Why Change is [very] Good for Education

“Yet undergraduate education changes remarkably little over time. My predecessor …. famously compared the difficulty of reforming a curriculum with the difficulty of moving a cemetery” Lawrence H. Summers, former president of Harvard University.

What do you think about change and education? ‘Change’ and ‘education’ spoken in the same sentence has been compared to mixing oil and water. But is education more resistant to change than any other institution, corporation, government bureau, etc? I don’t think so. Yet I’m sure you’ll agree that change is hard, not natural, yet being adaptable, fluid and open to new ideas leads to good things… creative, crazy, innovative and even life change things.

I was inspired this week, I read about several educators that don’t appear afraid of change, in fact embraced change that has led to well…pretty incredible things. Though there are many, I’ll share just the few.

1) Sebastian Thrun, One of the founders of Udacity
In Wired magazine author Steven Leckart writes about his life-changing experience taking the course Introduction to Artificial Intelligence taught by Stanford professors Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig. Teaching this online course, to 160,000 students from 190 countries was life changing for Stanford Professor Thrun as well, so much so he resigned from his teaching position at Stanford and Udacity was born. There are now 6 more  free courses being offered… Amazing.

One of the most amazing things I’ve ever done in my life is to teach a class to 160,000 students. In the Fall of 2011, Peter Norvig and I decided to offer our class “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” to the world online, free of charge.

 Thrum is a change agent. Read more here.

2) Salman Kahn, founder of Kahn Academy
Salman Kahn attended MIT, and became a hedge fund analyst. Salman tutored his niece and nephew in high school math, and discovered they preferred his lessons when he recorded them with a whiteboard and posted them on YouTube. So did thousands of other students. Eventually Mr, Kahn quit his day job, and founded Kahn Academy that now offers 3,100  free videos in Math, Biology, Chemistry, Test Preparation, Art History, Civics, with more are added each month.

Khan Academy is revolutionary, helping students around the world. Though there are many critics, I suggest that perhaps these individuals are change resistors? Here’s an article to read more. Mr. Kahn is another agent of change – and students of all ages are reaping the benefits.

 3) The Masters of Innovation, Harvard Business Review, by Scott Anthony

This slide slide show displays 12 Masters of Innovation, educators take note – the first 2 innovators are educators (granted these are in alphabetical order). These two have contributed much to moving education forward, in fact Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business professor has written several books on education. He also coined the term disruptive innovation. Interesting that the term though it applies to a business model, yet Clayton’s recent book describes how education is being ‘disrupted’ by technology and changing education as we know it, The Innovative University, Changing the DNA of Education from the Inside Out.

How do you deal with change? Below I’ve included an article that presents the concept of change from a different perspective than the typical corporate ‘change management’ articles, there are many of those. I’ll conclude with a quote that speaks to an earlier comment I made about change, Henry David Thoreau describes change better than I, “Things do not change; we change“.

Related Articles:
The Stanford Education Experiment Could Change Higher Learning Forever, Steven Leckart
4 Principles for Creating Change, and 4 Barriers that Make is Harder, Clay and Camfield

Photo Credit: Oil and Water, TopGuy, Flickr

7 thoughts on “Why Change is [very] Good for Education

  1. Great list. To this I’d add Stacey Simmons at Omniacademy. I just became acquainted with her and her work.

    Omniacademy is a network of people as well as an integrated tech/social tool, a platform that takes advantage of social media and higher ed networks. Users can be “friends” via courses without actually friending each other in Facebook. It is also a client of WebEx.


    1. Hi Deb,
      Thanks for this tip about Ommiacademy and Stacey Simmons! This sounds intriguing. I did a web search and did find this article about Omniacademy, http://siliconbayounews.com/2011/03/22/omnicademy-raises-500000-from-new-orleans-based-south-coast-angels/ which featured a profile of Stacey, http://www.fastcompany.com/100/2010/67/stacey-simmons/.

      Here’s the web address for Ominacademy for those readers interested in learning more: https://www.omnicademy.com/

      Thanks Deb for sharing! Debbie


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