Internet and Education
In this October 2017 IDDE Spotlight we connected with Jason Ravitz about his unique trajectory into the IDDE world and the Internet and education.
Dr. Jason Ravitz’s (MS 1995, PhD 1999) IDD&E journey started with a conversation that took place in the air and he hasn’t landed yet (see TechTrends interview for the full story). His career in IDD&E has taken him to K-12, higher education, high tech R&D, and now Google. Jason says, “Studying instructional design at Syracuse changed my life and set me on an exceptional career trajectory. I enrolled in graduate school in the late 90s because I wanted to study the role of the Internet in education reform.”
Jason currently shares his passion for instructional design as Education Outreach Evaluation Manager at Google. In this role he manages evaluations of over $10M in educational programs, advising on design and development projects and supporting computing education and nonprofits worldwide. When asked what his advice is to current IDD&E students and alumni interested in pursuing a career, Jason offered the suggestion to find the best people you can, who are doing work you most admire, and see where they need help. Jason began by finding leaders in using the Internet for education reform and saw they they needed help with evaluation. This provided an opportunity to make himself useful (starting in very small ways) and learn from pioneers in the field in a way that allowed his contributions to grow.
What has changed in the world of Internet and education reform?
Since my Syracuse days the Internet has obviously exploded in ways few could have imagined. Most surprising was how quickly social networking took over, but this was not as well-designed for learning as we might have hoped. Millions have come online without experiencing the kind of collaborative learning structures we hoped for in the early days when we imagined revolutionizing education via computer supported collaborative learning, and the like. At the same time there has been significant progress on adoption of personalized learning and systems for collaborative learning (e.g., peer feedback systems in some MOOCs).
With respect to what hasn’t changed in our profession I find “the basics” still hold true. —Jason Ravitz
What hasn’t changed?
Online videos and learning platforms are fantastic today, but from what I’ve seen relatively few are pushing the boundaries of peer-to-peer learning and assessment at scale. There is still (and may always be) a primary focus on individual learning and testing for individual accountability, not systemic change, system wide learning and communities of practice. The potential of the Internet as an open learning extravaganza exists, but progress has been slow in part because of competing interests (e.g., read Lessig’s The Future of Ideas).
With respect to what hasn’t changed in our profession I find “the basics” still hold true.
- Design is still crucial step for evaluation that is often overlooked.
- Data are more compelling when focused on key stakeholder questions.
- Measuring outcomes still involves a chain of reasoning with evidence.
Even though the flow of information is greater than ever, and analyses can happen in more ways, there is still a need to plan, design and structure studies. Evaluation is not just about measuring change but involves management and logistics, values and enculturation toward learning and improving.
What do you see as the future of the Internet in education reform?
I see trends toward personalization and computer-generated content as well as a continued focus on supporting collaboration and problem solving. Teachers will continue navigating their options and choosing the method that is best for their students, so we have to push for knowledge about when strategies are most appropriate, for whom, and under what conditions. I hold out hope for networks of teachers, developers and researchers collaborating to address major challenges, and building systems for problem solving with humans and computers working together.