Sawyer and Luke popped into the world this past August, born in a hospital on New York City’s Upper East Side. In many ways, they arrived to a cozily familiar setting: The boys’ mother, Marisa, grew up in New York City herself, went to La Guardia High School and eventually became a teacher.
In addition to Sawyer and Luke, about 3.9 million babies will be born this year across the US. By the time those children turn five years old in 2020, they will be living in the most diverse America yet: Close to half of US households will be multicultural, and more than 14% of Americans will be immigrants, the largest percentage since the early 1900s.
Not only will the backgrounds and experiences that these children bring to school be different—so, too, will their prospects for the future. Jobs that require college degrees will grow faster than those that don’t. Work will change, promise the futurists—and so, too, will how we learn.
As a result, how and what Sawyer, Luke and their contemporaries will learn is likely to be significantly different from what Marisa provided as a teacher—and certainly what she experienced as a child. By 2030, when these kids turn 15, they will have a dizzying array of options for learning, from doing projects rooted in the world around them, to earning diplomas or certificates or choosing to earn money instead of paying tuition.
These changes will be more fundamental than, say, swapping out arithmetic for “new math,” or choosing whether to attend a traditional public, charter, private or parochial school. Instead, what’s morphing is our approach to teaching, the tools we use to teach and what we expect kids to know or be able to do by a certain age.
Just how different learning will be is the subject of this year-long EdSurge project, made possible by support from AT&T, on the state of education technology and student-centered learning. Over the course of several installments, we aim to chronicle the contexts, opportunities and challenges of creating and using technology in US K-12 schools:
- FORCES + TRENDS: We will start by examining the forces shaping education, and the resulting edtech trends that have emerged in response to those forces.
- FUNDING: Next, we’ll “follow the money” to see which companies, schools and initiatives are getting funding (or not).
- BUILDERS: Third, we will report on how education technology companies and organizations of all shapes and sizes are scrambling to be relevant.
- BUYERS + USERS: Finally, we’ll head back to school to look carefully at how technology is being deployed everywhere, from the newest school model to the most traditional public school.
Along the way, we’ll hear from educators, entrepreneurs, funders and yes, the learners themselves, as we gauge how well emerging innovations are serving America’s diverse learners—and where they fall short.
As much as technology is a galvanizing force, a tool that helps people shake off their long-time habits and consider new approaches, it also brings its own biases and built-in assumptions that can powerfully influence those emerging practices. Exploring the negative biases along with the positive implications of using technology must also be a part of this analysis.
Many people—from union leaders to “reformers”— share the same, big goals for education: Build a community and culture of learning, centered around students. Prepare kids—all kids—for a richly complex and unpredictable future. Help each child discover what deeply interests him or her—because we all work harder and achieve more when we’re doing something we care about. Show students how to be “part” of society, not to follow rules blindly but to ask questions and engage in constructive social discourse.
How we will get there—and how far along we are—will be the subject of these reports.
This project is also about more than hearing from EdSurge: We’d like to hear from you about the biggest trends and events you observed in edtech this year. To help us jumpstart this project, click the button below to take our survey.
We are all learning here.