This session is co-Presented with NBC News' "Education Nation." The onset of courseware, tablets, and social media sites is being addressed cautiously in some educational environments and ravenously in others. Will mobile devices, iPads, and social platforms truly transform the way students learn and teachers teach? Will new technology platforms revolutionize classrooms across the country?
Will Technology Disrupt the Way We Learn?
THE ASPEN INSTITUTE
ASPEN IDEAS FESTIVAL 2012
WILL TECHNOLOGY DISRUPT THE WAY WE LEARN?
Friday, June 29, 2012
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
CHARLES M. FIRESTONE
Executive Director, Communications and Society
Program, Aspen Institute
Co-Founder/CEO, Rocketship Education;
Ashoka Fellow/Henry Crown Fellow, Aspen Institute;
Aspen Institute's 2010 John P. McNulty Prize Winner
Rothenberg Doctoral Fellow, Graduate School of
Education, Harvard University; Won First at the Yale
School of Management Business Plan Competition With
Discover Create Advance (DCA); Currently Completing
Doctoral Residency at Khan Academy
Gerald S. Lesser Professor in Early Childhood
Development; Dean, Harvard Graduate School of
Education; Member, NICHD Early Child Care Research
Network; Co-Editor, The Blackwell Handbook of Early
Childhood Development and Best Practices in
Developmental Research Methods; Received
Distinguished Contribution Award, Society for
Research in Child Development in 2009; fellow,
American Education Research Association/American
Psychological Association/American Psychological
Deputy Director of Education;
Leader, Next Generations Model,
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
* * * * *
P I O C E E D I N G S
MR. FIRESTONE: Kathleen, I'm going to start in about --
SPEAKER: (Off mic.)
MR. FIRESTONE: Welcome. I'm Charlie Firestone from the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program. We look at the impact of information and communications technologies on society and democracy. And this track, the technology track, is looking at social media, mobile media, cloud, big data and how they're causing radical disruptions to some of the different aspects of our society.
Today as you know, it's going to be how do these radical disruptions impact the way we learn. So to moderate we have Kathleen McCartney who is dean of the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University and the Gerald Lesser professor of child -- early child development.
MS. McCARTNEY: Thank you.
MR. FIRESTONE: Kathleen.
MS. McCARTNEY: Well, thank you, everyone, for being here. We're excited to be building off on some of the themes that were raised in this morning's session. And I thought I would begin by saying, on behalf of the panelists and I, that we do not view this to be a panel on technology per se.
Instead, this is a panel about a fundamental shift in pedagogy that's catalyzed by technology. We're seeing it in K through 12 education, we're seeing it in higher education. And some of you might have been at the panel yesterday that addressed Persera (phonetic) and Harvard X and MIT X and so on. And we're seeing it in lifelong learning.
So it's no surprise to those of us who are here that new technologies are changing where, when and how teaching and learning occur, technologies like virtual environments, social media, I think, especially mobile technologies and assessment technologies which I suspect we'll talk about, especially since Stacey is here.
And the result of these new technologies is really only in its infancy. We talk about the flip classroom where technology is enabling us to put more passive activities like lectures online and creating more time in classrooms for more active activities like tutoring. But that's really just the tip of the iceberg. I think it's fair to say that none of us really knows where this is going.
You know, yesterday at one of the sessions somebody made the point that at the 1960s world fair they were predicting things like flying horse, which didn't come to be, and nobody was predicting the internet and cell phones, which did come to be. So we're going to try to think real hard collectively with you about where this very nascent field of education technology is going.
So I think that we'll probably spend quite a bit of time talking about how we serve the needs of individual learners, how we can use technology to really individualize instruction. It obviously offers a lot of potential for that. I think we'll be talking a lot about partnerships between industry, between practitioners, districts and so on.
And I think there's some interesting ideas that were generated in this morning's session about why this might be just a terrific time in history to think about those kinds of partnerships. So we have -- I don't think we could have three better panelists. I had the honor of selecting all three of them. And I selected them for two reasons: one, each of them is an entrepreneur; and second, each of them has deep knowledge of education practice.
And as I said, that's really going to be at the heart of what we talk about. In the middle is Stacey Childress, who leads the Next Generation Learning group at Gates. Gates' priority is to accelerate the development, discovery and use of innovative technologies that will enable every student to follow a more personalized pathway to college success.
Stacey is on the governing board of the Shared Learning Collective (sic) and I hope to hear more about this. She's partnering, I know, on that with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
And then to my far left is John Danner who is well known, I understand, to folks at Aspen. He is the CEO and cofounder of Rocketship Education. Rocketship runs five K through 5 charter schools and they're serving 2,500 students in San Jose, California. The Rocketship public school model combines traditional classroom instruction with a learning lab, and that is individualized instruction through online adaptive technology and tutors.
So it's very much a hybrid learning model. Ninety percent of Rocketship students come from low-income backgrounds and they now look just the same as students from affluent Palo Alto. So that's quite an accomplishment.
SPEAKER: (Off mic.)
MS. McCARTNEY: Yeah, they look the same academically. Thanks for that correction.
MS. McCARTNEY: And I understand that you actually came up with some of the idea for Rocketship while you were here. So you'll have to tell us more about that.
And finally, I'm very proud to introduce to you Karl Wendt who is a doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to becoming an educator, Karl earned several patents for innovation in product design and engineering. And then in 2007 he got the education bug and became an engineering and applied physics teacher at High Tech High in San Diego.
I suspect many of you know of this outstanding school. This year, Karl won first place at the Yale School of Management business plan competition with Discover Create Advance, a web-based solution that makes engaging project-based learning possible for all STEM teachers and students. Karl is in the first cohort of the Ed School's new Doctor of Education Leadership program.
That program has a third year residency. And as of July 1, Karl will be working at the Khan Academy. So I thought it would be good to start by maybe concretizing what we've been hearing about in some of the other sessions on education technology. Specifically I'd like to hear what all of you think an urban classroom would look like that was tech-rich.
And by that I mean some kind of disruption has already occurred in this real blended learning. So it might make sense to start with you, John, since it seems like you've done it and then we'll hear from the other panelists before we move on.
MR. DANNER: I mean for Rocketship, the model from the beginning was the idea that you could have a part of your school that was a very traditional kind of classroom-based environment. But another part of the school that was -- and this thing we call learning lab -- so is very individualized and that came out of my own teaching.
Every year when I was teaching -- I taught for 3 years -- one middle school, two elementary years -- every year there was kind of that set of kids in my class that were a long ways behind, so far behind that, like, any traditional rules of how you're supposed to teach all the kids at once or differentiate or whatever didn't make any sense.
And so I started to individualize in my own classroom and that grew into the learning lab at Rocketship. So here's kind of, I guess, the way we think of this, you know, what does the classroom of the future look like. We think of the classroom of the future as a place where a teacher, even in the intercity, even teaching the most at-risk children, is not actually spending all day long teaching basic skills.
And I don't know how many of you have visited low-income schools, but it's very striking. The people who do kind of the best of this in the country are unbelievably good at using traditional classroom models to teach basic skills. And of course what many of us know is that it is important to know the basic skills, but there are a whole bunch of things you need to know beyond that to be successful in college or career or life.
And if all we're doing in low-income neighborhoods is teaching these basic skills, like, we're doomed or the children that are going to these schools are doomed. And so the idea is the learning lab, this individualized portion, is the place you should learn your basic skills and that computer programs and tutors and people who can really get right at where a child is developmentally and teach them at their just right area, can move them much, much more quickly than you can in a whole class setting.
And the key to this is that then frees up time in the classroom to do the things that our teachers would never get time to do. So to work with child on -- children on projects where you have to collaborate, you have to present, you have to communicate, you have to think about issues like values and other things that often don't get brought into basic skills curriculum.
So what we're really trying to do is take basic skills and put it in the place where it belongs, because there is no teacher that I've ever met that says I really became a teacher to teach basic skills. That's just not -- who wants to teach, you know, two-digit addition for 80 hours in second grade or short A long A sounds for 15 hours in kindergarten?
That's just not why teachers become teachers. They become teachers to connect with children and to help them think and help them develop as people. And so by moving the kind of really mundane stuff into the learning lab, we're able to free up more and more time, our teachers can really connect with kids and help them grow as people.
MS. McCARTNEY: Thank you. Stacey, you're up.
MS. CHILDRESS: I'm up. So it's interesting to hear John talk about his school. I've been to John's school a number of times. And whether you're in his learning lab or in a classroom where teachers and kids are together working on content and skills, it's a really joyful place. It's a school where kids are happy. In fact for -- one day I visited and for recess kids were actually having singing time.
So they run around on the basketball court for a while, then they were together all singing songs together. And so I got -- I love karaoke, so I thought, this is my kind of school. This is the kind of school I would have wanted to go to as a kid. And so I think sometimes we miss that when we start to talk about technology in schools.
We heard a little bit of this in the questions for the panel earlier today, but it sounds so crushing. Kids on computers, maybe with headsets on, not interacting with each other, not interacting with grownups who love and care about them --
MR. DANNER: We call that making more time for joy.
MS. CHILDRESS: So just to challenge your notions of what some of these schools actually look like in practice where technology really is deeply embedded in the instructional process and the teachers and other adults that are in various roles in the school have embraced technology as a integral part of the pedagogy and instructional model and learning model that these are really exciting and fun places to be, even in some of the lowest income communities in the country where I've seen this happen.
So I did want to start with that because just hearing John describe the school didn't give that moment of insight into the really exciting and fun place that is to be I think both as a kid and I think for your teachers as well. But it's not the only way to do it.
It is a really powerful way and I think particularly the way you've cracked the code on some of the elementary school pedagogical model where one teacher might be expected to deliver everything, not even just the math or just the literacy to 30 kids, but all content areas to all 30 kids, all of whom are in different places in all of those subjects.
It just sounds almost like an impossible task. And so one way to do it is what John has done, which is to take elementary school teachers and make them specialists in the things they're very good at. And so he has elementary school language arts teachers and elementary school mathematics teachers plus the technology so that students are wiz experts in their content and pedagogy all day long both through technology and through their live instruction.
But other ways -- there are other ways to do this. And so we see some other school models. So we call John's model a rotational model -- it's a lab rotation. Kids are in classrooms that don't have a ton of technology in them and then they're in a computer lab that has a lot of technology in it. Another way to do that is to have rotation inside the classroom.
So one thing, particularly in elementary schools, long before technology invaded classrooms, one great insight into pedagogical models called centers. I used to -- I always thought people were saying "sinners." It's like, what's going on in these classrooms? I don't know of having sinners based in the revival tent here. I don't know what having a sinners-based classroom is.
But centers where kids go to different stations in a classroom to experience different kinds of lessons and different kinds of instructional learning experiences, that's been around a long time in classrooms without technology. And so one thing we're seeing in the blended models that we're funding at Gates is people experimenting with that center model, both in elementary school and middle school, where some of the stations that kids rotate around to are actually technology-enabled.
And so they get access to these great math and literacy programs that have all this adaptive engine inside that kind of, you know, really pegs the content that kids are experiencing to exactly what they need next, filling in gaps they have and not spending on -- time on stuff that they're already pretty good at.
So getting much more individualized or personalized, but also some really interesting things starting to emerge from a product standpoint that connect kids to experts outside their communities. And so there's a content company. It's a nonprofit actually called Educurious. And it's still experimenting and trying to figure out this model.
But what if a kid taking a science class -- in fact all the kids taking that science class could take on projects and in the taking on of those project connect with experts around the world in those fields that are most relevant to the project that they're taking on and not just kind of ask them for help or read their papers and try to incorporate in their projects, but actually have dialogue with them from around the world on the work product they're creating as a student, getting the feedback from a world expert, baking that in, and actually having the student give some feedback to the expert about the learning process that they're going through together.
So there are just a number of ways that technology can get beyond just getting bolted on to what we currently do in classrooms. I mean we -- it's not a bad thing, right, to have better SMARTBoards or to have more computers or to be able to do lesson-plan-sharing across those things -- are fine. They're good. They're important.
But there is this moment in time with Common Core adoption not just because Common Core has higher expectations, although it does and that's important, but because suddenly across many, many states and millions of teachers that are looking for new ways to help kids meet those expectations. And if we -- it's good to have basic skills stuff, it's great to have the lesson-sharing.
But there's also the opportunity to really exploit the unique power of technology to help us think in different ways about how people get -- how kids get access to certainly content skills but also to projects and experiences that would be difficult for them to have in their communities or in their classrooms.
But also just connections to the whole world of people and experts that they can connect to that will care about them and have really, you know -- yeah, we're on computers a lot these days and networks and interacting with folks, but those are real relationships, right. They're real relationships that are different than face-to-face relationships but are very real and very powerful.
And so to exploit the power of technology to do those kinds of things isn't just for upper-middle and affluent kids. I mean these technologies are being made available in schools like John's all around the country.
And so there are many ways to think about how an urban classroom could exploit the power of technology, to do things that technology is particularly good at and free up teachers to do the things that they're particularly good at and signed up to teach in the first place for, which is to spend great time thinking about how to shape these learning environments in ways that care and support kids even as they're using technology to reach out far beyond the boundaries of their classrooms.
MR. WENDT: So I couldn't agree more.
SPEAKER: That's good.
MR. WENDT: In my classroom at High Tech High we really focused in that way. We tried to tear down the sort of monolithic boundary bet the classroom and the real world. We were really interested in giving the students projects that had a -- gave them a sense of purpose. And I think this really connects well, especially in the urban environment where there's a sense of meaning behind the project.
I think a lot of times there's all the, you know, the technology and all the programmatic focus -- totally misses what's actually happening in the kids' head. Are they motivated? Are they -- do they actually see this as being something that they can brag to their friends about or that they've learned something valuable that they've had some self-direction and some control over?
So I think the kinds of things that make jobs interesting for us are the same kinds of things that make jobs interesting for students in schools. You know, do they have a chance to control some of the project? Do they have a chance to have a sense of purpose? Is the project complex enough to really feel like you've done something? And do they get a chance for mastery? Can they try and fail?
And I think that those opportunities -- it's great to say all of that, but those opportunities are very difficult to do with one teacher and 30 students if you've got the partners, like Stacey was saying, from the real world. It makes such a different classroom. So in our classrooms one of the things we tried to do was train students to become experts so that they could train other students to be experts.
And so they became sort of coteachers and they off-boarded some of the difficulty and in making sure that that information was conveyed. But they also took some of that responsibility on and became -- and helped drive much more sophistication into the process than would have been possible had I been the sole arbiter of knowledge.
The other thing that we did was we partnered with -- like Stacey was staying, yeah, we partnered with people from some great labs. Former engineers from JPL and MIT came in and worked with the kids and answered some questions I didn't know the answer to. And I thought that was great.
You know, it's -- I think it's really a -- the future I think is -- really needs to be set up in such a way that the teacher is not again the sole arbiter of knowledge that students realize the boundaries can go way past that. And when we set up opportunities in classrooms for students to really reach to things that they didn't think they can do, that's the most ultimately empowering thing.
They get excited about it, they want to continue on in it, they see -- oh my gosh, I can build an underwater robot, and I had no idea how to do that coming into this. And you know, so I think it's about building an ecosystem of collaboration. I think that's going to be the best way to make sure that the new technologies, you know, work well.
And you know, of course there's a lot of different ways to actually integrate technology into the actual project itself. Especially if you focused on, you know, the STEM curriculum, you can take -- you know, Arduino makes a microprocessor that's really small and easily programmable in $20 or $30. And -- so it's very accessible now to get kids doing some really high level projects that weren't accessible before.
So the technology is actually empowering the project itself, not just the way the project is distributed or the communication happens.
MS. McCARTNEY: Can we talk a little bit about what's out there and what needs still to be built? Because we all know a little bit about Khan Academy. So we know that there are brilliant math lessons that teachers can use to flip their classrooms. And there are some curricula for certain subject matters that are being used.
But I'm guessing that industry is going to get very involved now that the Common Core is uniting the 50 states. I mean what do you think are the big -- what are the biggest curriculum-development needs out there?
MS. CHILDRESS: Yeah, John, you should start your -- because I know you wrestle with this every day in your school, and then we can add some color.
MR. DANNER: Maybe an example of why this market is the way it is would be helpful to people. So we started 5 years ago. For the first couple of years we were just trying to figure out what we were doing. And then about 3 years ago we really started to focus more on the technology. And I was in the tech world before. And so I guess I assumed that there'd be some reasonable stuff after 30 years of education technology.
And I was pretty horrified just in general at the poor quality of the curricula that I was seeing for grades K through 5. And so after 9 months of searching, we found this program that we really liked. It was called DreamBox. It was a kindergarten through fifth grade math program.
And we got very excited about it because it was the kind of program that when a kid got stuck, instead of just, like, beating their head against the wall it would ask questions about what maybe they didn't know that were prerequisites to what they were being asked. So if they were working on two-digit addition and they couldn't do it, it would ask, you know, can you do one-digit addition, can you carry two numbers.
And if one of the answers to that was no, they'd go back and do another lesson on that and then work the child back up to the original lesson. And for us that was a huge uh-huh moment. You can't imagine a teacher with 25 or 30 kids in the classroom doing that in real-time for all their kids. It was just impossible. So we were very excited.
And we got a call kind of out of the blue from a lead engineer at that company one day. And he said, hey, I have some bad news, we're going out of business. And we said, what do you mean you're going out of business, you're the best product in the market. And they said, yeah, but you know, in education people don't buy stuff necessarily because the outcomes for the kids are the best.
They buy based on price or relationships or all these other things, so we're not sure we can make it work. And fortunately, you know, and since I'm in Silicon Valley and many of my friends are entrepreneurs, everybody really said to me, oh, the market will take care of things, it'll work. And this was a prime example of why the market in education technology just doesn't work in any rational way.
And so one of our funders, Reed Hastings, helped me. And we -- he bought the company and we kind of put it back on its feet, built a team. And now it's doing very, very well, doing millions and millions of dollars of business. But that's an indication to me of exactly how difficult it is for innovation to happen in technology, in education, because the way that things are sold is so difficult that the companies with the biggest sales forces were not the companies with the biggest -- the best product.
So I think that's just an indication of just leading up to your question why this is so difficult. So we got one we like, DreamBox.
MS. CHILDRESS: DreamBox is a great product.
MS. McCARTNEY: So what else is needed?
MS. CHILDRESS: So --
MS. McCARTNEY: Are they good for language?
MS. CHILDRESS: As John said, so DreamBox is terrific. There are some other products out there that are emerging as well in some of the -- some compete directly with DreamBox in some of the other grades. But this challenge of a marketplace that works -- so good markets -- markets work best when there's great transparency of information all around, where you have some common definitions of what high performances or what performance is, high or low.
And the markets takes that information into account, and you know, lots of disinterested actors make decisions based on that information. And so this is a big challenge.
And so one of the roles that philanthropy can play, at least for a time, is to try to find some of those soft spots in the marketplace where good information is not flowing, where great innovators get to a certain point and then hit a wall, and try to find ways to strengthen the market at least for some period of time, in the hopes that over time that market incentives get kind of realigned around performance such that the commercial incentives get aligned better with performance and the commercial sector can then, you know, carry the innovation and scale of those products and services over the long haul.
So there are a number of philanthropies, including our sort of thinking about that right now, but it's really hard because you don't want to do too much and squelch good market incentives where they exist. But you also want to make sure that things like, you know, the DreamBox story stop being so frequent, because they are.
So one way to do that -- there are a few that we thought of and probably many more that others a lot smarter than me will think of -- is to run, like, challenges and competitions around soft places in the market where we have information from great entrepreneurs like John that are running schools, that are trying to incorporate these technologies and really reinvent the instructional process, not just bolt them on in addition to things, but really reinvent the way school gets done with technology, find out from John and the others like him what do you have that you like, what can you just not find that works for your kids.
And then shining a spotlight on that with philanthropy and putting some money on the table that says, hey all you innovators out there, are all of you companies that are kind of struggling along that have a -- you think you have a product that solves this problem, it's just that everybody doesn't know about it yet, let's get on this problem together.
And so that's one way philanthropy can help. Another is one of the performance challenges is a more complicated one, which is how do you get that performance information about products like DreamBox and others like it and things that actually are working on a common level-playing field in terms of data and the distribution of that information writ large.
And you know, the data in all these different products are locked up inside those different products. The data about students inside a school are sometimes locked up in two or three different data systems -- forget about the content --
SPEAKER: -- or a couple dozen.
MS. CHILDRESS: -- or a couple dozen that don't even talk to each other. And so you've got folks like John who are starting these schools and his great school leaders and these learning lab facilitators who are having to literally, guys, print out big binders of paper-based reports from multiple data systems, multiple products and trying to make sense of that to figure out what each kid might need next.
Again, almost an impossible task. Somebody on the panel said this morning that sometimes technology has actually made the problem harder rather than easier. This is one of -- this is an example of that. And so another thing that philanthropy can do is try to address that challenge in a number of different ways.
One way that Gates is working on with the Carnegie Foundation right now -- you mentioned it earlier -- it's called the Shared Learning Collaborative. We've signed up a bunch of states -- nine states actually, five that are kind of fast movers and some districts within those states to adopt a common data platform. And that data platform doesn't just capture data that would be one more data silo that we don't need.
But it's actually an interoperability layer where data from lots of different source systems -- student information systems, attendance systems -- these different technology products all gets transformed into a common data model and gets made available by student by student by student to teachers, to those kids' parents.
And if the schools authorize it, it can be made available to learning applications like DreamBox and others that'll have much richer information on those students. As students move through these products, their common data record, their digital backpack, gets refreshed with that information about what they're doing.
In a world like that -- it will take a while -- but in a world like that with enough usage, with enough products and services available and with enough students using that -- using products that interact with that model, you get a large enough data set for various products such that you can start to do some comparisons head to head and make that information very visible to the marketplace so that suppliers know where their products can get better, where they tend to work better than others and the buyers, whether at the district school or teachers are looking for free things to use on their own, which kinds of things work better for which learners.
It's just not the world we live in right now. It can take a 3-years longitudinal randomized trial with a sample size of 40 to get you any data. And by that time it's really too late, you know, that's -- that you're 3 years of fifth graders beyond where you needed to be. So infrastructure plays like that are also a big area of need.
We're doing one, as I said, in collaboration with Carnegie and a bunch of other partners. But there is opportunities like that, I think, laying all across the education space. I think we have to get serious about that problem, by the way, because just more learning technologies and more courses and more Khan Academies and more great things available without any idea in the world which students they tend to work better for than others and under what conditions.
In 10 years, a bunch of younger people than us will be sitting here at Aspen talking about the next phase of technology innovation and why didn't the last one work. They will be in the same spot.
MS. McCARTNEY: So it seems like you're implying there's a role for research, like, rigorous research. And actually technology makes it pretty easy to do simple A-B experimental designs assuming, of course, you can get teachers and district leaders enthusiastic about doing that kind of research. What are your thoughts about that?
Do you -- how important is it going to be to partner with district leaders to get some of these changes? And how important is it going to be to do this kind of research in order to convince people that, you know, technology isn't just fun, that it's -- it actually brings utility to learning? So kind of two questions. I don't know -- Karl, do you want to --
MR. WENDT: I have a couple thoughts around that. One I think is it's critical that what's happening is in the classroom that the data or the -- the data that's being generated by the technology is being generated in a consistent way and that there is -- you know, there's so many different variations that can affect whether or not this program or this project or this particular provider's technology is beneficial.
MS. McCARTNEY: Can you explain to the audience about just the enormous amount of data that can be collected? Because I'm just learning about this myself through EdX at Harvard.
MR. WENDT: Well, it's tremendous --
MS. McCARTNEY: I mean it's every mouse click, right?
MR. WENDT: Yeah. I mean anything -- now that everything's being digitized, everything can be collected. If the students going online and they're -- instead of the time that they spend staring at their textbook before where you're not really recording anything, now you're recording how long it's taking them to do each problem, you're recording how long they're looking at the screen, you're -- I mean you could potentially record basically every aspect of the school day.
MS. McCARTNEY: Yeah.
MR. WENDT: And so all that data can be -- you know, is great but it's super complex and it's hard to find a way to meaningfully interpret it. And so as -- especially as a teacher, you know, you want to make sure that you have enough creativity and you can try things differently and do things differently. You don't want to get boxed in.
But if you do things differently enough, then is the data that you're generating not going to support the greater good. And so I think there's a genuine tension there and --
MS. McCARTNEY: Can people hear us over the rain?
SPEAKER: (Off mic.)
MS. McCARTNEY: A little louder, maybe?
SPEAKER: (Off mic.)
MS. McCARTNEY: Yeah, I don't know if we can turn up the sound -- a little bit they're saying to me.
MS. CHILDRESS: I think when he turns up the sound we hear the rain go -- and the sound of the rain --
MS. McCARTNEY: Yeah.
MS. McCARTNEY: We will --
SPEAKER: It's picking it up --
MS. McCARTNEY: We will speak very loudly here.
MS. McCARTNEY: Hopefully this is one of these Colorado rain showers that doesn't last too long.
MR. WENDT: But I think -- just very quickly -- I think to get back to what John and Stacey were saying, I think there is a huge opportunity for creating a streamline data platform, at least a base-level platform. You know, obviously there needs to be a opportunity for flexibility and interpretation and stuff. But as long as the -- that flexibility interpretation are documented and that base-level platform is robust enough --
MS. McCARTNEY: Yes.
MR. WENDT: -- I think you can really begin generating data sets that will allow you to look at -- okay, this program is actually really moving the needle and this one isn't. And certainly look at how things are being implemented, whether the implementation is the cause or whether it's the actual program itself.
MR. DANNER: I want to just bring up another thing that kind of goes to that flying car analogy. I actually think that we probably are not going to be very good at predicting how some of this is going to go on. I want to give an example. So you know, Rocketship, we have our learning labs, we have, you know, computers that are kind of web-based.
And in the learning lab we've kind of watch the iPad come along. And then there's all this hype about well, every school should have an iPad and we were huge cynics of that. But one of the things that happened was that Apple made a reasonable business model for somebody creating a little curriculum that kids could use, kind of direct to parent, direct to home.
It wasn't a good one. I mean you don't see a lot of people making a ton of money, but at least there was some way to get started. And so what started to happen is that every week or two somebody tells me about a new application on there that they're really excited about. So last week was this application called DragonBox. And DragonBox is an algebra game.
And it was apparently invented by a guy in one of the Scandinavian countries who had a child the right age, who was frustrated that in his child's classroom they'd been doing all this algebra, didn't make any sense to the kid. He was a mathematician and he couldn't figure out what they were talking about either. So he said, why don't I just make a game that teaches my child algebra.
And it's this amazing game. I was an engineer by training and so I like math. And this game kind of -- you know, algebra basically is balancing things on either side of the equation until you got x on one side and all of the stuff -- other stuff on the other side. You do that by subtracting things out until you get there, right? So it's not actually as hard as we make it look.
And this guy had done it with pictures to start with and then evolved into symbols. So I thought well, that's pretty cool. And I was enjoying playing the game actually. And my 9-year-old daughter came in and she said, what are you playing. And I said it was DragonBox thing. And she spent 2-1/2 hours on it and learned algebra. And I gave her paper and pencil algebra questions after that and she got them all right.
And I thought, you know, I think we spend, like, a year teaching algebra in the classroom. So we don't think eighth graders are quite capable of learning algebra. And then you get these things where it's not the way anybody would do it in a classroom. But it's, like, 100 times better at actually teaching kids.
So I think we're going to see a huge amount of these really disruptive things come into play now that frankly as a school we still don't exactly know what to do about that and how to include DragonBox in what we do in learning lab. But you know, that's tough luck for us is what I'd say because I think that if kids are learning more through applications like that, then education will change to match whatever works.
MS. McCARTNEY: In the two sessions on education technology that I've been able to attend, the question of whether technology is an equalizer or a divider has come up. And with respect to a divider, I think people have been worried about access to technology. But I think there's more to worry about than just access to whether or not you have the handheld device and -- whether or not children choose to sit -- I mean your -- I'm thinking your daughter chose to sat down. She's probably in a tech-rich home environment.
MR. DANNER: That's safe to say, yes.
MS. McCARTNEY: Yes, safe to say and other children aren't. So still, differences in home environments, differences in socialization could come into play. This movement is just getting started. How do we make sure we do it right so that it does become a force for good for kids?
MS. CHILDRESS: Yeah, it's a great question. And as you said, it's one that has been wrestled with on other panels here. I think one part of the solution is to make sure that as the focus on getting in-school experiences for students more personalized and rich in order to meet the Common Core expectation that technology -- technologies that we know something about are really visible to school leaders who are trying to create those environments and get them into those classrooms.
Because you know, schools like John and -- you know, we had 60 applications in the last 6 months for new school startups from different school entrepreneurs who want to be John Danner, who want to start the next Rocketship.
MR. DANNER: Bad idea -- don't be me.
MS. CHILDRESS: Bad idea -- start the next Rocketship completely focused on low-income communities. So every single one of these school applications of which we'll -- you know, we'll help launch 20 of them, are focused in the communities where the -- were at most at-risk for missing or kind of exacerbating the gaps both in terms of resources and achievement.
So I think one is making sure that as the public conversation about what's going on in low-income schools and how do we get kids at all different readiness levels toward mastery of Common Core that the kinds of tools that we know are starting to come into use in some of these more Leading Edge schools are made very visible to the, you know, 80 percent of the schools or 85 percent of the schools that are still inside districts and who are still working in those constrained environments.
But one of the promises of the product -- I think Ted might have said this on the panel earlier -- is there's a kind of unequalness -- inequity that can happen that's actually quite positive in these products, which is, every student starting right where they need to start based on all of the things that they bring to the learning experience both their, you know, core prior academic skills and their socialization and behavioral skills that they bring to the learning moment that if the kind of innovation John's talking about really takes off, those kinds of conditions and characteristics can be taken into account in the creation of new learning environments that are technology-enabled, that really help the kids that need to accelerate, accelerate even faster but still can -- still grasp that deep mastery, which like John said, we're just kind of at the beginning of starting to see things like DreamBox.
The Reasoning Mind is another example of one of these that works well in some contexts. And there's a long way to go. I mean we're -- have become aware, as I know a number of people here have, of a learning technology from another sector that has just produced unbelievable results for young adults that have -- that come to a task with a pretty broad range of readiness.
So some of you may have heard the story -- the company is actually called Acuitas (phonetic) and the learning technology they created was through a DARPA grant for the Navy. The Navy has this challenge of needing to prepare new sailors to take on IT jobs on ships. And it turns out that's getting harder and harder and harder to do because new recruits coming into the Navy just through the regular recruiting process on average have math and literacy skills below the eighth grade level.
If you think about -- it's not -- it's a devastating fact, but if you think about it it's not so surprising. If you think about who's signing up to go into the Navy when they graduate from high school or when they don't graduation from high school and get their GED, it's not so surprising that as a general population that group of new recruits might have math and reading skills on average that are really low.
It's a huge challenge for the Navy, for the armed services in general, but for the Navy in particular because of all the STEM-related jobs that they have. And so the Navy's taken this head on.
And so the project that they commission was to -- is there a way through technology to get these new recruits that have really low readiness for these kinds of jobs to a point where they both get the prerequisites they need and train for the job of being an IT systems administrator on a large ship as quickly as or more quickly than we do it through our live instruction and at a price point and a retention level that's better.
The results have been astounding. So they've been through a few rounds of this. They really started with doing it live one-to-one tutoring. So some of you may be familiar with the research of Benjamin Bloom. You're all probably familiar with Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning which goes from, you know, the lowest level of kind of recognition through synthesis.
But Bloom also wrote a paper in the '80s where he synthesized all the available literature on the affects of one-to-one instruction. And basically what he found was in all of the studies, all of them randomized control across subjects, a student who received one-to-one instruction as their primary method of learning as opposed to a group instruction and that was mastery-based, those students performed -- his term is 2 Sigma.
Basically what that means is on average students that get a one-to-one instructional experience perform better than 98 percent of the students that experience group instruction. That's what 2 Sigma means in that context. So the Bloom problem was, is it possible to get those one-to-one results in a way that's more possible and feasible than really one-to-one teacher and student, which is just impossible from a cost and manpower perspective. We just can't do it.
And so technology, as a response to that challenge, is actually a really exciting one. And so in this Navy experiment what they found was once they went through a few versions of this, 18- and 19-year-old new naval recruits, brand new, went through this, you know, 16-week training process that was mostly a digital tutor that had built -- been built on what the best experts in the world do in live instruction.
They created a digital tutor to do the same things. And they put -- the test was putting those new recruits through a bunch of simulations that experienced IT sys admins on these ships would also go through. So in the simulated testing the new recruits did two and three times better than 3-, 5-, 7-year experienced naval IT systems administrators that were already serving on ships.
They went through another round, optimized the tutor even more. And in this last round the new recruits, again 18- and 19-years old, 16 weeks of training on the tutor, they decided to do live trials on ships. So 3-, 5-, 7-, 10-year experienced systems administrators on a team against this team of new recruits that had gone through the 16-week training on live trial.
So they simulated on the ship real problems with the technology system and these teams had to solve them. The new recruits blew away the 3- and 5- and 7-year experts and matched the 10-year experts. There were a couple of problems that the experts never solved that the new team did. So just this amazing -- you were saying, John, just a new way of thinking about how you get students from a low level of performance and readiness to mastery very, very quickly.
Now, there are a whole bunch of things about that scenario that don't apply to an eighth grade classroom. There's a job at the end of this -- you're in the Navy now so it's, like, this is what you have to do now, right. So there are a bunch of motivational things that are different about that context than an eighth grade classroom.
But well, what if there's something in that technological innovation and experiment that if it took into account from the beginning of its transfer into education, took into account the actual context of an urban classroom in a middle school -- sixth, seventh and eighth grade -- and built all of that in and tried to see if it were possible to create some kind of heavily technology-supported learning experience through simulation of a bunch of real-world contexts?
If you could get students who come in at the fourth, fifth, sixth grade level of mathematics instruction readiness in the seventh or eighth grade, what if you could get them to algebra by the end of eighth grade with a level of proficiency that showed they could score -- I don't know -- with 700 on the SAT math exam?
Not the best proxy, but it's one, and it ain't so bad since it is used as a ticket of entry to a lot of colleges. What if we could do that? We don't know if we can do that, but it's a really exciting prospect. And that company and others that create those kind of technologies are stepping up to the plate.
And so we're talking with lots of other kind of co-supporters of those kinds of initiatives and starting to see if we can get some projects like that off the ground so that maybe in 8 or 10 years the conversation isn't about how do we integrate these things in the classroom so that teachers embrace them, but that you have these technological breakthroughs that are so mind-blowing and that people run toward them and embrace them and that they've built in from the beginning of the innovation the constraints that exist in the environment in which they'll be deployed.
I think it's a really exciting time because those kinds of innovations have popped up in lots of other sectors. And so getting those pulled in for the students we care about most and that are really the future of the country is, I think, a really huge potential over the next, say, 5 years.
MR. WENDT: I think -- just to build on that, I think one of the things that's going to be critical is what's the endgame for the student. So when they're doing that, is it a live trial against experienced, seasoned guys where we get to prove ourselves, or is it the algebra test at the end of the semester.
MS. McCARTNEY: Right.
MR. WENDT: So I think if we can create those endgames where the students are really involved and they're, like, oh my gosh, I didn't realize I could build this robot or I could do this project or whatever it is, I think that's going to be the key to taking us to the next level.
MS. McCARTNEY: And even at High Tech High did you see individual differences among students in their willingness to run towards the technology? Were some more reticent or --
MR. WENDT: Yeah, definitely. I mean there were a lot of students -- I mean the school I taught at was actually High Tech High Media Arts and there were a lot of students that went there for the art program more than they did for the technological aspects.
And so the interesting thing was the -- it was very similar to the -- to that group I think in some ways in that when the students started building things with technology and they realized that they could do it -- you know, you have -- I'd had some students that didn't know how to use a cordless drill when they first started.
And once they figured that out, they're like, oh my gosh, I can do this and they get excited and they're like, oh, that's great. And so then they would begin to move to the higher and higher levels of sophistication. And some of the students that were the most interested in science and technology were the ones that started thinking that they had -- would have no part of it because it just wasn't something they were good at or they didn't -- they couldn't see the point of it.
So a lot of times, I think it's that being able to flip that switch is sometimes even more powerful than if they come in and they're, like, I got this, you know, it's cool, I know math, I can do this.
MS. McCARTNEY: Right.
MR. WENDT: And so I see that as being a huge opportunity as -- that come from behind and win a lot of times are the students that continue on in those careers.
MS. McCARTNEY: Well, I think it's time to open up the questioning to members of the audience. I believe we have folks with microphones who are going to be running up and down the aisle. So why don't we start with a question in the back? Because it's going to be easy to get a microphone to you.
MR. ROSS: Can you hear me? Yes. I'm Bob Ross. I'm from Oklahoma and I'm CEO of a private foundation. We're starting a charter school in downtown Oklahoma City and wanted to get any advice you all may be willing to give, one or two points. It's going to be mixed students. It's in Oklahoma -- it's a unique partnership between Oklahoma City Public School district and a group of us.
And so it's going to be kind of a private/public partnership, but it will be a charter school. So you don't have to follow any of the rules. We've got tons of money but -- and we've got -- and 2 years until we open. So we got a 2-year ramp up. So what's your advice?
MR. DANNER: Go blended from the start. Don't back in to being a blended school. Start with a blended model because having the classroom in the learning lab is important. One of the things we didn't talk about is that that also works economically so that when kids are in the learning lab they're not with the teacher so you have fewer teachers at your school and you can put more resources into the things that would make any school better.
Frankly, you know, where we put a lot of money in it is into the way we engage parents and work with parents and a lot of money into the way we develop teachers and school leaders. And you know, I always say to other educators we save about half-a-million dollars each year because of this learning lab because there are not teachers and salaries and benefits in classrooms.
It's about half-a-million dollars. And I would say to other educators, you know, if somebody gave you a half-million-dollar check every year for your school, you could probably make your school a lot better than it was. And you know, that's just one of the big advantages of doing blended schools. And so we often deal with people who have been running their school for many years and then realize those advantages later and then have to make the shift. That's a lot harder.
So my number one advice would be do it from the start not just for the individualized education but because you can then use money to make the rest of your school better and it seems to be a positive feedback loop.
MS. McCARTNEY: Okay. Next question. Okay, in the back.
MR. MEYER: Sorry. Dave Meyer (phonetic). I'm a history teacher and just wondering what the -- as a teacher I'm really, really eager to improve what I do. But I want to know what you think are the most efficient and effective places for me to go, information to find, to use so that I can bring technology that will actually improve my students not just bring technology because technology exists.
MS. CHILDRESS: Yeah, it's a great question. So this is what we were talking earlier about the lack of transparency in the market. Like, this is a huge challenge. If your grade teacher is ready to embrace technology, where do you go to find information about the best tools to use? And there aren't a lot of good answers to that.
One suggestion, there is an organization called EdSurge -- I don't know if you've heard of EdSurge. They do a couple of things. One, they have a newsletter that goes out weekly and they really -- they have one now just for teachers called EdSurge-instruct.
Behind that weekly newsletter is a website that they're building out that has a bunch of products and some editorial ratings where they've gone out and talked to -- they took the top -- they took the 25 most frequently used products in schools like John's and they went out and talked to the school leaders like John and the teachers using them and have written some editorial reviews of them. So that's one place.
Another place I know -- Jim from Common Sense Media snuck in a little while ago. So Common Sense Media. They're also working on this problem -- how do you get great information about education -- learning technologies into the hands of parents and teachers and educators. But outside of that, you know, it's -- it is difficult to find that aggregated information.
Another place just to kind of keep your eye on if you're not a regular reader of Ed Week -- it's kind of a traditional, you know, industry paper. But they've got a new innovation channel, they call it, where they're doing much more writing about the emerging learning technologies that are out there. So they're becoming more and more kind of in the learning technology space, as well a good information source.
MR. DANNER: The other thing I would say to that just to check out Edmodo.
MR. DANNER: So it's a very interesting company. Reid Hoffman was speaking at lunch, one of the ones that he's invested in. And the basic idea is to give the teacher kind of a platform for doing assignments and kind of managing their class discussions online. But one of the things they did a couple months ago is to release an API that would allow different curricula to kind of work within Edmodo.
And I know it mostly from the perspective of people that have been building curricula. Apparently, the uptake has been pretty dramatic among teachers that they're finding things within that that they find really useful. So I don't know history per se. But I do think that Edmodo has kind of got a pretty neat formula for curricula-funding.
MS. McCARTNEY: And now we have a question right upfront here. Let me know if there are any questions back -- okay, I'll get you next.
MR. YAGER: Thank you. My name is Brian Yager (phonetic), I'm a K to 12 educator in San Antonio, Texas, and a HGSE graduate, '99. And I actually want to challenge you all a little bit. I've been to about every session here that I can on education. And it seems to me most of the conversation presented by panel have been on elements of technology that are automated tasks to allow for some pretty significant transformation of delivery in the process in pedagogy and all that.
But the only thing I've heard about in terms of a new technology that is delivering education to the different layers, what you just mentioned, which was Dragonzee (sic)?
MR. DANNER: A DragonBox.
MR. YAGER: DragonBox. And I want to challenge -- what other new technologies are out there that won't just automate learning but deliver it in a way that it's heretofore been impossible. And you talked, I know, yesterday with one of the panel with the --
MS. McCARTNEY: With the games.
MR. YAGER: -- with the games, yeah, and the Glassnet (phonetic). And so a little bit about that but also other things that might be out there that are in the pipe that they could really transform not just automated type of education but changing the delivery and all sorts of possibilities.
MS. CHILDRESS: Yeah. And Brian, you're right. And I know you have some (inaudible) but the -- this is what we were saying earlier on. I think we're at the front-end of -- at the really early, early stages of that. We got things at, like, Khan Academy which -- where Karl is going as of Monday to work -- which are good, right.
They're great. But it's -- right, it's automated lesson delivery and exercise. You know, I think the DreamBox and Reasoning Mind get a little more toward what you're talking about and then some of these things that we've talked about as being kind of really early stage development process.
But this is what I was saying earlier -- if we don't pay more attention to that and get too caught up in the automated delivery of our current pedagogical model and only think about technology as a way to do basic skills and free up teacher time -- which is a very valuable thing -- but if that's all we focus on, I think we'll really miss some possibilities because of the advances of learning technologies in other sectors.
And this willingness for a whole bunch of reasons because of U.S. competitiveness in Common Core to start to think differently about how to get kids to a whole new level of learning and mastery of really rigorous content that, you know, this is the big -- I think this is the big next challenge.
Can we do more than just automated -- more than just deliver automated basic skills and classroom management tasks, all of which is great, but can we really do the breakthrough kind of investment in the kinds of innovations that can really just blow the game up? I think it's the right question to be pushing on. Do you know of specifics?
MR. WENDT: Well, I guess I was going to say a couple of things. One, you know, there are a number of different e-portfolio platforms out there that in some ways can allow you to categorize student information and things like that. You know, Google provides Google sites and you can use that to organize things.
But they do allow -- if you're -- if you want to take some time, you can actually do a fair amount of creative things with those, like, you know, student feedback surveys and parent feedback surveys and you can aggregate -- you can get all that information and put it together in a spreadsheet. And I found it really useful for -- from a standpoint of being able to have an archive of the work so that the next class learns from the previous class. And so that's one example.
There are a number of different e-portfolio technologies that are out there. I don't know that they necessarily get at exactly what you're talking about. But I did find in doing some research with that and having used some of those that they really did allow the students to sort of collaborate in new ways. The parents could get involved and collaborate in different ways. And it did condense the amount of time that was spent communicating.
MS. McCARTNEY: Okay. We have a question right upfront here.
MR. AMBROSE: Yes, I'm Dean Ambrose (phonetic). And it occurs to me that we have several million people that are under -- are not being employed today. And I hear that most of those people, if they had the skills, would easily be employed. How can you apply this type of technology to get these people educated? Am I making myself clear?
MS. CHILDRESS: So you're talking about the current workforce?
MR. AMBROSE: The current workforce.
MS. CHILDRESS: Millions of unemployed people who -- their skill set doesn't match the open --
MR. AMBROSE: Correct.
MS. CHILDRESS: -- the many open jobs that are -- that companies are unable to fill? Yeah.
MR. AMBROSE: You restated it.
MS. CHILDRESS: Yeah.
MS. McCARTNEY: So do we need --
MS. CHILDRESS: It's a great question.
MS. McCARTNEY: -- online courses to help people become better online?
MS. CHILDRESS: Yeah. It's a good question. I think part of the silence you're seeing here, it's not the core of what any of us are working on. So we don't have ready examples for that, but --
MR. DANNER: So I want to kind of answer that question. One of my friends who I was with last week helped to get an organization called Year Up to the Bay Area. And Year Up is a East Coast organization. And they really focus on helping kids who've kind of, you know, almost made it through high school.
They spend a year with them, they help them to get their GED, they do job placements for them and teach them job skills, you know, simple things like how to shake hands, things like that. And I was talking to him about it and I thought, now, this is really strange. So they have this mechanism by which they're doing this which we would all say, good, that's -- we need more of that.
And you know, I come from Silicon Valley. And in Silicon Valley right now we're one of the few places where, you know, we don't really have an employment problem. We've got an under-employ -- you know, a over-employment problem or a lack of workers. And we talked about it. And you know, one of the examples is that Silicon Valley needs a whole bunch more QA engineers -- quality assurance -- the people that test products.
It's not sexy or glamorous. And most, you know, engineers don't want that job or want to move out of it. But for this set of kids if you have proper training, they can move into that. And so we started to talk about, you know, what would you do online to help them learn some of these skills because it's not that difficult.
And so I think that as we get clear on some of these sets of folks and where they want to go, then the actual creation of kind of, you know, digital media and content to do some of that stuff, I don't think it's actually nearly as hard as anything we've traditionally done in education. You know, traditional education doing a lot of things by hand.
You got to retrain people, all that stuff. So I think that once the problems are better identified, we'll start to build better and better courses. And they kind of get better as you build them up as opposed to spending all your time retraining people. So I have a lot of optimism that that will actually happen.
It's true, though, that for some reason, you know, kind of K-12 and higher ed kind of went first on this stuff. But it seems like a golden opportunity to really pick off some sets of folks that have been displaced and some areas where they could get training. I know I was up in Seattle probably visiting you. I can't remember.
But Boeing has something like 3,000 kind of semi-technical jobs that they're looking for that they haven't filled for, you know, years basically. And so when you listen to the Boeing CEO he's, like, you know, this is the problem. And so I have these things, it doesn't take a Ph.D. to get these jobs, but it takes some skills.
So it just seems like matching these -- the people who need it with the companies that need it. There's a huge opportunity to do that better than we're doing it, I think.
MS. McCARTNEY: Okay. And the blue.
MR. HUME: My name is George Hume. I'm from San Francisco. I throw this back to the schools of education. What -- and we've got this whole huge cohort of teachers out there who are not particularly digitally literate. How are we going to retrain them and what are the schools of education doing to turn out a cohort of teachers who can teach in a new manner?
MS. McCARTNEY: I think that's a really good question. I'll just tell you, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, we have about 13 different tracks for people in the master's program, one of which is teacher education. And my bet is we could be doing a better job there. But one of our programs is technology and education.
And a lot of the people who are in that program are teachers who are getting retrained for your -- at the School of Education. So I think the best answer is professional development either within higher education or outside of higher education. That's a -- it's a great question.
It's a great question that's going to go away, though, because our children are all digital natives. They really are. I don't know how many of you use your children as tech support, but I will confess that I am one. I will confess --
MS. CHILDRESS: It is true that the newer -- you know, the one terrible thing about the teaching profession is the high rate of turnover in the first 5 years.
MS. McCARTNEY: Yeah.
MS. CHILDRESS: But a benefit, silver lining of that is the kind of the refreshing of the next wave every year gets more and more technology-literate. So we do need to make teaching a much more exciting and doable job for folks so that they stay for longer. But as more teachers come out of universities and in the teaching job, certainly they are much more technologically literate.
MS. McCARTNEY: Five more minutes and we'll try to get in as many questions as possible. Yes, back there. Yes.
MS. JOYNER: Okay. So I'm Candace Joyner and I'm with the Bezos Scholars. And my question is what do you think is the next step the public education system needs to take to become more tech-savvy and produce the optimum endgame for the student.
MS. CHILDRESS: How would you -- can I ask you a question?
MS. JOYNER: Yes, go ahead.
MS. CHILDRESS: How would you define --
MS. JOYNER: I --
SPEAKER: (Off mic.)
MS. CHILDRESS: I know -- my old life. How would you define the optimum success for a student?
MS. JOYNER: Optimum success -- as a --
MS. CHILDRESS: Isn't that what you said at the end?
MS. JOYNER: Yes.
MS. CHILDRESS: Yeah.
MS. JOYNER: The optimum endgame. So --
MS. CHILDRESS: Optimum endgame -- what is that?
MS. JOYNER: Producing a student who is ready for the -- their next step in life.
MS. CHILDRESS: Okay. Great. Good.
MS. McCARTNEY: So reaching potential as a learner -- do you have thoughts about that?
MR. WENDT: I mean I think that there's a certain amount of authenticity in -- that we need to bring in to the classroom. So I think there's a certain practicality. And I think when you solve problems in really abstract formats, it gets difficult when you get out of school with -- especially if you're really successful at that transition into a world where things don't have clear fill-in-the-blank answers, you know, they're much more nebulous.
So I think that integrating more of the real world, fuzzy, difficult, sometimes creative and less abstract stuff would be a key step in doing that. I know I'm not really giving you a very specific and concrete answer. But I think that's a general direction.
MS. CHILDRESS: Right. So I -- I love this question because this is the whole reason I'm doing what I do. So I think one thing our education is not -- system has not done well for decades is help students reach their individual full potential. That the system is constructed to get everybody do about the same place, by about the same time. It was a noble goal. I mean it was a deliberate goal and a system was structured around it.
It's just not one that serves us in the new economy very well or in the 21st century very well. And so for me, I think the focus on personalization -- I want to make sure, really clear about what that word means to me and to my team at Gates. We don't mean isolation. We don't mean kids sitting by themselves getting only what they need next, and you know, to hell with everything else because we're going to focus on this isolated student.
"Personalization" means that every student has an opportunity to be met exactly where they are in terms of their academic readiness, their social-emotional readiness, all of that, and receive the kind of learning experiences on their own with caring adults, with their peers that really maximize their ability to master really high, challenging content and also focus on things they care about and are interested in.
And so that in the mastering of important content skills they're working on things that mean something to them and figuring out a way. It's a hard challenge, because that's not the way the system is set up now.
But if we can do a few things from a policy perspective, from an entrepreneurship perspective, from an investment perspective, to get the system reformatted around -- what does every single learner need every day and how can the rest of us that are trying to support teachers and the adults that care about them and support them in the doing of that.
I think that's how we get to a place that really does -- as you said -- what you say, optimize every student's potential in a way that unleashes the innovation and creativity and success of the next generation and the next and the next. And we won't be talking about how do we prepare students to compete in the next economy.
We'll be talking about are we preparing -- yes, we're preparing the next generation to create the next economy that none of us can even imagine what it looks like now, even as we couldn't imagine, you know, 20 years ago or 10 years ago flying cars versus Internet in the 1960s. Just -- the next generation and the one after that and the one after that will be prepared to over and over and over recreate.
And I think without getting to that point where learning is much more targeted at what students and groups of students need to be working on together and solving hard problems together, it's very difficult to imagine getting to that place.
MS. McCARTNEY: Well, I think ending on the point where we're thinking about reaching our potential as learners is maybe the best place. Thanks to all of you for being with us. And please join me in thanking our panelists.
* * * * *