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Education’s transforming influence as part of the Intelligent Community Movement
NEW YORK — Suneet Singh Tulli is worried. He is concerned about the three billion people in the world who cannot afford to buy an iPad. Mass education on a global scale is on his mind. He is aware that 65 years after India’s independence, 40% of its population are under the age of 18 and challenged to gain an education. He also knows that billions of people around the world are missing out on the incredible communications and educational opportunities provided by these expensive smart devices. So he did something about it. As CEO of Datawind, Mr. Tulli created the $35 Aakash tablet that has similar features to the $800 iPad, plus enhanced communications capabilities. He and the Indian government are distributing them to hundreds of thousands of Indian schoolchildren. There is a backlog of millions of these tablets to be sent to schoolchildren around the world.
Since then, Mr. Tulli has been named by Forbes Magazine to be among the 15 "classroom revolutionaries" who are using innovative and highly disruptive technologies to reinvent education – “from the way we teach grade school math to how we train the next generation of teachers."
Another Forbes recipient is a professor of computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who as President of edX has pulled together the online courses of the University of Texas, Harvard, MIT, and the University of California at Berkeley to which over 400,000 students are currently enrolled. Many other universities offer free online e-learning courses including Stanford, who’s Massive Open Online Course, has 160,000 students from 190 countries. Clearly the way education is delivered around the world has changed and is continuing to evolve.
Today the use of smart devices and computers in the classroom has become accepted with 93% of students bringing their own devices to class. 100% of universities have social media accounts such as Facebook. Institutions no longer debate whether social networking should play a role in education, rather according to a Digital Directions survey, the discussion has shifted to what social networking tools work best and how to deploy them. Some use Facebook, for instance, to address social and community issues that engage the student, their parents and community as well as to promote school events, academic assignments and class projects. E-books are replacing traditional textbooks, gaming-based teaching is becoming an accepted form of learning and 3D printers are becoming more popular. Affordable high-speed broadband is a cornerstone in vastly improving the way education is taught, delivered and consumed. Schools utilizing the lower cost option of the Internet Cloud are becoming commonplace and Anytime, Anywhere Access for faculty, students and staff is expected to become the norm.
Mass education is raising the bar throughout the world, especially in third world locations. It is having an impact at the national level and will within one generation help to alter the way in which society, its economy and its culture will be enhanced.
Education has also impacted towns and cities in new ways that help them to transform into Intelligent Communities. An educated workforce is one of the five key Community Indicators for the creation of an Intelligent Community. Educational institutions are more than ever a full partner in the collaboration model with the public and private sectors. Schools, libraries, think tanks and especially colleges and universities are having a more significant influence on the local and regional infrastructure requirements, talent development, investment attraction, the innovation agenda, as well as the advocacy and public policy matters. The role of the president of a university, for instance, is shifting from strictly academic leader to community-leader and strategic collaborator.
Educational institutions are also beta test sites for technology; research centers for new ideas and test beds for clinical trials. Access to ultra-high speed broadband such as Intelligent Community Toronto’s gigabit environment will deliver Internet connections starting at 100 megabits per second for residential customers and up to 10 gigabits per second for commercial customers – all at an extraordinarily competitive cost. As a result it is expected that more digital media designers, computer scientists and systems engineers will be created, accelerating the innovation engine in this Intelligent Community. The talent that is generated from these opportunities attracts business and corporate interests, which adds to the local economy.
Back in one of India’s 700,000 villages, Mr. Tulli is looking at the smiling children who are learning with his tablet that enables engagement, interactivity and exchange, accelerating the learning process and in turn transforming these villages into Intelligent Communities.
John G. Jung originated the Intelligent Community concept and continues to serve as the Forum's leading visionary. He is a registered professional urban planner, urban designer, economic developer and CEO of Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc. in the Region of Waterloo, Canada. The City of Waterloo was named Intelligent Community of the Year in 2007.