This idea hit me as I was watching the Google Fiber announcement this morning. Whether or not Google realizes it, they’re winding up to uppercut the Dewey model of public school education in the chin.
Khan academy, Coursera, Udacity, MITx, and Stanford’s online offerings are all awesome initiatives in democratizing world class education online. Accredited universities like Southern New Hampshire have moved to facilitating entire degrees at a competitive price online. Many of these services focus on higher education, although the Khan Academy has a plethora of lectures that range all experience levels. Where then does Google Fiber come in to disrupting the educational space?
As Google Fiber is being rolled out, they’ll light up schools and other public municipalities for free. Ignore for a moment that this will almost certainly get these primary education institutions to switch to Google Apps and instead focus on their pitch to allow teachers to create content viewable on their TV service (aka YouTube in sheeps clothing). The Khan Academy already provides many such videos in a professional manner, and now Google will empower every KC teacher to do the same.
Some of you may not know the Kansas City (Kansas) does not have a very good public school system much like many cities. A few years ago they were forced to close roughly half of their schools due to budget shortfalls. Many cities, like New Orleans, have seen very positive impacts opening up to charter schools but it took an incredible natural disaster to facilitate the transition. Budget shortfalls will never rival natural disasters in encouraging change and rebuilding but they will force school districts to evaluate cost saving measures.
Given access to high speed fiber and interactive TV students can collaborate in real time without the need for a communal space. There’s also never a reason to miss a lecture. In fact the structure of the current education system is unnecessary. Learning will become geographically and chronologically amorphous. Home, libraries, coffee shops, parks (Chromebook 3g connectivity) etc all become classrooms. The growth of educational resources will be exponential.
Google Fiber is cheap, almost too cheap. Google is clearly taking a massive loss for “altruistic” purposes. However, consider that they will facilitate massive shared knowledge expansion, much of which will be conducted and saved over Gmail, Docs, YouTube AND Google+. All the talk about Facebook killing Google is starting to sound pretty far fetched. I haven’t even addressed self-driving cars, Google Glass, their renewable energy projects that will give them a significant cost advantage over competitors or, most obviously, Android.
Apple won our hearts and minds by selling to the college kid. Discounts made these cool, “different” machines that much more reasonable to buy. Now Google is going even younger at an even more attractive price point. The web is essentially free to use. Sure access in your home will cost you but there are countless localities offering access. In a few generations will we be telling our grandkids about riding the school bus, driven by an actual person, both ways to a physical school before Google came along and changed everything? My gut says yes.