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Reflections on Education: Disruption and Tools to Change the World

Catalina Rojas

May 11, 2015

Some of you might know that PCDN is now housed in the most awesome start-up incubator in the country called 1776.  For those of you that don't speak "start-up" let me translate into English.  PCDN its housed in a co-working space in DC.  But its way beyond a desk and wifi.  1776 its a space to grow as a business for those that are in the business of changing the world (through businesses).

This week, 1776 is hosting a Challenge Festival, complete with contests of start-ups battling for name, recognition and the prize of being name an innovator.  (Strongly recommend you watch a show in HBO called Silicon Valley to enjoy this more). Today is dedicated to the topic of education.  Education as it intersects with technology and how technology serves students and teachers to fill the gap between what employers want and what students need to learn.

I have heard many interesting things today which I want to quickly share:

The U.S. as a country is still figuring out how to enable all schools with high speed internet.  Really?  yes.  It seems they are moving in the right direction but the next challenge is that students remain disconnected at home. 1 in 3 households do not have broadband service.  In the U.S. of A.   5 million households with school age children were students do not have broadband.

I have also heard inspiration stories like in a small rural town in southern U.S. where most of the students are children of immigrant Spanish speaking farmers.  Students were given tablets but there is no wifi available.  School then equipped the buses with wifi and its a 2 hour round trip to and from their homes.  Bus parks in the most remote areas with the modem's on to allow students as much time as possible to complete their students assignments.

The panels are diverse in that they bring teachers, entrepreneurs, investors and they all agree that the key for educational apps is to have more educators and students involved in the process.

In terms of higher ed, a very interesting panel questioned the importance of the 4 year college graduation.  Its no secrete the cost of higher education in the U.S. and its important to ask us: is it worth it? is getting into massive debt the way to start life? is the degree giving you all the skills you need to succeed in this economy?

The overall consensus is the massive transformation that universities are going to go through in the next decade to keep up, to offer what students need.

A final fact I want to share is that there are too many apps that are devoted to teach math, and almost no social, history, peace apps.  This is a call for all of us that have a social science training to think of creative and disruptive apps in all this social, peace-building, creativity, languages are in need for apps.

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