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LISTEN — Class Disrupted Podcast Episode 2: Why Is My Child Doing So Many Worksheets Right Now?

By Michael B. Horn and Diane Tavenner | May 25, 2020

Class Disrupted is a weekly education podcast featuring author Michael Horn and Summit Public Schools’ Diane Tavenner in conversation with educators, school leaders, students and other members of school communities as they investigate the challenges facing the education system amid this pandemic — and where we should go from here. Find every episode by bookmarking our Class Disrupted page or subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Stitcher (new episodes every Tuesday).

Research shows that real learning takes place when students apply their knowledge to real-world problems and get consistent feedback so that they can improve. Yet schools continue to rely on worksheets and textbooks, which do very little to motivate students to learn.

In this episode of Class Disrupted, we answer parents’ questions about why so much of the schoolwork they see their children doing is boring and uninspired.

Larry Berger, CEO of curriculum and assessment company Amplify, joins Diane and Michael to explain how textbooks and other curriculum materials make their way into schools and why it’s so hard to try something new. They discuss what makes digital learning tools effective, how teachers are more important than ever in a digital classroom and what the future of learning looks like.

Listen to the episode below. A full transcript follows.

Parent: Hi, Diane. I’m just hoping you can help me out with something. Carson has been pretty engaged in the classroom, but now he’s really struggling. He has distance learning just a few days a week at his school, and otherwise he’s supposed to learn from videos and textbooks. But when he reads the material, he just doesn’t seem to get it. This isn’t the way he learns and I’m not sure what I can do to help him. Can you help me?

Diane: Hi, I’m Diane Tavenner.

Michael: And I’m Michael Horn. Thanks for joining us for Class Disrupted, a podcast that looks at how the pandemic has disrupted school and how we can approach teaching and learning differently to better meet students’ needs.

Diane: In the last episode we talked about how getting internet and computers to every student is an achievable goal, and why it’s worth it.

Michael: Today we want to talk more about the “worth it” part and get into digital learning tools. Diane, I’m going to be honest, I’m excited to explain what digital tools look like and how, as with most tools, some are great and some really aren’t. In other words, just because it’s digital doesn’t inherently make it good or bad.

To help us, we’re going to hear from Larry Berger, whose company Amplify is on the forefront of designing some of the best digital learning tools in the world. He’ll help us learn about the impact the textbook industry has in the landscape of curriculum today and how that helps explain why assigning worksheets and reading from textbooks has been the answer for many districts for many years.

Diane: But first I think we need to ask a bigger question that gets to why any of this matters, and that speaks to what parents are noticing. Worksheets and textbooks do very little to motivate students to learn. What so many people are seeing right now is that they more often have the opposite effect. Parents are wondering if this is the best we can do, and I, for one, as an educator, feel a little embarrassed.

And so while we’re at it, let’s think a little bit bigger. Answering textbook questions and worksheet questions encourages a rule-following approach to taking in information and spitting it back out. It trains kids to do what they’re told when they’re told and how they’re told, and that drives me crazy. Because the reality is that the jobs our kids will have one day demand something really different from them. The good-paying jobs require people who can creatively problem-solve and who can figure out what needs to be done. There are fewer and fewer jobs that require workers to come in and do what someone tells them to do over and over again.

Michael: But first, and I’m sorry, I can’t resist, Diane. I’m going to interrupt your flow and this episode to bring you a pop quiz. And the first question is to you because you’re the only one out there right now: What’s the 15th element on the periodic table?

Diane: You know chemistry is my weakness and you went right for it. And like so many high school students I know, I’m going to totally dodge your question.

Michael: But here’s the point. You turned out OK. More than OK, I’d say. You may not be able to answer high school chemistry trivia, but so what? You got a good enough grade that you went to a good college and then a good graduate school. I suspect there are a lot of people out there listening to us right now who might say, “So what’s the problem? Is this a system we really want to disrupt?”

Diane: One problem is that I didn’t develop any real skills in chemistry or most of science, quite frankly, and sadly, a bunch of other areas as well.

Like many students, I read a lot of textbook pages, I did a bunch of worksheets, I took a bunch of tests. And like you said, I got good enough grades, but I didn’t actually learn science and I didn’t actually learn history. And I wonder, what if I had? What if I had actually liked it? What if I pursued it?

And in this moment in time, in this pandemic, even if none of that had happened, what if I just knew more to engage in my daily life about those subjects?

Michael: It’s a really good point. And the reality is we actually know a lot more now than when we did when you and I were in high school. Research and, frankly, some common sense tells us that you learn by actively engaging, not passively complying.

That means setting goals, interacting with the material, applying knowledge to real-life problems, getting frequent feedback, and then having the opportunity to reflect.

Diane: Michael, now you’re talking about the type of education that I get excited about, and it really reminds of how people learn and get good at sports. Let’s just imagine a basketball player who wants to get better at making free throw shots. That’s a pretty common goal that basketball players want to achieve. And so how does this player get good at a free throw? Mainly she practices, right? And so what does that look like? If she stands at the free throw line, she sets her body in a particular way. She positions her elbows. She’s focusing on her wrist and her follow-through, and then ultimately shoots the ball and sees what happens.

And here’s the great thing about sports. You get immediate feedback. Did the ball go in the hoop or not? There is immediate feedback. And if it did, you’d try to do the same thing again. And if it didn’t, then you try to make some adjustments to see if it will go in next time.

Michael: And that’s a far cry from a worksheet, right? Where the only way a kid gets feedback is searching for the answer key. That feels artificial and students often view it as a way to “cheat,” to get the answer before they’ve put in any effort. Some effort is always required for learning.

Diane: Exactly. But effort alone isn’t enough. And that’s where the coach comes in. The coach is going to watch this player and offer tips based on what that coach has seen in countless other players and knows about free throw shooting. But the coach can’t always be there when she’s practicing. And so maybe a parent films her shooting so she can look at it and study it. Maybe she practices with a teammate and they give feedback to each other. Her knowledge of a free throw comes from all these different sources as she engages in deeper and deeper practice and development.

Michael: I love this analogy. I mean, think about what this player in your example is doing. She’s learning through active practice. She’s getting feedback, she’s drawing from a bunch of sources. She’s reflecting on how it’s going, and then she’s working at it and working at it until she’s satisfied and, ideally, accomplished her objective — not just because she has 25 more free throws to go through on the proverbial worksheet. Even if one of her teammates has the same goal and the same tools, what’s interesting is that person’s path will also probably look different, and I think that’s the whole point here, right?

Diane: That’s exactly the point. And so when you translate this metaphor to the physical classroom or, let’s even take the online classroom that we’re in now, where there is one teacher, 30 kids and a stack of worksheets, you start to see the problem. Essentially what the teacher does is give the same lesson to everyone, no matter if you’ve never held a basketball or if you’ve played on a team for years and years. It’s the equivalent of a coach saying, “Here’s how to shoot a free throw, copy it down in your notes. Do a worksheet, study it, memorize it, I’ll test you on it and then we’ll move on to rebounds.” I don’t think anyone will believe that someone will get good at free throws this way, but for some reason we think that kids will get good at math and writing like this. And all the things that we think of as learning — listening to a lecture, taking notes, repeating the information — we know that there are far better ways to learn. You’ve got to actually do the thing, and in order for it to stick, you’ve got to do it over and over and over again. And you need feedback so that you can take that information and use it to improve. The big bottom line here? Imagine shooting a free throw and not seeing if it goes through the hoop.

Michael: It’s crazy to even imagine, and there’s strong research that shows that data that allows a student to improve their performance can actually be incredibly motivating to learning. But if you use data the other way, to punish someone, how we often do in schools today, it has the exact opposite effect.

Diane: It is so, so true. I see it time and time again. When kids get feedback on how they’re doing and what they can do to improve, they’re eager to get better and they get right back in there and get to work so that they can get better. Kids do not want to fail. Kids actually want to learn. We just don’t set them up to do that.

Now what’s happening is that so many parents are overseeing their kids’ schoolwork in a way they never have and they’re seeing the limits of this traditional approach. They’re noticing that their kids keep calling them over for help. And what’s going on there is that their kids really have an intuition about what they need in order to learn. What they’re asking for from their parents is feedback so that they can get better and learn.

Michael: When you think about the Zoom lectures that we’re seeing happen right now, it’s incredibly passive, right? They’re actually replicating all the things that we say don’t work ideally, and then putting it into an environment where you’re effectively isolated and estranged from your fellow classmates and teachers, and of course it’s not working.

So now that brings us to digital learning tools, and there are all kinds of them. There’s what I just described, which is passive and not working. It replicates the worst of worksheets, textbooks and lectures. Learners sit back, they watch without truly engaging in the material, or they receive little feedback as they mindlessly work through problems until they’ve done them all.

Diane: Right, and let’s be clear, this is not just happening online right now. This is what kids have been doing in classrooms, too.

Michael: Totally. But here’s the thing. A good digital tool can be really powerful. It can act as the hoop, the video, the adjustments, the hundreds of shots, by offering instant feedback about whether an approach worked and then allowing the student to make adjustments and keep practicing. Every student is actively engaged in learning, so no time is being wasted. The teacher can be the coach.

Diane: This is the work that most teachers wanted to do when they entered the profession, Michael, and they get to work with individual students or small groups. They get to offer the feedback that is personalized because they actually know the students.

Michael: I think Larry Berger is the perfect person to bring in right now. He’s the CEO and founder of Amplify. He’s been in the field of digital learning for 20 years, since the days of dial up connections. He agreed to let us pick his brain about what the best digital learning tools can do. But maybe more importantly for this conversation, why so many schools haven’t actually adopted them.

Diane: You have worked with digital learning tools for so many years at this point, we’d love to hear from you what, at their very best, they do well or, or differently, from other learning tools.

Larry: My top five — if you let me do my top 15 I would go on — would be that technology sometimes enables quicker feedback and more feedback. So as you’re learning, you get stuff in real time in a way that it is only otherwise experienced in one-on-one tutoring situations, which are hard to achieve. Also, you can sometimes just get more feedback. It observes more things about what you’re doing. It can help you do your homework and be there in class and everything in between.

It can create experiences that are hard or even impossible to do in a real classroom. So if a science teacher said, “I have an idea. Let’s dump 100 million tons of methane into the atmosphere and see if it warms up,” that would be frowned upon by the principal. But in a simulation, you can do that, and you can see what happens.

It creates data around experiences that are available to the rest of the system. So teachers, schools, whole systems can start to understand, well, what’s actually happening? Where are the kids getting stuck? Where, how could we improve? And when you’re in the world of paper or analog learning, it’s much harder to make that happen.

And then many of those things I just said add up to maybe two other ones. When it’s used well, there is sometimes more productivity. For the same reason we use email instead of putting letters in envelopes with stamps these days, there’s just a few of those tools that make it faster to read, faster to write, faster to do research.

And then the other places where sometimes we get this wrong and sometimes we get this right, is it enables more personalization and self-direction, so the computer can respond to what kids need to learn next. But it can also offer up opportunities for kids to choose to do things that are, for whatever reason, interesting to them at that moment.

Michael: We’ve seen a lot of schools use digital tools as they’ve shifted rapidly to remote learning. Most of them don’t do anything like what you describe. What explains the variation and how do you think about the range of digital tools out there, and why some do that top five effectively and some don’t?

Larry: The preponderance of places that I’ve looked into either did very little because of ideas about equity — “If we can’t give it to everyone, we shouldn’t give it to anyone” — and sometimes because they just didn’t have a plan and weren’t good at reacting. In many cases though, schools did the move of, “Let’s try to replicate as closely as possible what we used to do, over Zoom.” And I think that is problematic because many of those things don’t work very well over Zoom.

But I also wonder about a deeper problem, which is that there’s an implied lesson that, when a crisis happens, pretend it didn’t happen and try to go on with life as usual. And I think the places where kids saw adults taking a deep breath and saying, “Uh-oh, we have a problem here. We’re just going to remind you that we’re still connected, that we are still in touch with you and we’re not going to try to figure out how to do perfect teaching and learning tomorrow. And then we’re going to start introducing something that is teaching and learning a few days later and we’re going to modify that. And then over not that much time in the places that really reacted well, we’re going to have a working system. And it’s not going to look exactly like what we used to do. It’s going to take elements from what we used to do, and you’re going to see grown-ups figuring out how to deal with the crisis, which might be the deepest lesson possible.”

A lot of places missed the chance to teach that lesson.

Diane: Can you describe how a tool like that gets in front of a sixth-grader in a classroom? How does that sixth-grader get a worksheet or a textbook or a digital learning tool? Can you help us understand that process?

Larry: The process is enlightening and certainly, like the family looking at that worksheet, often are unaware of the backstory to it.

The state adopts a set of academic standards. Those academic standards are turned into, very often, a 1,000- or 2,000-page proclamation about what it is that they’re seeking to buy in curriculum, and it will be not just those standards, but 100 other things. And in general, as states do that, there’s no scarcity principle. Every special interest group gets to put stuff into that document. Sometimes it leads to a magnitude of things that you’d have to do that make it very hard for any small organization or innovative team to comply. So it tends to be the big publishers or reasonably well capitalized upstarts like my company who can even try.

You submit it to the adoption committee. There’s committees in that state that spend a summer usually reading through in every detail your program and each grade and deciding, Are you compliant 100 percent? Meaning, if you were amazing at 99.5 percent of the things, but you missed half a percent of what’s on the list, you’re not listed, not approved for that state.

In states where there aren’t that many districts, publishers are expected to go to each of the districts and present their materials. Again, making it really hard for smaller entities without a salesforce to even show up for that part of the process. Those committees will either go into a conference room, flip through the different materials that are on their finalist list, and just choose one, never having taught with it — that’s the usual way.

In some places like California or in a few of the big urban districts, they will pilot their finalists. They’ll have a committee of teachers spend sometimes eight or 12 weeks trying it before they make a final decision. And what we are finding, as a more digital player in this world, in places that pilot right now, we tend to win about 90 percent of the time. In places that don’t pilot, we only win like 25 percent of the time. And that’s just because digital tools only make sense if you try them and they make it easier to teach.

Diane: I’ve done this as a teacher before, and there’s all these books. They’re beautiful. They have these pretty covers and all these pretty pictures in them, but I’m spending a couple minutes flipping through hundreds of pages. As a human being, the best I can really do is look at the pretty pictures. I mean, what am I really judging on?

Larry: There’s a famous saying in publishing, which breaks my heart, which is an executive confessing, “I don’t make textbooks for children because children don’t buy textbooks. I don’t make textbooks for teachers because teachers don’t buy textbooks. I make textbooks for committees because committees buy textbooks.” What he’s confessing is, I’m trying to be the least common denominator that a large room of people would decide is the compromise position.

Michael: It’s insane listening to you describe this. It occurs to me that there’s another element of this, right? Which is that textbook companies, or certainly smaller shops, can only make so many versions of their materials, and so there are, I assume, certain states like California and Texas that have disproportionate impact on what is adopted across the rest of the country. How does that operate?

Larry: People will sometimes say, “Oh, that’s a Florida program. I see that you’ve modified it for my state, but you built that for Florida, didn’t you?” That was a thing that people would say. It was either Florida, Texas or California because those were the big adoption states.

Michael: But Larry, it’s starting to change, right? You’ve said that things are getting better and we’re moving away from traditional textbooks. Are there things that make you feel optimistic about this moment?

Larry: The world got to the point where suddenly there was enough infrastructure that teachers who wanted to do it could get the devices they needed and could teach with them. And that really to me is why suddenly it started tipping in the right direction. And then it’s a self-reinforcing circle. Once that’s true, publishers start to invest in the idea that teachers are actually going to teach from these programs and the software has to work. And then it starts to self-reinforce.

Michael: We’ve talked a lot about the textbook publishers. Tell me how that relates to the worksheets my kid is getting right now, and why is most of the work done on worksheets?

Larry: It’s amazing how many different kinds of products end up as worksheets, and I think some of it is the familiarity. It’s a format that you know: You hand one out and seven minutes are taken care of while kids fill out the worksheet. I have yet to meet the kid who came home from school and said, “I did the best worksheet today. Let me tell you about it.” That sentence has never been uttered, so I’m pretty sure it’s not the best thing we could be doing educationally, but it’s familiar.

I think the two main exporters of worksheets at this point are, first, when you sell a core curriculum, it’s very often the case that there’s a teacher edition, a student edition, and then there are workbooks. And the little secret of publishing is that they very often would lose money on the teacher’s edition and the student edition, and then they would sell you a renewable set of workbooks. The difference between the workbook and the textbook is kids would write in them and you couldn’t use them the next year. And so suddenly the publishers saw a renewable source of revenue.

And then the other thing has been the testing companies who are generating data. People are saying, “Well great, I can see that my kids are doing badly. What do I do about it?” And instead of having an enlightened pedagogical response to that, in general, they have said, “Well, we can get you worksheets that respond to the items that kids got wrong. And, good news: The things on the worksheet will look just like assessment items, so they’ll do better on the assessments later.” And then they do a research study and they say, “Look, our worksheets are really good. They work because kids who practice answering this assessment item over and over again, when you later give them this assessment item, they get it right.”

No one stops to think, well, wait, have they actually gotten better or have we done what one assessment guy calls “torching the cake”? If you put a toothpick in a cake and you saw that it wasn’t fully baked in this one place and you just took a blowtorch to that one place, it would be done. Then when you tested it again, it would look like the cake’s done. But the whole rest of the cake is actually not any more baked than it was.

Diane: Everyone always talks about math and English, but we rarely talk about science and history and parents care a lot about these things. As a parent, I care a lot about this stuff. My sister called me a couple of weeks ago and said, “Do you write your own science curriculum?” And I said, “Yes.” And she said, “Of course you do.” And I said, “Why do you ask?” She said, “My district just piloted two science curriculums.” To your point, Larry, they actually were piloting for 12 weeks each, and at the end they decided they didn’t like either of the curriculum. They don’t meet their teaching standard. Not surprising, but can you help us understand what’s going on in science?

Larry: We test ELA every year. We test math every year. We test science every four years, and we test history not at all. And so that ends up being the structure of the market. I’m a bit self-interested because we did invest a lot in a science curriculum that has these kinds of rich simulations. And the exciting thing — and that’s why I have some optimism — is we are getting adopted with this quite digitally forward program. About 40 percent of California districts are choosing to do Amplify science, which I think a few years ago would have been seen as something that certain advanced districts would do that are ready to do something ambitious, and now I think lots of districts are feeling like we’re ready to take this on.

In every unit of our curriculum there is some science teaching and learning that you might recognize. You’re reading about science. There are questions, there are answers. There are activities, there is discussion, but then there’s a bunch of things that weren’t possible to do before.

Every kid participates in what we call an engineering internship for each unit. They are on a fictional team at a science and engineering company. In the unit where we’re learning about changing climate, we’ve been tasked with designing rooftops for a city, and we are trying to use the science we’ve learned, but in an applied way, working with our team, designing rooftops, and we’ve set it up so most of the time, the really good idea that your team has fails for an interesting scientific reason and you’ve got to go back to the drawing board, like real engineers. It’s also the case that in every unit there is the hands-on experimentation that good science programs have been doing for awhile, and then there’s the moment where that transitions to a digital simulation that lets you do things that you can’t do in a normal science classroom. So a great example would be natural selection, one of the really hard concepts to get. And the misconception that the population changes, like each animal wants to learn to swim because otherwise it can’t survive, is one of the hardest ones to unroot. But in our thing, we put you on a little island that has trees and carnivores and herbivores. And then we let you adjust the temperature of that island. And if you move it down towards freezing, you start to watch how over a thousand generations, the herbivores with fur survive and the ones that don’t have it, don’t. But you also see that if there is no mutation that generates for it, they just die. And so kids have that ability to essentially accelerate time to run thousands or millions of years of evolution in 10 seconds in their classroom to watch what happens to the population.

And I think it’s that ability to go from learning science by reading and writing about it, which is something that scientists spend a lot of time doing, to learning science by doing a hands-on experiment, to extending that hands-on experiment to things that you just could never do in a classroom, to then applying it in an engineering context. And we have a final component that is a computer science internship, where you are actually using a kids’ programming language to build scientific simulations of your own. So you’re setting the parameters in that system and you’re letting your friends play in an underwater ecosystem or something like that.

Those are just some of the new things that digital makes possible that weren’t there before. But in all cases, it’s that alchemy of digital, print, social experiences in the classroom and a teacher at the center of it. All that I just described, none of it works if there isn’t a grown-up that kids are engaged with driving it forward.

Michael: Diane, I love that conversation with Larry, and I confess he made me more hopeful by the end because if 40 percent of California districts are adopting a really interactive digital curriculum that actually makes sense for how people actually learn, that seems like a good sign that things are starting to change. And to be clear, things should change. It’s nuts to me that a process developed several decades ago still governs all of this.

Diane: I mean, no joke, Michael, if it’s the process I went through as a teacher, which was like 400 years ago, yes, it needs to change. And I got really excited too, listening to Larry. Especially when he was describing the science experience, I wanted to go back to school.

Michael: I wanted to take the curriculum and start using it with my kids tomorrow.

Diane: So true. But before we get too excited, let’s not forget that the school adopting the curriculum is only the first step. The community actually has to embrace it and use it. And that can be easier said than done. A lot of parents are worried that if kids are learning on computers, they’re going to be lonely and socially isolated. And they wonder, “Shouldn’t they be learning together?” And in my experience, what Larry was describing is far more social in terms of learning than for the 13 kids sitting in a row of desks, listening to lectures and taking notes and tests.

Michael: What I think people have to step back and remember is that you actually get in trouble as a kid if you try to make school social. You get kicked out of class if you ask a friend for help understanding something. I make the joke routinely that I’m pretty sure my middle school teachers thought my first book, Disrupting Class, was my autobiography. You literally don’t socialize and it doesn’t make any sense. But the thing I think that’s interesting is what Larry described is so new and unfamiliar, it can feel super uncomfortable as a parent, right? It feels scary to do something different that we don’t understand and we aren’t sure is going to work.

Diane: Michael, I know this so well and so firsthand because I have been navigating these feelings with my husband for years as the head of my child’s school that is using digital tools. I regularly encounter how uncomfortable he is because what it comes down to is he’s not sure what his role as a parent is anymore. He was really familiar with taking the textbook, flipping to the back, looking at the answers, reading quickly, and then helping with the homework. And he gets really uncomfortable when he doesn’t know how to help when it comes to digital tools.

But the good news is, based on my experiences, we all want the same thing. We all believe that school should be a social experience, that it should be joyful, that our kids should like it, and that they should actually be learning. We’re going to cover the social part of this a lot more in future episodes. But the point here is that what parents are thinking of as social learning actually isn’t.

Michael: And then there’s the second fear, right? Which is that digital tools will somehow put teachers out of a job. We addressed this in the last episode, but I think it’s still worth hitting again and again and again, because I see articles all the time that describe online learning as “basically swapping teachers with computers.”

And it’s such a tired line and it couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not an either/or situation. Think about it this way: Can you imagine not giving an employee basic digital tools in this day and age? It would be insane.

Diane: I think it would be worse than insane. I think it’s a complaint that you’re going to get from your workers.

Michael: Totally. And no one thinks that just because the worker in the office has digital tools, that you don’t need a mentor or manager. Technology elevates the role of teachers and allows them to make learning more effective, social and meaningful.

Diane: In the last episode, we talked with Jill, a teacher, and one thing we talked about was her view of what makes a digital tool useful and what doesn’t, and I think it would be helpful for us to go back and hear what she has to say about that.

Diane: (To Jill) Can you sort of tell us the difference between a high-value technology tool and kind of a low-value technology tool from a teacher perspective?

Jill: A high-value tool is one that enhances, enriches and transforms instruction. High-value tools are more student-driven. While low-value tools are more teacher-driven, high-value tech tools allow the students to choose which way of learning works best for them, or where those students’ interests are that drive their learning.

An example: Some students performed learning with videos, and they work best with the video, while other students work best using a slide deck and creating note cards. So I would also include technology tools that allow me to provide that immediate feedback to the students, tools that provide that real-time data, so the student’s learning is based on that real-time data. The low-value tech tools only substitute and replace. They don’t enhance or enrich a student’s learning. For example, I would say Texas Speech, Google Docs, SMART Boards would be low-value tech tools. Another example would be using Overdrive or an e-reader.

Technology such as BrainPOP and YouTube — the value depends on how it’s being used. If I’m standing up in front of the class doing a launch using a YouTube video, it would be low value. However, if a student is choosing to use a YouTube video out of the platform and as a resource to use because they are interested in the YouTube video, then it becomes high value.

Diane: What you’re talking about implies that how you as a teacher are constructing the learning environment and coaching and guiding kids to use those tools matters a lot.

Jill: It does. It does.

Michael: So here’s the takeaway one more time: Not every digital tool is good, clearly. But all the really good ones out there, they do all these things that we’ve been talking about by incorporating the science of how we learn to help create sound learning environments that motivate students, that make them more productive, that are more engaging, that give students the experiences we actually want them to have in schools.

Diane: Michael, those are the places you and I want to send our kids, and it’s the places most parents want to send their kids.

This whole conversation might lead people to think that it’s simple, that a digital tool plus a teacher is all we need. That seems easy. And I think that’s why we often hear the question about Khan Academy. Khan has the most famous teacher in the world, Sal Khan, and it’s a digital tool, and, oh by the way, it’s free. So why can’t Sal Khan just teach everybody everything?

Michael: Well, conveniently, Diane, we’re going to get to explore that very question and more with Sal Khan himself in our next episode of Class Disrupted.

Michael Horn is the author of numerous books on the future of learning, including Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. He works with a portfolio of organizations to help transform education so that all individuals can build their passions and fulfill their potential.

Diane Tavenner is CEO of Summit Public Schools and co-founder of the Summit Learning Program. She is a lifelong educator and innovator and the author of Prepared: What Kids Need for a Fulfilled Life.

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