Edublogger Kirsten Winkler on Technology in Education

We are very happy to have Kirsten Winkler with us today. Kirsten is a noted edublogger and edupreneur, having started her own blog, EDUKWEST, and Winkler Media. Kirsten is with us today to talk about her views on education and technology.

1) What inspired you to start edublogging?
The thing that got me started with blogging is the fact that I have the entrepreneurs curse. I ran a couple of small businesses during my law studies in Berlin in various sectors. I had a cocktail delivery service, a catering service, an online shop etc plus I worked for a couple of companies from retail over customer care to education. This curse means that I see opportunities everywhere and that I know when something is not working right. Hence as I started teaching on the first platforms the curse came over me again and I needed to find an outlet for that. First I wanted to blog about online education in general, give tips to colleagues and tell about my experiences which then led to the form of KirstenWinkler.com as you know it today. The more I got in contact with the founders of the different services and the more we talked about the mission we are following the blog turned into the “TechCrunch of Online Education” as Kevin Chen of italki once referred to it. With the upcoming changes on KirstenWinkler.com we will try to head even more into this direction.

2) How will technology revolutionize education?
Technology won’t revolutionize education. It will change the society which will then lead to change in the educational system. I know, I quote this over and over again but: “Nothing becomes mainstream unless it’s technically boring.” – Clay Shirky. Education is a part of our society which has always been shaped by elderly people. Hence the change arrives later than in society itself as people have to go through the ranks to get to a position where they can actually change something in academia. The Gen Y which does not know a world without internet or electronic devices still needs 10 years to get into those positions.

What we will see on the other hand is that people will start learning in various informal ways before that official change will happen. Wikipedia was just the beginning. There will be apps for learning any topic, anywhere, anytime and devices like the iPad will enable even the youngest kids to learn in a feature rich environment. The question may no longer be what you have in your head but what tool do you use to find the information you need right now.

3) Who is going to benefit from online education the most (adult learners or students)?

I think, we have to see the online part of education as an essential part of education in general but without focusing on the “online” that much. Online is becoming normal. For example, I grew up using books to find an answer to a question. If I had not the right book at home I needed to go to the library. Today I “go online”. Online is just a storage space that makes it more convenient for us to learn and find answers. It is cost effective and offers a steadily increasing pool of knowledge in various forms. What we need to do is to build the right devices to access this knowledge and I think the tablet with touchscreen has proven already that you can build a device that is equally usable for very young and elderly people at the same time.

Hence it will all merge into one and the ones who will benefit the most are those who are interested in learning no matter how old or young they are.

4) What are some of the differences between educational change in Europe and America?
Although we have the European Union we are still a bound of nationalist countries. Therefore, the approaches of education vary sometimes significantly from country to country which of course slows the process down. But I think in the US it’s quite the same as the rules and regulations also vary from state to state. And again, it all comes back to your second question. As long as there are not enough digital natives in the position of deciders there won’t be much change. True in Europe, true in the US.

5) What new development in educational technology excites you the most?
Tablet devices and the iPhone 4. The closer a device comes to the natural human behavior (pointing at something with your finger, grabbing it, shaking it etc) the easier it will be for us to digest the content delivered. The iPhone 4 excites me because it has the potential to be the first truly mobile teaching device. It is more a mini computer than a mobile phone.

Thanks for talking with us Kirsten! Again, you can find her blog here. For more information on democratizing education, see Udemy.com.