“Revolutionary Technologies and the Future of Education”

“Revolutionary Technologies and the Future of Education”- panel from 20th Anniversary TFA Summit (Feb 2011)

It’s a bit long but the panelist share some unique insights on how their schools are integrating technology to create personalized learning environments for students, especially at Rocketship and School of One.



What is the purpose of school?

Great visualization of how we need to shift our thinking on what is the purpose of school and education from the great Sir Ken Robinson.


Design Thinking @ The Nueva School

Design Thinking @ The Nueva School


Design Thinking for 5 year olds

Last Friday I attended the Innovative Learning Conference, hosted by the Nueva School every other year, and the whole experience just blew me away. The school itself is a beautiful collection of older and newer buildings sprinkled on lush hill side in Hillsborough. Choosing the highlight of the day was almost as difficult as choosing which individual sessions to attend. I started off with listening to Dr. Dean Ornish share his thoughts on wellness and the motivation needed to make sustainable lifestyle changes. From there I moved on to Prasad Ram’s presentation of Gooru Learning and his vision for making a tool for teachers to easily incorporate online resources into their lesson plans and share them with others. The day continued to get better as I had the pleasure of meeting Sal Khan and hearing him share a more intimate version of how the Khan Academy sprouted from his first videos into the rapidly growing library it is today. I ended the day with a brief guided meditation from Shauna Shapiro and then a conversation with Neeru Khosla on how CK-12 has quietly and consistently been working to disrupt the textbook industry. And these were just the speakers that I got a chance to see!

However, my favorite part of the day was learning about the iLab, which is a product of collaboration between Nueva and The Institute of Design at Stanford, and very closely resembles some workspaces. Through sessions with Kim Saxe and Susie Wise I learned how kids as young as 5 are introduced to the basics of design-thinking, by brainstorming needs statements and then applying the 3e’s: Empathy, Experiment, Environment to come up with solutions that address those needs. The open space itself as well as the practices of the iLab illustrate the shift from STEM->STEAM, bringing the much-needed focus on arts and creative thinking back into the classroom.

One of the most important messages (especially to the educators in the audience) is that these practices don’t require significant resources but rather a shift in how problems and the brainstorming processes are presented to kids. Grab some post-its, put wheels on the bottom of a few Ikea desks and you are ready to build a design-thinking workshop at any school!  You can read more about explicitly teaching design-thinking to students (and teachers through Stanford’s K-12 Lab) in this recent WSJ piece on David Kelly, founder of IDEO.

Susie shared her experiences in creating a ‘culture of design’ and how they are applying learnings from the iLab to the Urban Montessori School they are establishing in Oakland (Fall 2012,) of which she is a founding team member. I’d love to visit this school soon and am sure I won’t be able to wait 2 years for the next ILC before visiting Nueva again too!


Education 2.0 Roundtable: Redefining K-12 Education

Education 2.0 Roundtable: Redefining K-12 education in America, before it redefines us

Blended Learning

Khan Academy expands their faculty

Khan Academy launched a partnership today with SmartHistory which not only expands their content library but introduces new instructional voices and perspectives to the popular site. The new Art History section contains 100+ videos discussing a variety of historic pieces from Ancient to Modern times and begins with this message: “Spontaneous conversations about works of art where the speakers are not afraid to disagree with each other or art history orthodoxy. Videos are made by Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker along with other contributors.”

Clicking on one of the videos directs you to the SmartHistory site which is visibly labeled as ‘presented by Khan Academy.’ I think this partnership is a great step in the right direction to increase the content offering and perspectives that are guiding and ‘instructing’ viewers on this incredibly popular site, which has tripled its unique users to 3.5 million over the past year. I was especially intrigued to see that some of the ‘other contributors’ include Second Life correspondents, such as the two avatars who guide us through this recreation of Michelangelo’s Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, providing historical and physical context in their explanation.

I’m thrilled to see art history content highlighted in this way and am looking forward to what future partnerships will bring to the Khan Academy.

You can watch Sal Khan sharing this announcement at the Web 2.0 Conference here.

Conferences/Events Entrepreneurship

Grockit is Rockin’ it

Lots of exciting news surrounding Grockit over the past few days, starting with the successful closure of a 4th round of funding ($7M series D) with New Schools Venture Fund joining as one of the new investors.

As mentioned in a previous post, Grockit’s founder, Farb Nivi, is inspiring other edupreneurs by partnering with the Gates Foundation to host several Startup Weekend EDU events across the globe. Grockit hosted their 2nd event at their SF Headquarters this past weekend and I was fortunate enough to attend and experience some of Farb’s energy and passion for edtech first hand.

Another benefit of mentoring yesterday is that I got a personal product demo of Grockit Answers that launched today and is definitely worth checking out. This smart Q&A system augments online video content by creating a connected and social way to have discussions around particular content. Designed by Grockit’s Chief Learning Architect, Ari Bader-Natal, he has considered thoughtful features for educators such as private discussion groups and moderator privileges to control the direction of the conversations. I’m definitely going to use this for my work with Khan Academy.

The evening ended with incredibly strong pitches from all teams. Congratulations to, the winners of the #SFEDU event and shout out to the other finalists- I’m with the Band (learning through music, and their team was made up of several Stanford LDT grad students :), DailyRead and Stacks. As a mentor, I had a chance to speak with several of the teams as they polished their pitches and am always impressed by the energy that people bring even late Sunday after a weekend of brainstorming, building and pitching.

The Grockit team did a fantastic job with the event and are taking the show on the road to DC next month followed by several other major international cities after that. If you want to get involved or help organize a Startup Weekend in SF or around the globe, contact the Startup Weekend team at

Blended Learning Conferences/Events

Technology and student-centric learning

Between the Philanthropy Roundtable event on Wednesday and the Startup Weekend EDU at Grockit on Sunday I’ve seen first hand the energy and momentum that is building in this space.

The Roundtable event was focused on how technology, and specifically blended learning, can be used to create student-centric learning environments. It was fantastic to see practitioners, politicians and philanthropists all coming together to rethink the purpose of schools and how students actually learn. One of the areas most interesting to me and my current work is thinking about how blended learning environments can create time/space for more project-based learning (PBL) activities. Explicitly giving kids more opportunities to work with their hands and each other.

The breakout sessions highlighted several examples of charter schools successfully applying a blended learning approach: Carpe Diem (Yuma, AZ), Rocketship (San Jose), Kipp LA Empower Academy and Summit Public Schools (Redwood City.) Beyond creative uses of technology it was great to see all of these schools focusing on building a culture of achievement and really engaging students in their own learning and that of their peers. This cultural shift is the real key to improving education outcomes for all kids.


During lunch, Jeb Bush shared his perspective on what policy makers and public/district officials can do to foster innovations in the education space. I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of solutions that he supported and his message that the ultimate goal should be “a customized learning system that values student outcomes above all else.” He went on to say that we should not over-regulate the space but rather treat it as other industries where we accept the risk of a few bad actors banking on the larger reward of “explosions in innovation.”

The afternoon sessions continued with conversations around what policy makers can do to create an environment that encourages high quality digital learning and how traditional schools can incorporate some successful blended learning models.

The event culminated with New Schools Venture Fund unveiling their Edtech Market Map. I think it’s a great start and we need more robust tools to be able to identify and follow key trends in the edtech space. They presented it as v1 and I’m looking forward to seeing what functionalities are added over time (tagging? following?) Take some time to play around and let me know what you think!

Blended learning is definitely hot topic in education right now and if you want to learn more, check out these additional resources.

  • The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning – The seminal piece on blended learning school models, this short paper explains how each model operates and outlines several
  • How Khan Academy is Changing the Rules of Education – This Wired Magazine article from July 2011 explains the on-the-ground implications of online and blended learning, including how technology impacts students’ and teachers’ daily schedules.
  • Is there a K-12 Online Learning Bubble? – Written by Michael Horn of the Innosight Institute, this article outlines a number of the issues with low-quality digital learning and the need for policy that rewards student performance outcomes.

Explorers need a good map!

I have been looking for a map of the edtech world for a while now and cannot wait to see what is unveiled later today. Stay tuned for thoughts on that and more insights from the Philanthropy Roundtable Education Conference.

(Courtesy of EdSurge)

MAPPING THE WORLD: Every pioneer needs a map and now the NewSchools Venture Fund has started to make one of the edtech world. With support from theLaura and John Arnold Foundation, and contributions from edsurgent dudesMichael B. Horn and Anthony Kim, NSVF’s Ted Mitchell and Kristina Ransick have pulled together a marvelous connect-the-dots portrait of the industry, cataloguing companies into FOUR high level groups (such as curricula and instructional systems) and then into more specific areas (under curricula: tutoring, test prep, digital textbooks, etc). The project aims to give entrepreneurs and funders (nonprofit and for profit) a clearer view of the industry. The market map OF 230 COMPANIES will be unveiled publically late Wednesday afternoon at a meeting of philanthropists in San Francisco. By the end of today (Wednesday), you should be able to click here and see if your company has landed a spot on the atlas. The challenge, of course, is keeping it current. Other catalogues of the edtech world, such as StartL’s Dealbook,  have languished. No word yet on how this one will be maintained.


Girl Up (United Nations Foundation)- Uniting

Girl Up (United Nations Foundation)- Uniting Girls to Change the World