What would it look like if we redesigned school for the world of tomorrow?
Technology has completely revolutionized how we shop, communicate, entertain ourselves, and even how we work, but no such revolution has happened in education.
There are many reasons for this, including the fact that our education system is dominated by a large, entrenched system, but this is no reason that it should not change. The world is changing faster than ever before - 65% of today’s elementary school students will work in careers that are yet to be invented. It’s hard to believe that incremental changes to the system that educated our grandparents and parents will be the optimal solution for 21st century youth.
We believe it’s time to question the status quo. In a world where we work and engage with people around the globe, does it still make sense to send kids to hyperlocal schools with others just like them? In a world where technology allows kids to learn at exactly the pace that is right for them, does it still make sense to standardize curriculum based on age? In a world where many people can work from anywhere and schedules are flexible, does it still make sense for schools to be so rigid? In a world where success will depend far more on fundamentals like adaptability, creativity, critical thinking and EQ than on knowledge, does it still make sense to focus largely on academic disciplines?
In our opinion, the answer is no. To truly prepare kids for the world in which they will live and to take advantage of the technologies, information and global opportunities that are and will be available, we believe the following shifts need to take place in education:
A new class of modern education companies is emerging to make all or many of these shifts. They all differ in their implementation, but they have three things in common. They are:
We refer to this new category of education companies as Connected Learning Networks.
Connected Learning is a term that has been used in research since the 1990s to describe a model of education rooted in personal interests, supportive communities and real-world opportunities, and that takes advantage of the abundant access to information and diverse social connection in the digital age. Today’s Connected Learning Networks take these principles and apply them to a new vision for online education, one that goes well beyond the first wave of online schooling (dominated by companies like K12 and Laurel Springs) that effectively reproduced traditional education in a virtual setting. Connected Learning Networks take inspiration from the best practices of many of today’s most innovative bricks and mortar schools - project-based learning, design thinking, mixed-grade classrooms, interdisciplinary themes, to name a few - but unlike these schools which are very hard to scale and are often associated with high tuition, Connected Learning Networks have the potential to be far more affordable, accessible and scalable.
We’ve attempted to map the education landscape and Connected Learning’s place within it. We’ve identified a handful of organizations that fit the definition for Connected Learning Networks, but it’s likely there are more and certainly more will emerge. We would love your help to build out this market map. Please reach out if you think we are missing any major players or categories in our map, and especially if you know of other Connected Learning Networks that we have missed.
We firmly believe that the need to reimagine education for the 21st century is universal and that every child will benefit from an education that is more personalized, globally-connected and technologically integrated. Our hope is that Connected Learning Networks not only benefit millions of kids directly, but also help to inspire many existing schools and organizations to take a more connected approach to education.