I spoke to a group of educators recently and demonstrated a dozen or so powerful web based tools that anyone can use to do research and stay current on virtually any topic. One educator was concerned that only about 15% of students are self-learners, and that the power tools I demonstrated might not help the rest.
I suggested that instant messaging and social networks could help the other 85%. Self-learners could interact with others and provide them with help and guidance that they need.
But a much better answer to this problem may come when Google, Microsoft and Yahoo provide search engines that will index (eventually) millions of hours of video footage. In the future, the self-learners will be able to identify video clips that clearly teach concepts and then share those clips with non-self-learners.
One of the coolest ideas that came during the bubble but never materialized was the vision of Microstrategy founder Michael Saylor who pledged $100 million to create a free internet-based university, where thousands of the best and brightest teachers and experts and world leaders would lecture on every conceivable subject. These video lectures would be offered free to anyone. Imagine how powerful a learning tool this would be if this content were all indexed by Google’s video search engine.
Saylor’s personal net worth went from about $13 billion to just millions when Microstrategy’s stock crashed doubly hard in 2000 from accounting irregularities and the bubble bursting. But today the company’s market cap is back to $1 billion. It appears from Yahoo! that Saylor has sold much of his stock, so I don’t know what his net worth is today or whether he’ll ever resurrect the Internet University idea.
But I hope someone will take advantage of the powerful new video search tools that are just around the corner and amass content that could help billions of people learn about any subject from video. I definitely hope our Infobase Media Corp. will play successfully in this arena.
When I attend computer industry events (like the Consumer Electronics Show) and when I read news about content (paidcontent.org is the single best source online), it seems that 95% of it is centered on entertainment: music, Hollywood, and computer gaming.
I wish more business and government leaders would have Michael Saylor-like ideals about using technology and content to change the world in a positive way, to help hundreds of millions of people improve their lot in life. But alas, the siren song of fantasy and escape enslaves billions of couch potatoes worldwide. The best book I’ve read about how television destroys our culture is Neil Postman: Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. I just ordered two more books by Postman: How to Watch TV News, and Technology: The Surrender of Culture to Television.
I’m actually slightly optimistic that just as the interactivity of the Web has caused many young people to watch less and less television, the interactivity and empowering nature of a Google-like index to video archives will make video a tool of learning rather than the mesmerizing, time-wasting sink that it often is.