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Google’s new learning tool that learns

This may be the next step beyond tutorials on YouTube, MOOCs (massively open online courses), Google Play for Education and YouTube EDU. It may even be signaling the next step for education. It’s called “Oppia,” and it’s a learning teaching tool. It helps teachers customize what they’re teaching, student by student – by asking the individual learner questions and, “based on how the learner responds to those questions, the teacher decides how to proceed, which questions to ask, how to give feedback and so on,” TechCrunch reports.

It’s part of the shift (I hope) we’re seeing away from mass-production education, as it helps tailor the subject to the learner rather than the other way around. “You can think of this as a smart feedback system that tries to ‘teach a person to fish,’ instead of simply revealing the correct answer or marking the submitted answer as wrong,” Google says.

Oppia is an open source tool, so anyone can use it, certainly not just classroom teachers or professors creating “MOOCs” (massively open online courses), “to create online interactive activities that others can learn from,” according to Google calls those interactive activities “explorations” that “can be built and contributed to by multiple people from around the world through a Web interface, without any programming required,” TheNextWeb adds. So, for example, a teacher in India or Kenya can use Oppia to customize for his or her local class a MOOC from a university in a distant country. What “open source” means is that Google hopes a community forms around Oppia and helps improve and evolve it.

Any step closer to fully engaging digitally adept students and syncing formal education up with all the informal learning they’re doing online, outside of school, is an important step. Oppia is part of this important trend toward bringing connected learning into school and tailoring school for learners.

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Disclosure: I’m co-director of, a nonprofit organization that receives financial support from a number of Internet and media companies, including Facebook, Google, Trend Micro and Yahoo.

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