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You sort of know it when you see it. You feel it. You recognize and respect it in others, and want more of it for yourself. Charisma, according to Olivia Fox Cabane, is comprised of three components: Behaviors of Presence, Power and Warmth. What it adds up to is the ability to connect with another human being, and (most importantly) for the other person to feel it to.

Hmm.... what's charisma got to do with education? Everything.


Empathy is the single most critical quality a leader (and educator) can possess. Many empathize unconsciously. But even empathy falls short. Because people don't respond to what's going on in your head. They respond to what they can see. And what they see is your body language, your facial expressions, and your tone of voice. Any incongruence can be read in a matter of milliseconds, says Cabane. It is the qualities of charisma that allow others to believe you are a genuine person. And it can't be faked. But it can be taught.

Technology has the potential to improve the quality and pace of education worldwide, at all income levels. But it can't replace face to face human connection and real, genuine interaction. Not yet. Even if I can see your face on a screen from the other side of the planet, there's no replacement for the physical and chemical interplay that goes down when you're in the same room, making real eye contact, shaking my actual hand.

This has implications everywhere from geography class to local funding debates to Senate hearings. Not only with a teacher's ability to connect with a student, but for all of us to work together more effectively. And that requires taking the time to understand ourselves a little better. Olivia's talk is a great place to start.

 
I am one of 71,000+ in my very first Coursera class. 

Holy internet Batman.... 71 thousand?!? That's the size of a 100% completely packed Georgia Dome. 

If you haven't heard of Coursera...  you will. Educators are both exited by, and fear it. Some just roll their eyes. But not the smarties. And it doesn't really matter whether this becomes the platform that wins in the end. The point is, they are getting it right, and people are noticing. In huge numbers. Undeniable numbers.

The classes they run are nicknamed "MOOCs" (Massive Open Online Courses) by industry terms. This one on Gamification is taught by Kevin Werbach, Associate Professor of Legal Studies at Wharton. He's pretty damn good. Sometimes I have to speed him up to 1.5x (the platform thankfully lets you do this) but its clear he's as excited about the subject as I am, and quite qualified.

Folks, the days of the average student paying $88,000 - $130,000 (ignoring the top-tier which is closer to $200k - $225k) for a 4 year college education (all in) are fortunately going to fade. Its only a matter of when, the timeline depending on who puts up the best fight to maintain status quo. With amazing learning platforms like Coursera, Code Academy, Khan Academy, and the like, we can learn from some of the best teachers and systems in the world. For free. Why on earth would everyone pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for what we can access for free?

We know why. The same reason its been slow to change our eating habits, our spending and investing habits, our emotional health habits....

We trust those who came before us to show us the way. To know the path forward. To have our best interests at heart, at least most of the time. Its an easy, lazy shortcut to truth. The reality? Our parents, teachers, brokers, advisors, psychiatrists... were also doing the best they could with the information they had handed down to them. Figuring it out along the way. Are there evil empires running in the shadows that have been feeding bad information through the generations? Ryan Holiday says yes, in his exposé on modern media. I don't deny it, myself. But we live in a different world, where ignorance may still be bliss, but is becoming impossible to maintain.

I'm not so naive to think Professor Werbach won't potentially sell thousands of his books as a result of his course (to be clear, they are not required for the course in any way, only part of the recommended reading list for further education). But it is promising to see  top institutions and professors playing a role in the education transformation, to the point of readily giving away lectures. Perhaps the model will require those to want an official certification to pay. I'm ok with that. Its clearing a path for a new education framework - effective, efficient, and affordable.
 
There's hopefully a time in your life where you take a step back to decide what its all about. Figure out just what the hell you really want. What's real, and what's not. And if you're anything like me, there'll be many of these times - times like now, when I've decided with conviction to take a new direction.

Human education is flourishing. Formal education still needs help. I will do my part.

Since the end of my formal schooling in 2003 and throughout my 9 years at Google, the learning process has been transformed in a way we won't see again until we are downloading programs directly into our brains ("I know Kung Fu", by the way, is not as far off as you may think!).

Now I'm not just talking about classroom learning. (We'll get there.) I'm talking about the shrinking gap (in some cases elimination) between the desire to know, and the knowing. Between the question and the answer. And the tools available have become so frickin' good, I now just assume that if I want something to exist, it probably already does, and probably someone has already written extensively about it. If you are reading this, then you can teach yourself almost anything, on any device, at any time.  

Waiting for Superman. Khan Academy. Chapter 14 of Abundance. Mainstream awareness and the desire for change exist, and have existed for decades now. So what's new? What's changed?

Everything. And nothing.

I'll cover both -- the fancy new tech with all its potential and pitfalls, but just as (or perhaps more importantly), the critical history lessons we can learn from to avoid the big mistakes along the way.