iPad will bring more innovation than i3

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Steve Jobs while introducing the iPad in San F...
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National Journal rehashes i3 grants after a couple folks (including me) suggested the program will produce improvement but not innovation.  Here’s my take:

The i3 program funded credible scaling efforts that will make incremental improvements to traditional schools—solid investments but not innovation. Optimizing the current system will not reach all students; it won’t close the achievement, teacher, or funding gap; and will cost more money.

Innovation is more likely to come from outside the system—from gaming, social networking, informal learning, tutoring, or military training—than through grants to school districts.   We’re more likely to spot the potential for innovation watching developments with iPad than i3; watching TechCrunch more than Ed.gov; watching NEA.com more than NEA.org.

Other than Ed.gov, every other public delivery services of the federal government actively partners with the private sector.  The learning tools our kids deserve will largely be developed by the private sector.  More public-private partnerships would accelerate our progress toward regaining world education leadership.

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is founder and CEO of Getting Smart. He is also a partner in Learn Capital and a director of iNACOL, Digital Learning Institute, Imagination Foundation, Charter Board Partners, Strive for College, and Bloomboard.

7 Comments

TFT /

The private sector is responsible for incredible disparity. If you guys want to help kids then fight for ways to even the socio-economic playing field. That means fighting for better school funding for ALL schools, and fighting for universal health care and free early childhood education.

Gadgets won’t close the achievement gap, no matter how much you want them too (so you can cash in).

Crappy schools are a symptom. Poverty is the disease.

Sean /

I have to concur with Tom. As I mention in this blog post (www.learnboost.com/ipad-apps-education), I believe the iPad and subsequent tablet devices have tremendous potential with the primary obstacle to widespread use in public education being funding. The technology to do amazing things in the classroom is there in the pipeline.

Douglas Crets /

Thanks, Sean. We should talk. I meant to respond to an email your PR group had sent to us, and I think it would be cool to have you write a guest post some day to highlight these issues. I’m interested in discussions that focus on the use of technology by really capable teachers, keeping that human element the large percentage of learning. I’ll read your post and digest. Thanks!

Next Gen Learning Challenges /

Tom’s point is taken on innovation coming from another section other than the education system. But what are people’s thoughts on the non-centralized structure of innovation? Just today there was news on the KNO being introduced as a e-reader in several school districts (http://www.kno.com/). It’s great to see innovation and experimentation, but it seems like there’s the risk of overlap with other projects. But perhaps that’s an inevitable product of innovation?

Douglas Crets /

You do point out something really interesting, which is, in a fair market there wouldn’t need to be coordination. Tech-driven standards would drive adoption, and so would personal choice. Readers that would be able to use similar apps and content would interact with differentiated devices and it wouldn’t matter what was in each person’s hands, just like it doesn’t, in most cases, matter much what kind of Mp3 player I am using to listen to music.

In this case, it seems that someone makes the decision to bring this reader to the districts. That’s just no choice at play. It would make more sense if there was a better effort at standards. Then centralization wouldn’t matter, in my opinion. Bureaucratic decisions don’t determine what makes a device effective. People using them or not using them does.

Kristy Hebert /

Disparity will never be truly dealt with until the development of teachers and leaders is completely overhauled. “Gadgets” can and do help; ask any 7th grader.

Traditional educator prep programs historically perpetuate the social darwinism that ensures public education remain the same.

Innovation is (or should be) the business of education. Let’s make it profitable.

Tom Vander Ark /

Overlap and competition improves innovation. But big advances will require public-private partnerships. For example, next gen learning platforms will include adaptive content, student profiles, smart recommendation engine, data warehouse, and ecosystem of services–about $200m of investment. That will require public leadership to frame markets, foundations to promote equity, and private investment in products/services.