EdisonLearning Officials Discuss the Future of K-12 Education

Recently I attended an online discussion facilitated by the educational company EdisonLearning who recently acquired a product called Provost. The goal of the discussion was to talk about the acquisition of the new product but also to discuss the future of education as EdisonLearning envisons it.

The event was kicked off by John Chubb who described a little about the company that began in 1992 as the Edison Project and now has grown into EdisonLearning which has served over 350,000 children in 21 states and the United Kingdom. The name change includes a new company approach to teaching and learning for all children.

When the company started, for the first three years, it was just an R&D project and then for the next 10 years the company built off of that R&D project and developed a successful company. Now they are refocusing on R&D by creating an Institute which is focused on looking at the future of school designs as well as continuing to manage schools and school systems for success. I love the idea of an organization looking at new designs for schools…much needed.

John Chubb and David Zeiler encouraged the listeners on the call to imagine a hybrid school system where kids go from Pre-K to high school intermixing educational opportunities between face-to-face learning and supervised computer-based learning events. They stated that these new mixed environments are important because children come into schools with different levels of achievement and motivation and the mix of technology with the human touch provides a more robust opportunity to provide an appropriate education for everyone.

They encouraged us to imagine, kids spending time in classroom groups with teachers for part of the day and then at other times the kids would work with self-paced technology and at other times work with technology that is connected to teachers online who are located elsewhere. The kids could then receive differentiated instruction customized to their needs. Kids could also, as part of their regular school, take entire courses online at home or within the school within the regular school hours or even at different hours. Complete customized, flexible educational opportunities.

As an example, EdisonLearning, in one school they operate have large lab spaces in a charter school where 60 third grade kids are in lab at one time. In this situation these kids are inner city kids where some kids are reading and some aren’t. In the lab space some are working on sound/letter agreements and basic stuff while other third graders are reading at a 7th grade level. In that same classroom, those kids who are reading at the higher level are reading texts online and responding in paragraph format within an automated system. Different abilities all working together in the same space thanks to technology.

This kind of design may work particularly well in inner cities and as students move up in age level they will have opportunities to access content differently and receive education at their own pace.

EdisonLearning officials also explained that schools of future will have more similar standards-based outcomes as more states begin to converge on standards. In fact in the future there is no reason it should take 180 days for every child to meet every standard. The schools could be configured to whatever was appropriate on a more individual basis instead of the “mass” approach we use now.

Here are some interesting “talking points” from the discussion:

  • Technology creates a competition among schools in which they must function in different ways because schools across the country or world are now competing against the school closest to a student’s home because of technology.
  • Education is poised to go through a major transformation due to technology (also see my book on that point)
  • Every other institution has gone through organizational changes because of technology but not K-12, now change can occur.
  • Schools of the future will involve new forms of technology for supporting education.
  • Schools are becoming hybrids of brick and motor and technology.

Visit EdisonLearning to learn more about the possible future of school design and the incorporation of technology into school systems by EdisonLearning. Also, comment on your thoughts of the “school of the future” on this blog…let me know what you think.

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Leave a Comment (2) ↓


  1. tony July 7, 2008

    Although I am not working in education, I work as a mental health caseworker in an alt ed environment. Education needs to be adapted all the time considering the special needs of these children. Having special needs should not be the only catalyst for changing education. Mainstream schools will benefit greatly from the changes discussed in this article. I have always been a supporter of changing the educational system incorporating technology. I have seen hints of it in some local schools. This type of instruction will open the door for the greatly-needed change for US schools. Also, self-paced learning is a great idea for allowing advanced students reach new heights and keep others from slipping thru the cracks. Technology and education should always be mixed within the school systems. This type of learning can only improve the success/diversity of students when entering secondary education or the working field. I’m curious to see if this has been incorporated in schools other than charters.

  2. Joanna Kreisher July 5, 2008

    This new way of teaching is really coming fast. I know that a lot of districts are adopting different technology programs due to the Classrooms for the Future initiative (which I may say as a participant at Danville High is totally awesome). I can see the increase in change not only here, but also in the increase in the number of Cyberschools in the area. This leads me to believe that technology is not simply the next trend in education, but really is here to stay. I think that creating environments where students can learn at their own pace is really useful. I have only had the experience of integrating such software like Study Island in my PSSA Senior Remedial Math classes to achieve this effect. I think that designing an instructional environment, like the one you mentioned, could be challenging and time demanding in the beginning and planning stages, but very rewarding in seeing student success. This brings a whole new spin on differentiated instruction!

Karl Kapp
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