Adaptive Content: Game Changing Technology

Philanthropy Roundtable is usually a ‘no-solicitation’ zone but I had the opportunity to make a 4 minute pitch for a big idea–here’s a summary of “New Tools, New Schools, New Investment Vehicles”

Problem Global gap in access to quality secondary education

  • More than 500 million young people worldwide lack access to quality secondary education including millions in urban USA

Expensive and ineffective

  • Virtually no productivity improvement despite a substantial increase in investment; 2x in the USA over the last 15 years
  • Print-centric batch processing of age cohorts is boring, ineffective, and unproductive
  • Highly encumbered decentralized system can not meet objective of all students college/career ready
Opportunity Engaging personalized digital learning

  • 2nd gen digital content is engaging and personalized-a big improvement over flat and sequential 1st gen content
  • Powerful application development platforms and social networks are making development less expensive and delivery personalized
Thesis Game changing productivity

  • Engaging personalized adaptive content will provide first significant change in learning productivity
  • Personalized learning enables staffing & facilities productivity in environments that blend the best of online & onsite
  • 90% students/families want/need physical school setting
Solution Venture portfolio of tools & schools

  •  Innovative adaptive learning tools

o   Facebook-like customization/networking

o   World of Warcraft level engagement/customization

o   iTunes U lectures & videos from the world’s best

  •  Hybrid formats that blend online/onsite learning

o   High Tech High meets K12

o   Potential for 2x staffing & facilities productivity

Partnerships Philanthropic & private capital with public space to innovate

  •  For-profit biz models encourage speed, scale, and quality
  •  Foundations have long time horizons and can mitigate risk
  •  Local, state & federal government creates space to innovate
  •  Advocacy efforts to shape public will and public policy
Evergreen Profit recycle creates evergreen impact potential

  •  Philanthropic investment in supporting org at NSVF
  •  Profit recycle creates long-term large-scale impact potential


Engaging personalized learning and blended formats will create

the first significant productivity gains in worldwide learning

Tom - Speaking Engagements

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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