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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

Understand yourself

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.

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In 2012, researchers Paul Loprinzi and Bradley Cardinal conducted a national study of more than 1,000 adults to see if regular physical activity differed between men and women. The results showed women, on average, get 40 percent less daily exercise than men.

In the same year, researchers from Northwestern University published a study in which they analyzed health and lifestyle data of 3,000 adults collected over a 20-year period. The study found that participants who had made healthy lifestyle choices early in their life were more likely to continue these choices throughout the following decades and remain at low risk for heart disease.

Combined, these studies indicate a trend: beginning at a young age, when health and fitness choices matter most, women aren’t getting enough exercise. It is this trend that Elisabeth Tavierne is fighting against.

Tavierne, an exercise science graduate from Ohio State University, is the founder and president of Changing Health, Attitudes and Actions to Recreate Girls, or CHAARG. As the organization’s name suggests, CHAARG’s mission is to change how college-aged women view and achieve fitness.

“Girls have this mindset that if they do cardio two to three hours, five days a week, they’ll get this healthy [lifestyle] they’re looking for,” Claudia Pagan, a sophomore journalism major at the University of Maryland and founder of the university’s CHAARG chapter, said.

“What we do is liberate girls from the elliptical,” Pagan added. “We want to show girls that being healthy requires a lot of things. You have to do a variety of workouts to achieve what you want, it’s not just cardio and a limited amount of food.”

CHAARG offers classes ranging from yoga to Zumba to PILOXING – a cross between Pilates and boxing – to help its members find activities they enjoy. Members also have access to instructors largely unavailable to college students. According to Pagan, a Nike trainer is scheduled to lead Maryland’s CHAARG chapter through boot camp exercises for the fall 2014 semester.

“All the instructors we work with are so great, and they have modifications for each girl so any girl can be a part of this organization,” said senior pharmacy major Danielle Carroll, who started the University of Toledo CHAARG chapter. “CHAARG is not meant for one type of girl, it’s meant for every girl out there.”

But in order to reach “every girl out there,” CHAARG must expand – a process that is already happening. The organization currently has more than 2,000 members across 14 universities, and is planning to add six new chapters by January, Tavierne said in an email.

Another challenge for CHAARG is expanding the program so it doesn’t solely focus on improving physical wellbeing, but catalyzes action for mental health, personal confidence and women support groups as well.

“People see the fitness side right from the beginning, but they don’t see how deep the community goes and how involved everyone is,” Pagan said. “CHAARG isn’t a sorority, but it has that sorority-type of feel to it.”

By creating this sorority-like atmosphere, CHAARG falls in line with a common recommendation among health professionals –working with friends to motivate exercise. Brittani Rettig, a certified group fitness instructor and manager of her own nationally recognized fitness blog GRIT by Brit, is one such professional.

“With the whole CHAARG initiative, I think it’s great and I think they should continue to make it about having fun,” Rettig said. “The only way change really happens is when people find some sort of activity that they enjoy.”

And while CHAARG members are benefitting physically from new and fun workouts, students really enjoy the organization’s ability to teach young women how to live overall better lives.

“I didn’t think how CHAARG could impact me personally; I didn’t think about how I would grow as an individual,” Pagan said. “I could get up in front of people and tell that what I’m so passionate about. It helped me to be more confident, and to know what I want and go for it.”

“CHAARG is reforming education outside of the classroom,” Pagan added. “With our voice, we’re breaking a stereotype and redefining what being healthy and being fit really means.”

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A few weeks ago, I sat on an airplane with my newest Amazon purchase open on my lap: Adam Braun’s Promise of a Pencil. Braun’s story was, without a doubt, incredible. He had traveled for a semester at sea and founded the global education organization “Pencils for Promise” at the tender age of 24, eventually leaving his job at Bain and Company in an epic saga of social entrepreneurial struggle. As I finished the last page, I was propelled into a bit of an epiphany. Here I was, close to Adam’s age. I was still young, had all the resources Adam had when he started his journey, and had a similar desire to change the world. So what was stopping me? In fact, what stops most of us from changing the world at such a young age?

I thought back to early college when I was in a phase where all I wanted to do was start a business. I remember relegating all my other career options in favor of this daring and random pursuit of entrepreneurship. The more I lamented on how to achieve results, the more I realized that I was stockpiling on one toxic resource: the “excuse”. I’m not old enough. I don’t have enough time right now. This homework isn’t doing itself. I’m not qualified enough. I don’t have enough money right now. My idea isn’t new enough. Sunday football is on. I don’t know anything about technology. I don’t know nearly enough people. I’ll just work for a few years, save up money, re-evaluate life, and then become an entrepreneur. It’s too much to learn. The list went on and on.

Our mind will believe anything we tell it. Most of the time, the excuses and reasons for procrastination alone will preclude us from doing something we feel strongly about. Ignoring the problem seems to be easier than encountering the consequences or worst case scenarios. But how do we overcome these barriers we place on ourselves? How do some people make it while others don’t?

This is where I arrived after some pondering. Part of it is perspective. “Changing the world” can sound so daunting. The idea of starting a venture and putting your entire livelihood around it can sound daunting as well. We have to start with our own personal definition of “changing the world”. We don’t always need to quit our day job. People who volunteer change the world. People who put together book drives and food recovery programs change the world. People who donate money online to causes change the world. Of course, people who start multi-national non-profits change the world too. What kind of impact do we want to make in the long-run? We don’t have to make it all at once. While thinking big is encouraged, when we think too big that we ignore pragmatism and drive ourselves into an unreachable dream, that’s when most of us tend to quit.

Second, we have to find a reason to fix everything holding us back. Money. The internet has enabled new and wild ways to fundraise. Adam Braun only started out with $25 when starting his social venture. Too much competition. Find an area that drives you and work with other collaborators in that area. We spend too much time on competition and finding that “unique idea that nobody has ever thought of in the history of ever”. Not unique enough. Changing the world doesn’t have to start with a ground-breaking idea or re-inventing the wheel. There are plenty of non-profits out there who do the same exact thing. Qualifications. The only qualification we really need is passion. It costs a lot less than a graduate degree and a thousand certifications. We have to start ignoring the guy that tells us that we need to be old and rich to be a philanthropist. If you have a passion now, don’t risk letting it rot.

Finally, we have to start connecting. Read blogs from successful young entrepreneurs. Read autobiographies from the founders of inspiring organizations we respect. Meet young people in person. Follow them on twitter. Keep learning. I follow many people my age and younger and I can always count of them for some of the most refreshing professional perspectives I get on a daily basis. It can only benefit us to use these stories as a template that age is nothing when it comes to world change.

This all puts us in a position for the hardest part: to start executing. “Zak Malamed, Student Voice Founder, once wrote, “The most disrespectful thing you can say to young people is, “you are the leaders of tomorrow.” This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy where young people are stigmatized to believe that there is a minimum age for being capable of changing the world.” Let’s stop succumbing to the stigma and change the paradigm for youth and real, tangible change. We don’t have to find the next “Pencils for Promise” but just create something that’s a reflection of a real, raw dedication towards a cause. Why not us?

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