robertogreco + altschool   19

Disengaged by Design: The Neoconservative War on Youth - Long View on Education
"So, my broad argument is that no, students are not disengaged because schools are stuck in the past, but because schools are caught in the present strong current of policies that constantly re-shape and re-design schools – and life more broadly – to civically and politically disengage youth. To wage a war on them."



"So what’s the war on youth?
Peterson is an example of what I have in mind when I talk about the ‘war on youth’, a phrase which comes from Henry Giroux. In the neoconservative attack, youth are triply marginalised because it is claimed:

• they don’t know anything
• they are ‘fragile snowflakes’ and ‘play victim’
• they are dangerous to free speech (read: dangerous to the identity politics of wealthy white men)

These attacks are always racist and sexist, directed against people who are poor and the most marginalised and vulnerable.

The war on youth is an attack on class:

Tuition fees, re-introduced by Blair in 1998 at £1,000 pounds, tripled in 2004, at which point Michael Gove called people who objected “fools”: “anyone put off from attending a good university by fear of that debt doesn’t deserve to be at any university in the first place” (Finn, p. 7) Tuition fees then tripled again ten years later to over £9,000.

The war on youth is an attack on the differently abled:

Guardian 2013: “…the charity Contact A Family suggests that some schools are regularly making unlawful exclusions. The charity’s survey of over 400 families of children with disabilities or additional needs found that 22% are illegally excluded once a week and 15% every day (for part of the day).”

And the war on youth is an attack on people of colour:

Schools week Oct 2017: “School exclusions data shows that pupils from black Caribbean backgrounds are three times more likely to be excluded than white pupils, at a rate of 0.29 per cent compared to a rate of 0.1 per cent. Pupils from Irish traveller or Roma/gypsy backgrounds have the highest rate of exclusions of any ethnic group, at 0.49 per cent and 0.33 per cent respectively.”"



"So why call all these attacks ‘neoconservative’?

As Michael Apple argues, neoconservativism is about two things: a “return” – British values, authority, testing, high standards, patriotism – and it’s also about a fear of the “other.”

In an interview with Spiked about “the crisis of authority of the classroom,” Tom Bennett says there is a “chronic” “crisis of adult authority” in the broader culture and classroom, and he believes children want a restoration of adult authority because they are “waiting to be told what to do.” He is concerned that not teaching about “cultural legacy” might “endanger civilisation.”1

In fact, according to Stephen J Ball, the Coalition government and Gove married a lot of neoliberal and neoconservative doctrines. Typically, neoliberals emphasise the free market and privatisation without the explicit agenda for cultural reform (a return to British values). They also typically place more emphasis on global competitiveness that neoconservatives do through their future proofing agenda. But, Gove wove these two strands together.

In both cases, neoconservativism and neoliberalism form a narrative about who is valuable. As Lord Nash said about British Values (2014) “A key part of our plan for education is to ensure children become valuable and fully rounded members of society.”

What would it mean to be a non-valuable member of society? To be a surplus, disposable? To have no hope in a meritocracy?

The overarching narrative that connects the global education reform movement – Gove in the UK, to the OECD, WeF and the Davos crowd – is one values human capital. If schools can produce better human capital, the GDP rise and country will prosper.

The human capital narrative also privatises responsibility: If you fall out of work, it’s up to you to up-skill your human capital. Gert Biesta has pointed out how the right to lifelong education was replaced in the early 1990s with a responsibility for lifelong learning. Of course, as Thomas Piketty points out, humans aren’t literally capital – and he doesn’t use the phrase – unless you are talking about chattel slavery.

Now, in that context – an obsession with improving human capital, the human stock – and the neoconservative framing of society as a level playing-field, a meritocracy, the resurgent of a neohereditarian obsession with the genetics of IQ begins to makes sense."



"In Creative Schools (2015), Ken Robinson acknowledges the “blight of unemployment” that affects “young people that have done everything expected of them and graduated from college” and even that many graduates are underemployed in jobs that don’t require a degree. But rather than conclude that the economy has broken the agreement, Robinson blames schools – and youth. “There is an ever-widening skills gap between what schools are teaching and what the economy actually needs. The irony is that in many countries there’s plenty of work to be done, but despite the massive investments in education, too many people don’t have the skills needed to do it.”

The debunked idea that there is a ‘skills gap’ further marginalises youth – it turns them into an economic problem rather than source of hope. Moreover, framing the purpose of education – even creative education – so strictly in the confines of what businesses demand is short sighted and alienating.

But I do want to leave you with some reason for hope, and I think it’s located precisely where the ‘factory model’ idea about schools misses an important reality.

If students were really being disengaged by ‘factory model’ schools, in effect, kept down and repressed by a school structure that hasn’t changed in 150 years, then the reactionary force of neoconservatives like Peterson would make no sense. They’d have nothing to worry about if kids were being trained to follow instructions and take their place in an industrial hierarchy. But people like Peterson are worried precisely because youth are critically engaged in ways that might actually topple hierarchies. Schools and classrooms might in some – and perhaps – many cases be places for radical hope.

The more neoconservatives think we are doing something dangerous for youth, the more we know we’re on to something."
benjamindoxtdator  2018  neoliberalism  latecapitalism  schools  education  youth  class  race  racism  ableism  eugenics  getbiesta  economics  humancapital  rocketshipschools  altschool  stephenball  tombennett  cathynewman  daviddidau  meritocracy  stefanmolyneux  tobyyoung  johohnson  siliconvalley  kenrobinson  charlottechadderton  neoconservatives  neoconservativism  henrygiroux  michaelgove  stephenjaygould  richardvalencia  dominiccummings  benvandermerwe  jamesthompson  andrewsabinsky  jimal-khalili  barrysmith 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Teach Like They're Data - Long View on Education
"The same NYT article contrasts Altschool with the “boot-camp model of so many of the city’s charter schools, where learning can too easily be divorced from pleasure, and fear rather than joy is the operative motivator.” But what will Altschool – the platform – look like when it is exported to public schools where the cost of teachers and space matter? Given that “AltSchool’s losses are piling up as it spends at a pace of about $40 million per year“, it’s not hard to imagine that the more desirable aspects of Altschool’s flexibility will be only be available for purchase by the wealthy.

As one example of how the implementation of the platform might carry negative consequences in public schools, consider the Altschool’s use of cameras to gather surveillance. According to Business Insider, “Cameras are also mounted at eye level for kids, so teachers can review successful lessons and ‘the steps leading up to those ‘ah-ha’ moments,’ head of school Kathleen Gibbons said. Some children use them as confessionals, sharing their secrets with the camera.”"



"Since Ventilla’s platform is marketed as a way to customise education to children, and a less-expensive alternative than hiring more teachers, we should be most concerned about its implementation in schools that are under-funded and where communities are under-served.

Paul Hirschfield has documented the different effects of surveillance in schools “even when implemented under the same federal funding initiative.” Surveillance becomes “disparate and unequal,” especially when it interacts with the racism that drives exclusionary discipline policies. While “surveillance methods that are popular in largely white towns and suburbs appear designed to affirm and preserve student individuality and dignity,” the same is not true in the ‘bad neighbourhoods’ with exclusionary discipline techniques, metal detectors, and the police."



"Yet, if neoliberals have succeeded in appropriating the discourse of change, in part this is because the power to act as a consumer has resonance in the face of entrenched failures of the welfare state model and administration of public education, particularly in cities.”"



"In their keynote at Digital Pedagogy Lab, ℳąhą Bąℓi مها بال and Chris Gilliard argue that platforms embody an extractive politics that has deep implications for how we treat each other as people we can ‘extract’ work from. As we bring extractive platforms into the classroom and normalise surveillance, Emmeline Taylor argues that we create a destructive ‘hidden curriculum’. Some schools have rotuinzed finger printing students so that they can access services, such as meals in the cafeteria."



"This objectification of children is also nothing new. I spend a lot of time thinking about the similarities between personalisation, the Silicon Valley solution to education, and manualisation, the drive to find ‘what works’ & implement ‘no excuses’ policies. Just because the Silicon Valley version comes with bright-rubber iPad cases and bean bags doesn’t mean that it’s not about the control of children and the deprofessionalising of teachers to the same extent as Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion – different mechanisms and packaging, same result. Children become objects of control and surveillance, and adults give up professional autonomy to platforms and manuals. As Lupton and Williamson argue, “learning analytics platforms appear to displace the embodied expert judgement of the teacher to the disembodied pattern detection of data analytics algorithms.” This platformisation only defers the dreams of emancipatory education, perhaps putting it out of reach permanently, given that it’s backed by billionaires with an agenda to reshape the world."



"“Altschool Open” – the name of the platform that Ventilla wants to market – openwashes itself: it is neither free nor open-source. As Martin Weller argues, like ‘green’, “’open’ has acquired a certain market value and is worth proclaiming.” And in what we might then call empowerwashing, the Altschool website tells us that their platform is about “Using Technology to Empower People”: “AltSchool tools make insights actionable, super-powering teachers to do what they do best.”

The openwashing of Ventilla’s platform matters at a deeply pedagogical level because much of what is called ‘open’ is in fact black-boxed. Suppose that the Altschool platform delivers up a playlist based on its representation of your child. What mechanism is there for understanding how that decision came about and for contesting it? As Frank Pasquale argues, the extent to which algorithms are black-boxed and protected as trade secrets “makes it practically impossible to test whether their judgments are valid, honest, or fair”; “black box methods are just as likely to entrench a digital aristocracy.”

In an interview with John Battellle, Ventilla tells us that “you don’t leave a place like Google to do something hokey and small.” We should indeed be worried about an entrenched digital aristocracy overtaking education. Battelle asks: “You have raised over $100 million, so when you’re pitching to the big money, like Andreessen or Founders Fund, and you’re saying, “Here’s the total addressable market,” is it the US school system?”"



"It’s easy to keep track of the overt authoritarians, but wrapped in the language of ‘choice’, platforms become insidious. Ben Williamson has exposed the deeper structure of the political economy:
“Silicon Valley has successfully juxtaposed the student-centered progressivist philosophy of homeschooling on to its technocratic vision; it has latched on to the U.S. charter schools agenda to launch its own startup schools; its interests are integrated into prestigious teaching and research centers such as Stanford University; it has generated new entrepreneurial apprenticeship programs and fellowships through its philanthropic donors; and it has become entwined with the therapeutic culture of self-help training curricula associated with behavioral economics.”

In his book Disruptive Fixation, Christo Sims draws an important lesson from his ethnography of a school in New York that venture philanthropists designed to give kids the kind of engaging education they thought would prepare students for economic success. The philanthropists focused on “newly available means”, such as digital technology and game-based learning, but that focus “tended to fix reformers energy and attention on what they could foreseeably control and transform with these new tools.” Thus, “seemingly cutting-edge philanthropic interventions” often “help sustain and extend the status quo.”

As educators, our job is not to nod along with the Silicon Valley reformers, but to look beyond what the edtech billionaires fixate on, to ask about the sacrifice zones, and engage with the community voices that have long been frustrated. Maybe we can reclaim the idea of platform as a verb, something we offer to people so we can better hear their voices, instead of something we can purchase to feed students into."
benjamindoxtdator  2017  altschool  education  schools  learning  children  surveillance  paulhirschfield  discipline  neoliberalism  mahabali  chrisgilliard  emmelinetaylor  objectification  siliconvalley  technology  maxventilla  douglemov  deborahlupton  benilliamson  empowerment  open  openwashing  martinelle  greenwashing  behavior  economics  behavioraleconomics  personalization  manualization  disruption  christosims  edtech  philanthropy 
november 2017 by robertogreco
When Silicon Valley Takes on Elementary School - Note to Self - WNYC
""We have an opportunity to do what we want - choose our path instead of the teachers making a choice for us."

Meet Piper, a blond, freckled 9-year-old from Brooklyn who talks like a seasoned grownup. She used to go to public school with Manoush's son but now - with the help of financial aid - she's enrolled in a new experimental school in her neighborhood: AltSchool.

AltSchool is not your typical private school. Its founder is Max Ventilla, a former Google executive with a vision to reform education. Ventilla's company, with over 100 million dollars from investors like Mark Zuckerberg and Marc Andreesen, uses tech to teach and track students' social and academic skills. Ventilla's idea is that over time, that data can build a more thorough picture of each student and determine how she is taught. This method of "personalized learning" (think Montessori 2.0) is being prototyped in eight "micro-schools" in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and New York City, with the goal of applying it to schools everywhere. Manoush went to visit one in Brooklyn.

NPR's education reporter Anya Kamanetz is skeptical of Ventilla's goal to optimize education for the masses, and she's concerned about Silicon Valley's foray into education. "They have a giant promise, which is that the right software system, the right operating system, is going to transform teaching and learning... and, what it ultimately means is that they have shareholders to satisfy."

This week: can a tech startup engineer a better system for learning everywhere and make money doing it? And would these two tech reporters/mothers send their own kids there?"
altschool  manoushxomorodi  education  2016  maxventilla  technology  schools  microschools  brooklyn  anyakamanetz 
october 2016 by robertogreco
what Thomas Hardy taught me | Fredrik deBoer
"Never mind that the idea of salvation through technology is the hoariest old cliche in the history of education, stretching back to the fear among the educated classes that the invention of the printing press would render education obsolete. Never mind that the radio was sure to change teaching forever, or that the television was too, or that the VCR was, as was the personal computer. Never mind that I still hear people talking about what the internet will surely do for the schools of the future, despite the fact that we had the internet in our classroom when I was in junior high school 21 years ago, the school of the past. Never mind that one of the most easily predicted outcomes in educational research is that a highly-touted educational technology will result in no meaningful difference in learning gains. Nope: it’s the same old shit. We’re better and smarter than those other guys who told you that they were better and smarter than the guys who came before them. Our jargon is newer and better. Gamify the cloud with synergistic flipped classrooms that take an active learning approach to emergent technologies and the internet of things. Our app has flavor crystals. Rinse and repeat, now and for forever.

A piece like this makes you realize the real tragedy of this (profitable, and thus perpetual) fantasy of remaking education is that its progenitors are guilty of precisely what they accuse others of: a complete failure to think of education outside of a narrow, restrictive framework. Mead refers to the educational vision on offer here as utilitarian, and I suppose it’s that. But I would argue that the current orthodoxy about education — which, make no mistake, all these proud free thinkers clearly share — is fundamentally mechanistic. That is, it presumes that there is a basic correspondence between particular inputs to a student’s learning and straightforward and clearly-defined outputs in a student’s outcomes. So you teach a student division, and they’ve learned division, and nothing more; you teach a kid to code (in a language that will be obsolete by the time they reach even undergraduate education) and they learn to code (a skill that will be largely automated by the time they reach middle age) and that’s why you bother to do it. And you don’t teach them to read poetry or to dance a waltz because you can’t get a job troubleshooting Geico’s android app with those skills. Everything is a simple and uncomplicated matter of what you put in and what you put out, and the value and importance of what you get out depends entirely on what’s taken seriously by the staff at Wired magazine."



"In a very real way that was the moment when I contemplated the world outside of my own subjectivity in a genuine and mature way. And like so many other important ideas, its consequences continue to spool out in my mind for years to come. It multiplied complexity; it introduced patterns of thinking and difficult questions that I had never thought to consider before. It deepened my mind in more ways than I can express. And yet the value of this insight, in any conventional educational assessment you can name — and I say that as an expert — would be nil. This understanding, which has been central to my development as an adult intelligence, would not factor into any assessment of my academic aptitude. We do not have instruments that measure this kind of learning and we never will.

Now: I don’t and can’t represent myself as anyone’s definition of a human success. And I’m not interested in making this about the rigor or quality of my research or my field. But I can say that, by the typical benchmarks of educational success, I have performed well. I graduated from high school, finished a bachelor’s degree, and went on to two graduate degrees. I’ve performed very well on standardized tests, both state-run assessments of educational progress and entrance exams like the SAT and GRE. I’ve been published in major newspapers and magazines. I’ve written a major policy position paper for a respected think tank. I’ve been published in peer reviewed journals. If you want to get neoliberal about it, I’ve gotten jobs and earned something like the median income. Again, this is not about representing myself as some sort of great success story, but rather just to establish that I have had the kind of academic outcomes that policy makers, members of the media, and parents say they want.

Yet on the level of thinking of our Silicon Valley overlords, aspects of my cognitive abilities that are absolutely central to my educational success are taken to have literally no value at all. In educational research, perhaps the greatest danger lies in thinking “that which I cannot measure is not real.” The disruption fetishists have amplified this danger, now evincing the attitude “teaching that cannot be said to lead to the immediate acquisition of rote, mechanical skills has no value.” But absolutely every aspect of my educational journey — as a student, as a teacher, and as a researcher — demonstrates the folly of this approach to learning."



"The point is not that the humanities, or the liberal arts, or the deeper concepts and values of civilization, or whatever only have value because of how they support more narrowly-remunerative skills. The point is that these deeper values and these monetizable skills exist in relationships so deeply intertwined that they are permanently inextricable from one another. And the utter folly of disregarding those traditional aspects of education that can’t be immediately tied to skills you list on your Monster.com profile is one we and our children will pay for, for generations. I have no doubt that we will come in time to learn again the absolute necessity of learning that goes beyond the rote skills we currently perceive to be important, that someday people will learn to again see the utter necessity of humanistic thinking. But such understanding will only come after we have allowed deluded privateers to wring every last dollar out of our educational system as they strip it of all learning that has a function other than training more efficient little capitalists.

Albert Einstein was obsessed with music. Would he have been a better physicist, or a worse one, had he spent the time he devoted to music and the other arts on what we now call “STEM subjects”? It’s an absurd, pointless, unanswerable question. What matters is that Einstein was a full-fledged human being, and enjoyed an education that permitted him to be that, and that took the creation of such full-fledged human beings as its central mission. And if we only have the courage to devote ourselves to that project, too, the rest will sort itself out in time."

[See also: http://blog.mrmeyer.com/2016/silicon-valley-v-the-liberal-arts/ ]
freddiedeboer  humanities  altschool  education  pedagogy  teaching  learning  howwelearn  measurement  2016  automation  complexity  economics  politics  rebeccamead  edtech  howweteach  unschooling  deschooling  labor  capitalism  neoliberalism  whywelearn  thomashardy  alberteinstein  stem  interdisciplinary  silos  rotelearning  rote  disruption 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Learn Different - The New Yorker
"Students at AltSchool are issued a tablet in pre-K and switch to a laptop in later years. (For now, AltSchool ends at the equivalent of eighth grade.) When I visited a mixed classroom for second and third graders, most of the children were sunk into their laptops. All were engaged in bespoke activities that had been assigned to them through a “playlist”—software that displays a series of digital “cards” containing instructions for a task to be completed. Sometimes it was an online task. Two children were doing keyboarding drills on a typing Web site. Their results would be uploaded for a teacher’s assessment and added to the student’s online Learning Progression—software developed by AltSchool which captures, in minute detail, a student’s progress.

The curriculum is roughly aligned with the Common Core, the government standards that establish topics which students should master by the end of each grade. But AltSchool’s ethos is fundamentally opposed to the paradigm of standardization that has dominated public education in recent decades, and reflects a growing shift in emphasis among theorists toward “personalized learning.” This approach acknowledges and adapts to the differences among students: their abilities, their interests, their cultural backgrounds.

A girl in the class was completing an offline task—reading a book about polar bears. A boy lay on his stomach on the carpeted floor, headphones on, using a Web site called BrainPOP to learn how to calculate the perimeters of basic shapes. “Two out of five!” he shouted at one point, as oblivious of those around him as a subway rider wearing earbuds and singing along to Drake.

Not all the activities were solitary. Two girls sat together, laptops before them, using Google Images to scroll through pictures of seals for a social-studies assignment; occasionally, they paused to compare notes. Every so often, a student spoke with the teacher, a young woman in jeans and a loose top, her iPhone tucked under her thigh as she sat on the carpet. One girl had been using her laptop to research castles—an area of sustained interest. She and the teacher discussed princesses and castles, and whether they always went together. “That’s a good question,” the teacher said, and then asked, “Does America have princesses?”"



"At the same time, educators at AltSchool are discussing whether children really need to attain certain skills at particular stages of their educational development, as the Common Core implies. Seyfert thinks that it might be more useful to think of learning not as linear but as scrambled, like a torrent file on a computer: “You can imagine all the things you need to learn, and you could learn it all out of order so long as you can zip it up at the end, and you are good to go.”

Like other AltSchool teachers, Seyfert was drawn to the startup because of its ambition to make systemic change. Two or three times a week, she told me, she gives colleagues feedback about the school’s digital tools. The Learner Profile, Stream app, and other tools are only about a year old, and AltSchool’s personalization still requires considerable human intervention. Software is updated every day. Carolyn Wilson, AltSchool’s director of education, told me, “We encourage staff members to express their pain points, step up with their ideas, take a risk, fail forward, and fail fast, because we know we are going to iterate quickly. Other schools tend to move in geologic time.” (Ventilla may question the utility of foreign-language acquisition, but fluency in the jargon of Silicon Valley—English 2.0—is required at AltSchool.)

Ventilla told me that these tools were central to a revised conception of what a teacher might be: “We are really shifting the role of an educator to someone who is more of a data-enabled detective.” He defined a traditional teacher as an “artisanal lesson planner on one hand and disciplinary babysitter on the other hand.” Educators are stakeholders in AltSchool’s eventual success: equity has been offered to all full-time teachers."



"Some education advocates are wary about potential privacy violations that might result from data collection on the scale intended by AltSchool, particularly given that AltSchool is a for-profit company. (Most independent schools are not-for-profit institutions.) These concerns could complicate the adoption of AltSchool software by public school systems. Ventilla says that there is no intention to use AltSchool data for commercial purposes, and that AltSchool can gather data in a way that will respect a student’s anonymity. Only salient moments in the classroom videos are saved, he says, and most are not even stored. “I would never want to record all the things a kid says and keep them around,” he said. But he added that looking at vocabulary-acquisition patterns in aggregate could provide teachers with valuable information that will help them teach each individual more effectively. “The collection of any kind of data is not free,” Ventilla acknowledged. “But the alternative is the incredibly invasive, inaccurate standardized-testing regimen that we have now, which comes at a lot of cost, psychic and otherwise, and doesn’t provide nearly the amount of benefit that we want.”

Daniel Willingham, an education scholar at the University of Virginia, told me that adopting technology in schools can be maddeningly inefficient. “The most common thing I hear is that when you adopt technology you have to write twice the lesson plans,” he told me. “You have the one you use with the technology, and you have the backup one you use when the technology doesn’t work that day.” Willingham also notes that the most crucial thing about educational software isn’t the code that assesses student performance; it’s the worthiness of the readings and the clarity of the math questions being presented onscreen. “People are very focussed on the algorithm,” he said. “But equally important is the quality of the materials.”

The gap between AltSchool’s ambitions for technology and the reality of the classroom was painfully obvious the morning that I spent in the Brooklyn school. One kindergartner grew increasingly frustrated with his tablet as he tried to take a photograph of interlocking cubes that he had snapped into a strip of ten. (He was supposed to upload the image to his playlist.) He shook the unresponsive tablet, then stabbed repeatedly at the screen, like an exhausted passenger in a cab after an overnight flight, unable to quell the Taxi TV.

Even when AltSchool’s methods worked as intended, there were sometimes questionable results. The two girls whom I watched searching for seals on Google Images found plenty of suitable photographs. But the same search term called up a news photo of the corpse of a porpoise, its blood blossoming in the water after being rent almost in half by a seal attack. It also called up an image in which the head of Seal, the singer, had been Photoshopped onto a sea lion’s body—an object of much fascination to the students. To the extent that this exercise was preparing them for the workplace of the future, it was also dispiritingly familiar from the workplace of the present, where the rabbit holes of the Internet offer perpetual temptation."



"There had been some bumpy moments for the Palo Alto school, which opened last fall. One family left after concluding that there wasn’t enough homework. Other parents wanted to know the curriculum in advance—an impossible demand in a school dedicated to following children’s interests. A look around the classrooms confirmed that for some children the ability to follow their own passions reaped rich dividends. I observed the kindergarten-and-first-grade classroom during afternoon “choice time,” and saw two children separately involved in complicated long-term projects. A seven-year-old boy with an avid interest in American history had built a dining-table-sized model of Fort Sumter out of cardboard—he was painting black-splotch windows on its perimeter. He had also composed a storybook about Paul Revere, which was vibrantly written, if impressionistically spelled. Another seven-year-old boy had undertaken a physics experiment, building two styles of catapult out of tongue depressors and tape. He was measuring their power with the help of a yardstick affixed to the wall, and recording the data in a notebook. The AltSchool environment—and an inspiring young teacher named Paul France—had liberated these children’s individual creativity and intellectual curiosity in just the way that the parents of a potential Elon Musk might hope.

The boys’ classmates, however, had made less demanding use of their choice time, and this had apparently allowed the teaching staff to provide the necessary support for the more ambitious projects. Four boys were seated on the floor making primitive catapults with Jenga blocks. Half a dozen girls had chosen “art creation,” and were sitting around a table affixing stickers to paper and chatting. One girl had opted to work in clay. But no students had chosen to engage in dramatic play, or to work at the light table, or to do jigsaw puzzles—options that were displayed on a wall chart. The remaining eight children—six boys and two girls—had selected “tablet time.” They were sitting around a table, each with headphones on, expertly swiping and clicking their way through word or number games. Their quiet immersion would be recognizable to any parent who has ever bought herself a moment’s peace from the demands of interacting with her child by opening Angry Birds on her phone."



"When the AltSchool technologists who participated in the December hackathon shared their discoveries at the end of the session, the team that had focussed on bookmarking video seemed particularly pleased with its innovations. The team had decided to try to find a “fun route” to help … [more]
altschool  education  schools  2016  children  learning  pedagogy  amplify  teachtoone  brooklyn  paloalto  maxventilla  surveillance  standardization  blendedlearning  howweteach  howwelearn  automation  technology  edtech  sanfrancisco  gender  siliconvalley  commoncore  standards  brainpop 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015: The Business of Ed-Tech
"Beyond VC Funding

“US education is a $1.5 trillion industry and growing at 5 percent annually,” McKinsey wrote excitedly this summer. Of course, venture capital is just one source of the money that’s pouring into ed-tech. There’s government funding, of course. There’s personal spending. And there’s lots and lots of “philanthropy.”

The Gates Foundation is perhaps the most famous of these philanthropic organizations, having spent billions of dollars pushing various education initiatives. In October, Bill Gates gave what Education Week observed was “his first major speech on education in seven years,” and indicated his foundation would “double down” on teacher preparation and common academic standards.

The other two giants in education foundations: the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.

In September, the LA Times obtained a memo written by the Broad Foundation, outlining its $490 million plan to put half of LAUSD students in charter schools. The memo “lays out a strategy for moving forward, including how to raise money, recruit and train teachers, provide outreach to parents and navigate the political battle that will probably ensue.” It cites several large foundations and California multi-millions who could be tapped for more financial support.

[image: @EdSurge tweet: “Melinda Gates is saying that the role of foundations is to direct where government funding goes #GatesEd"]

And this underscores one of the major criticisms of these philanthropic efforts: they are profoundly anti-democratic. As John Cassidy wrote in The New Yorker earlier this month, “people like Zuckerberg and Gates, by virtue of their philanthropic efforts, can have a much bigger say in determining policy outcomes than ordinary citizens can.”

Zuckerberg’s name is next to Gates’ in that sentence because he has signed the “Giving Pledge,” Gates’ and fellow billionaire Warren Buffet’s challenge to the 1% to give away at least half of their wealth. After the birth of his daughter this fall, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan wrote her a letter (and posted it on Facebook, of course). In covering the contents of the letter, the New York Times got the headline totally wrong: “Mark Zuckerberg Vows to Donate 99% of His Facebook Shares for Charity.” The paper later clarified that it’s not a charity but an LLC – a “$45 billion tax loophole,” some suggested. Headlines from Gawker: “Mark Zuckerberg Will Donate Massive Fortune to Own Blinkered Worldview.” And from Rolin Moe: “You’re Not an Asshole, Mark Zuckerberg. You’re Just Wrong..”

Among the projects that the new Zuckerberg Chan Initiative will fund: “personalized learning” (whatever the hell that means).

Zuckerberg’s interest in such a thing is no doubt connected to investments that he’s already made – in the private school AltSchool, for example. And in September, Facebook announced that it had been working on building software for the Summit charter school chain. “Facebook’s move into education may be unexpected, but it seems to be sincere,” wrote The Verge’s Casey Newton about the collaboration in an article that’s not much more than a “longform expanded version of the Facebook press release.”

Joining Gates and Zuckerberg in venture philanthropy is Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’ widow. Her organization, the Emerson Collective, announced a campaign – XQ: The Super School Project – to get folks to “rethink high school.” 5 of the “best ideas” will receive a share of the $50 million Jobs has earmarked for the project. The Emerson Collective also invested in AltSchool and Udacity this year to give you an idea of what “best ideas” might look like.

“I can conceive of no greater mistake… than that of trying to make charity do the work of justice” – William Jewett Tucker"



"All the Best Ed-Tech Narratives Money Can Buy

All this business. All this disruptive innovation. It’s just magnific… Wait, what? Academic research challenging Clayton Christensen’s famous business school concept outlined in The Innovator’s Dilemma and applied to education in Disrupting Class and The Innovative University and invoked by just about every ed-tech entrepreneur and investor ever? Oh yes please.

Jill Lepore had already skewered the idea in The New Yorker last year. I wrote a little something on the topic back in 2013.

But now, as The Chronicle of Education wrote in September,
a new paper, the most extensive test yet of Christensen’s theory, may prove more difficult to dismiss. Andrew A. King, a professor at the Dartmouth College business school, and Baljir Baatartogtokh, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, spent two years digging into disruption, interviewing scores of experts, trying to determine whether 77 of Christensen’s own examples conformed to his theory, studies involving big names like Ford, McDonald’s, and Google, along with lesser-known makers of blood-glucose meters and blended plastics. Only a tiny minority – 9 percent – fit Christensen’s criteria. Disruption is real but rare, King and Baatartogtokh conclude, which suggests that it’s at best a marginally useful explanation of how innovation happens.

King says he’s not out to take down Christensen, although that may be what he’s done. Instead, he wants to prove a point. “A theory is like a weed,” King says. “Unless it is pruned back by empirical testing, it will grow to fill any void.”

Much like the business of ed-tech…"
philanthropy  philanthrocapitalism  capitalism  siliconvalley  audreywatters  2015  edtech  education  charities  charitableindustrialcomplex  corruption  policy  billgates  gatesfoundation  facebook  markzuckerberg  priscillachan  power  influence  democracy  melindagates  williamjewett  charity  justice  technology  johncassidy  rolinmoe  zuckerbergchaninitiative  broadfoundation  elibroad  altschool  summitcharterschools  udacity  emersoncollective  venturephilanthropy  vc  disruption  disruptiveinnovation  innovation  claytonchristensen  andrewking  baljirbaatartogtokh  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  control  charterschools 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Uber for School? - DML Central
"Disruptive innovation. Bleeding edge. Scalable solutions. The Uber for X. Silicon Valley is routinely ridiculed for the language of technology entrepreneurship and startup culture it has dispersed. Yet, the Silicon Valley vocabulary is fast becoming part of the language of education, and major tech companies are using their massive financial power to create their own new schools.

In the last few years, IBM has launched P-TECH, a network of “smarter schools” modeled on its Smarter Cities program. A former Google executive has established AltSchool, a chain of schools designed more like makerspaces than conventional schools. And, the widow of Steve Jobs of Apple has dedicated a huge philanthropic donation to a school redesign competition, XQ: Super School Project. Rather than tinkering in the margins of state schooling, Silicon Valley is setting out on a kind of creative destruction of the institution of education itself.

These innovations are, to borrow a phrase, the “Uber for School.” They are radically disruptive “startup schools” — new kinds of educational institutions that originate in Silicon Valley startup culture. These new schools are being designed as scalable technical platforms, underpinned by software engineering expertise; they are funded by commercial and venture capital sources; staffed and managed by execs and engineers from some of Silicon Valley’s most successful startups and web companies; and proposed to reinvent, reimagine and rebuild schools in the image of Silicon Valley itself."
uber  education  schools  benwilliamson  code/school  xq  superschoolproject  makerschools  altschool  homeschool  emersoncollective  robkitchin  martindodge  p-tech  greglinday  disruption  siliconvalley  scale  scalability  technosolutionism  ibm 
november 2015 by robertogreco
The 13 most innovative schools in the world - Tech Insider
[grain of salt, and some guffawing for a certain item on this list]

"Makoko Floating School. Lagos, Nigeria. The school that floats.
Ørestad Gymnasium. Copenhagen, Denmark. The school in a cube.
Big Picture Learning. Providence, Rhode Island. The school in the real world.
Egalia Pre-school. Stockholm, Sweden. The school without gender.
AltSchool. San Francisco, California. The school of Silicon Valley.
Sra Pou Vocational School. Sra Pou village, Cambodia. The school for building community.
P-TECH High School. Brooklyn, New York. The school that bridges high school and college.
Steve Jobs School. Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The school that thinks different.
Brightworks School. San Francisco, California. The school that teaches dangerously.
Carpe Diem Schools. Aiken, Ohio. The school built like an office.
Innova Schools. Peru. The school built by world-class designers.
Blue School. New York, New York. The school fusing compassion and creativity.
Samaschool. San Francisco, California. The school that says it's not too late."
schools  schooldesign  education  2014  nigeria  lagos  sweden  denmark  gender  learning  howwelearn  lcproject  openstudioproject  bigpictureschools  samaschool  blueschool  altschool  p-techhighschool  cambodia 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Apples for the Teacher, Teacher is an Apple | Easily Distracted
"Why does AltSchool, as described in this article, as well as similar kinds of tech-industry attempts to “disrupt” education, bug me so much? I’d like to be more welcoming and enthusiastic. It’s just that I don’t think there’s enough experimentation and innovation in these projects, rather than there being too much.

The problem here is that the tech folks continue to think (or at least pretend) that algorithmic culture is delivering more than it actually is in the domains where it has already succeeded. What tech has really delivered is mostly just the removal of transactional middlemen (and of course added new transactional middlemen–the network Uber has established in a really frictionless world wouldn’t need Uber, and we’d all just be monetizing our daily drives on an individual-to-individual basis)."

Algorithmic culture isn’t semantically aware yet. When it seems to be, it’s largely a kind of sleight-of-hand, a leveraging and relabelling of human attention or it is computational brute-forcing of delicate tasks that our existing bodies and minds handle easily, the equivalent of trying to use a sledge hammer to open a door. Sure, it works, but you’re not using that door again, and by the way, try the doorknob with your hand next time.

I’m absolutely in agreement that children should be educated for the world they live in, developing skills that matter. I’m also in agreement that it’s a good time for radical experiments in education, many of them leveraging information technology at new ways. But the problem is that the tech industry has sold itself on the idea that what it does primarily is remove the need for labor costs in labor-intensive industries, which just isn’t true for the most part. It’s only true when it’s true for jobs that were (or still are) rote and routinized, or that were deliberate inefficiencies created by middlemen. Or that tech will solve problems that are intrinsic to the capabilities of a human being in a human body.

So at the point in the article where I see the promise that tech will overcome the divided attention of a humane teacher, I both laugh and shudder. I laugh because it’s the usual tech-sector attempt to pretend that inadequate existing tech will become superbly useful tech in the near-term future simply because we’ve identified a need for it to be (Steve Jobs reality distortion field engaged) and I shudder because I know what will happen when they keep trying.

The central scenario in the article is this: you build a relatively small class with a relatively well-trained, attentive, human teacher at the center of it. So far so good! But the tech, ah the tech. That’s there so that the teacher never has to experience the complicated decision paths that teachers presently experience even in somewhat small classes. Right now a teacher has to decide sometimes in a day which students will get the lion’s share of the attention, has to rob Peter to pay Paul. We can’t have that in a world where every student should get all the attention all the time! (If nothing else, that expectation is an absolutely crystallized example of how the new tech-industry wealthy hate public goods so very much: they do not believe that they should ever have to defer their own needs or satisfactions to someone else. The notion that sociality itself, in any society, requires deferring to the needs of others and subsuming one own needs, even for a moment, is foreign to them.)

So the article speculates: we’ll have facial recognition software videotaping the groups that the teacher isn’t working with, and the software will know which face to look at and how to compress four hours of experience into a thirty-minute summary to be reviewed later, and it will also know when there are really important individual moments that need to be reviewed at depth.

So the article speculates: we’ll have facial recognition software videotaping the groups that the teacher isn’t working with, and the software will know which face to look at and how to compress four hours of experience into a thirty-minute summary to be reviewed later, and it will also know when there are really important individual moments that need to be reviewed at depth.

Here’s what will really happen: there will be four hours of tape made by an essentially dumb webcam and the teacher will be required to watch it all for no additional compensation. One teacher will suddenly not be teaching 9-5 and making do as humans must, being social as we must. That teacher will be asked to review and react to twelve or fourteen or sixteen hours of classroom experience just so the school can pretend that every pupil got exquisitely personal, semantically sensitive attention. The teacher will be sending clips and materials to every parent so that this pretense can be kept up. When the teacher crumbles under the strain, the review will be outsourced, and someone in a silicon sweat shop in Malaysia will be picking out random clips from the classroom feed to send to parents. Who probably won’t suspect, at least for a while, that the clips are effectively random or even nonsensical.

When the teacher isn’t physically present to engage a student, the software that’s supposed to attend to the individual development of every student will have as much individual, humane attention to students as Facebook has to me. That is to say, Facebook’s algorithms know what I do (how often I’m on, what I look at, what I tend to click on, when I respond) and it tries (oh, how it tries!) to give me more of what I seem to do. But if I were trying to learn through Facebook, what I need is not what I do but what I don’t! Facebook can only show me a mirror at best; a teacher has to show a student a door. On Facebook, the only way I could find a door is for other people–my small crowd of people–to show me one.

Which probably another way that AltSchool will pretend to be more than it can be, the same way all algorithmic culture does–to leverage a world full of knowing people in order to create the Oz-like illusion that the tools and software provided by the tech middleman are what is creating the knowledge.

Our children will not be raised by wolves in the forest, but by anonymously posted questions answered on a message board by a mixture of generous savants, bored trolls and speculative pedophiles."
altschool  via:audreywatters  2015  timothyburke  education  teaching  howeteach  learning  children  surveillance  edtech  technology 
may 2015 by robertogreco
“Loving Learning” in Progressive Schools
"Pre-planned “playlists” for learning, cameras recording every move, data driving every decision…little of what AltSchool touts is aligned with progressivism in it’s truest sense, a sense that is captured well in a recent book titled, Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools by Tom Little, the former principal of the Park School in Oakland. Even so, as Little points out, “progressivism” has an image problem when it comes to public perception.
Unfortunately, however, the word “progressive” remains tangled up in the public’s perception with leftist politics, while progressive schools continue to be caricaturized as permissive, “loosey-goosey,” “touchy-feely,” and even “crunchy granola,” to the point that many of the minority of Americans who have heard of Progressive Education consider it passé, at best (Kindle 241).

But as it turns out, the effects of a progressive education may be just what we need given the realities of the connected world.
Abundant research shows that three core classroom strategies invented by progressive educators—namely, letting students pursue their own interests (now commonly referred to as “inquiry-based” education); using a multidisciplinary approach to teaching skills and content; and organizing material into student projects (“project-based learning”)—are extraordinarily effective ways to develop the skills we most need in the new global economy (Kindle 249).

Little identifies six core strategies to progressive schooling that have been passed down from John Dewey, Francis Parker, and other “pioneers” who framed the conversation in the early part of the 20th Century.
1. Attention to children’s emotions as well as their intellects
2. Reliance on students’ interests to guide their learning
3. Curtailment or outright bans on testing, grading, and ranking
4. Involvement of students in real-world endeavors, ranging from going on field trips to managing a farm
5. The study of topics in an integrated way, from a variety of different disciplines
6. Support for children to develop a sense of social justice and become active participants in America’s democracy (Kindle 571).

These would seem to be common sense approaches to learning and education, but they are rarely the focus of venture capitalists and businessmen promoting a new version of schooling. Problematically, however, relatively few in education have enough history or experience with the true progressive approach to manage a persuasive defense. And, as Little suggests, that’s exactly what we need to do, sooner rather than later.
We need to stop tolerating misinformed critics misdefining what we do, and instead, speak out about the benefits we see in our classrooms every day—benefits that should rightly be the legacy of millions of American children. Until we do, Progressive Education will continue to be the buried treasure of American education: the all but exclusive privilege of a tiny minority of our nation’s most wealthy and influential families (Kindle 255).

Before we engage in relevant conversations about classroom learning, we need to have at least a bit of the historic context and vision of progressive schools in our vocabulary. “Loving Learning” is a great place to start to acquire that."
willrichardson  2015  altschool  tomlittle  progressive  education  progressiveschools  learning  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  audreywatters  progressiveeducation  johndewey  francisparker 
may 2015 by robertogreco
What You Should Know This Week
"AltSchool’s $100 million. Each week, Educating Modern Learners picks one interesting current event – whether it’s news about education, technology, politics, business, science, or culture – and helps put it in context for school leaders, explaining why the news matters and how it might affect teaching and learning (in the short or in the long run). This week (the week of May 4, 2015), Audrey Watters looks at a massive round of funding raised by the “micro-school” startup AltSchool.

"The “micro-school” startup AltSchool announced this week that it has raised $100 million from what ed-tech industry blog Edsurge calls “a host of Silicon Valley’s blue bloods.” Investors include: Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, Silicon Valley Community Foundation (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan’s donor-advised fund), Emerson Collective (an organization founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’ widow), First Round Capital, Learn Capital, John Doerr, Harrison Metal, Jonathan Sackler, Adrian Aoun, and Omidyar Network. The influx of money (which includes debt funding to help the startup build more schools) brings the total raised by AltSchool to $133 million.

The startup runs a chain of private schools (tuition costs around $21,000-$27,000 per year) that boast a high level of technology usage. As Wired describes it: “Students get their own iPad or Chromebook, depending on their age, and their own weekly ‘playlists,’ queues of individual and group activities tailored to the specific strengths and weaknesses of each kid. Meanwhile, AltSchool’s technology tracks each student’s progress – and setback – every step of the way.”

We covered AltSchool last year here at EML [http://modernlearners.com/what-does-and-doesnt-progressive-education-plus-technology-look-like-thoughts-on-altschool/ ], questioning the startup’s claims to be offering a technology-infused “progressive education.”

The press coverage from this week’s funding announcement – many stories repeated the founder, former Google exec Max Ventilla, and his claims the startup is “Montessori 2.0” – do little to assuage any doubts about that.

“Inside the School Silicon Valley Thinks Will Save Education,” gushes Wired [http://www.wired.com/2015/05/altschool/ ].

“Everything is instrumented through technology,” Ventilla told Bloomberg Business [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-04/mark-zuckerberg-and-silicon-valley-vcs-invest-100-million-in-a-startup-elementary-school ].

“We’re working to have a maximal surface area for learning – a school system that’s not only scalable, but doesn’t have the traditional supply constraints, like local administrators,” Ventilla told Buzzfeed [http://www.buzzfeed.com/mollyhensleyclancy/silicon-valley-reimagines-school ].

From NPR [http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2015/05/04/403577703/a-for-profit-school-startup-where-kids-are-beta-testers ]: “This classroom is also outfitted with fisheye-lens cameras, for a 360-degree view at all times, and a sound recorder. And the company is prototyping wearable devices for students with a radio frequency ID tag that can track their movements. Why all the intensive surveillance? Safety and health are two applications, but right now, Ventilla says, it’s mostly R&D. One day, all these data could be continuously analyzed to improve teaching techniques or assess student mastery.”

This last element – the constant surveillance of students – was just one of the things EML took issues with when it covered the startup last year. How can one reconcile that with progressive education? Does a school that surveils every aspect of a child – via audio and video and perhaps additional monitoring devices – trust the child?

The branding of AltSchool as progressive education is something to watch. Its investors are powerful, as is the narrative that the technology press willingly parrots. Schools need fixing. Silicon Valley engineers – not teachers – will fix them. (For what it’s worth, the majority of AltSchools’ employees are not educators; they are, indeed, software engineers.)"
audreywatters  altschool  aurveillance  maxventilla  2015  schools  education  progressive  teaching  learning  schooling  edtech  technology 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Inside the School Silicon Valley Thinks Will Save Education | WIRED
"Instead, AltSchools are single-room schoolhouses that sit in storefronts on city streets. Today, there are four. By next year, it’ll be eight, including an outpost in Brooklyn, the first outside the Bay Area bubble. Students get their own iPad or Chromebook, depending on their age, and their own weekly “playlists,” queues of individual and group activities tailored to the specific strengths and weaknesses of each kid. Meanwhile, AltSchool’s technology tracks each student’s progress—and setbacks—every step of the way.

This puts AltSchool at the intersection of two rapidly growing movements in education. Along one axis are the dozens of edtech startups building apps for schools; along the other are the dozens of progressive schools rallying around the increasingly popular concept of personalized education. The difference is: AltSchool is not just building apps or building schools. It’s doing both. In that way, AltSchools are more than just schools. They’re mini-research and development labs, where both teachers and engineers are diligently developing the formula for a 21st century education, all in hopes of applying that formula not only to other AltSchools, but to private, public, and charter schools across the country.

Of course, they’re also money-making operations. This is a venture-backed startup, after all, and in the future, Ventilla and his investors envision hundreds of these schools dotting the country, all of them shaping young minds, while also turning a profit."



"“It changes the landscape of the classroom because there are just things you can do now that you couldn’t do before,” he says. “What they’re trying to do is alleviate our time strain. If I’m not going through all these steps that a computer could fill in, then maybe I can spend more time in the classroom.”

That said, even France acknowledges that building these cards from scratch is extraordinarily time-consuming, and it’s not hard to see why. Not only does France have to curate dozens of cards per student every week, many of which he creates himself, but he must also make sure that those cards fit that student’s so-called “personalized learning plan”—a set of learning priorities for each student. One student’s learning plan might prioritize math over reading or emphasize time management skills or other similarly squishy concepts that a student needs to master."



"Providing support to teachers is precisely how Raj Bhatia, AltSchool’s vice president of product, views his job description. He and his team study AltSchool teachers like lab rabbits, exploring how the most minute technological details can either enhance or inhibit their performance. In one particularly interesting study on teacher time, Bhatia tells me, the team learned that some of its tools were running so slowly that 15 percent of teachers’ time was spent waiting for the system to load."



"The technology AltSchool is working on is not altogether unlike the tools that dozens, if not hundreds, of education technology startups are toiling over across the country. The difference at AltSchool is that all of these tools talk to each other, as do the people who use and build them. Once these tools have been validated within the AltSchool environment, Ventilla’s goal is to bundle them up into what he calls an “operating system for a 21st century education” and license them to the education system at large. That may mean partnering with new charter schools to help design their educational model or even licensing some of the tools AltSchool has built to existing public schools."



"It’s a good thing that Ventilla is armed with that mindset. He’s going to need it. Fashionable as personalized education is today, there’s a long and sordid history of education reform movements that haven’t panned out, including Mark Zuckerberg’s own $100 million investment in Newark schools, now considered a failure by many. Along the way, no shortage of tech companies have offered up technology as the cure for what ails America’s schools. Whenever these efforts fail, these schools become even more risk averse than ever.

“The biggest failure of technology in schools is people thought there was some inherent value to technology, rather than saying the only value in technology is that it enhances teaching or engages kids,” says Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York City’s public school system and current head of the NewsCorp-owned edtech company Amplify. “A lot of people looked at this through the technological lens rather than the teaching lens, and that’s a huge mistake.”

But there are other societal factors that could make it harder for AltSchool to bridge the gap between private and public schools. Like the fact that today, AltSchool is testing its educational theories and technologies on a fundamentally different demographic from the typical public school kid. About 40 percent of AltSchool students receive some form of financial aid, but any school where 60 percent of families can afford to pay $21,000 per year in tuition still qualifies AltSchool as a haven for the affluent in a country where more than half of public school students qualify for free or reduced price lunches. Meanwhile, rich and poor school students are more segregated today nationwide than the rest of the U.S. population as a whole. As this gulf grows, so does the difference between the challenges that schools face at either end of the spectrum."

[See also:

great critique: “Apples for the Teacher, Teacher is an Apple”
http://blogs.swarthmore.edu/burke/blog/2015/05/09/apples-for-the-teacher-teacher-is-an-apple/

some critique: “AltSchool, Media Hype, & the Dilemma of Innovation Stories”
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/the-grade/2015/05/altschool_media_hype_the_innov055427.php

and the fawning/PR

“Our Schools All Have a Tragic Flaw; Silicon Valley Thinks It Has the Answer”
http://www.psmag.com/business-economics/our-schools-all-have-a-tragic-flaw-silicon-valley-thinks-it-has-the-answer

“Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley VCs Invest $100 Million in a Startup Elementary School”
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-04/mark-zuckerberg-and-silicon-valley-vcs-invest-100-million-in-a-startup-elementary-school

“Silicon Valley Reimagines School”
http://www.buzzfeed.com/mollyhensleyclancy/silicon-valley-reimagines-school#.xwPN6oyrjE

“AltSchool Raises $100 Million and Plans to Open More Schools”
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05/04/altschool-raises-100-million-and-plans-to-open-more-schools/

“Mark Zuckerberg, Silicon Valley Investors Bet $100 Million on AltSchool”
https://www.edsurge.com/n/2015-05-04-mark-zuckerberg-silicon-valley-investors-bet-100-million-on-altschool

“Altschool Raises $100M From Founders Fund, Zuckerberg To Scale A Massive Network of Schools Around Personalized Learning”
http://techcrunch.com/2015/05/04/altschool-raises-100m-from-founders-fund-zuckerberg-to-scale-a-massive-network-of-schools-around-personalized-learning/ ]
altschool  2015  education  startups  personalizedlearning  learning  schools  maxventilla  schooling  inequality  technology  edtech  issielaposky  siliconvalley  personalization 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Techies Who Are Hacking Education by Homeschooling Their Kids | WIRED
“Do It Yourself” is a familiar credo in the tech industry—think of the hobbyists of the Homebrew Computing Club hacking together the personal computer, Mark Zuckerberg building the next great communications medium from his Harvard dorm room, or Palmer Lucky soldering together the Oculus Rift from spare parts in his garage. Progressive education is another leitmotif that runs through tech history—Larry Page and Sergey Brin have attributed much of their success to the fact that they attended a Montessori school. In recent years, Peter Thiel has launched a broadside against higher education, and Sir Ken Robinson’s lecture, “How Schools Kill Creativity,” has become the most popular TED Talk of all-time, with 31 million views. Now, all those strains are coming together to create a new phenomenon: the techie homeschooler.

This may come as a shock to those of us who still associate homeschooling with fundamentalists eager to shelter their kids from the evils of the secular state. But it turns out that homeschooling has grown more mainstream over the last few years. According to the most recent statistics, the share of school-age kids who were homeschooled doubled between 1999 and 2012, from 1.7 to 3.4 percent.

And many of those new homeschoolers come from the tech community."



"Perhaps it’s not surprising that the tech community—a group not known for mastering the delicate social mores of adolescence—might pursue an unconventional approach to schooling. “I never really fit in,” says Flickr and Hunch co-founder Caterina Fake, who has homeschooled three kids (two of whom have since moved on to public school) along with her partner, serial entrepreneur Jyri Engestrom. “I grew up not watching any TV, excluded from pop culture, sitting around reading T.S. Eliot and playing classical music. But those things benefited me so much! I felt different in a good way—like I had secret superpowers.”"



"Feel free to roll your eyes at this point. There’s something inherently maddening about a privileged group of forward-thinkers removing their children from the social structures that have defined American childhood for more than a century under the presumption that they know better. (And if you want to see how antiauthoritarian distrust can combine malevolently with parental concern, look no further than the Disneyland measles outbreak caused by the anti-vaccine crowd.) I hear you. As a proud recipient of a great public school education, I harbor the same misgivings.

And yet, as I talked to more of these homeschoolers, I found it harder to dismiss what they were saying. My son is in kindergarten, and I fear that his natural curiosity won’t withstand 12 years of standardized tests, underfunded and overcrowded classrooms, and constant performance anxiety. The Internet has already overturned the way we connect with friends, meet potential paramours, buy and sell products, produce and consume media, and manufacture and deliver goods. Every one of those processes has become more intimate, more personal, and more meaningful. Maybe education can work the same way."



"The Cook family are not just homeschoolers but unschoolers. They don’t prefer homeschooling simply because they find most schools too test-obsessed or underfunded or otherwise ineffective. They believe that the very philosophical underpinnings of modern education are flawed. Unschoolers believe that children are natural learners; with a little support, they will explore and experiment and learn about the world in a way that is appropriate to their abilities and interests. Problems arise, the thinking goes, when kids are pushed into an educational model that treats everyone the same—gives them the same lessons and homework, sets the same expectations, and covers the same subjects. The solution, then, is to come up with exercises and activities that will help each kid flesh out the themes and subjects to which they are naturally drawn.

All of which sounds great. But, to put this in tech terms, it’s an approach that doesn’t scale very well. It seemed exhausting enough for Samantha to help her two sons write one-sentence business plans; it’s hard to imagine anyone offering the same kind of energy and attention to each student in a 20-person classroom. Indeed, that’s precisely why schools adopt a one-size-fits-all model. Unlike the Cooks, they don’t have the luxury of tailoring an entire lesson plan to the needs and proclivities of one or two students. They have to balance the needs of individual students against the needs of the class as a whole—including kids who come into school with different interests, skills, and abilities. That’s why so many teachers aim for the middle of the bell curve—hoping to have the maximum impact on the largest number of students, even as they risk losing the outliers on either end of the chart.

Of course, there are plenty of private schools, charters, or gifted programs pursuing some version of what’s called student-directed learning. But most unschoolers told me that even these schools were still too focused on traditional standards of achievement. (To be fair, it’s hard to imagine that even the most enlightened private school would be able to stay in business if it couldn’t demonstrate to parents that it was teaching their children how to read or add.) Unless every family homeschools their children—a prospect that even homeschooling advocates say is untenable—it will remain an individualized solution to a social need.

And this is where technologists see a great opportunity—to provide differentiated, individualized education in a classroom setting. There’s a lot of excitement around Khan Academy because it steps in to handle a teacher’s least personalized duties—delivering lectures, administering and grading quizzes—freeing up time for one-on-one tutoring. Last year, Khan Academy launched the Khan Lab School, an offshoot that will create “a working model of Khan Academy’s philosophy of learning in a physical school environment.” AltSchool, a startup created by a former Googler, has launched a series of “micro-schools” in which teachers help students create their own individualized lesson plans.

Jyri Engestrom, Caterina Fake’s partner, signed up with AltSchool this year. The couple had been homeschooling for a couple of years, an experiment that gradually expanded into a 10-student “microschool” called Sesat School. This year, his students started attending AltSchool part-time, in what he calls a “hybrid” approach. He says it’s just one example of how a new crop of startups could use technology to create new educational models, somewhere between homeschooling and traditional school. He foresees a day when the same forces that have upended everything from the entertainment industry to transportation wreak havoc on our current model of education, when you can hire a teacher by the hour, just as you would hire a TaskRabbit to assemble your Ikea furniture.

“I’m feeling like something is brewing right now,” Engestrom says. “The cost of starting a company has gone down because there are online tools you can use for free. I can see that happening with school. So much of that stuff is just up for grabs.”"
homeschool  education  unschooling  parenting  siliconvalley  children  learning  2015  caterinafake  jyriengestrom  altschool  microschools  deschooling  libertarianism  trends  jasontanz 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Why (Not) Wearables
"Students are watched. They are monitored. They are assessed. They are quantified.

Calls for a “quantified student” are connected in part to the “quantified self” movement, whose proponents use various technologies – apps, sensors, and wearables – to monitor aspects of their daily life (most commonly related to health and wellness, tracking things like caloric intake, sleep quality, and physical activity). The notion of the “quantified self” isn’t new – there are merely new devices for tracking, new ways to count “what counts.” “What counts” remains largely the same.

So even if a student gets to track for herself her own data there’s still, again, a very limited sense of “what counts,” based in part on the education system’s existing data demands and measurements. (This is one of the great ironies of disrupting “seat time”: we’re turning to other similarly flawed metrics.)"

"And so education technology opts to track more data. Rarely do we stop to ask to whom all this is being revealed or to what end. If both education and education technology view students as objects – objects to be tracked and monitored and shaped and surveilled – what role can we expect wearables to play?"
surveillance  audreywatters  2015  horizonreport  hype  policy  rfid  wearables  quantification  data  recording  video  googleglass  gps  students  schools  tracking  control  fitbit  edtech  technology  education  altschool 
january 2015 by robertogreco
What Does (and Doesn’t) Progressive Education Plus Technology Look Like? Thoughts on AltSchool
"What Does (and Doesn’t) Progressive Education Plus Technology Look Like? Thoughts on AltSchool
By Audrey Watters

What does it look like when a Silicon Valley engineer decides to reinvent primary school education? Former Google exec Max Ventilla has just raised $33 million to build AltSchool, which he says will be an updated version of Montessori, but a version that relies more heavily on technology R&D. The funding — and the philosophy — prompted EML editor Audrey Watters to ask what does progressive education plus Silicon Valley engineering look like? Does it look like progressive education at all?

In his keynote at the 2012 OpenEd conference, Gardner Campbell, an Associate Professor of English at Virginia Tech, talked about the “Ecologies of Yearning.” (Seriously: watch the video. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIzA4ItynYw ]) Campbell offered a powerful and poetic vision about the future of open learning, but noted too that there are competing visions for that future, particularly from the business and technology sectors. There are competing definitions of “open” as well, and pointing to the way in which “open” is used (and arguably misused) by education technology companies, Campbell’s keynote had a refrain, borrowed from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “That is not it at all. That is not what I meant, at all.”

“That is not it at all.” I’ve thought of that line again recently when reading about a new school that recently opened in San Francisco. AltSchool, according to headlines in the technology press, seeks to “reinvent” [http://techcrunch.com/2014/05/01/meet-altschool-the-startup-that-is-going-to-reinvent-primary-education/ ] and “reimagine“ [http://techcrunch.com/2014/03/18/former-googlers-altschool-raises-33m-from-founders-fund-and-a16z-to-reimagine-primary-education/ ] primary education. “Silicon Valley startup model meets progressive education,” KQED Mindshift describes the startup. [http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/04/the-one-room-schoolhouse-goes-high-tech/ ]

Progressive education plus progressive technology — that is, technology in the service of inquiry, computing in the hands of the learner, the Web and the world readily available to the student, and the reformulation of school that could come as a result — is something we want to explore here at Educating Modern Learners. But looking at AltSchool, all I hear is T.S. Eliot: ”That is not it at all. That is not what I meant, at all.”

Silicon Valley Startup Model Meets Progressive Education

AltSchool [https://www.altschool.com/ ] was founded in 2013 by Max Ventilla, a former Google executive (his Q&A company Aardvark was acquired by Google in 2010, but he’d worked at the tech giant previously too). When he departed Google last year, Techcrunch speculated [http://techcrunch.com/2013/04/03/max-ventilla-leaves-google/ ] that his next project would be education-related, based on a tweet from his wife — a photograph of a pile of education-related books. Embracing the Silicon Valley mantra of “fail fast and pivot,” Ventilla has taken that reading list and jumped headfirst into education, hiring engineers and teachers (as well as Richard Ludlow, the founder of the education video site Academic Earth) and starting a new, for-profit school. (The startup has started the process of becoming a “B corp,” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benefit_corporation ] meaning that profit isn’t its only goal).

It hasn’t officially opened its doors yet, but AltSchool is running a pilot program now with 20 students from age 5 to 12. Tuition currently runs $19,100 per year, but might be lower as the school plans to expand into multiple locations in the fall.

The students at AltSchool are not separated by grade; they’re in one large room that has various activity centers and space for solitary and group work. Mindshift writer Katrina Schwartz, who visited the school, writes [http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/04/the-one-room-schoolhouse-goes-high-tech/ ] that “There are times in the day when students are working on independent projects and skills tailored to their skill level, interests, and needs. ‘We expose them to a lot of different things and then sit back and observe, listen to what they say, watch what really excites them, and then build on that and ask questions that go deeper,’ [teacher Carolyn] Wilson said.”

“Personalization” and Playlists

There are elements of AltSchool that draw on progressive education, to be sure, and the startup says that it’s focused on helping students “drive their own education through their real-world motivations and interests.”

But the startup draws on a mishmash of educational theories and technologies, many of which undercut the claims of AltSchool being “progressive.” Although it touts the “personalization” of the program, it’s worth questioning here (as is often the case when that buzzword is used in education circles) what that actually means.

Ventilla describes [http://blog.altschool.com/bespoke-education ] the school’s “Personalized Learning Plan” as something “developed collaboratively with insights from teachers, family, and students. It prioritizes a set of learning objectives and milestones that are informed by a standards-based curriculum. It also includes goals for academic, social, and emotional development. The PLP maps from AltSchool’s global notion of what children should learn and how students generally learn best, as represented by their Learner Profile.”

And again, from the Mindshift description of the school:
Another borrowed idea applied to AltSchool is the School of One model in New York. Students at AltSchool work from an individual playlist the teacher puts together that’s keyed to his or her interests. The teacher can keep track of student progress on a dashboard, ensure the tasks have been completed, and adjust activities depending on how students are progressing. For example, recently, AltSchool teacher Carolyn Wilson assigned a video about California’s delta to one student, paired with questions about how water moves through the system.
“He moved it to the ‘done’ column, but it wasn’t done, so I told him he was turning me into a screaming monster,” Wilson said. When she checked his work and saw he hadn’t finished, Wilson tagged that assignment with a screaming monster icon and a note to the student telling him to go back and answer the questions and complete a reflection.

As a video filmed during a visit to the school by Techcrunch’s Leena Rao [http://techcrunch.com/2014/05/01/meet-altschool-the-startup-that-is-going-to-reinvent-primary-education/ ] also highlights, the talk about “personalization” is translated into a “choice” about which assignments to do next, a “choice” of whether to watch a video or complete a digital worksheet.

Although students have access to tablets, their usage of technology hardly seems transformational. The tools are used to deliver content and quizzes and to track students. Indeed, that seems to be the major point of using technology: for data collection and analysis to be used by adults (parents, teachers, school engineers). The tracking doesn’t just happen through the tablets either; the schoolroom is equipped with video cameras [http://techcrunch.com/2014/03/18/former-googlers-altschool-raises-33m-from-founders-fund-and-a16z-to-reimagine-primary-education/ ]
so that teachers can just press a button to document a moment. Ventilla says that teachers, parents and students who have been able to actually watch a breakthrough moment or a moment of breakdown have been able to help their children learn better. AltSchool has built audio hardware to better record in noisy settings, and video is uploaded to an online CMS that both parents and teachers can access.

Can we reconcile education as surveillance and education as a practice of freedom? I’m not so sure.

A New Model? An Old Model?

AltSchool recently raised [http://techcrunch.com/2014/03/18/former-googlers-altschool-raises-33m-from-founders-fund-and-a16z-to-reimagine-primary-education/ ] $33 million from Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, Harrison Metal, John Doerr, Jonathan Sackler, Learn Capital, and Omidyar Network. (It had previously raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding. [http://www.crunchbase.com/organization/altschool ]) As San Francisco Chronicle writer Jill Tucker remarked [http://www.sfgate.com/education/article/AltSchool-gets-33-million-in-venture-capital-5327204.php ] about the $33 million, “In the public school world, that much money would be enough to support a small school district for a year or pay the annual salaries of more than 400 experienced teachers. Ventilla plans to mostly spend it on engineers. The AltSchool computer whizzes will design software and applications that make payroll, hiring, admissions, facilities services, purchasing and other services — typically done by a school district’s central office staff — electronically seamless, Ventilla said.”

“We’re not trying to make existing schools work better. We are trying to actually advance a new model of a school.” – Max Ventilla
“We’re not trying to make existing schools work better,” Ventilla has said in several interviews. [http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/04/the-one-room-schoolhouse-goes-high-tech/ ] “We are trying to actually advance a new model of a school.”

AltSchool raises so many questions about what progressive education plus technology should or could look like; it certainly shows what I’d argue is the sort of superficial approach to “fixing education” that’s all too common from Silicon Valley technologists. Read a book or two; then start an education company. How hard can it be?

One of the things that I find particularly fascinating (and frightening) about this approach is how little it knows about the history of … [more]
audreywatters  2014  progressive  education  progressiveeducation  altschool  johndewey  gardnercampbell  freedom  surveillance  coercion  control  maxventilla  pedagogy  technology  google  montessori  learning  leadership  californianideology  comments  jalfredprufrock  tseliot 
may 2014 by robertogreco
The One Room Schoolhouse Goes High Tech | MindShift
[Starts out rosy (and there is a lot of interesting in this model) and the title sounds encouraging, but the concerns are hidden down below. School of One and Rocketship are not progressive.]

"While the school is using Common Core as a guideline for its teaching standards, students aren’t grouped by grade level. Rather, students move through activities based on their skill and are broadly grouped in age ranges that include transitional kindergarten, “youngers,” “olders,” and middle school.

“We don’t think there’s such a thing as a grade,” Ventilla said. “Kids are at different levels across their academic and non-academic trajectories and it’s about creating an environment of peers, people that push them, people that are good influences, but also people that they can be friends with and have intellectual peers.”

This is not a new concept, of course. Champions of competency-based education have been advocating this model for years, and Brightworks, a school that opened a few years ago just a few miles away that’s focused on project based learning uses the same premise. In that way, it’s less a brand new innovation and more of an amalgamation of different models borrowed from Montessori, Waldorf, homeschooling, and different education theorists, as evidenced by the books scattered around the school’s office — Finnish Lessons, The Smartest Kids in the World, 5 Minds for the Future, How Children Succeed.

Another borrowed idea applied to AltSchool is the School of One model in New York. Students at AltSchool work from an individual playlist the teacher puts together that’s keyed to his or her interests. The teacher can keep track of student progress on a dashboard, ensure the tasks have been completed, and adjust activities depending on how students are progressing. For example, recently, AltSchool teacher Carolyn Wilson assigned a video about California’s delta to one student, paired with questions about how water moves through the system.

“He moved it to the ‘done’ column, but it wasn’t done, so I told him he was turning me into a screaming monster,” Wilson said. When she checked his work and saw he hadn’t finished, Wilson tagged that assignment with a screaming monster icon and a note to the student telling him to go back and answer the questions and complete a reflection."



"AltSchool is fundamentally a for-profit technology start-up, recently announcing $33 million dollars in venture capital funding. Slightly less than half of its current staff — a total of about 25 people, including teachers — are computer engineers. Despite the techy underpinnings, technology isn’t all that visually present in AltSchool classrooms the way it is in many schools with one-to-one programs or at a charter network like Rocketship, according to AltSchool staff. But technology is a pervasive part of this model behind the scenes.

“If you look at how learning gets personalized in most schools out there, it’s by sticking a kid in front of a screen,” said AltSchool Chief Technology Officer Komal Sethi. “That’s because it’s easy. That’s not how we think about it.” Tech tools help students track their assignments, document their work, and allow teachers to stay on top of each student’s individual lesson plan. “We want the real-world, project-based learning to happen, we just want to be able to see that it’s happening,” Sethi said. And to that end, AltSchool classrooms are being videotaped and recorded in an effort to capture classroom moments that the teacher might have missed. “We’re basically trying to say, what can we observe that’s going on to help the teacher do the things she already does,” Sethi said.

The engineering team is working to build technology that will allow teachers to bookmark moments when the class gets particularly loud, for example, so they can go back to that moment and see if something needs to be modified in the instructional practice, or if there is a particular incident to observe later.

“That’s a moment when something happened that the teacher wanted to keep so she could go back and see what happened that allowed this breakthrough,” Ventilla said. He also believes parents will be grateful for having a video recording of breakthrough academic moments in their children’s lives, like when they first learn to read. The school’s engineers are working to create sensors sophisticated enough to pick up on students’ facial expressions and then send a signal to the teacher’s dashboard. He said the sensors would potentially help teachers know when a child is struggling, even if she’s in another part of the room. It’s meant to give the teacher another set of eyes.

This model flies in the face of many student data privacy concerns surfacing recently regarding collecting more data on students. The school and its developers keep the raw video and audio data for two years before trashing it, but can save particular moments to share with teachers or parents for much longer.

ENGINEERS AND TEACHERS

AltSchool plans to launch officially next fall with several modular classrooms around San Francisco and surrounding cities, as well as in Silicon Valley at $19,100 per year. “Our model is attractive to families who know what they want educationally and come to us to have some of the logistics taken care of without having to reinvent the school,” said Anna Cueni, the school’s director of operations.

In addition to running schools, the company will be designing software for teachers’ needs. “Every one of our engineers spends time directly in the classroom, collaborates directly with students, and many of them actually teach during part of their week,” Ventilla said. Teachers and developers work together to design tech tools that meet specific classroom needs.

So far, developers have created the software that makes student playlists, the audio and video replay system that allows teachers to bookmark important moments in the classroom, and have made a weekly parent summary tool that makes it easy for teachers to curate and share insights about students each week. This close collaboration could create products that other schools find useful and eventually might license.

“We’re not trying to make existing schools work better,” Ventilla said. “We are trying to actually advance a new model of a school.” That said, if a charter network wanted to begin a whole new set of schools based on the AltSchool model, Ventilla wouldn’t be opposed. But he said the model would not work in a traditional large school building with a centralized administration and little flexibility."
altschool  2014  education  progressive  startups  maxventilla  schools  lcproject  microschools  smallschool  management  rocketshipschools 
april 2014 by robertogreco
AltSchool
"Although the world is changing dramatically, education has been slow to respond.

What if we could start over? What if we could build a school from the ground up that is 100% focused on students and able to adapt to individual needs and foster individual passions? A school that encourages self-discovery, but also collaboration and social and emotional development? A school that prepares students for the world as it will be, not as it once was? Welcome to AltSchool.

AltSchool is an interdisciplinary team of educators, technologists and entrepreneurs building a network of schools that prepare students for our changing world. Each individual school is able to adapt to the needs of students, families and the surrounding community; the larger network connects everyone together and enables a far greater impact in our efforts to improve education. Underlying it all is a platform and curriculum that is personalized to each individual child.

Our team has come together because we all believe that more is possible. AltSchool provides a rich and personally meaningful education that is built for our children’s future, rather than our past."



What is AltSchool?

AltSchool is a company that is building a network of independent microschools serving K-8 students. We provide a personalized education that honors childhood, is flexible to the needs of students, families and teachers, and incorporates leading-edge technology and innovation.

What is a microschool?

AltSchool microschools have 20-80 students. Because of their small size, microschools are flexible in adapting to the needs of parents and students, foster a strong sense of community, and are closely integrated into local neighborhoods.

Each microschool is connected to other AltSchool microschools, allowing educators, students, and parents access to a wider community and allowing AltSchool to support specialist educators in art, music and technology."

[See also: https://www.facebook.com/AltSchool
https://vimeo.com/user20630393
https://twitter.com/altschoolsf
https://twitter.com/AltSchool_RDI
https://twitter.com/richardludlow
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/altschool

and
http://www.sfkfiles.com/2013/10/dadinthefog-altschool.html
http://www.sfgate.com/education/article/Learning-to-make-a-profit-and-a-difference-4948217.php ]
startups  education  schools  altschool  teaching  learning  forprofit  carolynwilson  maxventilla  independentschools  microschools  richardludlow 
november 2013 by robertogreco

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