Khan Academy: Shelby Harris reflects on her first 3 months of KA in Kuna, Idaho

Like most of the personal reflections of teachers who have switched to using Khan Academy — Shelby makes me smile. Her students are smiling too:


I am Shelby Harris, a 7th grade math teacher at Kuna Middle School in Kuna, Idaho. I’m entering my 14th year of teaching in this rural town right outside of Boise. Our school serves 7th and 8th grade students and has a population of roughly 800 students. We have sizeable ELL and low income populations and, like all buildings, instruct to an enormous range of student abilities.

I’ve always been a very traditional teacher; in the front of the room, captive audience, putting on a show. I managed behavior with ease, entertained my crowd, delivered lessons meant to inspire to the masses. I loved my job. I also knew I wasn’t doing it very well. I knew I had highly capable students who were bored but well behaved, so they politely smiled through my lectures. I knew I had a not-so-tiny group who was completely lost.

I needed a solution. I needed fewer students. I needed more time. I needed an assistant teacher. None of these needs were easily met. Until Khan Academy.

The day the students were assigned their one to one devices and we started using KA, they were so excited! Partially because of the new technology, but mostly because they knew that math as they knew it was going to be changing. What they knew before was a class where they were either the bored kid or the lost kid. I had a prescribed curriculum to get through in a prescribed amount of time, even though there were students who needed two minutes on a concept while their classmates needed two days (or two weeks!).

I was excited too–but also very nervous. How do you take a mostly traditional teacher like myself and suddenly take my soapbox away and give kids a bunch of screens to look at? I felt lost and out of place. I wasn’t sure where I fit in, nor how to behave.

Fast forward: I’m figuring it out. I am pulling small groups based on KA data and observations. I’m able to give personalized attention to students and focus on the unique needs of each individual. The kids are all engaged and helping each other. And there are smiles. Lots and lots of smiles. The change in atmosphere is palpable. I don’t stand at the helm and drive the boat along while all my disciples row in unison. I am rowing with them. Constantly checking data and redirecting the crew. When a man goes down, I am using data to send aid. When there is a group off course or in uncharted waters, I am pulling them aside to guide their next direction. It’s beautiful and fluid and looks like….well, chaos. But within this chaos there are students learning with a renewed enthusiasm for math, tackling their fears, and supporting each other.

At the end of a few short months, I was doing a lot right and still doing a lot wrong. I know my implementation is still a work in progress, but I know I’m moving in the right direction. The smiles on those faces and improvement in their scores tells me so. 

Clay Shirky: Can MOOCs save college?

Another terrific essay from Clay on pushback by the academy. Excerpts:

(…) Bustillos’ answers seem to be that in the world of higher education, things are going fine, mostly, and that the parts that aren’t going fine can largely be fixed with tax dollars. (Because if there’s one group you’d pin your hopes for an American renaissance on, it would be state legislators.) I have a different answer: School is broken and everyone knows it.

(…) If you want to know what college is actually like in this country, forget Swarthmore, with 1500 students. Think Houston Community College, with 63,000. Think rolling admissions. Think commuter school. Think older. Think poorer. Think child-rearing, part-time, night class. Think 50% dropout rates. Think two-year degree. (Except don’t call it that, because most graduates take longer than two years to complete it. If they complete it.)

(…) In the academy, we’re fine with anything that lowers the cost of education. We love those kinds of changes. But when someone threatens to lower the price, well, then we start behaving like Teamsters in tweed.

* * *

I’ve been thinking about the effects of the internet for a couple of decades now. I’ve watched industry after industry forced to renegotiate their methods and models, in the face of a medium that allows for perfect copying, global distribution, zero incremental cost, ridiculously easy group-forming: The music business. Newspapers. Travel agents. Publishers. Hotel owners. And while watching, I’ve always wondered what I’d do when my turn came.

And now here it is. And it turns out my job is to tell you not to trust us when we claim that there’s something sacred and irreplaceable about what we academics do. What we do is run institutions whose only rationale—whose only excuse for existing—is to make people smarter.

Sometimes we try to make ourselves smarter. We call that research. Sometimes we try to make our peers smarter. We call that publishing. Sometimes we try to make our students smarter. We call that teaching. And that’s it. That’s all there is. These are important jobs for sure, and they are hard jobs at times, but they’re not magic. And neither are we.

(…) For all our good will, college in the U.S. has gotten worse for nearly everyone who relies on us. For some students—millions of them—the institutions in which they enroll are more reliable producers of debt than education. This has happened on our watch.

The competition from upstart organizations will make things worse for many of us. (I like the experiments we’ve got going at NYU, but I don’t fantasize that we’ll be unscathed.) After two decades of watching, though, I also know that that’s how these changes go. No industry has ever organized an orderly sharing of power with newcomers, no matter how interesting or valuable their ideas are, unless under mortal threat.

Instead, like every threatened profession, I see my peers arguing that we, uniquely, deserve a permanent bulwark against insurgents, that we must be left in charge of our destiny, or society will suffer the consequences. Even the record store clerks tried that argument, back in the day. In the academy, we have a lot of good ideas and a lot of practice at making people smarter, but it’s not obvious that we have the best ideas, and it is obvious that we don’t have all the ideas. For us to behave as if we have—or should have—a monopoly on educating adults is just ridiculous.



NY Times: The Year of the MOOC

I guess the concept of online learning has arrived – the NY Times has a feature dated Nov 2, 2012. It is a useful survey of the landscape of the MOOC startups. Here’s a fragment on Udacity, job placement: 

(…) Udacity has stuck close to its math and computer science roots and emphasizes applied learning, like “How to Build a Blog” or “Building a Web Browser.” Job placement is part of the Udacity package. “The type of skills taught in computer science, even at elite universities, can be very theoretical,” Dr. Stavens explains.

Udacity courses are designed and produced in-house or with companies like Google and Microsoft. In a poke at its university-based competition, Dr. Stavens says they pick instructors not because of their academic research, as universities do, but because of how they teach. “We reject about 98 percent of faculty who want to teach with us,” he says. “Just because a person is the world’s most famous economist doesn’t mean they are the best person to teach the subject.” Dr. Stavens sees a day when MOOCs will disrupt how faculty are attracted, trained and paid, with the most popular “compensated like a TV actor or a movie actor.” He adds that “students will want to learn from whoever is the best teacher.”

That means you don’t need a Ph.D. While there are traditional academics like David Evans of the University of Virginia, “Landmarks in Physics,” a first-year college-level course, is taught by Andy Brown, a 2009 M.I.T. graduate with a B.S. in physics. “We think the future of education is guys like Andy Brown who produce the most fun,” Dr. Stavens says. Mr. Brown’s course is an indie version of “Bill Nye the Science Guy” — filmed in Italy, the Netherlands and England, with opening credits for “director of photography” and “second camera and editor.”

Whether explaining what the ancients believed about the shape of the earth or, in Dr. Thrun’s statistics course, why you are unpopular, statistically speaking, voice-overs are as nonthreatening as a grade school teacher.

“You feel like you are sitting next to someone and they are tutoring you,” says Jacqueline Spiegel, a mother of three from New Rochelle, N.Y., with a master’s in computer science from Columbia who has enrolled in MOOCs from Udacity and Coursera. While taking “Artificial Intelligence,” she discovered she liked puzzling through assignments in online study groups.

Student feedback through brief, frequent quizzes depends upon an ability to assess the student responses. Correct answers on a math quiz are easier to verify than principals testing in say political economy. This is just one of the many innovation zones:

EdX’s M.I.T. roots show in its staff’s geeky passion for building and testing online tools. They collect your clicks. Feedback from the MOOC taught last spring by Dr. Agarwal (who, students learn, is obsessed with chain saws) revealed that participants would rather watch a hand writing an equation or sentence on paper than stare at the same paper with writing already on it.

The focus is on making education logical. “Someone who is consuming the course should know it is not serendipity that the course is chunked in a certain way, but that there is intentionality to sequencing video,” says Howard A. Lurie, vice president for content development.

With mini-notebook in hand, he has been leading the “daily stand-up” meeting (so called because attendees lean against walls) to keep course development on schedule. After one meeting, Lyla Fischer, a 2011 M.I.T. graduate and edX fellow, sat at her computer, a tag still dangling from the chair, and edited the answers for problem sets in Dr. Agarwal’s course. Last spring, students could download PDFs with brief answers. Now, she says, “there is a full explanation of how to do it, here are the steps,” right on the site.

“We are trying to use the magic of all the tool sets we have,” Mr. Lurie says. Students control how fast they watch lectures. Some like to go at nearly double the speed; others want to slow down and replay. Coming: If you get a wrong answer, the software figures out where you went wrong and offers a correction.


Assignments that can’t be scored by an automated grader are pushing MOOC providers to get creative, especially in courses that involve writing and analysis. Coursera uses peer grading: submit an assignment and five people grade it; in turn, you grade five assignments.

Check it out – the price is right! 

MOOCs: monetizing via matching employers and students

This is a possible end-run around the traditional credentialing monopoly. E.g., if Google finds that the student data available through Udacity or Coursera is very predictive of employee performance, then that is the basis for a happy partnership between employer and educator. Udacity in particular is focused upon innovating ways to improve the acquisition of true competence in each subject they offer (not just demonstrating the ability to cram for finals to earn the typical university diploma).

(…) On Tuesday, Coursera, which works with high-profile colleges to provide massive open online courses, or MOOC’s, announced its employee-matching service, called Coursera Career Services. 

(…) Udacity’s founder, Sebastian Thrun, said in an interview that 350 partner companies had signed up for its job program. While Mr. Thrun would not say how much employers pay, he characterized the fee as “significantly less than you’d pay for a headhunter, but significantly more than what you’d pay for access to LinkedIn,” a popular social network for job hunters.

“We’re more like a headhunter,” said Mr. Thrun. “We go through our database and find people that seem to be good matches for the openings from these companies.” Udacity says companies using its job-matching program include Google, Amazon, Facebook, and several tech start-ups.

In the case of one computer-science course offered through Udacity, the online students took the same quizzes and tests as a group of students enrolled at Stanford University at the same time. The top 411 students all came from the thousands of students who took the course online, with the strongest-performing Stanford student ranking 412th in the final standings, said Mr. Thrun. (That Stanford student earned a 98-percent score in the course.)

“There are a huge number of people out there who are extremely skilled but happen not to have the Stanford degree,” said Mr. Thrun.

(…) One Udacity student, Tamir Duberstein, said that company’s job program had helped him land a gig at Square, a trendy company that lets consumers submit credit-card payments using smartphones and tablet computers. He was living in Toronto, working at a job he didn’t enjoy, when he took a series of computer-programming courses from Udacity, spending nearly all of his free time on them. “I got the best possible result in a few of them,” he said.

One day this past summer, Udacity sent him an e-mail asking whether he’d be interested in sending in his résumé as part of its job service. “Once your résumé is received, it will be prescreened and possibly shared with a few selected employers with your permission,” the message said.

He sent his in, but didn’t expect much. “I was like, What the hell, sure, why not?,” he remembers.

A few weeks later, he heard first from one tech company and then from Square.

Mr. Duberstein said that the job-interview process included plenty of technical questions asking him to prove he had the skills that he had learned in the Udacity courses. “The point here is not credentialing,” he said. “They quizzed me. They really were assessing what I know for themselves.”

Both Coursera and Udacity show employers more than just student grades. They also highlight students who frequently help others in discussion forums.

Mr. Thrun, of Udacity, said those “softer skills” are often more useful to employers than raw academic performance.

“Problems are never solved in isolation in the real world,” he said. He said that Udacity might share with an employer someone who has helped 90 to 100 people in discussion forums. “That specific skill has been a better predictor of placement success than academic performance,” he added.

Mr. Ng, of Coursera, reported a similar trend. And frequently the top-performing students also post the most valuable comments in student forums, as counted by how many students “vote up” a comment, or signal that it was helpful by clicking a thumbs-up button. “Students in the top 10 percent had twice as many up-voted posts in the student forums as the students not in the top 10 percent,” he said.


I think we are going to see ferocious competition, and hence innovation, in the MOOC universe. Education has never experienced anything like the rate of innovation that is just beginning. 

BTW, looks like Coursera is going after one of the obvious monetization channels – fees for completion certificates. I.e., the education can be free, but the credentials will cost. I have not problem at all with that model — the marginal cost of delivering high quality learning is so much lower for the MOOCs that the certificate fees should be totally a bargain compared to Stanford tuition, fees, etc.

Mr. Ng said that the largest source of revenue will probably come from selling certificates, rather than such matching. So far the company has not charged for certificates, but it plans to start doing so in the coming months.

Things That Can’t Last Don’t: Clay Shirky on the disruption of higher education by MOOCs

The cost of attending college is rising above inflation every year, while the premium for doing so shrinks. This obviously can’t last, but no one on the inside has any clear idea about how to change the way our institutions work while leaving our benefits and privileges intact.

In the academy, we lecture other people every day about learning from history. Now its our turn, and the risk is that we’ll be the last to know that the world has changed, because we can’t imagine—really cannot imagine—that story we tell ourselves about ourselves could start to fail. Even when it’s true. Especially when it’s true. 

Clay Shirky recently published a wide-angle perspective on the disruption of higher education by MOOCs: Napster, Udacity, and the Academy. To set the stage, Shirky cites the recent history of the music industry:

“our MP3 is the massive open online course (or MOOC), and our Napster is Udacity, the education startup.”

If you’ve not been studying the rapid evolution of free online education, then Shirky offers an excellent introduction. If you have been following MOOCs closely, then I suggest you go straight to the Shirky blog — Clay has some angles that you may not have thought of.

One area that needs a lot more discussion is how credentialing is going to work, and the acceptance thereof by employers. Personally, I think the learning part of higher education is going to benefit enormously from the blossoming of efforts like Coursera and Udacity. This is true even for the lucky few who can afford to give up four+ productive income-earning years while they borrow or spend $250,000+ to attend Stanford, MIT or Oxford. That’s because the MOOCs offer a very effective laboratory for learning about learning while experimenting with new learning modalities. If you spend a bit of time reading the Kahn Academy and Udacity blogs you’ll see that they have an intense focus on learning how students learn and what facilitators are effective.

But the most important payoff will not be collected until Google or Rand Corp. accept and respect demonstrated competence from successful MOOC students. Udacity is advancing on this front. E.g., they are partnering with Pearson on testing. Further, Udacity is channeling high-accomplishment students to employers. Both for fees. Education is free if you work at it. The benefits of what you have learned will cost a little bit. And employers will pay their share.

I’m optimistic that demonstrated competence will gain stature relative to elite school degrees. Just thinking about the tech industry, the vast majority of the thousands of new engineers needed are going to have to come from the median college – not just the elite schools.

Those that forecast MOOCs diminishing the power  of the elites are likely to be proven wrong. The elite schools will continue to deliver the signaling and peer grouping benefits. For those with the bucks — the elite schools will continue to be a shortcut to the yellow brick road. But what really matters to the economy and to the next generation, is how the median college performs — how much competence a college graduate buys for their investment.

Software Eats Education: An Audacious Undertaking


I also recognize that education methods have not fundamentally changed in hundreds—possibly even thousands—of years. The core learning structure has always been and remains one teacher and a limited number of students. This structure reduces learning opportunities for much of the world’s population (even in first-world countries) and limits the impact of the best educators to no more than a few dozen lucky individuals a year.

But it doesn’t have to continue like this. From a business perspective, this is a supply and demand problem in that the demand for quality education is not being met by an adequate supply of learning opportunities. From a technology perspective, this is a problem that can now be solved with software. From a societal perspective, there should be alarm bells going off for everyone that this is an issue that requires our boldest ideas and brightest minds.

And that’s why we’re so excited to announce our investment in Udacity, a team and company that we’re absolutely convinced will change the world. We believe the next big disruptive trend in software will focus on education and we feel that this is the team that will lead the way.

Let’s start with what Udacity does. By leveraging the economics of the Internet, Udacity aims to democratize education by delivering world-class coursework to hundreds of thousands of students everywhere. There’s no doubt that online learning will radically shift the economics of education.  Udacity has the magic formula because they are combining their platform with their content to make learning highly interactive, targeted and instantly available to students around the world.


Read the whole thing.

Introducing MRUniversity (spread the word)

Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrock are launching MRUniversity

That’s Marginal Revolution University, MRU, or I suppose to some ‘Mister’ University.

We think education should be better, cheaper, and easier to access.  So we decided to take matters into our own hands and create a new online education platform toward those ends. We have decided to do more to communicate our personal vision of economics to you and to the broader world.

You can visit here.  There you can sign up for information about our first course, Development Economics, which is described by Alex below.

Here are a few of the principles behind MR University:

1. The product is free (like this blog), and we offer more material in less time.

2. Most of our videos are short, so you can view and listen between tasks, rather than needing to schedule time for them.  The average video is five minutes, twenty-eight seconds long.  When needed, more videos are used to explain complex topics.

3. No talking heads and no long, boring lectures.  We have tried to reconceptualize every aspect of the educational experience to be friendly to the on-line world.

4. It is low bandwidth and mobile-friendly.  No ads.

5. We offer tests and quizzes.

6. We have plans to subtitle the videos in major languages.  Our reach will be global, and in doing so we are building upon the global emphasis of our home institution, George Mason University.

7. We invite users to submit content.

8. It is a flexible learning module.  It is not a ‘MOOC’ per se, although it can be used to create a MOOC, namely a massive, open on-line course.

9. It is designed to grow rapidly and flexibly, absorbing new content in modular fashion — note the beehive structure to our logo.  But we are starting with plenty of material.

10. We are pleased to announce that our first course will begin on October 1.

Please help spread the word via tweet, facebook and post and of course please join us at MRU.

(Via Marginal Revolution.)

More positivity: Salman Khan at Rice University’s 2012 commencement

Salman Kahn

Sal Kahn’s 2012 comment address at Rice University was memorable — and not just because we are both Rice grads. You will not the regret seventeen minutes of your time to see what he had to say. The Rice University news has a brief summary of Kahn’s remarks. Excerpts: 

Commencement speaker Salman Khan’s address to the graduates focused on contributions of a different kind: He urged the students to do everything they can to “increase the net happiness in the world.”

(…) Khan offered an example of how a Rice grad had made a difference in his own life. In 2009, he quit his job as a hedge fund analyst to devote his energy to building Khan Academy online. For months, he struggled to find support until Ann Doerr ’75, a Rice alumna, gave him the financial backing he needed to get Khan Academy up and running.

Doerr, an environmental activist, and her husband, Silicon Valley venture capitalist and Rice alum John Doerr ’73, have made generous contributions to Rice, as well. A $15 million gift from their Beneficus Foundation in 2010 established the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership, and John Doerr was the university’s commencement speaker in 2007.

Ann Doerr’s belief in Khan – and her willingness to show her support – was crucial, Khan said.

“Obviously the money was a good deal,” he said. “But the real power of what Ann did was that act of empowerment, that act of validation.”

His advice for the graduates was to do the same thing – to support and validate others who do good things, even in small ways.

“Don’t just sit by and observe it,” Khan said. “Recognize it. When you do that, all sorts of things are going to start percolating in the universe.”

(…) Fifty years from now, Khan told the graduates, they’ll have regrets – “we’ll all have them.” He urged them to try “a little thought experiment”: Imagine, he said, that 50 years from now a genie gives you a chance to go back in time, take you “right here, to May 2012.” He urged the graduates to live now as if it were their “second pass” through life.

“I am truly honored and humbled to be here,” Khan told the Class of 2012, “just completely excited by what you all are going to do in your ‘second pass.’”


Michael Eisen: 20 years of cowardice: the pathetic response of American universities to the crisis in scholarly publishing

I propose a simple solution. We should give the public access to the peer-reviewed scientific journals in which we publish our ideas and discoveries.Michael Eisen, December 22, 2005

The question inevitably asked is, “Who goes first?” Which major universities and which scholarly societies have the will, confidence, and financial resources to get the process started?

Our answer is simple and to the point. It is time for the presidents of the nation’s major research universities to fish or cut bait. Collectively, they have both opportunity and motive—and, in the Association of American Universities, they have an organization with the capacity to convene the necessary negotiations.Association of Research Librarians, March 1998

PLoS co-founder Michael Eisen has earned the right to call cowardice on the elite universities that have continued to allow the journal monopolies to maintain their out-date business model, and their extortion-level pricing. Other academics will sometimes write supporting open access, but overall their posture remains submissive. In this essay Michael is refreshingly clear and frank on why the serials crisis still exists, at least a decade after universities could have refused to pay the extortion:

When Harvard University says it can not afford something, people notice. So it was last month when a faculty committee examining the future of the university’s libraries declared that the continued growth of journal subscription fees was unsustainable, even for them. The accompanying calls for faculty action are being hailed as a major challenge to the traditional publishers of scholarly journals.

Would that it were so. Rather than being a watershed event in the movement to reform scholarly publishing, the tepidness of the committee’s recommendations, and the silence of the university’s administration, are just the latest manifestation of the toothless response of American universities to the “serials crisis” that has plagued libraries for decades.

Had the leaders major research universities attacked this issue head on when the deep economic flaws in system became apparent, or if they’d showed even an ounce of spine in the ensuing twenty or so years, the subscription-based model that is the root of the problem would have long ago been eliminated. The solutions have always been clear. Universities should have stopped paying for subscriptions, forcing publishers to adopt alternative economic models. And they should have started to reshape the criteria for hiring, promotion and tenure, so that current and aspiring faculty did not feel compelled to publish in journals that were bankrupting the system. But they did neither, choosing instead to let the problem fester. And even as cries from the library community intensify, our universities continue to shovel billions of dollars a year to publishers while they repeatedly fail to take the simple steps that could fix the problem overnight.

The roots of the serials crisis

Virtually all of the problems in scholarly publishing stem from the simple act, repeated millions of times a year, of a scholar signing over copyright in their work to the journal in which their work is to appear. When they do this they hand publishers a weapon that enables them to extract almost unlimited amounts of money from libraries at the same research institutions that produced the work in the first place.

The problem arises because research libraries are charged with obtaining for scholars at their institution access to the entire scholarly output of their colleagues. Not just the most important stuff. Not just the most interesting stuff. Not just the most affordable stuff. ALL OF IT. And publishers know this. So they raise prices on their existing journals. And they launch new titles. And then they raise their prices.

What can libraries do? They have to subscribe to these journals. Their clientele wants them – indeed, they need them to do their work. They can’t cancel their subscription to Journal X in favor of the cheaper Journal Y, because the contents of X are only available in X. Every publisher is a monopoly selling an essential commodity. No wonder things have gotten out of control.

And out of control they are. Expenditures on scholarly journals at American research libraries quadrupled from 1986 to 2005, increasing at over three times the rate of inflation. This despite a massive reduction in costs due to a major shift towards electronic dissemination. These rates of growth continue nearly unabated, even in a terrible economy. (For those interested in more details, I point you to SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, who tracks journal pricing and revenues).

The opportunity universities missed

Just as the serials crisis was hitting its stride in the mid-1990′s, fate handed universities an out – the internet. In the early 1990′s access to the scholarly literature almost always occurred via print journals. By the end of the decade, virtually all scholarly journals were publishing online.

This radical transformation in how scholarly works were disseminated should have been accompanied by a corresponding radical shift in the economics of journal publishing. But it barely made a dent. Publishers, who were now primarily shipping electrons instead of ink on paper, kept raising their subscription prices as if nothing had happened. And universities let them get away with it.

(…) The unholy alliance between journals and universities

The biggest obstacle to the rise of open access journals was (and to a large extent still is) the major role that journal titles play in how universities evaluate candidates for jobs and promotions. In most academic disciplines, careers are built by publishing papers in prestigious journals – those that are the most selective, and therefore have the most cache. Scholars rising through the ranks of graduate school, the job market, assistant professorships and tenure face a nearly contant barrage of messages telling them that they have to publish in the best journals if they want to succeed at the next step. Never mind that it is far less true than people believe. That people believe it is all that matters.

Almost everyone I know thinks that simply looking at journal titles is a stupid way to decide who is or is not a good researcher, and yet it remains. There are many reasons why this system persists, but the most important is that universities like it. Administrators love having something like an objective standard that can be applied to all of the candidates for a job, promotion, etc… that might allow them to compare not only candidates for one job to each other, but all candidates for any honor across the university. This is perhaps why no university that I know of has taken a forceful stand against the use of journal titles as a major factor in hiring and promotion decisions. And it is, I believe, a major reason why they are unwilling to cut off the flow of money to these journals.

It’s never too late


Read the whole essay for the solution. If Harvard is feeling squeezed by the extortion, then we may be reaching the tipping point.

Why the Google Art Project is Important

Did you know about the Google Art Project? Neither did we – this is an example of the value:

Excerpted from an e-Literate post by Steven Zucker and Beth Harris, Khan Academy Deans of Art and History:

In many ways, scholarship at its best is conversation. But up until now, museums have conversed very little with one another—either on or offline.

Three van Gogh canvases of his bedroom in Arles

Here is an example of how the Google Art Project opens the conversation. In 1889, Vincent van Gogh painted three canvases depicting his bedroom in Arles; these now reside in three different museums. Only the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam illustrates another version on its website and remarkably, none of the three museums link to the paintings at the other institutions.

In contrast, the Google Art Project allows visitors to create and share a gallery where these paintings can be viewed side by side; it also includes links to their respective museum collections (where they exist). Imagine the educational impact if museums put together online galleries like this one and included commentary from curators at multiple institutions aimed at a non-scholarly audience.

Read the full post here.

[From Why the Google Art Project is Important]