling cost to create content
    * any professor with a video camera can upload his / her lesson to Youtube (or similar sites). With the drastic fall in cost to create content online, professors all over the globe are uploading lesson plans online for free viewing. (see my list of online distribution sites here)
    * economics of “scarcity” no longer applies to basic undergrad content in courses such as economics, marketing, finance, etc.
    2. Falling Distribution cost
    * internet communication technology drives the cost of distribution of content to free
    * monopoly of “physical space” no longer applies since the number of “seats” at the lecture is now infinite.
    3. Lessons from history:
    * every industry that faced both falling production & falling distribution costs….underwent fundamental radical change (disruptive). In no industry that faced both of these factors did the landscape turn out the same as it began…
    * Parallels with other industries - newspaper, music, computer (Dell)
    * the education industry will soon face major disruption to their business model…much as other industries have in the face of falling costs of creation & distribution of content. Think about the transformation we have witnessed in:
    o music industry: record labels lost the monopoly of creation & distribution when costs fell and the internet grew
    o reporting / journalism industry: the newspaper lost its monopoly over creation & distribution when costs fell.
    o computer distribution: companies such as HP were challenged by Dell who dis intermediated the wholesaler, and went direct from manufacturer to customer…using the tools of communication to reach people directly.

    more on KookyPlan blog: http://blog.kookyplan.com/?p=2...

  • Very good article, but you MUST know!


  • Jon ~ I just started following your blog and have to say that I always leave feeling inspired and motivated. I really admire what you are doing with EduFire and agree that the moment is now... Keep letting us know what we can do, as teachers and students, to collaborate and support your efforts!

  • thank you, jon, for making my day once again. i'm grateful for your insights and healthy nudges. :)

    yes, *the moment is here!*

  • Elliot Smith singing Blackbird... http://www.imeem.com/people/OV...... seems like the perfect version for the 'moment'

  • Wish I could have joined you there...must have been amazing :).

    Posted my German grammar class on facebook ;). Talk to you on friday!

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