December 30, 2013

What were the biggest and most influential innovations of 2013? Kara Miller looked back at her top picks of the year with WGBH Morning Edition host Bob Seay

1. Online Education and Outside-the-Box Learning: This year, online education exploded in a big way - from module-focused sites like Khan Academy to massive open-enrollment online courses, or MOOCs, like those found at edX

Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, says online learning can transform education. He advocates moving away from a system that simply counts the amount of time each student spends in the classroom and, instead, assesses competency and skills.

Of course, some of the skills most lacking in today's educational system are the ones needed to fill high-tech jobs. Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School says there should be a renewed focus on STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to keep American labor competitive - and that might involve going outside of the traditional trajectory of elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education. 

2. Big Data and You: The smartphone in your pocket can do a lot more than play Angry Birds - in fact, it could even save your life. 

Dr. Eric Topol says partnering mobile technology with health data could drastically bring down the cost of medical care, as patients might be able to be monitored more effectively from home, rather than going to the hospital

Rick Smolan, author of "The Human Face of Big Data," adds that big data can help monitor our health and predict when we need care - like this magic carpet that keeps tabs on the health of its elderly owners. 

3. Don't Reach for that Purell: A new and growing body of research suggests that the colonies of bacteria in our stomachs may play a key role in fending off disease.

Moises Velasquez-Manoff, author of "An Epidemic of Absence," and Michael Pollan, author of "Cooked," say that our obsession with living in a germ-free world may actually be making us less healthy. 

What were your top picks for the biggest innovations of 2013? 

Still curious? Hear the full versions of the interviews featured in this segment:

Education, 2013, Sci and Tech, Body and Mind, Morning Edition, year in review, Bob Seay

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