Teach For All CEO Wendy Kopp discuss the role (and limitations) of technology in the classroom.

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Transcript — Well so first of all I think education must be the only sector that hasn’t already been completely revolutionized by technology. I think about even how we do our work within Teach for America or Teach for All now versus ten years ago and it’s completely and totally different just based on the power of technology. So there is no doubt – I mean we’re not leveraging technology in the way that we absolutely must if we’re gonna insure that kids truly attain an excellent education given how far we need to go in that pursuit from where we are right now. And I think there’s so much that technology can do. We should be thinking about how to use the gaming technology that is so addictive for kids to good end for educational purposes.

We can with – we should be able to do so much to get our teachers and our parents and our kids all clear on where kids are relative to where they’re supposed to be based on rigorous standards so that — I mean the most powerful way to motivate a kid is to tell them here’s where you are against where you’re supposed to be. Like they become obsessed with getting where they’re supposed to be. Parents are dying for that information. Teachers themselves would benefit a lot from better information on that score. And if we could get that information in the hands of all those folks at the same time right there we would we would improve a lot. We should be individualizing instruction utilizing that data to actually give teachers the tools necessary to meet the needs of a very diverse group of kids which exists in every class.

So there’s just, there’s so much we need technology to do. At the same time I’ve been somewhat disconcerted by some of the discussion that goes on around technology and education because it almost – and this seems extreme but I’ve sat in rooms full of folks who think that we could give kids tablets and that’s it. Like they’re gonna teach themselves. And I think in the end, especially when you’re working with the most marginalized kids, the kids who are facing so many extra challenges, who don’t have safety nets. They have the opposite of safety nets around them. I don’t think we’re gonna be able to replace just the kind of importance and power of personal relationships. Whenever we’ve seen the kids in the most disadvantaged context truly excel always it’s been in classrooms and in whole schools where there is a clear vision of where the kids have the potential to be, where there are people working incredibly hard to convince the kids that they can succeed if they work hard enough and that it will make a difference in their lives.

There’s so much that goes into building a culture of achievement. And there’s a lot that goes on that could be better done with technology as well. You know, like if the teachers and the principals in those schools had access to really great technology they could no doubt speed up learning. What we need is all of that together. Technology alone won’t be the panacea. But if we can bring it to bear within a context of all the foundations that are important for quality education it could be a huge accelerator.

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler
Video Rating: / 5

It’s been proven that students taught by a personal tutor perform two standard deviations higher than those in a classroom. Luis von Ahn wants to replicate this effect with technology. He explains how Duolingo, the free language learning app he helped create, continues to evolve in pursuit of that idea. “We would like to make it so that everybody has access to the absolute best type of education, regardless of whether you’re wealthy or not. So we want to be as good as a one-on-one tutor.”

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Transcript: We know one thing about education, well we know many things about education but one thing we know is that one-on-one tutor is actually much better than a lecture hall. There’s a famous study called the 2 Sigma Study and it’s been replicated in many different disciplines, but the idea is the following. You compare people who are taking a class from a classroom, you know, 30 people, 50 people or whatever in a classroom, you compare their performance against somebody who is being tutored one-on-one. And it is always the case that the people that are tutored one-on-one perform two standard deviations higher than the people that are in a classroom. That’s why 2 Sigma, two standard deviations.

What that means is they are in the 98th percentile of the performance. So people who are in a one-on-one tutor perform in the 98th percentile. That means it really is better to have a one-on-one tutor than a teacher. And it makes sense because if you’re in a classroom size 30 or whatever, the teacher can teach – they have multiple choices. And one of them is to teach to the lowest student, but then it’s very inefficient to all others. Or the teacher can teach to the middle for example, and then what happens is it’s inefficient to everybody above the middle and the ones below the middle don’t understand anything. So there’s no great way to do it in a classroom and this is why one-on one-tutors are much better because they completely adapt to your personal needs. However, we can’t have one-on-one tutors for everybody because then that would require having as many teachers as there are students and that’s just not scalable.

So, what I would like to do, and this is one of the stated goals of the Duolingo, is we want to be your one-on-one tutor for learning a language. We want to be as good as a one-on-one tutor. I don’t believe we are yet. Duolingo is as good as a classroom. We have studies that show that we are as good as a classroom. That’s great. But I think in the future we’re going to be as good as a one-on-one tutor and that’s what I would like to do. And there’s a good reason for that and it has to do also with the divide between people who have a lot of money and people who don’t have a lot of money. If you have a lot of money and you want to learn something, the best thing you can do is find the best tutor in the world and have them teach you. For example, in language learning there was a very famous guy named Michelle Thomas who was a very famous language teacher. The Idea with him is if money was no issue you would hire him and he would teach you. The Princess of Monaco hired him and all kinds of famous people from Hollywood would hire him to learn a language and he would teach you a language in a few weeks. He was amazing. He would charge of course tens of thousands of dollars to do this. So if you had a lot of money you had access to this type of education.

If you don’t have a lot of money, the best thing you can have is either a classroom or maybe not even a classroom. So what I would like to do, and this is the thing with Duolingo, we would like to make it so that everybody has access to the absolute best type of education, regardless of whether you’re wealthy or not. So we want to be as good as a one-on-one tutor and that’s the whole idea.

Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton
Video Rating: / 5