Newswire – March 10, 2020

Virus or No Virus, Education Needs to Advance

Education technology that delivers great content, engages students and teachers has never been more important.  While the many education systems have resisted changing their 150 year old structure, necessity now compels it to do what ailing student achievement could not.  We’re excited to be part of it and know many of the thousands of entrepreneurs and innovations that can help our students — at every level — keep moving in their educational journey no matter where this virus disruption takes them.  While we are all upset by this global problem, we can and we must overcome it. Here’s our part to do just that:

REINVENT EDUCATION. Every challenge is an opportunity, they say, and now the opportunity to reinvent how we “do” school has never been more possible, nor more necessary.  There are copious tools and services that can and should be focussed on ensuring that students don’t miss a beat in their learning. While most of the major accomplishments in ed tech serve to improve the educational experiences of student, instructor or manager, fewer are intended to ensure the educational experience can continue solo, on one’s own, in the event of choice -- or necessity.  While advances in delivering highly adaptive and interactive programs online abound in postsecondary education (think ASU), other parts of the system have lagged, unless open minded states or communities permit online or virtual schools that have been most prevalent in the charter movement (think K12) or in some statewide offerings (think Florida Virtual) But there has not really been anything envisioned across the whole of “traditional” education that could become the equitable, quality substitute should tragedy — or potentially — opportunity hit.

Rather than leave it to chance when a tragedy strikes what if we were actually deploying the many advances in the science of learning and technology to bring an “end to average?” As Todd Rose argues, “The hardest part of learning something new is not embracing new ideas, but letting go of old ones.” But now it’s not hard, it’s necessary. And the great news is, we can keep the kids moving forward if those in charge are willing to open their minds and invite the help. Here’s just a few thoughts to get you started, especially for our friends here, and in Italy:

NEED HELP ON ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNING? Check. From your home computer your avatar can join a global network of students exploring a 1500 year old church using Rumii “ a social-virtual reality space that enables people to collaborate and communicate in one room from anywhere in the world — as though they're all in the same physical location.”  Italian Educator Michael McDonald uses virtual reality as a way of improving the way people learn or teach English as a foreign language.”

WRITING SUPPORT? A company founded by literature and English expert Dr. Jamey Heit puts that expertise to the service of teachers everywhere using artificial intelligence that essentially mimics the gifted writer’s brain. Says Ecree leaders: "We want to offer our #support to schools closing due to #COVID. We are ready to give access to our online writing software to any school or district that asks! Please reach out to our CEO @jameyheit"

HOW DO YOU GO ONLINE? Edmentum is responding to increasing demands to deploy their online learning and assessment tools in districts across the country. Their adaptive curriculum and research-based assessments can help students access quality instruction and resources for an extended period out of the classroom. Reports their Twitter feed:


  •  Zanichelli Editore, which has long been developing integrated digital education for the Italian system, extensive assessment applications, an intelligent step-by-step assistant in solving mathematical exercises; comprehensive, widely enhanced, multimedia, interactive, mobile-enabled print-replica and reflowable ebook platforms and augmented textbooks via smartphone app.
  • Maieutical Labs, whose adaptive tutors created for use on smartphones or paper can replace for now, or augment learning in Latin, grammar and literature.

Keep your employees moving forward despite potential interruptions to the workplace.  SallyAnn Della Casa’s GLEAC “maps and measures your soft skills gaps for any job (current and future) and helps you develop them in 10 minutes a day... to industry standard ranking and/or culture fit ranking for any role and will deliver to you daily 5-10 min industry-specific micro-learnings to improve your job readiness. SallyAnn counts Prada among her many clients.

IS THERE AN APP FOR THAT? You bet there is.  We don't need to replace the teachers but we can change their role to support and direct the learning of students, while the students, no matter where they are, make their way through superior technical innovations that can more easily and quickly identify, respond, correct and expose them to learning.

@futureof_school scholarships. Talk about good timing! The far sighted folks at “Future Of School” established a scholarship program for current high school seniors who have completed a minimum of five (5) blended or online courses during their last two years of high school and plan to continue their education in college or vocational school programs. Scholarships in the amounts of $5,000 and $10,000 are available but the deadline for applying is 3 PM Central Time this Monday the 16th.

AND LET’S NOT FORGET THAT CHARTERS WERE AND ARE THE LABORATORY OF INNOVATION FOR U.S. PUBLIC EDUCATION. (A fact the remaining candidates would do well to learn — perhaps online? — in a day and age where every lever at our disposal needs to be on the table for our students). It was charters that brought online and blended approaches to public ed, that initiated the first personalized learning programs, that put technology into adaptive use, rather than leaving clunky computers in the back of the classroom, that started real time assessment, feedback loops and more.

As has been widely written and preached for more than 2 decades, here and elsewhere, examples abound, from Summit Public Schools, to High Tech High,  to Mission Achievement and Success Charter School, to SLAM, and thousands in between. We can do this, folks! Education should be the least affected by epidemics and pandemics. We just need to do, not just try.

BE CAREFUL OUT THERE. This, too shall pass.  The origins of “this too shall pass” are lost in the midst of time, but its truth has been proven through the centuries. So it is with the Coronavirus. In the meantime, be careful, be safe and as our Brit cousins did during The Blitz...keep calm and carry on!


Founded in 1993, the Center for Education Reform aims to expand educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans — particularly our youth — ensuring that conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom and flexibility throughout U.S. education. 
We’re always delighted to hear from our readers...suggestions, questions and even the occasional complaint!


Newswire – March 10, 2020