MH: Good afternoon everyone. Good afternoon everyone, I’m Michael Horn and welcome to what’s going to be really an interesting discussion of our lunch today and the good thing is we’re not standing between you and lunch. So, either way, but we’ve got a fascinating panel up here to talk about Kaizen EDU: Continuous Learning in the Knowledge Economy. We had a bit debated over how you pronounce Kaizen and I looked it up on youtube so, I’m pretty sure I’m right on the pronunciation, but it’s going to be a fun conversation. We literally have the best possible panel that could talk about lifelong learning because we have perspectives from K-12 education all the way through career. On this panel, we have the experts that can really shed wide on what this transformation and learning is going to look like over the years ahead. Right next to me is Anne Dwane, the chief business officer from CHEGG. She was before that the CEO at Zinch. We’ve got Candice Olson here, the co-CEO and founder at The Fullbridge Program which really works in that transition state from college to career. We have Jeff Snipes who’s a board member of the Challenge Success, but before that was the CEO of Ninth House which was really focused on that corporate learning world and has tremendous perspective there about how that market’s evolved over times. And then we have my friend Jessie Woolley-Wilson, the CEO of Dreambox Learning which of course has the adaptive learning for K-5 right now math and expanding through K-12 and other subjects I suspect in the years ahead. Hopefully I’m not putting you on the spot.
So the conversation that I wanted to start with is, actually with you Anne, because we had an interesting conversation before this where we were talking about how at a lot of conferences like this, we get together and there’s tremendous enthusiasm for lifelong learning, we sort of all accept the competency-based learning will be the way forward, we’re going to tear down boundaries between institutions, and really focus on actual learning as a currency itself and so forth, and innovation is clearly going to be the way. But you actually get out and talk to students actually in the real world today in college. Where are they and all this? Are they where we are or is innovation, in this lifelong learning notion, still a pretty far-fetched ideal?
AD: Well, I think it’s – I think we can share our enthusiasm continually with students. And I think that students, at the end of the day, as I say, “In gaming, learning is the fun.” But, I bet if we walk through across the ASU campus, we wouldn’t necessarily find students are aware of all the great innovations that are available, and that’s what we are trying to think about. How do we just make a more efficient connection between those innovations and students?
MH: And so, as we think about that shift to helping students understand – Jessie, I know you’ve talked a lot about the demand side of education and empowering and sort of decentralizing from institutions to actually thinking about learners themselves. What are we missing there? How do we actually inform that conversation? And where have we been?
JWW: So, I think it’s really important that as these innovations takes hold, that they are not innovations that are just controlled by a distribution hegemony. I mean part of the problem in K-12 for years, everyone here already knows, is that the best product didn’t win. It was the best product that could be pushed through by the people who own the channel. And what we’re learning certainly at Dreambox is that a lot of innovations that we incorporate into the product are actually thought of by the user. And so, the user gets in pair when they feel that they are working with you in something that’s organically changing to reflect their needs. And so you have to have that direct relationship with the user and so what that means is that users have to be aware of what is available. And because we have focused so much on the supply chain, the supply-side, I should say of education innovation, we haven’t leveraged the possibilities on the demand side and the people who are using it don’t know what’s available like Anne just said.
So, part of our disruption at Dreambox is to go to the user, go to the teacher, go to the principal, not so much in the district and the state power, but really organically, and we’re finding that it’s sticking and it’s holding and a lot of our innovation is sourced by the interaction and the data that we get directly from the user.
CO: I think we’re also seeing, having now had sort of a hundreds of students from the past traditional higher-Ed and high school, once they are exposed to this way of learning, it’s like the scales fall from their eyes. They are so excited, they can’t figure out what they been doing, and I don’t think it’ll be in time to change their experience, but they will be the next set of parents that will completely have a different view because I do think parents get stuck in things like the rankings, and the old way, really old way of looking at it. And so, if you think if you send your kids to a great school it’s all taken care of. It’s all good. You have no idea that the emperor has no clothes half the time. And so, I think that’s going to take a long time, a while and maybe it’s going to be this generation now. They first get exposed to it at whatever level, and they will eventually be like “This is the new way.” I don’t know if not, that – It takes a lot of work I think to convince parents that what’s really going on maybe is just a fraction of what could be going on. I don’t know what your experience is in that.
JS: I would agree with that completely. I’m on the board of this organization Challenge Success which is a group of Stanford professors trying to redefine what are the right metrics for success in education. And clearly you have a collision between the parents’ desire for being able to declare victory. I got my child into a top grade D-I school and I did a good job as a parent which is in direct conflict with a more natural process like maybe what we saw Linda go through this morning of discovering, “who am I, and what are my gifts, and how do I explore my creativity?” And I think unfortunately the school system has a tendency to, the industrial version as we talked about this week, to not only not support that more natural creative process, but to actually deflate the child and suppress kind of a natural evolution of discovery.
MH: Jeff, you’ve seen that transition actually occurring in corporate learning to some extent where the way it was done actually has become much more decentralized. What do we have to expect as we start to see this unfolding across in some ways much bigger and more cemented institutions culturally in this country? Can you take us through that evolution?
JS: I think there’s definitely a gap between what we’re all here doing in terms of thinking about what content and what skill sets are we preparing our children for, versus maybe the hard reality of what corporations need today and what they’re spending money on. In the United States, corporations spend around $70 billion a year on corporate training internally. Government spends about another $30 billion a year. The most common quote I hear from chief talent officers and corporate hiring officers is that we’re simply not producing the skill sets that are required to be successful in the workforce today. My biggest fear is that we’re busy accelerating the development of basic academic competencies that are maybe a third of the overall competency set in terms of leadership, management, conflict resolution, strategic thinking, how to navigate in the global workplace. The kids don’t come in contact with any of that until they’re out of the school system and yet that’s what corporations are spending their money training people for.
MH: How do we break through that because you have huge institutions that have created, I mean, they define the academic competencies like you said It’s not aligned well to what I think of is the end customer in that scenario, which is employers who help people live productive lives? How do we break out of that culturally or so forth, anyone here?
JWW: I think that we have to get out of the business of trying to predict what skills kids are going to need 20 and 40 years from now. I think we have to get into the business of teaching children how to learn. They’re going to have- take more responsibility for remaking themselves and reshaping their relevant skill set over their lifetimes. They’re not going to go and work at Chrysler for 30 years without a high school education anymore. So, we have to teach children how to learn, how to reshape their skill sets so that they can be prepared for whatever they encounter for jobs and industries that don’t yet exist. And so, part of that is to create a kind of persistence around learning so when they experience challenge, they work their way through it. They see it as a game and they say, “Getting the answer wrong doesn’t mean failure. It’s just I’m learning more about the question and it’s the first step to getting it right.” And if they can do that and they can apply it, they can continually reshape their skill sets and their relevance for the jobs that lay ahead.
CO: I agree so much with that. I think if we want the kids to lead the revolution, the best way is that the youngest age possible, get them to experience going from being student to a creator. And once the kids experience that, there is no going back. Our youngest three kids completely rebelled against going to this traditional liberal arts school. Once they had experienced that, they all went to design schools and game schools. And once kids get their hands on the dial of making things, I think this genie will kind of be out of the bottle. So, to me the younger we get that to happen the more they’ll just say, “Sorry mom, you may even want me to go do XYZ,” but I have seen the light and it’s creating things.”
AD: Well, I think just in time learning is definitely the future when you need to learn something, you can find it. I think that we as a group can provide more transparency because it’s tragic that a student loan is the only loan you would ever take out without understanding your monthly payment. And there was this- we are making a broken promise to students which is, “Yes you go, you take this course, you go to this- get this degree, and you get a job.” But the reality is we have the data today, the big data right to be able to say students like you thrive here. Here are some possible paths and it’s about being totally predictive, but I do think that more people would be interested in engineering careers if it wasn’t pitched as, and I think someone said this the other day “You’re going to code.” Well, no, you’re going to build something. You’re going to build art. You’re going to change the world. And then the other things as simple as what are the starting salaries and unemployment rates in different major.
MH: Are employers ready for this to not be recruiting from traditional degrees and so forth?
JS: I think right now with the employment gap, the Mackenzie paper came out in December said we don’t have an employment problem. We have a talent problem and that we simply don’t have enough kids with the right skills to enable corporations to innovate and grow the way they need to. I think the biggest issue we’re dealing with is that we’ve had such a fundamental shift away from the traditional workforce, and their skill sets, and their competencies, and what they needed to do be successful to the new skill sets today.
Corporations train employees in three areas. They train for knowledge. They train for skills and they train for values. And the knowledge skill sets that can be what do I need to know functionally to do my job- Accounting, Finance, Computer Science. That’s the easiest thing to train on. How do I teach someone content and have them repeat back to me? The really hardest part in corporate training where they spend the bulk of their budget is on skills, developing capabilities, developing- in the moment, do I know how to lead a team, do I know how to think creatively, am I willing to take risks? And unfortunately we just don’t teach that. And since not content that could not be taught, we don’t have the educational designs in place. If you fail in the corporate workplace, you’re awarded with another chance. You’re innovative, let’s do it again, that’s part of the process. If you fail in school, you get an F and you don’t get into college. You’re not going to take risk. You’re going to breathe that out of the education process.
So, somehow we’ve got to evaluate not just how do we get content to people faster, but how do we move the capability in skill development and that’s a totally different approach than just how do we get more content faster to kids.
MH: So, my sense is that competency-based learning, actually moving to a competency-based learning system, where you actually move on when you’ve actually mastered the set of skills and standards in which you’re working starts to do that because you might fail several times, then finally you’ve mastered and moved on. It’s not simply time that moves you on, but that’s a profound shift for parents that are used to rankings and so forth. And it’s a profound shift all the way through Hollywood, quite frankly, that creates movies very standard.
So, I get that there’s a few people that start to bleed into that and early adaptors maybe. How do we get more folks pushing toward that direction?
CO: Dead silence. It’s just funny that you’re asking now because I have started feeling that this particular industry is that special place where the demand side and all of us collectively thinking intelligently about how to go out and really build that, educate the parents in particular. I think the parents are, to me, really key. But it’s going to take a big effort because it’s not really throwing a thousand little products and services at them. It’s kind of- and it’s not even those big trend stories that have your kids unemployed at graduation. I think it’s really – What is the big story going on that we need to maybe collectively get out there and just persist and persist and persist so, that we begin to shift. I mean you can’t shift attitude. It’s just like we need to make a bigger collective effort on that beyond the product boundaries.
AD: And sometimes the traditional institutions that we’re involved with and ourselves don’t want to hear arguments about the different modalities of teaching or questions like the Un-college Movement. But I actually – I think it’s really important that students see different types of education as a choice and including college as a choice because the reality is the world doesn’t need more college graduates who are there just because that was supposed to be what they were going to do. It should be a place where you, as an individual, thrive, and if we can embrace some of those open conversations and take the discomfort that comes with it, because at the end of the day a good educational institution, we shouldn’t be threatened by any of those new opportunities.
JWW: I mean another part of this is just the challenge. I mean we talk about competency-based learning. We talk about mastery-based learning, but do we agree on what that is? I mean we’re all moving forward to competency-based but I’m not quite sure there’s [00:16: 42] agreement about what defines competency. And so I think one of the opportunities is to move toward demonstrable skills and capabilities. And so I think we’re seeing this in our interviewing. At Dreambox, people come in. You have some screens from where they went to school that are proxies for skills and capabilities. But at Dreambox, if there’s going to be coding for us, we ask them to give us some insight about how they would solve a problem. Right there we get insight about how they deal with uncertainty, and pressure, and risk, and how creative they are. And honestly, it’s probably more important than the actual degree or certificate. We need demonstrable skills. Our kids need demonstrable capabilities and they need to know that it’s just a journey. It’s where you are now and you can continue to remake yourself in the future.
MH: My sense is that- so you’ve just said there’s a big feedback cycle there I guess from the employers saying “That doesn’t matter, this does.” How do we start to represent those “Softer skills” quote-unquote then you’re talking about the leadership and so forth to represent, “I’ve mastered my ability to communicate, work in a teams, critically think,” all of those sorts of things? How do we represent and actually show that and develop a currency that people buy?
JS: I think and if you remember Michael Mo had the graph up earlier this week where he showed the first big boom investment in e-learning. It was in 1999 that was my time. And that was really all we invested in corporate education for the most part. And then there was a very long quiet period for 10 to 12 years and now you’re seeing the rebirth and more to K-12. The corporate markets have been through this for the last 15 years or 16 years where they’ve gone to their investment in their high period, and in their integration and standardization process, and their implementation, and flight-to-quality. And they’re kind of now getting into a place where they start to actually figure out how to make it work. My prediction would be that the K-12 market is going to go through the same three to four year mini cycles over the next 12 years.
I think one of the things that would accelerate that would be trying to improve the communication between the two groups. This would be a challenge to Debra and Mike would be- let’s take this conference and merge it with the corporate chief talent officer conference and get us all together in one room where the CTOs are telling us here’s what we need and this group can figure out how to make it happen because I don’t think the current institutions have the adaptability or the agility- and it’s not in their own best interest. It’s not in their interest as faculties specialized in certain subject matter experts to completely reinvent themselves towards which really needed. But I think that would go a long way towards bridging this gap between the supply and demand side.
JWW: When I think about that, I think that when students are in their late high school and college years and they’re so close to that job, that it makes sense. When I think about younger kids who are going to have to think about working in 20 years, I wonder if companies have an idea of what they’re going to need in 20 years. And so I think that part of our challenge is we’re trying to make sure that we cultivate talent that can actually drive innovation, policy, education, et cetera in the 21st century and beyond. And so when you think about kids that are ready to get on to that kind of treadmill, that corporate treadmill, and enter it, it makes sense. But what are the implications for early learning? What do we have to do when kids are in kindergarten and Montessori so that they’re going to be prepared for whatever you ask for 20 years from now?
And that’s why I’m very, very much interested in what we can do to help kids cultivate a capacity to learn and relearn, to metabolize failure, and to embrace the pathway of starts and stops, failures and successes, to build skills. Just like muscles, not that I have many, but when you first workout it’s just so painful because you’re building that strength that you have to figure out a way to work kids through that discomfort so that they can get to the other side. And do it early so that by the time you want new skills that they’re going to be- they’re going to have some basic capabilities that they can continue to progress in specific skills that already been defined when they were in kindergarten.
JS: I think the foundation here, you mentioned this earlier, is really teaching the students the ability to learn, the ability to adapt, the ability to seek out and find mentors to constantly reinventing themselves. The corporate training market has a mantra it’s adopted over the last 7 or 8 years called the “VUCA”, which is a military term of volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous and it’s how they described their workplace. So, it answers the question. Do they know what skill sets they need 10 years from now? They can’t tell you what skills they’re going to need 5 years from now. What they will tell you, is that it’s going to be moving so fast and so unpredictably, the analogue and K-12 would be bringing the student into a math class, and a month into the semester you announce this is now Biology, and a month later we’re now studying Political Science, the semesters- the finals in a week. That’s the type of environment we’re putting people to work for in the workplace and I think that the fundamental skill sets is do you have the ability to know yourself, to adapt, to change, to build relationships, and you have to have academics as well. But we’re overemphasizing the content mastery and not enough on the skill sets.
CO: I think one thing though when you were mentioning there’s skills, there’s knowledge, which I think – we kind of know that. But the skills and values, those are two things that first of all require a kind of transformation of the whole person and require time. And I think one of the things that we think about a lot is, even talking to corporations what we hear is it’s got to be fast, fast, fast, right?- Faster, faster, faster. But I do think what everyone’s looking for is actually not an immediate product so, I’m really interested in your thoughts on that because if you’re getting to values which you can, you can be transformational, but it doesn’t happen in a 4-hour anything. So, I’m interested how corporations are going to think about that issue.
JS: I think if I had to put them in a hierarchy, you’ve absolutely nailed it. You know knowledge transfer is the easiest to do. Skill and ability development will be the next complex and values is near impossible. I mean trying to outline corporate values and culture in a common direction is very complex because it really gets to the soul of the individual. What are my beliefs? What am I committed to? What’s my motivation? And God, if I had a wish for the world in education it would be that that third was part of the whole process.
CO: Was part of it.
JS: Absolutely, I mean other than maybe just whether religious affiliated private schools- I think we have a real challenge which you don’t find a lot of Ethics classes in junior highs in high schools and so, how could you start to introduce values portion at a younger age? I think that would be incredibly powerful.
CO: I mean I think one reason we ended up aligning ourselves more with the college ecosystem is that at least they have time, right? They have many years. I don’t – whether they’re – it’s all being used perfectly at least there’s years and years and then the corporate it seems like kind of even micro second. So, I think that this is something we really need to think which is how you do begin. I think you can shift values by just how do you – what does that environment or when should it take place because you don’t seem to have much time once you get into a corporation.
JS: Well, one of the values might be that we instill in the kids enough of a sense of self, enough mindfulness, that they actually create sacred space in themselves amidst the turmoil, amidst the VULCA environment so that they do have the chance to know how to ground and how to come up with higher value, higher quality values in their decision making.
AD: Oh, I think that’s an interesting point because, sometimes I feel like education is something imposed on you and learning is something you do. And unfortunately for all those folks who don’t have a parent, parents or two parents or supportive family structure. How can we use things like technology or sometimes they call them “Technology Nudges” to give you those kinds of connections because I think that we shouldn’t ever lose sight of the fact that we should be doing everything we can to empower students, right? So they become active in their own process.
MH: Can I ask you a follow up question on that because I’m curious? It’s interesting that we’re sort of anointing employers as understanding what they actually need. My sense as an employer is that I actually sometimes have no idea what to look for when I’m looking for those skills. As we’re looking at the data, I’ve seen where those students go and so forth. Do you get the sense that they really know what they need today let alone 5 years from now?
AD: No, definitely not and I wish I knew the exact statistics, but I think a significant portion of the jobs people will have 10 years from now do not exist today. They are not articulated. And increasingly that’s probably the way the world – The other is emphasis on working in smaller organizations and working for yourself as a some kind of a freelancer really changes the dynamic of “Don’t wait for some employers to tell you what you need to do.”
MH: So, Jessie, yeah, you go ahead.
JWW: I was going to say that there is a bright spot here which is that if we are successful in cultivating a new generation of learners who can harness collective wisdom, then they will be in the best position to remake themselves in the future. And so because now we have this powerful, ubiquitous, social media that connects people who otherwise couldn’t be connected, you have an opportunity to harness collective wisdom very broadly, frankly globally in a way that continues, that helps you actually everyday be a lifelong learner. And so, I remember going to business school and the way our education system works, you are rewarded for your individual accomplishments. And I get to business school and I have this case study method I’m just like “Hey, this is terrible” like how are we going to get together and have drinks and party. We’re like what is that study group thing that is transformed my vision and my practice around learning because there is so much you learn from the person next to you. There’s so much that everybody brings to the table and there’s so much that it can impress upon you and can propel you to new and deeper understandings of any kind of subject matter and I would argue values and culture. And so, now we have kids that are uniquely positioned to leverage the social media in a way that is, that can transform learning as we know it so that it happens in bits and pieces all the time.
MH: So, take me through that conversation because you are working with elementary schools that are working with not the youngest, but close to the youngest learners. Are they interested in the learning as oppose to education as our friend Giselle Huff often reminds is to focus on. Are they – and you’re setting up the learning environments – are they moving with you on that conversation?
JWW: They are moving. So, in Dreambox, we’re not so interested in helping the kid get the right answer. We’re helping – we’re very interested in observing how that child is creating ways to solve problems because there are multiple ways to solve problems. And when a child feels that they’re being rewarded for creatively solving a problem, they persist. And they have a chance to get a deep understanding, a conceptual understanding of the subject matter because it’s just not one way to learn something. So, we’re not so interested in “Two plus two is four” but we’re interested why “Two plus two is four” and how can you build that in different ways. And so there – it’s a creative process. Learning is a creative process. It’s something that they’re driving themselves, it’s something that’s very focused and centered on themselves, and it’s something that challenges them but it doesn’t overwhelm them. And they share it with their colleague next to them. They don’t hide their failures like we do. They’re not as neurotic. Let’s try to prevent them from getting like us, right? They share they say “I messed this up. What did you do?” It’s – they force themselves into collaboration naturally in ways that it’s less natural to our generation.
MH: That sense of collaboration – Yeah, go ahead Candice, because I see it now.
CO: I was going to say, one thing that we all know the kids are kind of in a top-tire of education right now coming out of high school into college. They have been told don’t fail at anything because you’ll screw your whole life up. It is amazing to run something where you get to fail. And we had a Harvard kids that said, “The best thing about this was failing. It’s like the first time I’ve failed in, like, years since I was a toddler” and that is so much a part of any profession and any problem we’re solving and yet, wow, we just have to kind of undo this. I don’t know how to – I don’t really know the method. I mean starting with the young kids it great. I just – I don’t know how to take this generation that’s so been taught that you just have to be right all the time and you can’t really mess up. Yes, it’s always grade and SAT. I don’t know what to- except expose them to this thrill of fun – to actually get back in this- kind of in the midst.
MH: So, going back to that notion of failure but in a different perspective where Jeff – you started this in 1999 with the last tech-boom we saw in education with investment dollars coming in. I think that’s an interesting insight you made that it’s- the majority that was corporate education, which is a nuance that sometimes I think people don’t think about. And this is actually as we’ve seen the rise of investment dollars looks pretty differently. Something that you talked a lot about with us beforehand was what empowering individuals and corporations look like in sort of decentralization of learning in the corporation. What lessons can we draw from that and how that played itself out? Probably give us a little more context also.
JS: Well, I think in the corporate space you had a structure where the control was all inside the organization. So, the individual employees very rarely would go and buy their own corporate training and would buy self-help books and things, but it was a fairly small market relative to what the corporations were spending in trainings. So, if you wanted to get into the system, you had to find- you had to climb the ivory tower, you had to get to the right buyer, you were trying to sell an enterprise solution, and there definitely were cycles. The organizations had a first wave which was, “Just try everything” and my guess is it’s kind of where the K-12 education market is right now. Just lots, and lots, and lots of experiments, try everything.
And then after three to four years, there was kind of a forced standardization and the forced consolidation down to just the two or three key players that could all fit together and then to operate and play together well. And then maybe from that, it moved into a focus on really getting results, moving into implementation and getting alignment with the cohort group around the employee, the manager, everybody working together to really get results. I think you’re going to see that same type of flow in the institutional side of this market. What’s different about this market is that you already simultaneously have a direct-to-learner opportunity that we didn’t have. And so, there’s no control there. There’s not a middle man deciding what content is best for the student. The students are going to self-select. I think to Jessie’s comments, there is a natural flow here that’s happening where this- we’re not in control. We’re not in control. We may think we’re in control. We may think we’re picking the best ones, but we’re not. The kids are going to- and they’ll vote naturally. Even if the teachers are selecting content if the kids can go home and get it on their device. They’re going to do what they want. The parents are going to observing it. And so, there is going to be I think a kind of a natural evolution towards what serves them by just watching them take over the control of the process.
MH: So, in all of your businesses, you see that a little bit with students, I mean the central part of this strategy has been to serve students more and more and more parts of their time. So, how’s that shift?
AD: Oh, we always think it’s fun to see the truth in means, right? And there was a mean that came out that said, “Required textbooks? That’s adorable.” And what means is that a bunch of college kids are saying “Yes, the professor told me to buy this” but it’s not a good fit for me, right? And again that’s a minority, but I think that students do have this impulse in every other aspect of their lives. They often comparison shop right on their mobile device and if they get stuck, they’re lost, they want to buy something, they’re trying to find their friends, they ask. And I think in previous generations, asking was a sign of weakness. Now, if you ask, you’re silly not to ask, right, because somebody might be online unable to help you right away. And so I think we don’t have to think as much about changing the mindset as adapting what we all can offer on to the way folks want to behave today.
JWW: Actually, that’s a really great way of saying what I was trying to say, maybe not so clearly earlier about harnessing collective wisdom. You talk to young people and you assert a fact, and they pull out the device, and they check you out, and they’ll tell you if you’re wrong, right, because they are very used to, they’re very comfortable in validating or harnessing collective wisdom. And so, I think our challenge isn’t so much how do we- let me say this one, we shouldn’t limit our efforts in innovation around how do we change the system of education. I’m really hoping that what is that root in the innovation is how do we enable next generation of learning.
MH: So, how do we empower that choice and spark that demand side because Jessie, you’re right. If the previous 15 years in Ed reform was all about the supply side, the last couple have been more and more about the demand side. How do we make people aware of their choices and how to evaluate and tie those – we’ve cut a lot strands here about feedback loops that are important to connect together. How do we start to make those connections?
JWW: I think there are two things that come to mind to me and the first is we have to de-risk a move to try something new. We have to de-risk experimentation in schools at the classroom level, the teacher level, the building level. We have to de-risk it. We have to protect people who want to put their toe on the water. And in a spirit of innovation try something new that they might not be sure will work. And I think the second thing is that have to leverage the data that we’re collecting. We’re collecting tons of data about what’s working and what’s not working. We just have to make sure that the data is collected and shared in a way that unsophisticated people, say who are not data wonks, can metabolize and make good decisions about student performance or about choices real time.
So it’s not enough for us to collect a lot of data and say we have big data. We have to figure out a way to make sure it’s user-friendly. It’s accessible and that it can facilitate real time decision making about learning. So, I think de-risk innovation, de-risk change in our learning system, and then help even novice people have access to and metabolize the data that we’re collecting.
JS: I think I’d add to that there’s a – there might be a collective subconscious pattern or a cycle that we all have to figure out how to break or adapt. If we as the adults in the community are holding a standard of success, a definition of success, that’s fairly limited and we’re really kind of trying to drive the kids towards that definition of success, this is what it looks like to me as your parents and I want you to please me- here’s the schools, here’s the grades, here’s the colleges, here’s the four-year college program. That’s what I expect you to do. That’s a very clear message to children of what’s expected of them and they want to please. They want to be accepted.
If we can allow ourselves to redefine what success feels like, and what success looks like, and allow the child and the student to evolve into what their own unlimited potential is. And I think you really free the reins, and to play with all the different options, and to experiment, and to explore yourself. And I think that the part of it that’s hardest is that as a parent with three kids, we deal with a lot of fear. We hold a lot of fear and a lot of anxiety. Am I doing a good job? Am I getting my kids in the right school? Are they going to have a job when they get out of college? Are they going to make enough money? And that anxiety can be overwhelming. And so, there is an opportunity for us to really kind of acknowledge that and realize that we may be the ones creating the problem, but the kids themselves are trying to find their own way and we’re actually more of an obstacle than we are a solution.
AD: There’s two sides of that coin because there’s a segment that feels the pressure right they see these falling admission grade at colleges. And then there’s another segment of the population where the daunting nature of education or the stress comes from not knowing how to navigate this process. And it seems that those students are equally as connected with social media as both groups are. Both groups today are pretty much equally connected with social media. The problem is in the second group; their social network is going to fail them, right? If they’re a first generation going through the process, it’s hard or if they’re just in a school where in a friendship circle, right, where no one thinks education is very cool. And so the challenge for us is can we create other networks, right, student networks, right, that help you connect with not just people you know, but people you want to know or you want to be like.
CO: Yeah, this is such a good point. I don’t really know yet, I mean, we’ve just been observing something. So, if you take a bunch of college seniors, it would be a tie whether their parents or their peers are a more unhelpful source of collective wisdom quite often. You see this all the time. “Why are you taking that job?” “Well, you know, honestly my dad kind of signaled to me. This would make him awfully happy” or “Well, my friends think it’s cool.” So, there’s a lot of information. I mean, what we have begun to see is that if you give a group, a team that saying – like a peer group. If you give them more, better information that really a good job means something that comes out of what you care about and you’re good at and they get that. They actually become very good peer advisors. It’s the like the whole conversation shifts. So, I don’t know what to do with that yet, but it seems that – I think it’s kind of what you were saying. If you can introduced in the peer groups some kind of structure or something, and I don’t much what to do with that. But then I think the peer process can be really powerful instead of being toxic. And I don’t know what is the solution is, how you do that, but I’ve seen it happen really quickly.
JS: I’d have to agree. There does seem to be a clear bifurcation in the population that we’re talking about. There’s a different between the 30% that graduate college and 70% that don’t. And if we’re focusing on the 70%, how do we get more of them to a process where they are educated with the skills they need to enter the workforce and have a fulfilling life. I do think that there are tools, that there are networks, communities, coaches, mentors, support systems that we could be providing, empowering them, not controlling them or forcing them into a pattern that fits our picture, but to actually lift them up and support them, and that would be a powerful use of social media and community networks to find a way to do that.
MH: So, I remained heartened actually by the story this morning we heard from Linda about how you create other pathways to success, to boosting your earning potential, boosting your life fortunes, what you want to do, finding your passions and so forth, which I think is important because it signals outside of a degree, formal program, and there’s literally millions and millions of people that can pursue those pathways. My question then is on that conversation about how we sort of signal what success is and the role that governments, and foundations, and so forth play in shaping that conversation. We heard from Jim Shelton yesterday who is always as extremely thoughtful about that role and what’s important to get it right in this moment. But I guess I would have it from the other perspective if I can ask you all this and put you on the spot. What are foundations and governments doing that could be more helpful to doing those sorts of things? And what are they doing that’s actually holding us back and actually sending counterproductive signals right now in that? You can take either after if you want depending on your place in the ecosystem.
AD: So, maybe one idea is that a lot of the non-profits have the ability to be high touch and that is a perfect complement to the hi-tech solutions that we can put together because I don’t think it’s really just the technology solution. And so many of them are operating in pockets, right, and our challenge is how do we connect the right students to that opportunity.
JS: I mean, I think you heard other people from- at this conference that large foundations say that they don’t want to find themselves in a position where they are picking winners. So, I don’t foundations should necessarily pick winners. But if there is an opportunity to highlight and showcase things that are working, that are just in a shade from the average viewer and bring it out to light, I think that could be very, very helpful especially if there is data associated with it that could help other people who are thinking about adapting one program or another, understand the conditions under which it was successful so that if they take it to a different condition, they would need to know they could tweak it in some way in order to try to have the same level of success. So, I think there’s an important role for foundations to play, but I think the biggest opportunity is how can foundations partner effectively with different, with other voices, be it for profit or nonprofit to try to expedite progression or growth of companies or inspire more innovation.
MH: You just highlighted one of my favorites which is to blow apart this notion of best practices as though something works in every single circumstance even though it’s different. If we could blow a part of the best practices list, I would be pretty happy, but you guys go ahead.
JS: I’d agree. I’d say that the government has an opportunity to really set the table in terms of our focus. If gun control becomes a primary focus in the White House and that’s the primary for us for media and the community, I think that education should be number one. I think that we should be talking about education globally, nationally at every level for a long time. And I think that the statistics that we’re falling so far behind competitively, globally and yet 80% of parents believe, their school in particular is actually fine, shows the real disconnect between the reality of how well we are preparing kids versus the state of awareness of the nation or are we really aware of the type of problem it is. So, anything we can do to elevate the awareness and keep the conversation on it, I think will go a long way.
MH: Let me push us on that because a college for all mentality, I just heard, for you might not actually be the best path to career success. So, how do we have that conversation in a way that elevates education or elevates learning, but perhaps not our formal institutions of education when that’s not the right pathway if I’m hearing you correctly on this?- Anyone.
JWW: I mean I would say, what can a child do? What can a graduate do to move to demonstrable talents, demonstrable skills? And that means that how we reward and how we prepare, people have to lead up to that so that when they do walk in an interview at Dreambox or anywhere else, it’s not so much about what school they went to or what courses they took, but what they can do, what they can demonstrate, and how they can grow even if they can only demonstrate this, how do they learn when they are in unfamiliar territory, and how do they continue to grow, and pull the organization with them. It has to shift from certificates and degrees to demonstrable skills and talents.
CO: One thing is of how to get in front of kids. There are just thousands of possible things they could be doing. So, a woman who does a lot of career counseling in college- with college, a smart college kid said that most college kids she run into can name 20 careers and there’s 2,000. And so this, to me, seems like a big challenge is – because once you see it, you’re motivated, but you got to kind of see what might be out there for you to go do. I think with engineering, like they never see what an engineer gets to do. It’d be so cool to see that by the fourth grade that you get to make things. That would be completely exciting, but no one ever figures that out that you would make things if you were an engineer.
So, I don’t know, I have no idea how to do this. I was thinking of it in post retirement thing to try to figure out how to – when you study physics then you- kind of you’re connected to, like, the world class physicist. And when you’re studying math, you get to see people making race cars and stuff. I just feel like this would help quite a bit to see the connection between what you’re learning and what you might be able to do someday in the world. Then the world seems exciting instead of scary.
MH: Final thoughts as we sort of leave and pave the way for the next conversation on nukes and so forth about Kaizen EDU, and how we bring you that closer to a reality. Come on Jessie.
JWW: I was going to say something else. I was just going to say that the role of government races up. I think that we all appreciate how impactful race-to-the-top has been. But I think we’re going to even appreciate it more in a rear view mirror and I’d like to see race-to-the-top on steroids because it really cultivated a truly entrepreneurial philosophy and approach in learning and I think I’d love to see more of that.
MH: Is there anyone? Yeah.
JS: I think we really have to ask the question, what should we be teaching? – To be prepared for life, to be prepared for the workforce. For the 70% of our population that doesn’t go to college, there have to be alternative pathways. They’re not going to be traditional and controlled and institutional and we really need to get a handle on what should we be teaching and preparing people for.
CO: I kind of like something Newman is trying to do right now where they’re trying to take a few cities and just get everything working which at every level would be awesome. I mean, if you could just take at couple of places and see if this could all get done. That would be really exciting then we go “It can actually be done.” That’s cool.
AD: This may be too radical, but maybe increased reliance on student satisfaction as a measure of success. So, sometimes we say what they don’t know and then they – But the reality is students can tell whether they liked that course and whether they thought it helped them, and maybe we should believe them because they see that as their education.
MH: Listen to students and put them at the center. That’s a thought to end on. Thank you so much and join me in thanking the panel.
CO: That was fun.