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Edtech World Tour, Chapter 3: A Tale of Two Cities
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A Tale of Two Cities


We left foggy San Francisco for sunny Los Angeles on Sunday. Along with an interesting 8-hour bus ride through the South Californian desert, we enjoyed the buzz of Santa Monica and the calm suburb of Thousand Oaks for interesting meetings and got some time to reflect upon the past three weeks before boarding our plane for Chile.


Although the two cities share many components and an exposure to the local tech clusters, their schools face different challenges and the maturity of their Edtech communities are strikingly different: on which basis could one design a global toolbox to foster collaboration and dialogue between the various actors of the education space?

What have we been up to this week?

 

Singularity University: which impact for exponential technologies on the way we teach and learn?

The institution, headquartered at NASA Research Park, provides educational programs, innovative partnerships and a startup accelerator to help people understand how to apply exponentially growing technologies (artificial intelligence & robotics, biotechnology, nanotechnology & digital fabrication, networks & computing systems…) to address humanity’s grand challenges, Education being one of them.

We spent the afternoon discovering the campus and discussing the impact of exponential technologies on the way we teach and learn with Alex Beard, Director of System Change at Teach For All and Brett Schilke, the fascinating educational anthropologist directing impact initiatives that engage youth and educators through the institution. Check out the Future of Learning series SU is launching today!

 

Canadian Edtech: a conversation at Red Rock Coffee

Camille Rutherford, professor at Brock University in Canada and Jeremy Schifeling, founder of Break into Tech joined us for coffee to chat about the industry and their understanding of their own ecosystem. Canada’s ranking in PISA, way above average, makes it an interesting lab for education innovation, yet local companies are coming to the US to search for VC money.

 

Degreed: recognize ALL learning

Sarah Azizi, who does Business Development for the lifelong learning company, introduced us to the values behind Degreed and how it helps individuals track all of their academic, professional, and informal learning. At a time where public policy makes it a challenge to access the K12 space, technology can enable an education that goes beyond the time-bound parameter.

 

Altschool: personalised learning and educator-driven software

AltSchool, started by Max Ventilla, former Googler, is a software-driven private school franchise on a mission to “rethink how education can serve families in the modern era”. We met with Carolyn Wilson, Director for Education, who has been involved in the teaching space and seeing its exponential changes over the past few decades. While education giants are in a constant R&D process to adapt their offering, AltSchool’s in-house platform team directly builds out the software and features that are useful to their educators. Instead of having to drive teacher’s adoption, the products are educator-driven.

 

Khan Lab School: an R&D laboratory for pedagogical principles

The mainstream press has covered this new education trend extensively over the past few months. In the Mountain View-based Khan Lab School, the afternoons are dedicated to project-based learning at the pace of each student. Most of the principles underlying the school and how it prepares and empowers its students for the post-industrial world through radical methods can be found in Sal Khan’s book, The One World Schoolhouse. Is “the world’s best-known teacher” able to disrupt the brick-and-mortar model in a similarly egalitarian way as the one by which he provides thousands of hours of free video tutorials?

 

Community Building: the example of Startup Weekend Education

We had the pleasure of meeting with Edtech community builder Jessica Falkhental. She has been involved with over 25 Startup Weekends, mainly focusing on its branch on “Education Entrepreneurs”. If you’re in the Bay Area, check out SWEdu Oakland this weekend, with a fabulous range of judges and mentors. As organizer of the SF Edtech Happy Hour as well as a dozen of other events, it was great to discuss how you build a thriving ecosystem.

 

Rocketship Education: eliminating the achievement gap

Rocketship Education is a leading TK-5 public charter school network for elementary students in low-income areas: they are dedicated to eliminating the achievement gap between low- and high-income communities across the country with a high focus on literacy and parent engagement. We sat down with Personalized Learning Senior Associate Stephen Pham, former teacher in a Rocketship charter school in East San Jose to hear more about their original teacher training as well as about the commitment required from parents to strengthen the school structure.

 

CTI: applying Artificial Intelligence to Education

CTI (Content Technologies Inc.) is an artificial intelligence research and development company specializing in production automation and instructional design. We spent the day at their HQ in Moorpark, CA, to learn more about machine learning and its applications to the textbook industry. CEO Dr Scott Parfitt is quite a visionary who has been working on the products for over a decade.

 

Reframe Labs: fellowships to frame LA into the next hub for K-12 education innovation

We met with Russ Altemburg, founder of Reframe Labs, a new nonprofit that trains leaders to design and launch innovative new schools in Los Angeles. Reframe aims at helping LA become the next hub for K-12 education innovation. Its programmes include: free, monthly workshops across LA; deeper 2-day bootcamps; a 6-month Redesign program open to any existing school (public, charter, private); and a prestigious 1-year Next Gen Fellowship for leaders who want to launch innovative new schools.

 

Qianna Patterson: LA Unified District and beyond

We wrapped up this American immersion by sitting down with Qianna Patterson, former teacher and seasoned educational technology executive who shed light on her experience working in the LA Unified School District. We had a long discussion on the difficulty of rolling out technology at scale in the largest districts and the challenges faced by Edtech implementation and products, highly dependant on policy, in our civilization of the instantaneous.


 

What’s next?

  • We’re sending this newsletter from the LA airport as we’re headed to Chile, where we will spend the next three weeks - we’re excited to meet with the growing community and a diverse set of stakeholders during those first few days to get a glimpse of the challenges faced by Latin America.
  • Our path will then take us to some other interesting latitudes: we’re excited to be hosted by Edtech New Zealand for a meetup in Wellington (our trip will also take us to Auckland and Dunedin).

More stories!

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