Learning is no easy feat—it requires the right set of tools, and inherent curiosity. Over the years, we’ve seen education evolve in waves. From traditional textbooks, to online forums, to innovative tech in the classroom, tools for learning only continue to progress.
Classrooms today have endless opportunities for advanced learning with tools like mixed reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning, 5G, and more. Technology today is designed with future generations in mind.
In this event we hear from leaders pushing boundaries in education, and discover how today’s technologies are used to enhance student learning and the success of upcoming generations.
Verizon 5G Labs:
Verizon's 5G Labs works with startups, academia and enterprise teams to build a 5G-powered world. We work on 5G trials, hackathons, industry partnerships, prototyping challenges and more.
- Verizon Innovation Learning Connection- Millions of students nationwide lack the access to technology and the skills they need to succeed in the digital world. Since 2012, Verizon has been working to help solve this problem through a transformative program called Verizon Innovative Learning.
- Verizon Innovation Learning Teachers - Verizon Innovative Learning provides free technology, free internet access, and hands-on learning experiences to help give under-resourced students the education they deserve. In partnering with PLTW, we are giving kids the ability to do more in this world. This online portal will provide teachers like you access to fun, free, interactive STEM activities exposing kids to new skills like virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D design and more.
Joshua Ness 0:00
To this amazing panel on the future of education. My name is Joshua Ness, I'm with Verizon's 5G Labs, and I'm going to be your host for today's conversation. We are super excited to have everybody here. We're going to get into introductions in just a little bit. But for those of you who don't know about Verizon 5G Labs. We work with startups with academia, as well as enterprise teams to build a 5G powered world and to think about the types of technologies and solutions that will live on that 5G connectivity layer. It's really exciting and it basically means that we predict the future across a wide variety of themes, including education, something that we're very passionate about. So we work on 5G trials, hackathons, industry partnerships, prototyping challenges, things like that. We have labs in six cities, six or seven cities across the US and in Europe. And when we are in those physical spaces we invite a lot of entrepreneurs in to do things like test new solutions that might be the next generation of technology products that come to market.
While we're here we do want to thank Alley for helping us to build a space to have these conversations. Alley is a community agency that unites rich and diverse communities around the country with corporate partners to provide the resources and catalysts to drive positive change in technology, and in the broader world, and we're really honored to be partnering with them.
So we have with us today, a group of esteemed and well regarded speakers on various topics within education and I'm very excited that we got everyone in this in one room here to have this conversation. So I want to turn it over to them to give a minute or two introduction about themselves. Monica Burns, the founder of Class Tech Tips, why don't you go ahead and kick us off.
Dr. Monica Burns 1:56
Hello everyone, excited to be here with you today. My name is Monica Burns, I am a former New York City public school teacher and I've been out of the classroom for several years hosting professional development for educators around classroom technology integration. As well as supporting educators virtually this spring and summer as we tackle different ways to make the most of digital resources and learning at a distance, as well as in hybrid learning environments. And so today I'm excited to share some of that perspective with you all, including some strategies and tools and resources I've seen being adopted by educators as they are tackling our current landscape.
Joshua Ness 2:40
Yeah, thanks Monica and Phil Puthumana who's somebody I've worked with before. He's a program manager with Verizon and corporate social responsibility. Phil, what have you been working on lately?
Phil Puthumana 2:52
Great Josh, thanks and it's an honor for me to be here with everyone today. So I came into EdTech through tech, so actually that was my foray into it. And what we've been working on at Verizon, is everything what Josh was talking about. We're really excited about the future of education. We think education can harness 5G in a myriad of ways. And so we have been actually putting 5G applications into some of our schools. And we're actually been testing out AR and VR, and really piloting some of the new models that exists, and I'll be talking more about it during this panel. So thanks for having me.
Joshua Ness 3:29
Yeah, and I'm really looking forward to that. To talking about, of course, 5G and some of those immersive models. And then Julia Winter the CEO and founder of Alchemie, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be here today?
Julia Winter 3:42
Hi, thanks for having me. This is really quite exciting to be talking about the future of education. I spent 20 years of my first career teaching chemistry students at a private school outside of Detroit. And I thought there had to be a way to get sort of my unique way of explaining things to students beyond that community and I founded Alchemie. And since then we have raised about $1.8 million in small business innovative research funding from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Education to build new learning technology for science and mathematics education and mostly focused on higher ed. And we recently just got a grant to make some of our new digital technology accessible to blind and low vision students, so we're really excited about that initiative using AR.
Joshua Ness 4:41
That is fantastic. I know we're going to talk about that in detail here in a few minutes but both the grant and how we're making technology accessible across the education spectrum. So very excited to set the stage for that thank you so much, Julia. Before we kick things off for everyone in the audience please make sure to drop your questions into the Q&A feature. We're going to be monitoring that, and we'll get to as many as we can. And then, if the chat is enabled you can feel free to use that to engage with one another. But if you want a question answered directly be sure to put it in the Q&A.
So, to set the stage and, I want to open this up for everybody. And I know as we were talking about the topics that we were going to run through today a lot of it was focused on technology and immersive education moving forward. Before we do that, and especially as, when I do talks about 5G and about where we're going from here, I like to set the stage by giving a recap of how we got here in the first place. Because most people don't necessarily remember back when 3G was a thing. And if they do, they don't quite remember that the most innovative application they had on their phones, only 10 years ago was Words with Friends. And that's how far we've come in 10 years was Words with Friends all the way now through to the ability to spin up a virtual machine using your cell phone when you're on the train, which is crazy. And 5G is going to take us even further. And so with respect to education, where are we at right now and how did we get here? And what things have led us to where we are? Either internal factors, external factors, you name it. Julia let's start with you.
Julia Winter 6:22
Oh boy, I get to start off. Well, the interesting piece is working with publishers who are interested in our learning technology and how right now they are realizing that the selling a $300 chemistry textbook or a physics textbook it's just not going to work anymore and they have to compete with free. There's wonderful free online open resources so they need to shift focus to be, you know, to learn how to be innovative. To learn how to change things up in education. So I think that's an exciting transformation. And turning a ship is a hard thing to do so I'm actually really excited to work with some of the product teams in the content producers.
Joshua Ness 7:14
Yeah, that's working with product teams wasn't something that educators would have even thought they would have to do 5 years ago, so it's interesting that that's now something. It's a skill that educators need to start thinking about as they're moving into this next generation of education which we're seeing accelerated right now with the global pandemic. Phil and Monica, what are your thoughts about how we got to where we are, and what were some of the things that really pushed us forward before this current global situation?
Dr. Monica Burns 7:43
Well, the piece around connectivity, and what it looks like in different schools, in different home learning environments is front of mind now but has been a conversation for some time in terms of what can I get done? What can I do here in my school building? And connectivity is not always reliable or if it's a challenge that's front of mind that has really influenced some of the decisions that even classroom teachers are making about what is going to happen on this day right as they are teaching this lesson? And what may be their backup or their other piece has to look like. But you mentioned the acceleration and just the fact that right now we are in a space having conversations in terms of teaching and learning that are very close to what we would imagine what happened 20 years from now, right? We're in this condensed type of movement where we're making decisions and having conversations that we knew we would have, but we just didn't know we would have so soon.
Joshua Ness 8:37
Phil Puthumana 8:39
Sorry there Josh. I would just add to what Monica mentioned and Julia about the pandemic is kind of also as she mentioned accelerated that 20-year timeline of remote learning. So remote learning, even though people had dabbled with it and people were doing it the best they could. There were years ago I remember we were trying to convince people to go one-to-one and now it's table stakes, right, it's a necessity. And I think that's where educators today are trying to figure out what support can I get to help me be able to do this better?
Joshua Ness 8:41
Right. And that brings us into where we are right now. And so, like, six months ago if I would have asked, what is the landscape of education look like to you right now? You probably would have been given very different answers, and so I want us to take a two-part approach to this one. One, is how have we had to shift and what have you seen the industry going? And when I say the industry I mean like the landscape. How have you seen that being forced to evolve in maybe some not so obvious ways with the emergence of the COVID-19? But then also we can't stop thinking about what it's going to be like when we do go back in the classroom. And so, we almost have to be thinking with this parallel path of we need to be coming up with solutions now because kids are back in school like literally this week. I think NYU convened classes today. And then, what are we going to do in, hopefully, 6 to 12 months when we're all able to come back into classes? And how does that conversation evolve from where we are right now?
Phil Puthumana 10:11
So from the Verizon perspective, you know, one of our key differentiators for educators has been our focus on professional development. And with that, we have a site called vilsconnection.org and that actually was just a site that was for our educators. And when the pandemic came we realized that we should provide that resource to everyone, so that's actually open to all now. And it really does provide a lot of the features that teachers need to be able to figure out how to teach better remotely. So I think, and at least to the second part of your question, and I'll let my colleagues also speak about this. But we actually see the shift to remote actually becoming kind of now a big part of everything, right? So even though when kids get back in, like you were talking about NYU, hybrid is going to be pretty much the way it has to go. Going forward I think we've seen the wins with remote, and we see some of the detrimental side of it. So I, but I people will try to find the best of both worlds and incorporate both.
Julia Winter 11:10
And I'll jump right on into that. Like at the, when the pandemic hit we made all our tools free. And then most of our faculty, the college faculty, were really out there using flipped models active learning, and they were just beside themselves because all the work they'd done to build this collaborative atmosphere was really hard to make happen in an online environment. So our response was we polled 200 teachers in five days, and they told us what they needed. And we have been heads down trying to build a synchronizes online collaboration system using our learning tools and other partners. So trying to build tools for instructors as they move into this new remote environment.
Joshua Ness 12:01
Julia Winter 12:01
But that's been our response.
Joshua Ness 12:03
While building on some of the successes that you've had prior to this like you said was collaboration models. How we take what we've been able to accomplish so far and now pivot that to be virtual.
Julia Winter 12:13
Right, it's hard. See instructors were besides themselves. They just said I can't look over their virtual shoulders and help them.
Joshua Ness 12:24
Julia Winter 12:24
And those are the instructors we need to help solve that problem for.
Dr. Monica Burns 12:31
And I would just add on that one of the big kind of conversations in the space which apparently in that K12 space that I am working in primarily is the idea of streamlining some of the structures and routines. And that's something that if you are in a home with multiple children who have now a need to log in to many different places what does that support look like? Or if you have secondary students, and they are working with 4 or 5 or 7 teachers over a course of a day, and they're being asked to log in to all the different spaces I see a big shift over the summer time coming out of the spring with school leaders making decisions on this is our spot. This is our platform. This is our space and this is how we can streamline it so everyone in our school community is better supported.
Joshua Ness 13:20
Yeah, it sounds like the way you described it sounds like a logistical, I don't want to say nightmare but at least a conundrum. If you have multiple students, and they have, especially if they have multiple teachers wanting to be on multiple devices managing it from both the educator's perspective but also the students or the parent's perspective is got to be a challenge. Getting into the concept, and we touched on this briefly but the idea of equity and accessibility and inclusion. I know this is on everyone's mind especially with the things that we talked about connectivity in the classroom, being a determining factor of the quality of education now we're talking about things like connectivity in the home. And so, looking at that holistically Phil, I know that you've done a lot of work, you mentioned the Verizon Innovative Learning program before, can you tell us a little bit more about that and how you were addressing the question of inclusivity before the pandemic and what we are focusing on moving forward.
Phil Puthumana 14:41
Sure, so you know, we know that the digital divide exists and everyone on this panel are trying our best to bridge that. So we started by providing one to one connective to students around the country and now we’re at 250 schools that are apart of our Verizon Innovative Learning schools program. And what we do is we actually provide an IPad or a chrome book, connect it to our 4G LTE service as well as professional development. We know from our early beginning in this, there was often the time where we would give, not us, but we would see a tech be given and it would often have a cause by nobodys fault and what we figured out is if proper professional development is given, the teachers know how to use those tools, right? Teachers are very open to it but they don't want to waste time because they want to teach their kids. So I think, thats what we found and again when we move to providing the support online that actually increase what teachers can learn, how to do remote work, as well as administrators. And now we have a goal of also increasing the bandwidth of that site and actually provide a lot more opportunities in the future.
Joshua Ness 14:40
Yeah, it gets to the, to the question of, like, do the students in the classroom know how to use the technology and the resources better than the teacher does. And if so, can the teacher be as effective as he or she otherwise might be, how what role does emerging technology like 5G play in this.
Phil Puthumana 15:45
I mean just from just from our take, you know what we're seeing with 5G is you're obviously going to get increased bandwidth, right?, and much richer visual opportunities, more complicated visuals, but also the idea of doing simultaneous multi-user experiences. That's a huge benefit. So when you think of things like AR and VR and all that good technology. I think the real benefit is when a teacher is going to be able to teach a whole class, potentially even remotely, and everyone is experiencing the same thing at the same time. So I think we're going to see really really rich experiences come together in the coming you know five to 10 years. yeah
Joshua Ness 16:22
I'm reminded about that project you and I worked on a couple years ago that 5G at Tech Challenge and some of the really interesting, innovative concepts that came out of there for, like you talked about, multi user synchronous learning. It really had some, some great potential impact first for students in the classroom and hopefully some of those can pivot now to this Distributed Learning model. And so we want to open this up to everyone and everyone here on the panel like what problems do you see when students don't have access to the or don't have the same kinds of access to technology as other students? What's called the digital divide, like Phil mentioned or the opportunity gap has been mentioned. And how has it changed with COVID and how do we bridge that moving forward both during COVID and moving forward when we have this permanent hybrid model or is COVID setting us up for success in that, in that future model.
Dr. Monica Burns 17:21
I think one of the big things I've observed is around more thoughtful conversation around what it looks like so more awareness from all folks within a school community to say, I need to make sure that this is going to be available for a child to work on or complete or view on whatever device they may have access to even if we are distributing Chromebooks to every student or whatever it might be, like, is this going to be something they could complete on a smartphone if that happens to be the device they have better access to that day. So it's been more than ever, especially in the past few weeks getting closer to back to school and back to school starting in places. I've been hearing questions from educators around. Will this work on a smartphone? Will this work on something else other than the device that a student should have? Because we know that they may be moving between devices over the course of a day or week.
Joshua Ness 18:16
Mm hmm. To either Julia or Phil, like what what sort of what sort of problems rise up that we have to think about solving when that digital divide, potentially is exacerbated? We know that schools have varying levels of technology resources and connectivity now being in homes. Is their crossover, does the work that we were doing to help bridge that digital divide in schools, give us a foundation for bridging that digital divide in homes.
Julia Winter 18:53
I don't know if it feels sort of like the segue because we're talking about accessibility but because of our work in this special education sphere. There is this divide between text and digital content that exists for, you know blind and low vision students, and it is really really difficult to teach, especially science, very visual kinds of subjects, and you have to you have to help them early. So what we've decided to do is tackle that in a completely new way and not use text and use physical manipulatives that, you know, are very inexpensive magnets and computer vision and devices they already own to be a new way to input a different user interface for the digital manipulate or digital technology that we're developing. And the neat part is that it can be used by all students not just blind and low vision students so it makes them not different and special. And it can help everyone, it can help those who are dyslexic, it can help those who just need to touch things to understand, so we're the interesting piece that we're seeing with COVID and online education is that this method can allow a master teacher for blind and low vision students to help in a remote situation which is very very difficult to do so we're really looking forward to seeing how this plays out. It's a brand new grant for an audio AR solution to that problem.
Joshua Ness 20:41
Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that. I know that alchemy was just awarded this grant to improve accessibility for science students with visual challenges like you mentioned. How, and clearly as you're talking about it you're going to be using a lot of that to create solutions for at home learning. How will that translate into the classroom when we're finally in an area, finally in a time where we can all be there safely.
Julia Winter 21:05
Well, that the great part is this was inspired by high school teachers who use magnets on whiteboards in fully mainstream classes. So it is a tool that high school teachers and science teachers use. So we just said well if we could make those magnets talk to the students in their groups, then, then it's more useful for everyone. So, it can be used by all classes regardless of whether they have a blind and low vision student in their midst, it will be, it can be completely mainstreamed.
Joshua Ness 21:41
That's great. And what are some steps that companies can take as they're developing their education products, because right now especially now this is so top of the national conversation, the global conversation, I'm sure. Companies are emerging with these tools to help students learn, and we know this from being in the technology field and I especially coming from the technology space, on the big technology space, it can sometimes be difficult to, to encourage product teams to be developing with accessibility in mind from the start. And so what are some steps in your view that some companies can take while they're developing these new products to make sure that they're accessible by all students?
Julia Winter 22:28
Well I would say just look to the future, look to what you can do with AR and VR and what's possible. Don't look back, I mean text-to-speech is a problem that's been solved and it's great and it's wonderful. But what are other ways that we can solve some of these problems, and always push, push to see what can solve the problem and talk to the customers. Talk to who, you know, I have a blind PhD chemist who's a consultant on our team and just listening to his struggle as he moved through undergraduate, graduate school, just listen to them and then see what they have said and what solutions work and then start thinking about it.
Joshua Ness 23:22
Phil Puthumana 23:23
I would also like to add, you know, it's sometimes when people are thinking about new technology they're a little bit guarded and sense of, oh I'm not sure I can approach that new technology and that type of thing, but I would look at it in the sense of, you know, where your kids are at. Right Josh? You mentioned it, you know, kids are playing a lot of cool games, they are way beyond all of us as adults. And there are a lot of really interesting, very basic tools on smartphones, with AR that teachers could play with, you know, in this time where kids are at home. So, you know, to your point Julia, a lot of times your users, which if you're a teacher your users are really your kids, and, you know, they're your best guides. So, I think you may find that there's a lot more available than sometimes we think.
Joshua Ness 24:08
Yeah, talking about AR, VR specifically I want to come back to that, Phil, in just a second, but Monica i want to pivot slightly. We were talking about things like accessibility for individual students but how in your view can educators plan to support students with differing access to technology for instance like two siblings in a household that are sharing one device or other types of just technology access issues, what are your thoughts on that?
Dr. Monica Burns 24:40
So one of the conversations I've been having with both educators in the classroom environment and school leaders and folks who are making decisions around this piece, is really thinking beyond, you need to be in front of the computer at 1pm on a Thursday, in order to be successful, and to extend that to say what are our weekly goals? What are the asynchronous components that we are looking at? So that there is that family flexibility for participation. It doesn't mean that it is a free for all or there's no structure it just means the structure is different than the school day. And it's okay to not try and replicate something for the sake of replicating it if it's not going to be the right fit for that environment. So one of the conversations is around this idea of weekly objectives, weekly goals, asynchronous activities, things that don't need to be happening at a set time on the calendar, but we don't have a set of expectations that provides a family to make decisions on what their day looks like, which could be because of device sharing it could be because of uneven connectivity throughout the day or even throughout the week, or maybe because of family schedules and we have to be at this place today and I have to work at this time and those sort of real constraints that change the way we think about what a traditional school day would look like it doesn't have to be an exact replica of what is happening at home.
Joshua Ness 26:03
Yeah, that reminds me of how, like successful corporate teams are run, where a leader might tell his or her team, these are our goals, these are the things that we want to accomplish on a macro level, and then allowing them to find the best path to get there. I'm going to throw you a curveball here. Do you think that puts an undue or at least an unexpected burden on the parents to make sure that those goals are being met with their kids? I'm sure a lot of people, a lot of parents out there are looking forward to the return of online education so that they can put an iPad in front of a kid, and that kid will have the next two hours of learning while they can go get some work done. Does that then put extra responsibility on the parents, and how do we feel about that?
Dr. Monica Burns 26:54
Yeah, so there's definitely schools that are sending suggested schedules that are providing resources to fill in the gaps for that, so there's that balance between honoring that flexibility and providing the structure so you may have two different groups of stakeholders asking for different things, when really they want the end goal to be the same, but another component of that too is saying, you know, we, In the past might have taught study skills with index cards and note taking and organizing like that to write an essay, right?, and now we need to look and say, what does project management look like when you're talking to fourth graders? project management look like when you're talking to eighth or ninth graders? and we might not use the same language that you would in a corporate team or as you're managing a project for a more broader bigger different type of goal, but there definitely are parallels when we say what are transferable skills that we want students to have experiences with in the environment that makes sense for them.
Joshua Ness 27:55
Interesting. It's got to be, as someone who doesn't have children myself, it's got to be a very interesting dynamic that parents have to create in the home when they are trying to manage, flexible, non defined curricula, combined with the work that they're trying to do to their jobs. I imagined and I don't know that this is one of our one of our talking points but if we do end up talking about it later on in the talk, I'd love to talk more about the parents role as educators and how they can better prepare for it. But before we get to that, we've talked about this a little bit already and Phil especially with the role that you're playing in new product development around EdTech what are some of the challenges that we've seen in making learning more immersive and Phil I'd love for you to start but then, Monica and Julia I'd love for you to chime in as well.
Phil Puthumana 28:48
Yeah, I think the issue is, you know, immersive tools are often not built with educators and students in mind, and often educators and students are not, you know, they're busy, like I was mentioning our schools are 84% free reduced lunch. The teachers do not need another burden in their day, that's not going to help them get to their goal. So a lot of times, you know, the immersive media, immersive tools they seem like they would be interesting, but figuring out the hurdles of how to incorporate that complexity, so I think on our end what we've been doing with the EdTech challenge, as you mentioned, is working with teams nonprofits and universities primarily to help us figure out what are the tools that would be the most helpful for students and teachers, and then how do we customize the curriculum around the content, the professional development, all the support that would allow that tool which again, it's just like any other tool, but how do they optimize the use of it and I think that is where, you know, that's the sweet spot, right, for folks. So I think if you're out there and you're a teacher or you're an EdTech developer or whoever it might be, you know, the space needs more brilliant minds to get involved and help help people think about how to use these tools because they're, the future is here, right, and it's only coming faster as we speak. So I think, you know, just like Julia you're talking about using AR in a very novel way. Those are the exciting parts that I think are coming very, very quickly to us.
Joshua Ness 30:15
Yeah. So just a quick follow on to that, have you ever encountered or how have you mitigated where the teacher might actually be the bottleneck, where you know the students can benefit from a certain type of technology and new emerging technology, but the teacher either is unable or doesn't want to learn how to use that technology and would rather stick with a traditional curriculum, how do you, how do you think about addressing that either beforehand head on or when it actually happens?
Phil Puthumana 30:45
Yeah, I think for us we're always looking at the teacher as the expert, right?, I mean it's their classroom, it's their students they're the stakeholders. So we often just try to figure out what are the hurdles so often it's not the teacher. It could be the IT thats blocked something, it could be the administrators at a district level that's not really in support of that, so often it's just educating all the stakeholders. And then for teachers what we try to do also, a big part of our work is we have a community of teachers, and we also try to model lessons if possible. So a lot of our teachers tell us you know if you could just show me how to use that. If a teacher who's like minded in teaching maybe a similar subject can show me what they do, then I could definitely go do it. But sometimes if you're looking at just a weird AR tool you're like, well how am I going to correlate that to my seventh grade science course, but I think a lot of times, once you see it, then it's off and running. So we actually come across a lot less friction than you would think. It's often we're trying to figure out who, where is the bottleneck and it's often not the teacher. So if we can help kind of massage that usually it works very very smoothly.
Joshua Ness 31:51
Good to know.
Julia Winter 31:53
I'll jump in there as an instructor myself. It's so much easier as a teacher for it to come up from below then down from above, so the grassroots building. You've seen a problem in your classroom, How can I solve this? Oh get together and start talking about that those possibilities, it's just much easier when the problem bubbles up from, the solution bubbles up from the teacher themselves. And that's, you know, that just helps a lot to pave the way for new technology.
Joshua Ness 32:29
Does it ever bubble up from the students do you ever or have you ever seen a situation, and this is for anybody, where the students are like, this is boring, I have nine iPads at home, show me something new.
Julia Winter 32:40
I'm just going to say sometimes the students are the most reticent for change. You would not believe it, but they're like, no, we were good, we know how to do this. This is how we've been taught for a long time. You know, especially since I taught juniors and seniors in high school, and you would be surprised, they'll go off and do all sorts of other things with their games and everything but then they know how to do school, I know how to do school, don't make me change. But I'll just say that sometimes, I would find that the students might be the most reticent for trying something new, they'd roll their eyes at me and say oh Ms. Winter are you doing something new again. So, anyway.
Joshua Ness 33:22
That's interesting. They have this comfort. Even though they're out there trying out new apps and new technologies all the time, they have this comfort zone when it comes to education. I know how to get through the day. Don't mess me up. I want to stay in this, in this comfort zone.
Dr. Monica Burns 33:36
That's such a great observation, because you know students often they know how school works. Right? And so that's kind of what they're coming in with, especially if you have students that are the ones that are asking questions for the sake of not wanting to get it wrong or coming in with that kind of energy into an activity. When there's a new way for them to show what they know, it's, it can be intimidating for them just as it would be for someone who is new to the technology or who is new to the tools. And I find that in conversations with educators as well, that their students may feel very proficient when it comes to using something outside of the classroom, but their skill set for exploring different things or making different things or creating different things is developing right alongside them because they're not used to using that tool that might be in their pocket all day long for this another type of way.
Phil Puthumana 34:31
Yeah, just one thing to add that I think in our schools where we have innovative learning labs, they're almost kind of next generation makerspaces. Where we have the ability to kind of project based learning and their elective courses often the kids are less reticent because it's not, they're not necessarily getting tested for that they can actually kind of play a little bit. And in that I found you know if we offer a virtual reality experience to learn about interplanetary science, for instance, they're all clamoring to kind of experience it and once they've experienced it, even the most reticent teachers and administrators go wow, there's something here. So I could definitely see it in a lot of courses but then sometimes in certain courses where kids have little more flexibility, I can see them kind of open to the tech.
Joshua Ness 35:14
Yeah, that brings us to a really great question from the audience, actually. Novel Shaw was asking about AR VR seems to be an important technology for the future of education and what sort of innovations are we seeing come out of AR VR or mixed reality or xR that can be of interest, either now or moving forward? and Phil you mentioned things like being able to be in a galaxy setting, but also I imagine that also goes for the micro setting. If somebody wanted to explore the inner workings of a robot or how mitochondria move throughout a cell.
Phil Puthumana 35:49
Yeah, very much, I think, I mean right now still AR and VR are kind of a little bit on the periphery, where we're at. I think, you know, even from our schools, which many of them have all the tech, a lot of them are just like help us figure out how to do remote learning properly. And so we definitely think 2020 is where, that's where a lot of people's heads are at but I think, in the very near future. You know, just as an example, I was talking about Bill's connection before, we actually are building a freely available XR site, which is going to be focused on K12 education where you'll be able to get professional development, all for free. So, you know, that's kind of the innovation that we're working on so we're hoping that once everybody gets over the pandemic shock, and everybody gets to a more of a hybrid model may be back in the classroom a little bit, you know, hopefully, by this time next year all of you can come and check out, you know some of the AR and VR there.
Julia Winter 36:44
And I'm going to jump in just a little bit when we played both in our team with VR and with an AR, mixed reality AR. One of the things that really, people need to think about, it's really neat to have these great experiences but then when you go back and assess it. Did they understand it? You go back to multiple choice. So really rethink the assessment piece of the experience, have it embedded into the experience so it moves assessment, away from the, as I said, the verbal. You know ABCD into, can I build this? Does this make sense? And change the way you can assess understanding using these new technologies.
Joshua Ness 37:36
Yeah, and Monica I want to come back to you. We talked about these new types of learning models in the home, but when we're talking about collaborative synchronous immersive learning how do you see that replicated in an online distributed environment and obviously we can't expect every student to have a VR headset, but there are immersive types of applications that can be used on the web that any cell phone or tablet can can replicate How do you see that happening in the home?
Dr. Monica Burns 38:08
I think the one big issue there when it comes to implementation at home is the connectivity and just the reliability from a network perspective, I think that's probably the number one barrier beyond just do I have a device but is my network set up for this and part of that might be a shared with many family members at home with a couple of different screens going at the same time too. So that kind of bandwidth piece. I think that if you have students working with a more independent schedule, you can have synchronous activities that might take a little bit lower stress on a network, so that they might be able to have a more robust experience at a time that's the right fit for them, or maybe even at a site that is a better site for them to participate in that experience, but then they might come back for a synchronous or live conversation around that experience, or they might even jump into a discussion board or space where they post a video about the experience that might not happen exactly at the same time, but within that same time frame, so that everyone could have a shared experience that just might not be at the exact same, same time of day or even the day of the week.
Joshua Ness 39:19
God, so maybe even changing our definition of immersive collaboration and asking that to be something a little bit different that still provides value back to the students.
Dr. Monica Burns 39:30
Yeah and you might see too and this is something where, you know, I think people are shifting their thinking of real time collaboration beyond what, at least in the school experience, folks are pretty comfortable within a Google Docs sort of space like we're all in there at the same time, to more of, what does it look like if it's a handoff. Okay I finished this, now it's your turn, or I'm in here about this time can you take a look about this time, so we stay on a schedule. So there's a little bit of a shift to even thinking on what real time collaboration looks like from a word processing perspective that I think could transfer here and those conversations as well.
Joshua Ness 40:06
Yeah, and could probably make it easier for dad or mom who like you mentioned at one o'clock on a Thursday are maybe trying to watch a webinar about education while the kids trying to do some sort of mixed reality thing on a tablet and I imagine those two things might conflict with each other. We had talked about, we talked about XR being leveraged in education and Phil, I know we've mentioned a couple of times this this EdTech Challenge, as we're thinking about how we rely on outside or developer teams or companies that are building these products. I know we talked about how they were, they were being implemented in the classroom. How have you seen the those types of products that we mentioned in that EdTech challenge, How have you seen these pivoting to this distributed online model because of COVID?
Phil Puthumana 40:56
Yeah, it's been pretty pretty profound. So I think, you know, when if you talk to me a few months ago when we were working together on that project we were all about, yeah let's focus and make these the best experiences ever for the classroom, right?, harnessing 5G VR and AR, as we see now the reality of our students who may not have access to even our lab, we are trying to figure out ways that they can access the those products, in a way that works for their network connectivity, can work on Wi Fi can work on 4g. So some of those are simpler than others right AR, a lot of them are able to pivot and we can have an experience that may not be as robust or whatever, but it can work and so we are trying to work on that. VR is a lot more complicated just because of the access point of a lot of that tech, you know, if you're not in a physical space where that expensive equipment is available, you can't really do it. But for AR you know really interesting things we've been working on is like one of our labs, you have 3d printer access and kids would actually create something and 3d model, and you can actually 3d print it. We're trying to figure out, is there ways that maybe a kid could actually access a virtual, you know, an augmented 3d printer to kind of still get the same experience and then maybe when they get back in the lab, they can go ahead and print it out. So I think a lot of actual innovation might come from this time where everybody's trying to figure out how do you have kids at home and students and teachers at home and make everything work. So tremendous amount of innovation going on today.
Joshua Ness 42:27
Blowing my mind, your virtual 3d printing to be followed up with physical 3d. That's crazy. I love it. As we talk about this I want to bring us to an action item. I'm sure we have some educators in the audience who are trying to, or even parents who are trying to figure out what do they do to start thinking about the future of education and all these things that we've talked about and hopefully we're not throwing around too many terms that they've had to look up. But what would you say, and this is for everyone. What would you say is a good entry point for educators or parents, who are taking an active role in their in their child's education, for wanting to make their lessons, more interactive especially in a time like this and feel free to get specific like what tools already exist or what methods have you seen that are successful?
Phil Puthumana 43:18
I can just name just two of our sites just they're freely available for everyone and the ALLEY team can probably get it out to you after this. But, you know, vilsconnection.org is a resource for teachers and administrators to figure out how to better integrate technology that can be helpful. There's a lot of access around remote learning, and what people can do and then also, Vilteacher.com is going to be relaunched soon. And that was meant for teachers, but parents could also use that resource. So if you're at home like me with my kids scrambling trying to figure out what to do some of those quick sound bites could be helpful for you.
Julia Winter 43:55
Our program director Ed Metz at the Department of Education has worked over the last couple times putting together sites that have all sorts of research backed tools that have been developed through the SPI our programs of the Department of Education National Science Foundation and NIH, so I could probably share Ed Metz's work. So he's put together a list of these research base tools, going from pre K, all the way into higher education.
Phil Puthumana 44:31
And I would just concur because I know Ed and the work they do is amazing. They've been working on tech forever. So it's been a really really researched based work that could really be helpful in today.
Julia Winter 44:44
Right. Like, you need to know that they work, it's, it's wonderful to have tools that already have been vetted in classrooms with peer reviewed papers and parents can feel comfortable using some of these very beautiful rich interesting learning tools.
Dr. Monica Burns 45:05
And to add on to that list, one of the things that I typically recommend to educators that families can try out as well are open ended creation tools that really, you could use for lots of different projects, essentially, right, so I love the Adobe Spark tools I do some work with their team and they have the spark for education tools. So you could have kids making movies, or maybe building a website or building graphics with a pretty low entry point and, you know, I've used it with six year olds all the way up to adult learners, right? So giving that space for them to make something from scratch, you know, but with the guidance and the content behind it. I think is really an interesting place to, to put some energy into as you're examining different tools.
Joshua Ness 45:51
Yeah, thanks for that, and I know Alley will send out these resources in their event recap, was there one more thing?
Julia Winter 45:58
I'm just going to jump off of Monica because I've read over the summer there's some students at home who have flourished not being in a classroom, allowing them to build a greenhouse, or plant a garden or, you know, doing some things a little differently so if you have, you know, a student who wants to do hands on learning science. It's okay. You're going to have a little more flexibility with your time and I think that's sort of an exciting thing for some of these students that for them, school wasn't all that fun. You know, and so I think, allowing that sort of new thinking for your middle schooler or your high schooler or your fifth grader.
Joshua Ness 46:53
Mm hmm. It seems like we're getting back into a time before connectivity because when we talk about interactive and immersive. I mean, we're talking about like science fairs when, when we had to build volcanoes that spewed lava and you had to build a shadow box and you had to hatch an egg in an incubator like I don't even know if classrooms still do these things but
Julia Winter 47:19
Drop an egg and protect an egg from being cracked.
Joshua Ness 47:22
Physics class! Yes. And so I wonder if this is almost. If there are advantages and opportunities to be had during what is clearly an unfortunate time. But it's getting students back into a place where they're using their hands to build and create things, and really redefine what it means to be immersive and interactive.
Julia Winter 47:44
Right and you know I grew up in a time that we had to take home EQ and or shop and that sort of went by the wayside so I know that there are kids out there that who learned to cook, because they had to. But, you know, an opportunity arose where somebody had to cook and they learned how to cook I think it's wonderful. So, there is some silver linings in some of these clouds.
Joshua Ness 48:09
Mm hmm. As we're nearing the end of our time together I'm curious getting back to the question of connectivity and Monica you definitely throw it back to the connectivity question the network question, which is of course very near and dear to my heart, as a potential as one of the largest bottlenecks for families that are trying to help their kids with their schooling. What are ways that you have seen advanced connectivity things like, hopefully ubiquitous Wi Fi or 4G LTE connectivity, how has that impacted schools in the past. And as we're thinking about a 5G world where connectivity just isn't really a question it's just there at whatever speed, you need with near zero latency. How do you see that classroom or that learning experience evolving beyond just the just the simple AR VR things that we've talked about already?
Dr. Monica Burns 49:04
Yeah, so I mean anytime you take those type of logistical constraints outside of consideration when you're making decisions, it just makes you able to put your energy and your time and enthusiasm into whatever it might be, that is no longer the barrier. So if I'm a classroom teacher and I need to figure out which corner of the building that we need to sit in a circle with our iPads in order to do this activity, right, and that's going to take up not just my brain space but that energy and around that, it's going to change the way I think in the future about planning any type of instruction, whether it is something that does actually require a more of a heavy lift from a connectivity standpoint, or just needs something, right? So I think that the potential there is huge in terms of giving everyone the space to make different decisions that are no longer prohibitive based on the physical space they're in so if we are back in classrooms and connectivity feels stronger, and it provides more opportunities for everyone to participate in something a little bit more robust.
Joshua Ness 50:06
Phil Puthumana 50:10
And I just think, Josh, about the latter part of your question, you know, being kind of a tech optimist. The way I look at if, you think about if we were all in this conference in 2010 and I told you I'm going to press a button on my phone and a car is going to appear and take me to wherever I need to go you'd be like what are you talking about? Now, you know, that's a tablestakes, right, so I think that's the same thing with 5G. You know, it's hard to initially kind of wrap our heads around it but I think this next decade is going to provide so much innovation around education and the time is right. And this unfortunate instance has kind of made us all rethink it. So I actually think you're going to find a lot of, you know, really interesting things that we couldn't have imagined. Maybe holograms, you know, greeting kids when they walk into school. It's very personalized based on IoT we don't know right but I think that's where it really is up to everyone on this webinar and beyond to kind of keep thinking about how do we, how can we make it better. And I think if you think through that, you know, it can be an amazing, amazing future.
Joshua Ness 51:13
Yeah. I think about the, what happens not only when connectivity, aided by 5G is it removes that barrier in the classroom, or what about when it removes that barrier across all classrooms. And we're able to have immersive interactive lessons with a classroom in India, or a classroom in China. And what does it mean when language barriers are erased because of immediate real time translation capabilities, so that those students can, we don't just have to look at it on a map and learn about what life is like over there for a book, we can actually talk to them who are living it right now. Obviously the timezone considerations and things like that we have to figure out. But the ability for students to, and this isn't even really a question I'd love to get your reaction to it but just the ability for education to transcend the classroom and become truly a global affair. That's exciting
Dr. Monica Burns 52:15
And change is not only what kids are able to kind of experience within a space, but also what they're able to create and share, there's more people to celebrate their work, there's more of a sense of purpose for what they might be making or creating. So I think extending that type of network and I don't even mean just that, you know, the network we're talking about here but who it is we're connecting with, it can be really powerful and and change the way we think about what happens within the four walls of a classroom or within a virtual platform, if we're working remotely to just extend those experiences far and beyond.
Joshua Ness 52:50
Yeah, the ability of connectivity to help us create new advocates and champions for our students and give them that validation so they can continue learning and continue on that journey in an even better, more robust way. I had, there was one other question before we leave and it came from, it actually came from one of our ALLEY support folks who just, who was struck with this question of inspiration, and it was about standardized testing. And do you think that standardized testing will shift using these new technologies of the future? And do you think that this situation and the technologies and the solutions that are born out of the situation, Will it make standardized testing more inclusive and will create new opportunities for students that otherwise might not have had the same resources?
Julia Winter 53:40
Well I'm going to jump in on that one, because we work in assessment. And the goal of our company is to build assessments, so it's not such high stakes, find ways to measure competencies early give the students the ability to know where they are in their journey. And so when they get to say that high stakes tests. They already know where they are. And so what we want to do is use this, these technologies and AI and all the data that comes from this, to help students in their learning journey and so changing assessment is really the next generation next idea in education, get away from the old way of assessing give some students, something they can understand that they know where they are as they grow.
Phil Puthumana 54:34
Yeah, I would just add to that, you know, as you see digital portfolios come together, you know, you see, even as people are getting to careers you know how all of that is changing. It's definitely changing for kids as well, right, so very very skills based, personalized. You know, you can achieve what you're able to do maybe you go on to the next stage, right?, that type of thing. So I think we'll see a lot of really exciting advancements, you know, very, very, very soon.
Joshua Ness 54:59
It begs the question of what does standardized testing even mean, is it going, you used the word portfolio. And do we do we find ourselves in a scenario where K through 12 students are creating a portfolio of work that they're then able to show to colleges or employers or things like that where it's not just this as my SAT score but this is, I mean think about how we measure new hires, what have you done what have you built, what have you created what was the outcome? When we start thinking about that from an education perspective it really opens the door for these immersive tools to start not only doing teaching differently but also like was mentioned assessment differently and building that into the curriculum, so that then these students have something they can take with them on their next step of their journey, I just, that's, that's blowing my mind. Monica, did you have anything else on that?
Dr. Monica Burns 55:48
The idea of an authentic assessment, I think it's a wonderful opportunity right now to place more energy into those conversations to say, just like you mentioned a portfolio might be a multimedia component. It might be something that is changing and evolving over the course of the school year and it's a it's an interesting opportunity to think about giving kids the space that they need to share their learning that's going to be right for them.
Joshua Ness 56:11
That's fantastic. Everyone I want to thank you so much, not only to our panelists, but also to the, the attendees in the audience. Thank you for your amazing questions. If there's any that we didn't get to, we'll be sure and make those questions available to the panelists so that they are able to, if they're able to answer that and then we'll send those out in the recap email that ALLEY will be sending out in the next day or so. Phil, Monica, Julia thank you so much for your time today. This has been an extremely stimulating and wonderful conversation, some new ideas that have been born out of just this hour long talk really done some, a lot of great work clarifying a lot of what's currently happening in the landscape and maybe putting some color to what's going to be happening after we all get back to whatever the new normal becomes. I also want to thank, Sarah, and and Chris for their for their support in helping make this happen on the ALLEY side. Definitely was a team effort. So, just thank you thank you well thank you everyone so much. Anyone have any closing statements.
Julia Winter 57:12
Thanks for having us this was great.
Phil Puthumana 57:15
Joshua Ness 57:17
Wonderful. All right. Thanks everyone. We will see you at the next event.