The second day of the Virtual School Symposium was packed with great sessions.  But as often is the case, one of the best sessions of the day was a hallway chat on the six elements of next-gen learning platforms:

  1. Widget rich social learning platform that makes it easy for teachers to customize learning for groups of students (and groups of teachers)
  2. Engaging content tagged to Common Core: objects, lessons, units, and adaptive sequences; both open and proprietary
  3. Data warehouse that extracts key elements from the flood of key stroke data from learning applications (games, sims, virtual environments, adaptive sequences, etc)
  4. Comprehensive learner profile that accepts input from after-school, summer-school, tutoring, test-prep and informal learning providers and has facebook-like privacy management profile
  5. Smart recommendation engine that develops a customized multi-modal instructional playlist for every student
  6. Aligned services support students (eg tutoring), teachers (eg, PD) and schools (improvement services)

Development of platforms with these elements is like to cost more than $250m, and that will require 1) aggregated demand of >2m students, 2) a consortium of private vendors, and 3) philanthropic investment to mitigate risk and promote equity.

Tommy Bice, deputy state superintendent of Alabama, got the day off to a great start.  He described a 21st Century School as:

  1. A place where learning is the constant and time the variable
  2. a place where student progress is measured by proficiency
  3. a place where schedules are varied based on individual student needs
  4. a place where demography doesn’t determine a child’s destiny

And he finished with a great quote:

We can, whenever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of importance to us.

We already know more than we need to do that.

Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.

Tommy said, if you’re operating on that basis, “proceed until apprehended.”

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