Where is EdTech making a difference?

A friend asked me where EdTech is making a difference for kids, especially low income kids.  Here’s my quick list.  I’d love to hear more examples. 

1. AdvancePath.com runs 9 blended drop out prevention centers, 8 in CA, with good results serving under credited kids.  Decidedly first gen; they use mostly Apex.  More broadly there are hundreds of credit recovery programs using (first gen) digital content including Apex, NovaNet, Compass, Catapult, Plato, etc.  These are reasonably effective and give us reliable hope that second gen (engaging, personalized) content will improve persistence, motivation, and achievement.
2. largest SES provider in TX is Read & Succeed; uses cell phone to stream personalized content; give us a picture of what iTunes U could do with personalized audio/visual to PDA (see last post).
3. largest/most successful learning network is World of Warcraft; 10m people daily have an experience tailored by skill/interest; give us some sense that virtual worlds with productive ends will be part of the learning landscape (Tabula Digita, Muzzy Lane, Worlds.com are early entrants)
4. Edu Facebook; early applications of social networks gives us reliable hope that learning networks will provide peer to peer learning (eg, Grockit.com); ARIS (Wireless Gen) in NYC combines social network, knowledge mngt, performance mngt; dozens of start ups are supporting lesson plan, teacher learning, and professional connections.  
6. Ubiquitous broadband and cheap netbooks and rapid application development platforms are well past the point where we can provide 1:1 with powerful tools–and for less than textbooks. 
7. Great schools like www.HighTechHigh.org make effective use of tech tools to support projects and portfolios.  See recent feature on Edutopia.  
8. New Options: Most states allow virtual learning for some/all course taking; about 2M kids will be learning online this fall in several new formats (virtual, blended, and in traditional schools)
You can also argue the counterfactual; we’ll never close the teacher gap.  We’re doubling math requirements and don’t have half the great math teachers we currently need–we won’t close that gap anytime soon.  Our only hope to augment great teachers is engaging adaptive content and digital delivery.
Inevitable, powerful, disruptive–better, faster, cheaper.

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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