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Shaking up learning is top priority at education summit in San Diego

Romy Drucker | April 18, 2016

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Antonio Villaraigosa

An Airbnb for school choice! The Tesla of curriculum! A Fitbit that tracks student learning!

We’ll find out if these are real pitches at the 2016 ASU GSV Summit in San Diego this week — probably not — where an impressive gathering of entrepreneurs, policy leaders, superintendents and investors will convene to discuss ideas aimed at disrupting American education. Because that’s what this conference is really about: Shaking up learning.

Silicon Valley cliches aside, however, the GSV conference showcases a veritable pupu platter of the biggest, boldest ideas in education right now. As the godfather of disruptive innovation Clay Christensen might say, there’s no shortage of “jobs to be done” in education, and many of these conference attendees want to be hired on the spot.

There are solutions and antidotes to the status quo for every stakeholder — teachers, students, district leaders — which is a good thing. In a country where half our students can’t read or do math at grade level, we need as many people as possible from all backgrounds and areas of expertise collaborating with educators to fix America’s broken schools — or reimagine them altogether. The 74 Million-kid question is which ideas can both move the needle for students and achieve some level of scale across the system. Experimentation and prototyping are good; implementation and results are better.

Here are some of the highlights from the packed GSV agenda:

Tuesday, April 19

10 a.m.: In January, further signaling a trend of using video games as classroom learning tools, Microsoft announced a new education-focused version of the massively popular video game Minecraft. Minecraft Education Edition, which will be demoed during a session, takes the popular game and tweaks it slightly to cater to a more educational setting.

11 a.m.: Surge Institute presents a conversation on “Leadership Diversity in Education” with D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson and leaders from both the Charter School Growth Fund and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We’re particularly interested in hearing from Henderson on this topic, who leads the fastest-improving urban district in the country.

12 p.m.: Campbell Brown, co-founder and editor in chief of The 74, is conducting a “fireside chat” with Sal Khan, CEO of Khan Academy, and Mark Hoplamazian, CEO of Hyatt Corp. What do these two global entrepreneurs think about the future of education? (To find out, follow my tweets from the event @romydrucker).

2 p.m.: The participants on the “Radically Different School Models” panel are leading the charge in thinking outside of the box, bringing transformative new designs to site-based schools. Leaders from the Khan Lab School, The Incubator School, Design Tech High School, and Big Picture Learning will discuss the challenges and opportunities of schoolhouse innovation.

2 p.m.: Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa discusses the barriers to improving urban schools. In 2014, Villaraigosa endorsed the nine student plaintiffs in the landmark Vergara v. California who are challenging state statutes they contend violate their constitutionally protected right to a quality education. With Vergara overturned last week by a California Appeals Court, we’re eager to hear what he thinks about the path forward.

(Interview: Villaraigosa talks charter expansion in Los Angeles — and a possible run for governor)

4 p.m.: “Trends in Education Technology & Entrepreneurship in China” features four prominent entrepreneurs and investors from the Chinese education sector. With Asian countries topping the charts in the latest OECD global school rankings (the United States was 28th), and with the status quo so deeply entrenched in America’s schools, what can we learn from Chinese innovators? What lessons can we import?

Wednesday, April 20

10 a.m.: Todd Rose, co-founder of Harvard’s Center for Individual Opportunity and author of the book “The End of Average,” eulogizes the end of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to learning. As educators grapple to figure out what personalized learning means in practice, Rose offers ideas and strategies for thinking through the building of an individualized education plan for every child.

2 p.m.: The panel “Why Former Educators Make Great Entrepreneurs” features four “teacherpreneurs” who can definitely both “do” and “teach.” They saw challenges in their classrooms, rolled up their sleeves and set out to solve them.

Follow all our updates from the 2016 ASU GSV Summit at @the74.

Romy Drucker is co-founder and CEO of The 74. This article was published in partnership with

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