We live in an increasingly technological world, and the innovators in Silicon Valley would like to keep it that way. Over the past few years, tech industry heavy hitters have been involved with the opening of tech-centric “AltSchool,” an educational software company and network of “micro-schools” with locations in California and New York. The school recently raised another $40 million in funding. That comes on top of previous investments of $130 million, about $100 million of which came from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.
But what is AltSchool all about?
Well, it was founded by former Google employee Max Ventilla. He was in the process of looking for a preschool for his 2-year-old daughter when he realized that the traditional educational options were unappealing to him. So he decided to start the kind of school he’d want his daughter to attend—one where technology is a central part of education and kids learn at their own pace. There are now seven of the schools in New York and California, with potential for a Chicago location in 2018.
This philosophy, known as student-centered learning, uses technology to help kids pursue their own personal interests. It combines “forward-thinking” teachers who “deliver whole-child, personalized learning so that every child can reach their potential,” according to the AltSchool website. And judging by the way Silicon Valley billionaires are investing in the schools, they think it’s going to be the next big thing in education.
“We believe a generation from now, the best education can be the one that the most kids get, rather than the fewest kids get,” founder Ventilla told Business Insider. “That education will be intensely personal, it will be intensely offline, but it will tie back to a digital representation of what’s happening.”
Devices such as iPads and computers feature prominently in the AltSchool experience. For example, students check into class on an attendance app, write blogs and download weekly “playlists” of individual and group activities.
AltSchool’s education approach is explained on its website:
Based on a deep, authentic understanding of what makes learning meaningful to each student, AltSchool educators personalize through dynamic grouping and regular assessments. Additionally, AltSchool educators design experiences uniquely tailored to each child, based on their needs, interests, and approach to learning.
When students take ownership of their learning, their levels of interest and confidence skyrocket. Learning becomes a fun and engaging process, whether a student is working to address a knowledge gap or seeking out a new challenge.
The wait lists for the AltSchools are about a mile long, so clearly there are plenty of parents who think this is the right path for their kids. What do you think? Does our educational system need a serious facelift? Is AltSchool the change we need?