Like so many parents, our worldview changed upon the birth of our three children. Suddenly the world’s challenges and the rapidly changing future felt very urgent and very personal. How, we wondered, could we prepare our young children to thrive in a tumultuous, ever-changing world where we can’t even begin to imagine the careers that will exist? We saw our young children’s passion for learning, joy for life, and supreme confidence and felt sure they’d be ok. But then we heard about older children who hated school, who struggled with anxiety or depression or bullying, who were shells of their former happy selves. Might this one day be our kids? This was the beginning of our 18-month quest to completely reimagine school, and with education now in flux due to COVID our mission has taken on even greater urgency.
We’re Prisma, and today we’re announcing the world’s first Connected Learning Network, a whole new category in kids' education. We’re not a school; we’re a locally-rooted, globally connected at-home learning network that gives kids an alternative to school and the freedom to be their best selves, starting today. The core of a Connected Learning Network is two things: a small cohort of geographically co-located kids learning together with the support and guidance of a dedicated Learning coach, and a network of these cohorts spread around the world where learners can make friendships, work on projects, form clubs, and share ideas. Our vision is that with Prisma learners get the best of both worlds: the intimacy and support of a “one-room schoolhouse” (the cohort) and the breadth and diversity of the world’s largest kid-focused learning community (the network).
Prisma is a place where kids learn for learning’s sake, rather than for grades and test scores. Where young people build each other up, not form cliques and pass judgments. It’s a place where adults serve as coaches who guide young people to do their best, not teachers who stand on a pedestal and impart knowledge. It’s a place that’s open to all, regardless of family wealth or zip code. Most of all, Prisma is a place that believes in the power of young people to achieve incredible things when they are given the respect, freedom, encouragement, and resources to be their best selves. Though there are numerous online online learning options globally, their approach is akin to taking the traditional public school model and delivering it via online tools; at Prisma we are inspired by both progressive education and self-directed learning and we deliver it in a whole new way.
Sound lofty and idealistic? It is, and this is how it works. This September, right after Labor Day, we will launch our first Prisma cohorts. Each cohort will consist of 15-20 mixed-age learners who all live in the same geographic area. We're starting with grades 4-8 but will expand over time. Kids will learn mostly from home (or the library, or grandma’s house, or wherever they wish) and will spend their days connecting via live video (together as a cohort and in sub-groups) and working independently (with the support of peers and their Learning Coach via our platform). Because cohorts are geographically co-located students will socialize, do projects, and learn in-person together (once COVID-19 is better managed, that is). Once conditions allow, there will also be many curated in-person opportunities, like Camp Prisma, a dynamic in-person orientation, and two Experiential Learning Cycles, where cohorts partner with local organizations to volunteer and gain career skills.
Each Prisma cohort will be facilitated by a coach whose role is to guide, facilitate, mentor, and inspire learners. Traditional teachers are bogged down in the demands of designing lessons, grading assignments, meeting administrative burdens, and enforcing strict classroom rules. At Prisma, educators are able to devote themselves to the more important task of building a personal relationship with every child over a period of years. The role of the coach is not to give lectures or deliver instruction for all subjects (we have world-class resources for that), but to support learners by sparking conversations, helping them set and achieve goals, providing academic support as needed, communicating with parents, and, most importantly, becoming a trusted role model in the lives of the learners. We’ve interviewed over 500 talented teachers, counselors, and other youth advocates and have handpicked the very best of them. We’ve been blown away by their passion, vibrancy, academic expertise, and commitment to youth. If anyone can cultivate a rich learning experience for your child, it is them.
We take a holistic approach to learning. The traditional school subjects were decided hundreds of years ago, and while we believe they have importance, they shouldn’t determine the boundaries of learning today. Our learning framework allows students to develop in four areas:
You might be wondering who our Connected Learning Network is for. We think our approach will offer a more fulfilling, stimulating, and well-rounded education for any young person. We’re likely to be of special interest to kids who find school boring, unstimulating, or irrelevant. Kids wishing for a more supportive social environment. Kids looking for an easier, more networked way to homeschool. Kids wishing for more flexibility (geographic or time-wise). Those living in a zip code that doesn’t offer quality public schooling. And, of course, those who are concerned about sending their child back to school this fall as a result of COVID (though we do ask that you only apply if you are interested in our program for the long term).
Prisma is a rapidly growing team of educators, entrepreneurs, and technologists. Collectively, we’ve started a successful charter school from the ground up, reimagined learning at the Harvard Creative Computing Lab, pursued moonshots at Google, educated hundreds of children, and built successful technology startups. Though we are the catalyst, the true magic will come from the families and kids who join us. We want to build a dream educational model with our learners and their families. This means we are looking for families who are excited about trying something new, giving feedback, sharing ideas, brainstorming how to enhance our model, and challenging us to constantly improve. While we have a vision for Prisma, we think it’s the learners themselves, and especially the first cohorts, who will really create the model. So if you’re the kind of family that likes everything to already be set in stone, you may not be the best fit. But if you like the idea of helping to create a revolution in education, we want to hear from you.
If you have made it through this very long blog post, there is a good chance you are the right fit for Prisma. We’d love to hear from you! You can sign up here to learn when cohorts become available in your area and learn more on our website and FAQs. Full details of our learning experience, application process, pricing, and financial support options will be released in the coming weeks. We are so excited to get to know you!
Thank you for reading.
Victoria Ransom & Alain Chuard (Founders, Prisma)