ASU+GSV: Education Powers The American Dream

About 2000 edupreneurs, investors, and advocates gathered on a warm Phoenix afternoon for the launch of the ASU+GSV Education Innovation Summit (#Edinnovation).  Only a few hours old, we have a lot to share from an extraordinary lineup of speakers.

Bridging the Gap. Rob Waldron of Curriculum Associates moderated a panel of 4 esteemed thought leaders, Phil Bronner, CEO and Founder of QuadLearning, Kevin Chavous, founder of A Voice for America’s Children Frances McLaughlin, President of Ed Pioneers and Jourdan Sorrell  of the University of Chicago, who contributed their ideas on how to shrink the learning gap that is so evident especially when you get into schools that serve our at risk students.

In the discussion, these four shared their experience of what has worked to help at risk students bridge the achievement gap in their experience. Frances McLaughlin has observed that there are classrooms and schools proving that at risk kids can succeed and we need continue the work around determining teacher effectiveness.

Many schools that are succeeding are charters and now public districts are using charters as models to try something new.  Today, the education sector is attracting new organizations and bringing people with very different backgrounds to the table.

Kevin Chavous believes the key is the mindset/culture that gives the message that ALL kids can learn. Phil Bronner, works to partner with the community colleges to offer honors colleges and provide advising within Community colleges to students who would otherwise not have access to such support.

There is a lot that works- the problem is how to  scale what works.  Jourdan Sorrell is working to provide “mentors across a lifetime”  because of the research around how important  the after school time is for students. By being matched with a mentor using the software developed by University of Phoenix, Mentoring the 100 Way, and standardizing the way that mentoring works.  Using adaptive technology like Revolution Prep, mentors  help students prep for SAT, ACT – improving scores for these students.

Overall, the panel pointed to edtech as the tool to improve how we work with at risk students, but also to make sure they are being served appropriately –  if kids need to get out of the special ed system, it’s as important for digital technology to identify that as it is for it to serve the kids who struggle.

School Through Kindergarten Eyes. Jamie Casap views today’s edtech through the eyes of five year old, realizing that today’s devices are the worst version of technology these students will ever see! Someday they will be buying iphones from a vintage store for fifty cents, laughing with their friends about how they remember their parents having to charge that device everyday. To understand where we are headed, this is a great perspective to take.

Our new economy and our systems of education do not match up. In today’s world, it’s no longer the information that is so valuable- information is free and cheap- and we all have it. Today it is what you do with that information that matters.

Privacy. Karen Cator, Digital Promise, lead a discussion of privacy on the same day that Iwan Streichenberger announced that he would be winding down of inBloom given all the privacy hysteria around the data shop.

Privacy hysteria has launched more than 92 bills in state legislatures–some are well intentioned, some are politically motivated, few are well informed or well written. As noted in February, it’s quote possible to make school a zone of privacy and innovation but many proposed bills overreach and would eliminate the potential to personalize learning.

Cator asked, “Is is possible to build a safe app? Iwan said, it’s very hard and complicated.

Aden Fine, Chief Privacy Officer at Edmodo, said it takes a multi-layered approach.

Culatta warned that in the zeal to keep data from vendors, states were going to eliminate functionality, “We need to be really careful that we outlaw use of tools that parents and teachers want.”  Some proposed legislation would bar parents from downloading and using information and block schools from sharing student gradebooks for students moving to another school.

Iwan found it lonely responding to early privacy concerns over the last two years. The panel agreed that EdTech took a defensive posture without adequately enumerating the benefits of personalized learning and effective communication.

Fine noted that federal law (FERPA and COPA) provides privacy protection. The national EdTech Director Richard Culatta said it was time to update the laws which didn’t contemplate the app explosion we’ve witnessed in the last 48 months. For that reason, his colleague  Kathleen Style, Ed.Gov Chief Privacy Officer, released privacy guidelines in March (available at the  Privacy Technical Assistance Center).

Sponsors of the flood of privacy bills held a summit in DC in March touting privacy bills that block personalization. The feds discussed guidelines that recommend district approval of everything teachers use in the classroom–that may have worked five years ago but after the mobile inflection of 2010 when viral resources exploded, there’s no way to block teachers, parents, and students from finding and using digital content and services that work. There is no way to add a Chief Privacy Officer to all 15,000 school districts. A  centralized approval process, in the viral adoption era, isn’t realistic or effective.

The answer is a combination approach that starts with voluntary standards that signal to teachers, students, and parents compliance with best practices. Districts and networks could continue to make some enterprise wide choices and could ask teachers to use tools compliant with best practices.

Games. Speaking about the productive uses of data, UW prof Zoran Popovic described his “interested in games that get smarter over time.” That (and other uses of anonymized data) could be be made illegal if new privacy bills like CA SOPIPA are enacted.

Games are a critical strategy for engaging students said Jessica Lindl, Glass Labs. She said engagement declines from about 80% in elementary to 60% in middle grades to 40% in high school. Zoran has learned that games can make a big difference in learning–especially when combined with support from a teacher.

Elizabeth Stock of CFY and PowerMyLearning (see feature) led a discussion about scaling learning games. Bror Saxberg, Kaplan CAO, described the benefit of scale that allows him to run dozens of randomized controlled trials to figure out what works.

Constance Steinkuehler, UW-Madison, said games can be good way to teach those  hard-to-assess 21C skills, “It not really about games doing effectively what we’re already doing, it’s about doing hard and important work.”

Student Access.  Evan Marwell of Education Super Highway is spreading the message that none of this can happen if students don’t have reliable access to the internet. Currently,only 37% of schools provide enough bandwidth and that adds up to only representing 25% of our country’s students.  Only 9% of schools upgraded their bandwidth this year, which is to slow of a upgrade pace to make a difference. The FCC is modernizing eRate and it is time for schools to advocate for themselves in order to ensure strong internet access for all students.

Return on Education. Mike Moe described a century of American innovation in almost every sector except education. But for the first time in this country there is no social mobility. Now that the majority of students in 18 states live or near poverty, it’s more important than ever that we provide access to excellence.  Moe said that won’t happen by spending more money, it will be a function of innovation, the sort of non-linear solutions transforming other sectors.

As the cost of computing and data storage goes to zero and access to broadband and devices explodes, new capabilities gain ”huge reach in breath taking speeds now.” Freemium business models allow users to gain access to great services–like the 275 million of us that use Dropbox–before considering premium options.  Peer to peer business models are expanding options in how we catch a ride, get a loan, or crash on a trip.

In this new world, said Moe, “It’s about what you know, not where you go; it’s about knowledge not college.” It’s about lifelong learning, said Moe, “Students need continual opportunities to fill up their knowledge tank.

Moe suggests that impact and investment, efficacy and economics, are on the same page in education. He posits that it makes good sense to invest in companies with have the biggest potential for educational impact.

Nation on the Rise. Gov. Jeb Bush was introduced by former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. Echoing the conference theme focused on the American Dream, Bush said, “If our people are not rising, our nation will not rise.” The challenges are complex and the solutions need to be comprehensive said Bush.

“Instead of excuses, we should be focused on engaging every child in our education system,” said Bush. During his keynote, he honored the work for newly retired Julie Young and Florida Virtual School calling the school a national brand.  FLVS has served over a million students and does not receive full payment until students finish the course. “Julie is the godmother of digital learning,” said Bush.

Bush mentioned three examples of innovations that are delivering value to teachers and students. As principal at E.L. Haynes in Washington D.C., Eric Westendorf saw teacher knowledge and ability confined to a single classroom. He launched a video channel that became LearnZillion and is shared by teachers nationwide.  Remind101 lets educators text reminders to millions of students (can cc the parents) and raised 15 million this year to continue expanding.  Edmodo, a third example of viral value, is a safe social learning platform now used by 34 million students and teachers in 100,000 schools in the US (and 230 million worldwide).


Curriculum Associates, FLVS and Edmodo are a Getting Smart Advocacy Partners.

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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