Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Special Blog Assignment

"A World Where Grades Will Be Left Behind"

In a recent USA Today article titled "A World Where Grades Will Be Left Behind", Mary Beth Merklein sits down with Sebastian Thrun to discuss the future of education. Thrun, a Google VP and professor at Sanford University, recently founded Udacity, a company that provides free, innovative, on-line courses to students who, while using the program, are allowed to work at their own pace. In this article, Thrun says that he imagines learning to be free and available to all, while offering a fun way to learn. Thrun also comments on his work with his recent artificial-intellegence course that drew a mass of students from around the world. He says that this experience was so life-changing that he cannot imagine himself in a traditional classroom any longer.

When describing how Udacity is created, Merklein says that producers work to create special effects and to capture shots of lessons drawn on whiteboards while staff members design and assemble courses. One course that the article points out is called Making Math Matter where students can complete a multitude of various game-style activities.

In regards to the future of education, Thrun says that he doesn't know where it will go, but that technology allows educators to better equip their students and also allows teachers to create more advanced curriculum. As far as his vision of online classes goes, grades will not exist, paces will be self-set, one class could enroll thousands of students, and instruction would be free. Thrun also believes that this would never end "brick-and-mortar" schools but would, instead, broaden schooling options to people around the world.

In the closing of the article, Merklein summarizes Thruns comparison of the evolution of stage theatre to that of big-screen movies along with traditional schools' hopeful evolution to grade-free, paper-free, technologically advanced classes. Eloquently said in the article, "Just as film enabled people all over the world to access movies, the Internet will democratize education."

report card

As a preservice teacher, after reading and re-reading this article and after thinking in terms of the future of students and of education, I have to say that I have mixed emotions regarding the author's arguments. At first glance, the notion of an education that is free, fun, and self-paced seems great. The idea that there will be no grades could, for some students, be wonderful. Some students are majorly affected by their grades. They worry more about what grade they will receive on a test rather than what they are actually learning and comprehending. Also, a "grade-less" classroom would allow students to learn to honestly reflect on their own work, how they think they've done and how much they understand. In my opinion, the idea of "no grades" wouldn't necessarily be a bad one.

Also, the fun, interactive curriculum could definitely work well for students. Many individuals learn and understand better if they can see a problem and a resolution actually solved using games or by interacting with their work. On another note, this concept could work for any age group. The games and activities would need to be catered to the age and intellectual capacity of the student while remaining challenging and producing end rewards. I believe that interactive curriculum is the best way to allow students to grasp what they are learning. This aspect, along with a "grade-less" classroom seems like a wonderful, innovative, and exciting idea to me.

On the other hand, I'm not entirely fond of a classroom without teacher/student interaction. Since the article only says that these classes would be "...taught by star professors," I'm not exactly sure how much interaction there would be between the teacher and the student. Granted, in college, teacher/student interaction is kept to a minimum. However, I have to look at this article personally and say that, since I will teach grade school age children, I'm not certain that little to no teacher/student interaction would be a great idea. In many education courses, professors encourage us to form relationships with our future students and, in my opinion, the programs outlined in the article take that relationship away. Again, this is personal. I'm aware that Mr. Thrun's students are of college age.

Even though I'm not 100 percent in favor of the idea of a grade-less classroom or Mr. Thrun's programs, the article does mention the efforts of Sal Kahn, whose "flipped classroom" I am very fond of. Quite possibly, the flipped classroom could be mingled with some of Mr. Thrun's policies to create an effective, working elementary classroom. Once again, as a preservice elementary teacher, I am in favor of several of Mr. Thrun's ideas outlined in the article and I believe they are wonderful ideas however, some I am not exactly sure of. That being said, I would love to learn more about Udacity and Mr. Thrun's programs in order to gain a better understanding of how these programs could work in a classroom.


  1. Hi Taylor I really enjoyed your blog post but I foudn one place where you should probably add a comma.
    when you say this:When describing how Udacity is created, Merklein says that producers work to create special effects and to capture shots of lessons drawn on whiteboards while staff members design and assemble courses.

    *There should be a comma after whiteboards.

  2. Hey Taylor,
    I really enjoyed reading your comments on Blog Post #11. I was also truly amazed by Ms. Cassidy and her first graders. It blew me away to see these first graders using all these different forms of technology in the classroom. At the same time it really embarrassed me to see that they are more advanced in technology than I am. I agree that the kids today seem to be born with the capabilities to work technology. Ms. Cassidy's class and her interview really showed me how I can implement technology in my classroom and also why twitter and other tools are important. I thought you gave a really good summary of the post and interview. You also expressed your thoughts and feelings on the post very well. Keep up the great work.
    Stacy Smith