Technology That Finally Helps Learning

12/30/11

[Editor's note: As a New Year's exercise, we asked a select group of Xconomists to answer this question: "What's the craziest idea out there that just might succeed?"]

That technology can actually play a significant positive role in education. The false promises go back at least 100 years—to extravagant claims by Thomas Edison. Certainly “computers in theclassroom” have contributed relatively little to this point—evenhighly principled attempts are yielding results that are, at best,controversial. (See the New York Times recently on Carnegie Learning.)

But one has to believe that there is hope, in the next 10 years, for advanced adaptive tutoring systems, and for games that embody entirely new approaches to interactive learning. Zoran Popovic at the University of Washington, whose Foldit protein folding game was recently credited with solving an AIDS-related molecular puzzle that had baffled scientists for a decade, has $15 million in research funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to study games for learning in his Center for Game Science.

Ed Lazowska holds the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington. His research and teaching concern the design, implementation, and analysis of high performance computing and communication systems. Follow @

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