It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No, It’s Accessibility!

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No, It’s Accessibility!
Summary: OK, maybe you hadn’t heard of Steve Jobs back in the 80s and 90s, when he was busy inventing all of those Apple devices, integrated software, and content that you now take for granted—the Mac, the iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, the App Store…He also helped to build Apple stores, the most successful and innovative retail enterprise on the planet, helped save the music industry, and even had a hand in such classics as “Toy Story” as CEO of Pixar.  

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No, It’s Accessibility!

So why are so many millions of human beings on the planet only thinking about Steve Jobs now-- after his departure—rather than while he was alive. Of course, many of us knew about what was going on behind the scenes. But that awareness has now been amplified perhaps a million fold, in terms of the fraction of the 7 billion inhabitants of Earth who now know far more about him than they did while he was alive. Why is that?

Accessibility is the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible. --Wikipedia

The main reason is that we now know the intimate details of his creative genius, and his personal power to get the job done, is because we have read the newly released and captivating biography, “Steve Jobs”, by Walter Isaacson. It’s a great read—or great listen, if you prefer to get the unabridged audio version. I suspect it will be worth every minute of your time. Millions can now understand how his fascinating personality and eccentricities drove him to the goal line again and again—how his unique personality, vision of design, and genius brought forth so many things that have fundamentally transformed the global village, and enhanced the quality of our lives.

But –with apologies to Mr. Isaacson, if we truly want to understand why the name of Steve Jobs is now on everyone’s lips, we also need to come to grips with the fact that the accessibility of Isaacson’s book is just as important as the content! This startling conclusion is reminiscent of the pre-Internet 1967 bestseller, “The Medium is the Massage,” in which author Marshall McLuhan observed that:

"societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication."

Millions now know about this remarkable inventor and entrepreneur not only because of Mr. Isaacson’s masterpiece, but also because Isaacson’s book is accessible. Here, the kudos go to Jeff Bezos—who is, to Amazon dot com, what Steve Jobs was to Apple. The fact that within minutes, people all over the global village can:

  1. read a synopsis of the book,
  2. see how other readers have rated it and its sales rank, and
  3. perhaps most importantly, can have it in their fingertips as a digital copy on their Kindle in a matter of seconds, via Wi-Fi or 3G—is critical for the dissemination of knowledge about Jobs.

Today, the name of the game is to bring the highest quality content –revealed by customer ratings and reviews-- within reach of all denizens of the global village, at the speed of light. Just like Google did for websites with its ranking algorithms. And just like cloud technology will do for education.

Teach Students How to Be Their Own Teachers!

As I write these words, hundreds of non-profits and entrepreneurs are busy in their studies or garages, developing new educational resources designed to reach large numbers of students across the global village. Those resources-- and their accessibility, will make it possible for kids to teach themselves.

Whether is design married to technology, or brilliant teachers reaching the minds and souls of their students, those things gain power when they are made accessible through cloud technology.

Now a Multitude of Educators Can Reach Millions of Students

The cloud brings students to the teachers, but it also brings teachers to the students. More teachers can reach out to students than ever before. And the students can now learn from a multitude of teachers and mentors, not only in the classroom, but everywhere that they go.

For the first time in history, cloud technology makes learning truly accessible to students--not only in the classroom, but also just about everywhere else on the planet.

Now, I’m not saying that cloud technology replaces the classroom. On the contrary, I am saying that when kids do come to the classroom, they can already be up to speed on the material that the teacher wanted to help them learn in the first place!  Or both student and teacher can utilize cloud technology right in the classroom! The accessibility of the educators and the wisdom that span the entire planet have tremendous advantages for both teacher and student. If we handle cloud technology wisely, the student of tomorrow can be light years ahead of our own generation. The dedicated teacher can now provide more individual attention to the kids who need it most, without slowing down the rest of the class. They can build upon the framework of knowledge that the kids have already learned on their own initiative and their own time. And teachers can, of course, contribute to digital content—and hopefully, the best and the brightest will do precisely that. That’s good for the teachers, good for the students, and good for the cloud-based providers, both for-profit and non-profit. Everybody wins.

Empower Kids to Take Ownership of Their Own Education

With the proper encouragement and guidance, kids can learn the habit of proactivity—and begin to take ownership of their own education. They will need to unlearn the bad habit of waiting until they are told what to do. We need to start telling them that the forthcoming quiz or exam is not their mission. Their mission is to learn the material, by any means necessary: including the full use of all of the resources at their disposal. Students need to become the gatekeepers of their own educational success.

Now Picture This …

Steve Jobs had a gift for visualizing how a new invention can change the world. He could see what the future holds in store, and imagine the world yet to come.

So close your eyes for a moment—can you picture what education will be like a decade from now, when students and educators have fully harnessed the sheer power of cloud-based technology?

What Will Your Own Legacy Be?

Creative educators will make cloud based-resources simple, crystal clear, entertaining, and fun to use. Some educators will capture the full potential in their imaginations. Others will give into their fear of change, and try to turn back the clock. But the future of education is very bright. So please, don’t block the light.

Author Byline: Gene LevinsonGene Levinson is a professional home tutor and cloud-based educational entrepreneur. He has worked as a biology teacher, Director of Communications, Biotechnology Researcher, and Clinical Genetics Lab Founder/Director. As a postdoctoral fellow, he did HIV-related research while tutoring Harvard undergraduates. As a graduate student, he described the mechanisms responsible for the evolution of simple repetitive DNA throughout the biosphere. He is a graduate of U.C. Irvine (PhD) and U.C. Berkeley. Prior to professional tutoring, he obtained formal teacher training at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.