What’s driving the digital revolution in education? And will it be a boon for students, helping the U.S. stay competitive in a global economy, as advocates say? Or, as critics say, will it improve only little on what teachers can do already—and threaten student privacy to boot? In the “Executive Summit: Learning in the Digital Age,” sponsored by Scientific American and Macmillan Science & Education and held at Google’s New York City offices on August 7, 2013, leaders from the fields of education, science, policy and business came together to engage on the issues.
A springboard for the event were the special reports produced by Scientific American and Nature, which explored issues around digital offerings such as massive open online courses, adaptive-learning systems and even games for learning. Speakers included Robert Lue of Harvard University, Jose Ferreira of Knewton, Peter Norvig of Google, David Evans of the National Science Teachers Association, Sujeet Rao of the U.S. Department of Education, Danielle Carnival of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and many others.
As the master of ceremonies for the day, I was also pleased to honor the distinguished actor Alan Alda with a special Scientific American Award for his many achievements in communicating science to the public. You can see all of the action in the videos I embedded below.
Part 1 leads off with Robert Lue, professor of the practice of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University, speaking about “An Exciting Time for Education.” Then Susan Winslow, publisher, Macmillan Higher Education, moderates a panel on “Rethinking Education” with Jamie Casap, global education evangelist, Google; Sarah Miller, associate director of Madison Teaching & Learning Excellence, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Linda Rosen, CEO, Change the Equation; and Tim Stelzer, associate professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Part 2 concludes the break-out session on the “Rethinking Education” panel. I then have a conversation with David L. Evans, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, on the teachers’ perspective. Elizabeth Stage, director of the Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley, and I then discuss the student “ecosystem” of science outside of formal learning programs. Last in this part is a second panel, “Going Digital: Hype and Hope,” with M. Mitchell Waldrop, a features editor at the journal Nature, moderating the speakers Mike Berlin, director of Strategic Initiatives, Macmillan New Ventures; Jose Ferreira, CEO, Knewton; Peter Norvig, director of research, Google; Sujeet Rao, special assistant, U.S. Department of Education.
Part 3 concludes the break-out session for the “Going Digital: Hype and Hope” panel. I then discuss the White House perspective in a conversation with Danielle Carnival, senior policy advisor, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Ira Flatow, host of Science Friday, and I then explore teachable moments in science and culture.
In Part 4, Alan Alda receives a Scientific American Award for his many achievements in communicating science to the public. Alda is a seven-time Emmy-winning actor, writer and director, best-known from M*A*S*H*, who hosted the PBS series Scientific American Frontiers for 11 years. In 2006 he received the National Science Board’s Public Service Award for helping to broaden the public’s understanding of science. He has served as moderator and playwright for the annual World Science Festival in New York and serves on its Board of Directors. He is a Visiting Professor and Advisory Board member of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. In September he will host “Brains on Trial” on PBS.