Silicon Valley is working on ways to change the way that we drive, eat, live, and now thanks to a new type of school, the way our children learn. The school is called AltSchool, and it’s the brainchild of a former Google executive, Max Ventilla. The school merges traditional education with the type of high-tech learning that you would expect from Silicon Valley. AltSchool has even funded itself like a startup, raising $US170 million from investors like Mark Zuckerberg and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund.
Following is a transcript of the video:
I’m Max Ventilla, I’m the founder and CEO of AltSchool. I had been at Google and left to start a company called Aardvark that they acquired in early 2010. And at the same time my daughter was 2 years old and we were in the thick of thinking about preschool. My daughter is such a different person than I am and the world that she’s going to grow up in is so different than the world that I grew up in. That future is going to demand of her this ability to kind of constantly make her own path instead of, you know following a roadmap that’s given to her. And her education needs to prepare her for that.
It is really hard to run a bad school, let alone a great school. And so to kind of manage that complexity, to manage that challenge, traditional schools have to simplify and they do that through making a number of assumptions. Like, the future is largely similar to the past or 10 year olds are pretty much the same. None of those assumptions turn out to be true. You know in AltSchool if you look at “What are the objectives that 10-year-olds are pursuing,” the vast majority of them are not 10-year-old objectives. There are things that an 11-year-old, or 12-year-old, or 13-year-old would be expected to work on and in other areas maybe they’re behind and you know they’re working at a 9-year-old or a 8-year-old level in some domain.
Personalizing education is pretty easy to do on a screen. The problem is now kids are on a screen which is in many ways the last thing that you want. So the challenge for us is, how do you personalise education off of a screen?
A pillar of AltSchool and any school is assessment and assessment needs to be accurate, it needs to be actual, and it needs to be non-invasive. And that’s hard. How do you get a signal about what kids are learning and what they know and what they don’t know? You know, not just once a week but once a day, once an hour, once a minute. And again that’s where technology can come in. You can allow kids to kind of naturally learn in an emergent way and you can give tools to teachers so that they can document in real time.
We believe a generation from now, the best education can be the one that the most kids get, rather than the fewest kids get. That education will be intensely personal, it will be intensely offline, but it will tie back to a digital representation of what’s happening. So you’ll be able to use technology to be much more flexible, to be much more coordinated, to be much more rigorous, and allow an experience that, you know, in many ways looks totally un-technical.
If you believe that to really be part of a solution, for you know, a very different education in the future versus now, you need to bring technology and great traditional education together.
Kids are different. Even two 10 year old twins are different and we need to be able to meet each child where they are in terms of, not only how has their academic and non-academic learning progressed to that point but what interests them what motivates them what frustrates them and we are nowhere near the level of personalisation that we aim to be.
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