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Changing the Role of Classrooms Around the World

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We know about the success Salman Kahn has had with the "flipped classroom" where online lectures and short videos happen at home, or in a coffee shop, and project-based learning happens during school.

We may be relatively unaware just how much this concept is taking hold across the world, or why.

A fact of life in the 21st century is that technology has moved faster than ever imagined. And unless educators everywhere use technology to reinvent their current systems of education, people will suffer as more and more they are left behind the learning curve, and left behind the mainstream of world economic development.

Clearly technology is a two edged sword because automation is shrinking the workforce. According to a recent report in the MIT Technology Review, nearly half of all jobs are vulnerable to machines--to applications using information technology.

Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Center for Digital Business at MIT's Sloan School of Management says the trends are "troubling," writes David Talbot. "And they are global; some of the jobs that IT threatens, for example, are at electronics factories in China and transcription services in India. "

But educators have no choice but to use technology aggressively, and in the process, change the way young people are educated. The concept of the flipped classroom is affordable and easily accessible to kids everywhere, and gives them the leisure to log on when and where they want, watch a short video, and absorb the material--even ask questions--without the embarrassment of their peers. The kids like it, it is more cost effective, and real learning is taking place.

The Economist Magazine, which has been following the challenges in education for over two decades observed that, "A long-overdue technological revolution is at last under way." And they have reported that education, as it exists almost everywhere in the world, is a major concern in nation after nation

The flipped concept is taking hold precisely because online and blended learning, and the worldwide pressure to change the educational system have converged offering a paradigm shift with unlimited potential for meaningful change.

No, make that radical change.

Already, according to the Kahn Academy, "There are approximately 6 billion non-English speakers in the world" but they have said:

"In order to move closer to fulfilling our mission of a free world class education for anyone anywhere, our Software Development team has now made it possible for our entire platform to be translated into any written world language."

Last year, they launched a new Spanish version of the Kahn Academy website, providing access to the half billion Spanish speakers around the world. To date, they now have sites in Bengali, Bulgarian, Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Greek, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Turkish, Ukrainian, Thai , Xhosa... and more, always coming on line.

They have partnered and/or received funding from major foundations in the United States, Mexico, Portugal, France, Turkey, Bengali and Qatar to continue their worldwide mission of providing new ways to educate million, if not billions, of young people around the globe as the videos are increasingly translated in every language conceivable.

Clearly the cost and availability of technology is not an issue. Computers with access to the Internet are now available on Smart Phones for almost nothing...and the costs keep coming down. The net itself, moreover, has become indispensable to business and government and most of the world for everyday use and enjoyment.

This flipped concept does take more work for teachers, in preschool, high school and the universities, too, but there is no denying its effectiveness and growing popularity.

According to the first national survey of the "flipped classroom" and the role of video in higher education by the Center for Digital Education and the Sonic Foundry, 56% of those surveyed were using the flipped approach, or planned to do so, and 93% said it had a "very significant" or "significant" influence. Further they concluded:

"In the very near future, video has the potential to become just as ubiquitous and available as print resources have been in education, revolutionizing the college and university experience for students, faculty and leadership alike. For all the ways in which course capture technology and academic video are already benefiting higher education, this is just the beginning of the revolution."