Bay Area Leading the Learning Revolution

Computers, then smart phones, then tablets changed how we engaged the world.  Medical technology extended and entertainment technology enriched our lives.  Energy saving technology made our lifestyles more sustainable.  Bay Area entrepreneurs developed many of these disruptive technologies.
New York and Boston are home to the publishers; metro D.C. is home to the giants of learning online.  But the Bay Area is poised to lead the learning revolution.
San Francisco is home to innovating philanthropies including New Schools Venture Fund and the Stupski, Hume and Fisher foundations.
Silicon valley giants Apple, Google, HP, and Intel powered the personal computing revolution that is beginning to transform schools.
Bay Area startups are demonstrating the promise of personal digital learning.  A few years ago Sal Khan put simple tutorials on YouTube for his cousin and now a half a million students watch Sal’s tutorials every month.
Oakland’s New Tech Network supports a national network of high schools that engage students in high tech projects.  Rocketship elementary schools in San Jose extend the day and personalize instruction with a computer lab.
Bay Area nonprofits including Monterey Institute, Curriki, CK12, and OER Commons are leading the open content revolution.
Seed investors like Mitch Kapor and a new incubator, ImagineK12, are helping edupreneurs get off the ground.  Learn Capital, where I’m a partner, has invested in several startups with Bay Area presence: Edmodo, Desmos, Formative Learning, Verbling, Chromatik, and School Tube.
This week, the Foundation for Excellent Education is hosting their National Summit on Education Reform in San Francisco.  At last year’s summit former governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise released Digital Learning Now—what one supporter called “The constitution for the revolution.”  This week, the co-chairs will release a scorecard for each state against the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning.  The foundation also released a Roadmap to Reform, detailed advice for state policy makers.
For the Bay Area to become the epicenter of the global learning revolution, California needs to be more startup friendly (see Erica Douglass’ letter, California, I’m leaving you, here’s why). Many business analysts (like this one) rate California’s business climate among the worst states in the country for startups.
On many dimensions, California education is also behind most states.  California should follow the Roadmap and remove barriers to digital learning.  Given the concentration of talent and resources, there is no reason that the Bay Area shouldn’t lead the global learning revolution.

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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1 Comment

Randy Weiner

Hi Tom!
Perhaps one more example of Bay Area Leadership? My team and I just won approval for Urban Montessori (, a public Montessori & Design Thinking Skills charter. Urban Montessori is Oakland's first public Montessori school, and, to the best of our knowledge, the nation's first Montessori and Design Thinking program.


Tom Vander Ark

Thanks Randy. Sounds like a great place for kids!

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