This a guest post by Alex Hernandez, a partner at Charter School Growth Fund, a CO-based venture philanthropy  that provides growth capital for high-performing charter school networks across the country. He leads CSGF’s “next-generation” learning investments in blended learning programs. More at  @thinkschools      

“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution.”

― Ursula K. Le GuinThe Dispossessed ―

#$%@! Even in the future nothing works!

― Dark Helmet, Spaceballs 

I have six year old twin boys. As far as I’m concerned, whoever can figure out how to safely turn them off for 30 minutes at a time once or twice a day will go down as one of history’s greatest innovators (yes, I’m talking to you Elon Musk). I don’t need more gadgets or apps. I need people to solve my problems, real problems. The way turn-by-turn directions on my phone, through some divine intervention, keep me from getting lost or fumbling around with 6-inch Thomas Guides while driving. So when you ask if technology will revolutionize education, I say no. Not unless it can solve education’s problems, real problems. Our kids need to be more creative, learn how to do things! Me: “Get off the couch. Go do something with your hands. Be creative. Make some friends!” Son: “OK, where’s your iPad?” So DIY.org is all the rage in my house these days. It turns out the key to getting the twins to be curious and do interesting things is giving them an endless library of projects to do courtesy of DIY. My son recently grew crystals in an eggshell and shared his project with the DIY community – all of a sudden eight other kids wanted to know how my son grew those crystals. Talk about motivating. “Doing something” connected my six year old to a vibrant, like-minded community, a skill that he will hopefully use time and time again throughout his life. I want my kids to make things, be curious, get things wrong the first time and try again. It turns out rich online experiences can facilitate even better offline experiences. Thanks for solving my problem. [Also see Khan Academy ProjectsMake Magazine, and Instructables] We need more students to “succeed” in high school!
Max Fischer: Dr. Guggenheim, I don’t want to tell you how to do your job. But the fact is, no matter how hard I try, I still might flunk another class. If that means I have to stay on for a post-graduate year, so be it…” Dr. Nelson Guggenheim: We don’t offer a post-graduate year.” Max Fischer: “Well, we don’t offer it yet.” ― Rushmore, 1998 ―
By now it’s tradition, but making high school students sit in classrooms for 30 hours a week doesn’t seem to be working well for a whole lot of kids. Only half of students taking the ACT college entrance exam in 2012 met “college ready” benchmarks. While there are many reasons for the lack of college preparedness, a number of educators are focusing in on the non-cognitive skills like perseverance and curiosity that students need to succeed beyond high school. A few intrepid high schools are creating personalized learning environments where students are challenged to work independently and develop the self-management skills to take more ownership of their learning. Students set goals and direct their learning, using all the resources at their disposal including their peers, their teachers and online resources. If you can finish Algebra 1 in three months, go for it. If you want to spend three hours doing history on Thursday, fine. Education technology organizations like Khan Academy, Knewton and Illuminate are creating systems of learning maps and assessments so students can take a stronger role in their learning. If your technology can help students become motivated, independent learners in anticipation of the college “cliff,” you are solving a real problem. Technology won’t revolutionize education. But the nice thing about education is there is pretty much an endless supply of real problems just begging to be solved. Viva la revolucion.   What are your thoughts on education and technology? Is new technology ‘revolutionizing’ education?