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Here’s how to scale school innovation


In a new TED talk, Adam Frankel, former executive director of Digital Promise, discusses how technology can help bring personalized learning and school innovation to scale.

After writing education speeches for President Obama, Frankel told the audience that he wanted to get “closer to the point of action,” and “wanted to enact the words on the page.”

It was tricky, Frankel said, because as Roland Fryer (the Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics at Harvard University, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, founder and faculty director of the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard) suggests, conventional approaches to education reform that should work—such as smaller class sizes—haven’t made a huge difference at scale.

“The big question became: How can we expand and scale-up personalized learning?” he asks.

(Next page: Frankel’s TED Talks video)

While Frankel noted that technology is “by no means a silver bullet or a panacea,” he described how he believes technology can transform instruction.

“The potential is actually not about the technology,” he said. “It’s about the learning environment that technology enables. … It has a way of transforming these classrooms, so that you can personalize learning in a way that’s never been possible before.”

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As noted on the Digital Promise website, Frankel outlined three challenges to scaling innovation throughout education and included suggestions to overcome them:

  • Research into the efficacy of education technology is scarce and we need to adopt the faster, nimbler R&D methods common at companies like Google or Amazon.
  • To create a more efficient ed-tech market we need to give districts—the buyers—more information on what’s available to them.
  • Implementation of education technology can make or break its success so we need to focus more on training teachers and providing broadband.

As Frankel said, Digital Promise aims to overcome those challenges through efforts such as the League of Innovative Schools.

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Meris Stansbury

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