ASU+GSV Reflections: EdTech Can Be Both a Disrupter & Equalizer

Say the Thing

Note: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

The desert winds that blew through last week’s ASU+GSV Summit 2015 in Scottsdale, Arizona carried new perspectives and insights on education technology. For me, the most notable was how the viewpoint on technology has shifted even in recent years: from a possible solution to our country’s public education challenges to a critical tool or lever to reshape American education and expand opportunity.

And boy, is there excitement and enthusiasm for what that tool, wielded carefully and thoughtfully, could do to change how we think about the process and purpose of education.

No one was talking about plunking kids down in front of computers for 12 hours a day. Those are the bygone days (fortunately) of what some thought the EdTech movement would mean. Now, innovators and educators are figuring out how we can harness technology to create differentiated, challenging learning paths for all students, regardless of their backgrounds, from pre-K through postsecondary.

EdTech is measured disruption for our education system. What high school and postsecondary educational opportunities and experiences look like in a few years could be very different from today. We might even see the end of the standard $200,000 price tag that today accompanies a bachelor’s degree from a private university, or move away from seeing that option as the preferable to others in terms of workforce preparedness, upward mobility, and the development of an informed, capable citizenry.

I have an 11 year old daughter, and while I’m pretty sure her middle school and high school experience will look a lot like mine, I’m not as sure that that will be the case for her college experience.  Other credentials (like General AssemblyHack Reactor and emerging solutions like Fullbridge) are poised to compete favorably with college degrees or enable young people to take a different, and financially sustainable, path to a bachelor’s degree.

It will take time to adjust the way we perceive these disruptions in education, but the ultimate result will be that education is about learning and developing, not teaching (for what we can teach today will certainly be out of date in a few years). We’ll need to equip our students with skills and competencies, yes; and also grow them into powerful thinkers. To successfully prepare all students to build meaningful, economically viable lives, they must become lifelong learners.

In the workplace of the future, our young people will need the capability to do the job at hand, and the vision to reimagine work and their jobs anew. The same is true as we think about what we, as citizens, need to do to continually improve our country and the world.

Technology holds the promise to help us balance the sizable task of preparing young people for jobs and preparing them to be critical thinkers, innovators, and adapters. By making tools and learning opportunities accessible to all young people, technology can create a more level playing field that all students – and especially low-income students – will benefit from.

As employers, we can’t just sit on the sidelines and watch. In our increasingly dynamic work market, we all must become nimble learners, coaches, and talent seekers who continually grow and innovate. What we think of as indicators of “talent” will shift in the next decade, and the credentials we’ve prized in the past are very likely to change. That’s a good thing.

For Education Pioneers – like all other human capital organizations – we, too, will need to grow and adapt what we look for when we seek talent to better serve the education sector’s needs. What we find could shift our own programming dramatically. The possibilities for all of us are incredibly exciting if we seize this chance to make education a more level playing field for all students.

Let’s get to work.

Frances McLaughlin Frances McLaughlin is the President of Education Pioneers and is responsible for implementing the organization’s strategy nationally to achieve EP’s ambitious goals. She believes deeply that effective management and leadership – in addition to high quality instruction – are necessary for all students to reach their academic potential.