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商业 - 科技

网络教育的变革与反思

Patricia Sellers 2013年02月22日

她从小在印度长大。周围的女孩很多人一个字都不认识,大多16岁就嫁人生了孩子。但是她却成功地摆脱了这种命运。一切都要感谢教育。如今,她创办了自己的网上教学协作平台,还获得了巨额融资。她希望通过网络,把教育带给第三世界的孩子,给他们一次改变命运的机会。

普加•桑卡尔

    两年前,我见过普加•桑卡尔,当时她已创立了促进师生间课堂讨论的协作平台Piazza。起初,这个平台只是在斯坦福大学(Stanford)的一些学生中使用。如今,Piazza已被斯坦福大学、普林斯顿大学(Princeton)以及麻省理工学院(MIT)等顶尖大学所采用,并在全球25个国家得到应用。获得红杉资本(Sequoia Capital)和贝西默风投(Bessemer Ventures)的750万美元融资后,32岁的桑卡尔希望能在教育改革中大展拳脚。但在其他企业家涉足这一极具变革性的领域之前,她认为我们需要重新审视技术在教育中发挥的作用。根据对达沃斯世界经济论坛(the World Economic Forum)的感悟,桑卡尔在本期客座文章中分享了她的观点。

    作为Piazza的创始人兼首席执行官,我习惯于为高等教育中出现的技术摇旗呐喊。在达沃斯目睹了大家对网络教育近乎乌托邦式的乐观后,我发现自已要扮演一个很不习惯的角色:牛虻。

    从达沃斯回来后,我一直在酝酿着自己对这个领域的异端邪说:教育是一段个人旅程,而现在我们为学生提供的网络内容却杂乱无章。

    我在得到丈夫的允许后才来到达沃斯,而且我也不是天生就适合这一行。我在印度长大成人,其间有七年时间我从未与家人之外的任何一个男孩子说过话。我们镇上很多女孩子16岁就嫁人了,一些女孩子几乎不怎么识字。我为什么能摆脱这种生活呢?因为,我父亲受过教育,他要求我学习。他为我描绘了一种我从未见过的生活,一种不困囿于高墙大院的生活。如果没有他的指引,我就不可能到印度理工学院(Indian Institute of Technology)求学。

    在达沃斯论坛上,销售力网络公司(Salesforce.com)首席执行官马克•贝尼奥夫和社交网站Facebook前总裁、音乐交换网站纳普斯特联合创始人肖恩•帕克主持了一次圆桌会议,关注的问题是:“你希望看到怎样一种全球变化?”我们这个座谈小组关注的是教育问题,大家都一致认为网络课程潜力巨大。“颠覆”和“变革”是被人们频频郑重提及的两个词。当时有人问我——因为我至少已经走出了俗话所说的小土屋——网络教育是否本可以开阔我童年时期的视野。

    我的回答只能是否定的。回忆我的教育历程,真正重要的是,在许多关键时刻,我能憧憬自己的未来。它往往是得益于良师的帮助,或者至少得到过某个先驱的启发。这就是我的个人经历,好在有过他人的指引。这些指引比上任何特定课程或学习任何教育内容都更为重要,正是这些指引使我摆脱了像许多人那样早早嫁人和陷于贫困的命运。

    发达国家的人对第三世界国家的学生有一种奇怪的、不切实际的看法:只要把教育内容摆在他们面前,他们就会像灾荒时期收到空降食物那样饥不择食地吞下去。

    I met Pooja Sankar two years ago after she founded Piazza, a collaboration platform that facilitates class discussion among students and teachers. Starting with a few students at Stanford, Piazza now is used at top universities such as Stanford and Princeton and MIT and in 25 countries around the world. With $7.5 million in funding from Sequoia Capital and Bessemer Ventures, Sankar, 32, aspires to play a key role in the transformation of education. But before other entrepreneurs get too revolutionary in this field, she thinks we need to reassess technology's role in education. Following an epiphany at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Sankar shares her view in this Guest Post.

    As the founder and CEO of Piazza, I'm used to cheerleading for technology in higher education. But in the midst of an almost utopian optimism about online education that I witnessed in Davos, I found myself playing an unaccustomed role: gadfly.

    And since returning from Davos, I've distilled my heresies to this: Education is a personal journey, and right now we're offering students an online jumble.

    I rode into Davos on a spouse's pass, and I'm not to the manner born. I came of age in interior India, where for seven years I didn't talk to a single boy outside my family. Many girls in my town were married off by their parents at 16, some of them barely literate. The reason I got out? My father, an educated man, demanded that I study. He painted a picture of a life that was different from the one I could see just beyond the wall that separated our home from the street. Without that guidance, I would never have gone to IIT, Indian Institute of Technology.

    At a session in Davos, Salesforce.com (CRM) CEO Marc Benioff and Sean Parker of Facebook (FB) and Napster fame hosted a roundtable focused on the question, "What's one global change you'd want to see?" Our panel focused on education, and all agreed that online courses showed great potential. The words "disrupt" and "revolutionize" were spoken solemnly and often. Then someone asked me -- as the person at the table least removed from the proverbial mud hut -- whether online education would have broadened my childhood horizons.

    I had to answer, "No." What was really most important in my education was that at key moments, I was able to envision to the next step. And usually I did it with the help of a mentor, or at least someone who'd taken that next step before I had. The journey was personal, but guided. And that, more than access to any particular class or bit of educational content, was what saved me from the fate of early marriage and poverty that befell so many others.

    In the wealthy world, we have an oddly romantic view of students in the global south: If we can just put educational stuff in front of them, they'll devour just as they would eat food if we airdropped it in during a famine.

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