At your fingers, an Oxford don

Since the 16th century, the ideal of education has been the tutorial system pioneered at Oxford and Cambridge, nurturing young minds one to one, inquiring, prodding and encouraging. The tutorial method, research shows, is a proven winner, The New York Times reports. But it is also highly elitist, hardly a system for educating the masses. So the drive for public education, in America and elsewhere, required a very different model — of one to many, with the teacher standing in front of a classroom, working from a textbook and lecturing. Education moved from a bespoke craft to a more industrial approach. Today, though, 21st-century technology carries the potential to nudge mainstream education back toward the 16th-century vision of one-to-one tutoring. The internet, high-speed networks, powerful and lighter computers, and clever software for video, collaboration, and simulations on the web all help. Equally important is a maturing understanding of how to use wisely the new digital tools in education. The goal, proponents say, is to open the door to more engaged, interactive and personalized learning.

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