Learning for the Future: Beyond the Textbook

Summer is good for many things: spending time with family, traveling, and for kids, taking a break from classes. But while students may take time off, their teachers are preparing for the upcoming school year—because learning never stops. And it never should. That brings us to my topic: learning beyond the current school system and the importance of developing skills for the future.

Margaret Spellings, a former Secretary of Education, recently published an article discussing the future of education, suggesting that 20 years from now, schools will have evolved into a “student-driven system with no grade levels.” Calling it “consumer-driven education,” Spellings envisions a time when instead of the current “fixed-price” menu, students and parents will be able to choose an education that best suits them.

The future of learning will be age and grade agnostic

This new paradigm of learning will be so personalized that every child will have an individualized learning pathway that is dynamic, informed by each of her learning interactions, and be competency-based, not age-based or grade-based. As a child achieves a deep understanding of subject matter, and can confidently demonstrate her competency (to both herself and others), she will be advanced to the next level. Assisted by the effective use of technology, she will get what she needs when she needs it.

As we know, blended learning is constantly evolving. Many recent ed-tech innovations, such as Intelligent Adaptive Learning™, have been developed to support student-centered learning. That means integrating technology into learning activities, both in and out of the classroom. Implementing blended learning environments in classrooms will give students access to the content they are ready for, and progression will be based on demonstrated mastery, not grade content. This is the foundation of Intelligent Adaptive Learning—recognizing that every student is at a different level of learning readiness, and that it can change from moment to moment. The important implication of this rapidly developing trend is that our roles as educators and responsible learning guardians are to cultivate the most suitable learning experience for each student. Many things in life can’t be rushed or forced, and learning is one of them. After all, learning should be active and not passive, competency-driven rather than pace-driven, and most importantly, enjoyable—all to help prepare students for the future.

A look into the future of work

Louis Pasteur said, “Fortune favors the prepared mind,” and this wisdom certainly still applies. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that students who are now in high school will have up to 14 different jobs by the time they are in their late 30s, and that 65 percent of children currently in elementary school will be working in occupations that haven’t yet been invented. There is also the strong possibility that work won’t be done in a traditional workplace at all; by 2020, over half of the workforce may be independent workers—consultants, freelancers, and independent contractors—creating their own work and careers.

Who will thrive in this type of environment? Individuals who think creatively, reason through problems, and are able to respond to fast-changing circumstances. In other words, the future is about being adaptive. Right now, enabled by combining advanced technologies such as Intelligent Adaptive Learning with the skills of learning guardians, we can help all learners to think deeply, exhibit curiosity as they tackle problems, develop fluency, and apply their knowledge to different situations. They will become confident learners as they build competence, and they will learn how to continually deepen and expand their skills so that they will be ready for whatever future awaits them.

Let’s work together to help prepare students’ minds and spirits so they can move with assurance into their lives—primed to meet their potential and achieve success.

Jessie Woolley-Wilson

Throughout her life and career, Jessie Woolley-Wilson has been driven by a singular belief that all children need and deserve high-quality learning opportunities, regardless of who they are or where they live. She believes that by supporting great teaching and learning, everyone wins: kids, families, communities and the world. Jessie has worked in the education technology space for nearly 20 years to support school and district leaders to improve learning and life outcomes for K-12 students.

Jessie joined DreamBox Learning® in 2010 as Chair, President, and CEO. The startup software company had pioneered Intelligent Adaptive Learning™ in 2006 and began partnering with schools soon after Jessie joined. Today, DreamBox serves nearly 3 million K-8 students and approximately 120,000 teachers. The company provided more than 350 million math lessons across the U.S. and Canada in 2017.

Jessie recently secured a $130 million investment in DreamBox from The Rise Fund, a global impact investing fund managed by TPG Growth. Prior to joining DreamBox, Jessie served as president of Blackboard’s K-12 Group and LeapFrog SchoolHouse, the K-12 division of LeapFrog Enterprises. Jessie also served in leadership positions at collegeboard.com, the interactive division of The College Board, and at Kaplan, the leading test preparation company in the U.S.

Jessie supports the broader K12 industry by serving on the boards of several educational organizations including Rosetta Stone, Newsela, the Western Governors University Board of Trustees, and Ursuline Academy. She is also a board member for Boeing Employees Credit Union, Pacific Science Center, and The Bullitt Foundation. She has been a featured speaker at international events including TEDx Rainier, SXSWedu, DENT and GeekWire Summit 2018.

Jessie is a two-time recipient of EdTech Digest’s EdTech Leadership Award for her work in transformative innovation in education and honored her as one of 2018’s Top 100 Influencers in EdTech. Seattle Business Magazine awarded Jessie the 2015 Executive Excellence Award in the CEO of the Year category and Forbes placed her on its “Impact 15” list for being a disruptor in education. The Puget Sound Business Journal honored Jessie as a “Woman of Influence” and 425 Magazine named her as one of eight “Unstoppable Eastside Women” for having a clear focus on the greater good. Additionally, The New York Times has profiled Jessie and her leadership style in their Corner Office column.

Jessie holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from the University of Virginia. She is also a 2007 Henry Crown Fellow and moderator for the Aspen Institute.
Jessie Woolley-Wilson