I love technology and business conferences that are open-ended and full of surprises. DLD12 really fit that bill, and Munich was a great setting. I attended about half of the events, so I undoubtedly missed some great moments. But this was by far my favorite:
#1 Sebastian Thrun, a former Stanford computer science professor, gave a talk on his experiment in teaching a course on artificial intelligence. In parallel with his usual lecture format, he offered the same course online in a sort of interactive tutorial format that made use of the latest research about how we learn most effectively -- basically in small batches followed by quizzes and exercises at certain intervals that, once mastered, mean the student is ready to move on. By the end of the course, most of his students were not longer coming he the lecture and he had 160,000 people around the world taking the course online. You read that right.
You can watch his presentation here. There is a slighly long intro, which ends after 2 minutes if youw ant to jump ahead.
Thrun had some choice remarks about the high education system, which he described as "taking in a lot of money without having much to show for it."
His plan is to "democratize" education. He left his tenure-track job at Stanford and started Udacity, which he launched the same day as this presentation. Udacity is Strum's first step in his ambition to help make "education free to the entire world." I hope he's right about that. If there is a field that's ripe for disruption, it's higher education, given its wild costs and neglible customer (meaning "student" focus.)
Udacity's first course offering is an intro to computer science for students with no previous knowledge of programming. The courses teaches how to build a search engine. Here is Thrum's intro to the course.
I think I'm going to try this. Really. Igot my start in business working for a search engine company, Infoseek, so it's fated that I give this a try.
BTW, Thrun was also a favorite of Dr. Burda, whose publishing company stages DLD. At a salon-like gathering of speakers at his home after the show last night, Dr. Burda gave Thrun the honored position at his side during interesting discussion throughout the evening.