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Conference Outlines Cutting-Edge Learning Technology

— by Jessica Stillman

From how we communicate, to how we work, to how we shop, advances in technology have radically changed how we go about nearly all aspects of our lives — with at least one notable exception. In classrooms from grammar school to Master’s programs, many teachers still wield chalk, lecture notes and overhead projector slides in the battle to impart knowledge to their students.

What gives? Why is educational tech lagging? What advances are being incubated out there and will soon make an impact on how we teach and learn? And perhaps most importantly for trainers, will these technologies cross over to change how we impart critical information and skills at work?

In June, educators and entrepreneurs met to discuss just these issues at the Goldman Sachs/Stanford University Education Conference at Stanford. Besides probing how different countries are integrating the latest developments into their educational systems, attendees also were treated to “an American Idol-style showcase” of entrepreneurs who are striving to use tech to improve education pitched their ideas, including:

  • A product from Washington-based DreamBox Learning that analyzes how students solve math problems online and then customizes the way information is presented to learners.
  • Online program Knewton which can “predict in advance if you’re going to fail at a concept before you ever see it,” according to founder and CEO Jose Ferreira. If you’re unlikely to get the problem right, Knewton deploys a different strategy to teach you the concept.

Companies such as these are part of a growing wave of educational companies that are attracting the interest of VCs, according Carlos Watson, co-head of Global Education Investment Banking at Goldman Sachs, who noted that in the last five years 181 education-focused U.S. companies have received funding.

Obviously, the particular products showcased at the conference are being developed with children’s classrooms in mind, but with adaptive learning tech promising to allow employees to only be trained in only the exact areas in which they’re deficient and with the most efficient method, these sorts of technologies seem like a natural fit for corporate training as well as fourth-grade math class. Some companies are using them already.

Do you expect to see more use of adaptive learning in the corporate context as the technology advances?

London-based blogger Jessica Stillman covers generational issues and trends in the workforce for

(Image courtesy of Flickr user woodleywonderworks, CC 2.0)

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