Andreessen Horowitz, a well-known venture firm on Sand Hill Road in the heart of the Silicon Valley has a motto: “Software Is Eating the World.”
The train of thought behind the motto is that as long as an organization can implement software in a way that reduces costs, it can provide solutions that were once only available only to the wealthy, to the whole world.
While providing quality, low-cost services to the globe may be a daunting task, many Silicon Valley companies have been able to do just that. For most of the Valley’s education-based tech startups, however, achieving this business model hasn’t been very successful.
Take Massive Online Open Courses, or MOOCs, for example. MOOCs are classes put on a platform that aims to increase access and personalize classes to learners. The best professor in the world can teach thousands of people anywhere in the world and software can customize the learning process for each student so that they are able to do their best.
Many people gathered around the model of MOOCs and heralded it as the education of the future. The New York Times declared 2012 the year of the MOOC, and many schools began running pilot programs attempting to integrate these courses into their curricula.
In practice, however, MOOCs do little more than put lectures, homework, and tests online. Personally, I’ve found MOOCs too frustrating and rigid for my liking. In fact, the current model of MOOCs reminds me of the traditional brick and mortar institutions that have, in their own way, interfered with my learning.
As a millennial who grew up learning on the Internet, I’ve found its power lies with allowing me access to things I never would have been taught in school as well as the ability to make unlimited connections to other people. On the web, I learn things in an order based on my own interests, and can spend hours clicking links that catch my attention or learning from countless Wikipedia pages.
There is so much potential in what a tech startup can do to the face of education, however most of the current models that explicitly attempt to “educate” are completely missing the mark.
However, even though many of the models that explicitly attempt to revolutionize education are not doing terribly well, there are a handful of companies that are approaching learning from a new perspective and deserve a closer look.
Quora, for instance, is a fresh new take on asking and answering questions, and has an extremely community driven approach. Quora implements a credit system that makes the platform function like a game. Quora doesn’t present itself as a learning platform, but its ability to help people ask and answer questions has an incredible side effect of deep understanding, learning, and community building.
Another example of online learning is CreativeLIVE. CreativeLIVE is an innovative livestreaming education platform geared mainly toward creatives. They bring in industry leaders to teach classes that are often multiple days long, diving deep into the topics.
Another one of my favorite examples is Duolingo. Duolingo is a language learning platform that also employs your language learning efforts to translate old books. Much like Quora, Duolingo succeeds by providing a game-style product that serves as a very fun, lighthearted approach to learning a new language.
What all of these programs have in common is that they are very personalized, self-directed and interactive. All of these programs leverage a combination of the social power of the Internet along with rich and dynamic content to create experiences that are deeply engaging to the learner.
Revolutionizing learning takes much more thought than simply transferring our content from paper to silicon, as evidenced by how easy it was to move on from the year of the MOOC. It takes maximizing technology, developing innovations that truly support learning, and operating under a model that seeks to build and shape the future.
And as the amount children growing up in a digital society increases, so will the pressure on Silicon Valley to achieve this revolution.
The last time student test scores were ranked on a global scale was in 2012, when the Program for International Student Assessment determined the U.S. had fallen in reading, math and science.
While PISA’s evaluation did surprise some – reading scores, in particular, fell by 10 spots – for many, it served as an underscore of what critics had been saying for years: the U.S. education system needs reform.
Reforms in the US have spanned from No Child Left Behind to the more recent Common Core standards. Regardless of the initiative, however, one thing has persisted: state and federal officials tasking educators with getting students more engaged in learning.
Putting this into practice, however, has not been easy. Since the 1980s, researchers have released slews of studies documenting a decline in student engagement despite its positive mental and social effects.
With at least three decades of student disinterest to combat, some educators are turning to alternative methods of instruction to increase engagement.
Aaron Maurer is one such educator. Maurer, who has worked in the education system for 11 years, serves as a directional coach at an Iowa middle school where he helps teachers improve classroom instruction.
Maurer is an advocate of project-based learning, sometimes called PBL. According to the Buck Institute of Education, a nonprofit provider of PBL materials, this teaching method involves students learning from long-term assignments that aim to answer a central question or challenge.
According to Maurer, his middle school adopted the PBL model three years ago in an effort “to create an authentic audience and these open-ended, deep learning opportunities for kids, as opposed to just going through worksheets and textbooks.”
The overarching point of model, Maurer added, is to have students see their learning as integrated, not only across subjects but in their out-of-school lives as well. Because of its inherent style, PBL often tackles nontraditional topics like identifying students’ passions or what breaks their hearts.
Lisa Barnes, a language arts teacher with more than 15 years of teaching experience, recently conducted her own PBL assignment after her class of eighth graders complained that a local convenient store made teenagers leave their backpacks outside while they shopped.
The project, dubbed A Few Bad Apples, had students examine the bias adults have towards children and teenagers, where that bias comes from and what young people can do to address it.
“They seemed much more interested in the topic itself, the fact that some of them had … experienced this bias themselves,” Barnes said.
Research on PBL, though limited, supports Barnes’ observations. A 2002 study published by the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics, for example, found students who were taught using the PBL model outperformed students learning under more traditional curricula.
Additionally, the study found student attitude towards classroom materials was better under the project-based system.
The PBL model does come with drawbacks, though.
Time is one, as students must spend a good portion of the academic year working on complex projects. A Few Bad Apples, a project originally slated to take about a month, took nearly 10 weeks to complete.
PBL is not a catchall either. The teaching method doesn’t click with every student, according to Barnes. Furthermore, students who enjoy the projects and show improved comprehension sometimes can’t relay that understanding to more formal exams.
In spite of the kinks, Barnes has noticed a difference in her class since incorporating PBL, especially among the middle-achieving students. Student motivation has increased, she said, as the projects have reaffirmed some students’ beliefs in the power of their own voices.
“I used to think that was like the end all be all; if we can get the student voice message in schools,” said Maurer, who now believes student voice is simply the first of many positive byproducts PBL has to offer.
“It will lead us to step two, which I think is student agency,” Maurer said. “But the first step is to help them develop that voice, and … not be afraid to use it.”
“Not enough kids believe that their voice matters,” he added, “but that’s what we [have] to get to matter.”
On November 19, 2014, President Obama launched the ConnectEd initiative to support digital learning, and I was part of the ceremony.
The ConnectEd initiative is a collaborative partnership between the White House, private businesses and schools across the country aiming to connect 99 percent of students to high speed wireless and broadband Internet over the next five years. The initiative stems entirely from student and educator demands, and the Obama Administration is working closely with both groups to ensure its optimal success.
“In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee,” Obama said at the ceremony, “the least we can do is expect that our schools are properly wired.”
For part of the event, President Obama and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz spoke to student journalists from around the country, including myself. One of the most interesting facts I gained from speaking with Muñoz was that that less than 40 percent of public schools in America have high-speed internet access in their classrooms, which was astonishing to hear. Coming from a district with broadband Internet, I assumed most other schools were the same, but I was wrong. Muñoz believes that providing students with access to technology will drive innovation and allow for individualization, leading to more effective learning.
Although our exchanges were brief, Muñoz seemed very interested in us, and asked many questions about our thoughts on ConnectEd and American education.
After meeting with Muñoz, the other students and I went to the Red Room to meet President Obama, but stumbled across the Assistant Secretary of Education, Deborah Delisle, along the way. Delisle personally interacted with each of us and asked about our experiences with technology in schools. Every conversation was unique and showed her interest in hearing from students directly.
Like Muñoz, the president was very excited to meet with us and said it was crucial for us to be at the ConnectEd event. In fact, everyone I met that day seemed genuinely interested in what students had to say about our educational experiences and stressed the importance of us being there.
At the event, I learned that the first step of the ConnectEd initiative is the Future Ready pledge, which was signed by superintendents from across the country that day. Obama says he is confident that his administration will be able to connect 99 percent of schools and students to high speed Internet, I am weary about the long term nature of the project and worry it will get lost in the shuffle due to the possible party shift in coming years. Nonetheless, however, I do look forward to watching ConnectEd unfold around the country and think it is important for the future of education.
One thing is for sure: “Every child deserves a shot at a world-class education,” Obama said. I think it’s time for students to play a role in shaping that world-class education, and Student Voice, ConnectEd and the Future Ready initiative are making that possible.
An increasing amount of schools are requiring students to complete an internship for graduation, and it seems as if everyone has advice on how to find the perfect internship. Sometimes, however, it feels like no matter how many resume revisions you make, or how long you practice for an interview, you’re still nowhere closer to the internship of your dreams.
While getting lost in all the details of an internship search is easy, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the big picture. Here are five habits that can ensure your attitude, intentions, and actions are all working together to land you a fulfilling internship.
The first hurdle you have to jump in searching for an internship is understanding what you are looking for. Opportunities for experiential learning exist everywhere, and it takes some narrowing down to find the right one. Patrick Sullivan, Associate Director of the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University, recommends, “instead of saying, ‘I want an internship’, consider developing a goal that incorporates your skills and interests. Working towards a goal [like] that is more … realistic and more manageable.”
Maintain an open mind
Even after narrowing you’re search, it’s still important to consider other possibilities. According to Tara Shishmanian, a senior who is majoring in business communication at Stevenson University and who has completed four internships, “Even if somebody mentions something that doesn’t sound interesting, I’ll still research it, because you never know where it could lead.” The point here is that you should learn as much as you can about an opportunity before pursuing or dismissing it. This extra effort could make the difference in finding an internship that fits your goals and needs.
Don’t go it alone
Always recognize the social side of any organization you’re applying to. Don’t discount the importance of talking to and learning from people; it’s an everyday practice that can be a deciding factor in finding and landing a position. Jeff McGuire from Rowan University’s Career Management Center says, “Knowing where to turn when you need something is just as important as having what you need in the first place. If resourcefulness is a measure of value, then knowing where to turn might even be more useful than possessing the knowledge first hand.”
End on a high note
As your internship comes to a close, go out with the same intensity you had coming in. “Finish at a sprint; don’t coast to the end. Even if you’re finished with your summer project, walk around and volunteer to help anyone else,” Bob Bruner, dean of business administration at the University of Virginia, advises. This is your chance to leave a good last impression with your employer – you don’t want to be known as the lazy intern who gave up during the last week. Also be sure to maintain the connections you’ve made with your coworkers; they may be the people helping you get your next internship.
Lastly, remember to take something from each opportunity that comes your way. Reflecting on internship experiences will give you an idea of what you’ve accomplished, the challenges you faced, how you overcame these challenges and, most importantly, how all these factors will translate into your professional life in the future. “So many people get caught up in leaving their internship that they don’t take the time to reflect on their experience, their likes and dislikes, or their transferable skills,” says Jen Wheeler, Experiential Learning Coordinator at Stevenson University.
Conventional internship search strategies focusing on interviews and resumes are important, but a broader shift in attitude is going to make a more meaningful difference. Combined with standard advice, following these five steps will have you interning in the perfect place.