“Do you know where we are?” asked Milo.

“Certainly,” he replied, “we’re right here on this very spot. Besides, being lost is never a matter of not knowing where you are; it's a matter of not knowing where you aren't – and I don’t care at all about where I’m not."

Investing in Internet-Enabled Education

There’s no reason why 30 students should sit in a classroom and be lectured on the same thing at the same time at the same pace when everyone learns differently. There’s no reason why the tens of thousands of algebra classes are each being reinvented right now across the country by teachers of variable skill levels. There’s no reason why college students should go into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt for courses and a diploma that may not take them where they want to go. And there’s no reason why teachers should waste time conveying materials that can easily be found online, when instead they could be inspiring students to be curious, discover themselves, and apply what they learn.

Despite how huge the education market is (estimated at $750b in the US alone), many VCs are afraid to invest in ed-tech because there was a lot of ‘road kill’ in the space after the dot-com bust. But much has changed in the past decade: the addressable market has expanded dramatically (10x more people are online, have 10x as fast connections, and are connected at least 10x as much), and we’ve recently seen a proliferation of internet-enabled mobile devices, data storage and processing innovations, and the spread of open source content that have brought about great efficiencies in content distribution, consumption, and production.

The importance of the Internet in changing education is more relevant than ever: we continue to move from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based economy at a rapid pace, yet our school system is still stuck in the Industrial Revolution

There are a great diversity of opportunities to innovate in the education realm. On the learning side, we need to create new ways to make it:

  1. Fun. All physics lessons should be as fun as Angry Birds.
  2. Ubiquitous. I should be able learn anywhere and everywhere, taking full courses on my iPhone or any other device.
  3. Adaptive / Customized. Machines should learn how I learn and teach in a way that works best for me.  

And on the accreditation side we need to find ways to get people credit (/certified) for practical skills they enjoy in a much faster, cheaper, and more accessible way than is provided by the accreditation bodies who hold a monopoly on the education system today.

I’m not arguing that we should try to overhaul the current system and force schools to adopt new technology and ideas, but rather that if we create compelling learning and teaching products outside of the school system we can push change from the outside, in.

Some Inspiration:

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Juventas Fugit  is designed and written by Justin Wohlstadter, who, when not writing in the third person, can be found in a coffee shop talking about startups, thinking about the future of education, and generally procrastinating something important.

  • Passions: startups that positively affect the world, education innovation, good design, learning, and meeting those with an equally insatiable curiosity.
  • Play: building new ways for people to connect and explore knowledge at Wayfinder.
  • Previously: was director of product design at Enterproid (acquired by Google). Before that I built the early-stage venture arm of Penny Black and co-founded BOLDstart Ventures, where I was lucky enough to invest in some awesome startups including Rapportive (acquired by Linkedin), Blaze (acquired by Akamai), GoInstant (acquired by Salesforce), Klout (acquired by Lithium), Enterproid (acquired by Google), IndieGoGo and many more. And before all of this I was involved in a bunch of other crazy, less successful startup ventures involving fire extinguishers, measuring philanthropic impact, and creative spaces.
  • Pedantry: most of the important stuff I taught myself or learned from friends, but I’m fortunate to have also (barely received) degrees from Harvard and Oxford. At Oxford I wrote my dissertation on how internet innovation will disrupt access to higher education.
  • Procrastination: can be found on Twitter, Linkedin, AngelList and other web spaces, and be reached via email at my first name at this domain.
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