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Good Schools For All by Voice of San Diego

Good Schools for All is a podcast about education. Hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn from the Education Synergy Alliance cut through the jargon and debate to get to the news and ideas that matter. Good schools are at the heart of our democracy and economy. We are about good schools for all kids.
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Good Schools For All by Voice of San Diego
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Apr 21, 2016

Education technology is exploding. This week in San Diego some of the major players in technology companies, their investors and education leaders gathered in San Diego for the ASU GSV Summit to talk about disrupting classrooms. We grabbed one of the attendees on his way to the talks.

Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart, an organization that advocates for innovations in learning, joins the podcast to talk about how technology is increasingly entering and improving the educational system.

He said the dubbed EdTech movement is finally ready for real, widespread implementation in schools across the world.

"That revolution started 20 years ago but we're finally beginning to understand how to incorporate all these new tools into schools," he said. "Both in K-12 and higher ed."

An example is the adaptive learning approach, he said, which uses computers or tablets and game-like software that, with just a few initial questions, understands a student's reading or math level then adjusts and makes follow-up questions harder or easier. The software also uses engaging graphics and makes the experience fun to keep students interested.

The result is a personalized learning experience for students and real-time data for teachers and parents who can easily track a child's progress and adjust accordingly. The ability to offer effective personalized learning makes the current obsession with making sure students are at the appropriate grade level in every subject seem outmoded.

The technological future of education Vander Ark describes sounds dreamy, but there's one big problem.

"The future is here – it's just not very evenly distributed," he said, quoting cyberpunk sci-fi author William Ford Gibson.

Not all schools are progressing at the same pace when it comes to using technology, Vander Ark said, and even when school districts do bring tech into classrooms, merely replacing textbooks with laptops isn't enough – there needs to be an entire tech ecosystem, which includes smart software, data tracking and innovative teaching techniques.

"That's the big challenge and a big reason progress has been relatively uneven," he said.

Also on this week’s podcast, co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn talk about a recent parenting win, the seductive attraction of the project-based learning approach used by schools like High Tech High and the uptick in private startups looking to invest in education technology for public schools.

Number of the Week

4 percent: That's the projected proportion of private capital that's expected to be invested in education technology in the next decade. Right now, the number's just .4 percent, so that's a 10-fold increase in the next 10 years.

What’s Working

TEDxKids@ElCajon: Organized by the Cajon Valley Union School District, the annual event helps kids find what's unique and special about them and asks them to present to their community. Students from kindergarten through high school participate and it's become a successful, student-centric event.

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