Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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What has becoming somewhat of a tradition….ok…it’s really just my geek side coming out (yes this would imply I have another side….not sure what that is though), I sat down on Thursday last week to watch the Google I/O conference. For years now I have watched the Google I/O conference as well as the Apple’s WWDC (coming June 8th) for no other reason (or so I tell myself) than to fill in teachers at my school what was announced and how it might impact them. When living and working in China and Thailand this meant staying up until 2am or so to watch it live and write an email that would be in every teachers inbox by the next morning. Now living in Seattle it means a cup of coffee, four devices and watching it on my TV.

flickr photo shared by pestoverde under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license
flickr photo shared by pestoverde under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

It also means I no longer work in a school or have teachers to send this to…so you get my thoughts this year. Basically a brain dump of things I’m thinking after watching Google layout the next year and beyond of the future of technology.

Education was at the front of this year’s talk. I say that every year of course because I hear and see things through an educational lens. For example, Google’s new Photos app (Android, iOS) had nothing to do with education…or they just made it even easier for students to take pictures, create movies, stories and share those photos with their classmates and teacher. A common photo app on both Android and iOS devices with unlimited upload and storage space for all the photos and video you want to take. Yes…this can and will impact some classrooms.

“Please take out your phones and record via videos and photos your experiment today please. One person in your group needs to be the recorder for the experiment and I expect to see written notes along with video and image evidence of what happened.”

Google Expeditions

One of the biggest educational announcements was the release of Google Expedition. A virtual reality toolkit for educators being released, I’m going to guess, in time for next school year. Using Google Cardboard and any Smartphone (again both Android and iOS) you turn every classroom into a 3D immersive experience. This is very early stages but if you think 2 or 3 years down the road what this means for classrooms it could be very powerful.

“OK class….please get out your cardboard and we’re going to go live to Martin Luther King Jr. speech today. Group A  you will be viewing it from the back of the crowd. Group B I’ve put you in the middle of the crowd and Group C you are towards the front. I would like your group to experience the speech from these different perspectives and then discuss how your view and angle of the speech impacted you and notice the people around you within Cardboard. How did it impact them?”

What if we can “be there”. Instead of saying “Oh…you had to be there to see it, or to feel it” can we get one step closer of actually being there?

Google Sidestepping Universities

However, the announcement that has me still thinking and still blowing my mind is the announcement Google made about teaming up with Udacity to offer an Android Developer Nanodegree. Udacity has been rolling out these Nanodegrees for awhile now and this latest announcement from Google just adds to what could be a real movement in higher education.

The “NanoDegree” offering a narrow set of skills that can be clearly applied to a job, providing learners with a bite-size chunk of knowledge and an immediate motivation to acquire it. (NYTimes, 2014)

nanodegreesThat motivation being both AT&T and now Google are backing these degrees saying they will consider graduates of these degrees as being qualified for hiring within their companies. So instead of going to University and having to take all those classes you don’t want to take or you know don’t really point you in the direction you want to go, you get a Nanodegree instead. $200 a month for 8 months or so? Basically I get a degree for $1600? That’s a lot less than any public University where I live.

Now I could go on and on about where I think this is going and the future of nanodegrees. What I really want to focus on is what do students need in order to complete one of these degrees?

If we go to the “Prerequisites and Requirements” section for the new Android Developers degree. We see a list of prerequisites including some background knowledge you’ll need in Java and other programs. All of which can be found on Udacity’s website of course. But the one that caught my eye was this one:

Dedication and Mindset

In addition to 1-2 years of prior programming experience and intermediate technical skills, students are expected to demonstrate the following characteristics:

Resourcefulness: Ability to search for and find solutions in documentation, backed by the belief that all problems in code are discoverable;

Grit: Ability to work through challenges and persevere when code breaks and tests fail.

Growth Mindset: Belief that intelligence is NOT a fixed entity, and can be boosted by hard work in the process of learning and practice.

Let’s make these just a bit less techie for a second:

Resourcefulness: Ability to search for and find solutions in documentation, backed by the belief that finding problems is just as important as solving them.

Grit: Ability to work through challenges and persevere when things don’t go as expected and failure is seen as leading to solutions.

Growth Mindset: Belief that intelligence is NOT a fixed entity, and can be boosted by hard work in the process of learning and practice.

Are we making sure that students that graduate from high schools all around the world this month are leaving with this Mindset? I hope so….because this mindset will get you farther in life than any degree no matter how major or nano it might be.