A New City and a New Approach to Education with Exosphere

A New City and a New Approach to Education with Exosphere

Exosphere Bootcamp - Hiking Manquehue in Santiago

At the end of October, I took a week off to lead a programming workshop in Santiago, Chile. In typical form, I had been up for roughly 26 hours before I hopped in a cab to begin my 21-hour trip. I can’t remember what I was thinking, but I expect sleeping on the plane was part of the plan. I can never sleep on planes, I always deprive myself of sleep beforehand, and I always arrive a complete mess.

After 5 hours of delays and 1 harrowing landing, I arrived in Santiago with 52 sleepless hours under my belt and black holes for eyes to prove it. Wielding the flawless logic only the insane (or extremely sleep-deprived) can bring to light, I reasoned going to sleep in the afternoon would only cause jetlag and so I stayed up till around 10pm and crashed. Hard. And then woke up after 4 hours unable to fall back asleep.

Needless to say, Day 1 was rough. And I did it completely wrong.

I dove way too deep, way too fast, and by the end of the first day half the class was wearing a Thousand Mile Stare. But at the end of the day, the students, the staff, and I discussed the problem and came up with a potential solution. I spent the evening reworking my plan and the rest of the week went flawlessly. Sure, the first day was exhausting, but being part of a feedback loop created by people who want to take charge of their education was invigorating.

Matrix - Neo Learns

For a good chunk of the last century, science fiction writers with a technological-bent have often imagined a world with human analogs that can not only perform complex mathematical calculations, but also which can observe, infer, and adjust their behavior. Essentially they can learn – they have artificial intelligence. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on where you stand on the Luddite line, we haven’t gotten close to that kind of general intelligence because it’s extremely tricky. Despite incredible advances in brute-force, dictionary-style computing and domain-specific mastery – we just don’t know how to the brain learns so quickly from a never-ending and constantly changing stream of inputs.

Smart House - A Disney Movie

Education is very much related to this struggle. We know that humans can learn incredible amounts of information, and we know that there are many different ways of learning and that some of them work better for certain subjects or certain people. But we don’t know why and we don’t know how. And if you don’t know how, the best you can call the relationship is a correlation. This is why the last major advance in education came with easy access for every student to the printed word. Everything after that has been about how to make more information available to more people – a noble goal but one that has limits. Initiatives like the Khan Academy are fantastic for those without ready-access to the subject matter, but for those with access to all the information in the world (and that is almost quite literally) there still remains the problem of relevancy, progression, and measurement.

I’ve been unhappy with education as long as I can remember. I recall vividly the day I realized that education at the college level is no different than what I had been going through for the last 2/3 of my life. I stopped going to lectures, and soon I stopped going to discussions, too. By the end of my first quarter at UCLA I had gone to more classes than I would go to during the rest of my time there. It just wasn’t worth it. I graduated with an Economics degree and a Computer Science degree, a very low GPA, and an exceptional set of memories and life lessons that took place out of the classroom. I hear this same story from people I meet time and time again. Those of us who have always felt there could be more to life – that you, as an individual, could do more – know education is broken. Unfortunately, I don’t think many of us (myself included) come to that realization until it’s too late.

Exosphere Bootcamp December 2013

Exosphere is an attempt to progress the efforts of individual education with a focus on entrepreneurial pursuits. It’s like an incubator that’s focused on the individual instead of the company. By the end of the program, a student will not only have been exposed to all of the components involved in building something out of nothing, but will have discussed them, tinkered with them, and put them to use in his own project. It’s akin to teaching someone to ride a bike with training wheels.

In my opinion, its success comes from the following 3 major components:

  1. Regular lectures on various topics acting as guideposts for ideas, theories, and proven ways of thinking about a topic
  2. Readily accessible resources in the form of Fellows (faculty members) for:
    1. Deep-diving into a specific part of the Fellow’s domain (for example, mine is Big Data, UX, Gamification, and software-engineering in general)
    2. Advice coming from someone with real-world experience
    3. Direction on where and how to start learning about related topics that are required for the student’s business
  3. A community of staff and other students providing:
    1. Emotional support for pushing through the topics or concepts that are difficult for the student
    2. Inspiration and motivation via healthy competition, excitement, and idea sharing

Exosphere is still new and the kinks are still being worked out – but I believe this is the kind of societal change that is necessary for education to advance.

There are many, many people focused on information dispersal – I’m thrilled to be on the side of information absorption!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Receive new posts in your inbox! Enter your email address:

2 Responses to “A New City and a New Approach to Education with Exosphere”

  1. Verna says:

    Hey There. I discovered your blog via msn… Thank you for the post!

  2. dad says:

    Send me these. I enjoy reading them. Love dad.

Powered by WordPress | Designed by Elegant Themes
Read previous post:
I surf here several times a week because it's a few blocks from my apartment - Pacific Beach, San Diego
A Whirlwind 2013 in San Diego

3 blocks to the closest surf spot When I decided to come back to the States, and being the person...