Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The high-tech future of K12 education

I'm back from my California travels and resuming blogging.  Last week I was able to attend the annual education summit put on by the NewSchools Venture Fund.  It was a fascinating experience.  There is an incredible amount of innovation going on in education, but scaling the success stories has run into the brick wall of the public school bureaucracy.  A few of the items to come out of the summit:
  • Kleiner Perkins venture capitalist Bing Gordon called for the gamification of education, including need for hundreds of public domain educational simulations or games for students to use.
  • THE hot topic was blended/hybrid learning, combining the best of computer-based learning with in-class instruction.  Several of the most innovative schools pushing this frontier were there to share, and they are getting incredible results.
  • Another Kleiner Perkins VC - and Rice alum - John Doerr interviewed billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on stage for us about a wide range of topics, including his $100m philanthropy in Newark schools and how social networks might impact education.  The COPPA law currently keeps Facebook from allowing kids under 13 from joining, but they seem to be doing it anyway.  His advice on entrepreneurship: only hire people you would work for yourself.
  • Entrepreneurial guru Steve Blank talked about the power of an alternate model to entrepreneurship (including education entrepreneurship) called the Lean Startup.
  • Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, asserted strongly that education reform has been stuck for decades.  There have been improvements, but then they fade away and it all oscillates back and forth with no real progress.  He even specifically mentioned Rod Paige and Houston.  He blames the way we elect school boards (lack of continuity and stewardship, just a career stepping stone for politicians), and called for all schools to be converted into nonprofits that compete.
I also was able to tour a math class in Los Altos using Khan Academy for online learning one hour a day.  The amount of learning going on was amazing.  Some kids were up to Algebra and Trigonometry, and one finished all the way through Calculus.  Um, did I mention that this class was fifth grade!  Absolutely incredible.  BTW, Sal Khan's TED talk video is very highly recommended if you want to understand how utterly transformational this approach is to education.

As for my thoughts on how we can reform faster to the future of education, check out my blog post for the summit here.  It got very positive feedback.  In fact, I'm doing research for a potential educational technology startup related to what's in that post, and I'm very interested in talking with people in the trenches of K-12 education, most especially teachers.  If you are (or know somebody who is) and would be amenable to a short phone interview, please email me at tgattis (at) pdq.net .  Your help would be deeply appreciated.

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2 Comments:

At 11:36 AM, June 17, 2011, Blogger Brian Herod said...

Thanks for the post. The Khan Academy video was fascinating. I work at a Houston institute that uses technology to supports children in learning to read.

 
At 2:19 PM, January 31, 2012, Anonymous Lou Lacey said...

Jeez, I can't even imagine the fifth-grade me trying to learn trigonometry. I only made it to Algebra 2, and that was in my junior year of high school. If I were made to learn super-advanced math at that age, I probably wouldn't have made it through school. And I'm not sure how I feel about grade school kids being encouraged to be computer-literate these days..I took typing classes in grade school and as a result, coworkers are constantly complimenting my high typing speed, but that and the original Oregon Trail were the only computer experience I had or wanted. Nowadays I see kids under 10 using Facebook and playing video games all day..so foreign to me. It can't be good for them.

 

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