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7 #Edtech Takeways from VLAB Event on Common Core Standards

On the third Tuesday of September, as on many 3rd Tuesdays of most months, MIT-Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB) hosted a panel on an emerging, disruptive technology. On the docket for the month of September—and fittingly nicely with back-to-school overtures at your favorite retail outlets—was titled “Education Technology Tsunami: Common Core Disrupts K-12”.The event focused on education technology opportunities and innovation (edtech) geared toward students in grades K-12 amid widespread adoption of Common Core standards.Now, in the off chance that the preceding sentence contained multiple words with which you are not used to seeing in the same sentence—you’ve come to the right place. This post is just the trampoline to provide both a soft landing and willing launch you deeper into this expansive field.

VLAB Edtech panelThe event took place on the Stanford Graduate School of Business School, in the expansive Cemex Auditorium. It brought together over 400 educators, entrepreneurs, developers, investors, students, and those simply interested in learning about the topic—and, as you might suspect there was a broad spectrum of familiarity with the topic.

This talk was a perfect opportunity to seek depth by gaining introduction to key concepts, topics, questions, and challenges in the edtech space.

Instead of providing a summary—this post outlines a few recommendations, factoids, and topics imparted.

 

The Panel

 

1. Buzzword: Common Core Standards

As explained in the introduction, and in the brochure, “The Common Core Standards, adopted by 45 US states imposes learning and testing which adapts to a student’s ability in real time.”

You can read the full Common Core curriculum requirements here:

 

2. Issues with Adoption of Common Core Standards

Moderator Tina Barseghian outlined a few issues with the adoption of Common Core that have been raised:

  • Some schools don’t have the necessary technology to implement it.
  • Some teachers don’t want to be held accountable for its implementation.
  • Some question its adoption saying that teachers weren’t part of designing it.
  • Conservatives say its a liberal conspiracy.
  • Some call its adoption a “Trojan horse” introduced in order to let corporations profit

She also articulately noted that the merits of Common Core as a concept were not necessarily the focus of the panel discussion. But hearing them helped add depth and color to the conversation.

 

3. How will Common Core Impact Edtech?

One statistic presented estimated that $60B will be spent on edtech by 2015. This slide provided a helpful, visual overview of current players in the edtech space:

 

4. Book suggestion: One World Schoolhouse

This book by Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, was mentioned a few times throughout the evening. It was brought up in the context of Benjamin Bloom (see below for more on Bloom’s Taxonomy) and the effectiveness of “mastery learning”. Washington Times did a review of Khan’s book last year, here.

 

5. Buzzword: Formative Assessment

The panelists easily agreed that trendy buzzword “formative assessment” has multiple definitions. One definition presented seemed to appease and empower, was that formative assessment is “actionable assessment happening in real time.”

The New York City Department of Education dedicates a page of their website to formative assessment strategies, and this is a topic that a number of edtech startups (including panel startups MasteryConnect and Illuminate Education) are focusing on.

6. What do Large Education Companies like Pearson look for in edtech startups?

Panelists Scott Drossos (Sr. VP at Pearson) and Karen Lien (from Imagine K12) were on-hand to provide a perspective on acquisition and funding potential for edtech startups.  It was mentioned that Pearson actively seeks to partner and invest in promising enterprises that address needs in the education space. In evaluating edtech startups, large education companies like Pearson evaluate factors such as:
  • Is the business sound?
  • Is the leader stable, driven?
  • Has the startup addressed monetization?

 

7. Buzzword: Bloom’s Taxonomy

For those unfamiliar with the study of education and teaching theory, the work of Benjamin Bloom was referenced. He led groundbreaking work in the field of education and mastery learning over the expanse of five decades up until his death in 1999.  One topic that was raised during the panel discussion was “Bloom’s Taxonomy”. Here are brief descriptions and depictions of this concept:

Wikipedia: Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of learning objectives within education.

NWLink.com: Bloom’s Taxonomy was created in 1956 under the leadership of educational psychologist Dr Benjamin Bloom in order to promote higher forms of thinking in education, such as analyzing and evaluating, rather than just remembering facts (rote learning).

image credit: PSA-NW

[full disclosure: I serve on the Executive Team of VLAB as the Outreach Chair. Fuller disclosure, I became involved as a VLAB volunteer after covering an event for Innov8Social!]

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What is Transformative Hip Hop? [VIDEO]

This is a guest post by Anthony Pineda, Founder of Creatrix Institute. Read more in his interview here.Hip-hop music saved my life. It provides a way to critical analyze environments, motivations, and one’s sense of Self. The fact that hip-hop transforms is not a hidden aspect to the culture, yet scholarship has yet to provide the lens to build upon this tenet. As I build a framework to breakdown hip-hop within a theoretical framework that sheds light on a term I believe will usher in new scholarship, notably “transformative hip-hop,” I strive to provide a new way to see hip-hop based education (HHBE, a termed coined in Schooling Hip-Hop, 2013).

Ideally, hip-hop can offer a rich assortment of benefits to the listener. Hip-hop provokes critical thinking and offers ways to gain knowledge (the 5th element of hip-hop). I have chosen to walk a path that is hip-hop. At first when the ‘call’ came to me I assumed the path of an emcee. It is typical that people see hip-hop as an art form and that the only path may be that of a musician in the field, yet I have carved out a path with hip-hop that looks beyond the music. I am a practitioner and a scholar who feels hip-hop deep within my being.
Decoding lyrics fosters critical consciousness by building skills in reading and writing. These narratives in hip-hop music facilitate a way to emotionally connect with the artists and emotionally develop within the individual. In this piece I am writing I have given three distinctive songs that not only transform consciousness, when studied, they also provide a lens to construct reality. Let’s examine these tracks:

“We Don’t” by Zion I, Grouch, Eligh

So this song is their signature energy track, high energy and loaded with complex wordplay. What makes it transformational is their ability to create stories that require a lot of attention. It affirms all the artists determination and staying on their genuine paths.

Zumbi of Zion I at 46 seconds says, “Get clear, I am free, lightin’ up yo dome; leave the speaker blown…….spit obsidian” His affirmation about becoming free through his music and activating the mind as the listener. Then confirms his own beat and the clarity he constructs his lyrics by claiming he spits sharp, which is why he uses the image of obsidian, a stone that you can sharpen and shape.

Grouch at 1:26 starts of spiritual, “I got a call, so I answer cause it rings so loud; Origin, not a cell tower, thanks no doubt” describes how music is his calling. Also exposes its origin not material by using the cell tower image. Grouch’s affirmation expands through his verse and even describes the metaphysical thinking within these lyrics. Eligh looks back at his beginning in the bay during his verse and too comes to the psychospiritual nature of the music at 2:51 with, “check my energy my calling is calling me; free falling I’m falling, free are the ways that I’m balling; callout to the angels just follow me home” which suggests his sense of freedom within the music. The entire song is an affirmation of remaining true to oneself and that music is a way to channel energy. Their music is a constant reminder of listening for your purpose and when you proceed to remember the vow you make to oneself.

“My Soul” by Lowkey

This song is tremendous and has multiple social and political implications. The chorus reads, “You can take my life, but you cant take my soul; you might take my freedom, but you cant take my soul (x2)” which is politically charged because most identify governments with doing both of these to people around the world.

Then he goes on to say, “they cant use my music to advertise for coca-cola, they cant use my music to advertise for Motorola” which directly looks at the corporate sponsored music that many people in hip-hop acknowledge as limiting and destructive towards the human spirit. He says all this with six lines starting at 1:06. At 1:48 he tells us how unique he is and affirms the listener they too are just as special and unique, effectively calling out to seek purpose. Lowkey as an artist has made a unique contribution to hip-hop from the UK.

He often laces his lyricism with political and socially charged material in such a way that the listener views the stories. Not many people in hip-hop have been able to perform such a feat, but to name a few are Tupac, Immortal Technique, and Outkast. I think even more significantly is the work he just completed last year titles “Soundtrack To The Struggle” exposes the whole systematic breakdown of political corruption. Not an easy feat, yet he provides a way to see social problems and at the same time use hip-hop as social activism.

 

“Caught in a Hustle” by Immortal Technique

This song is one of the greatest ever written and created. Caught in a Hustle is his way to make amends with the path he has chosen as a political activist and emcee. At 32 seconds he says “But I never lose hope, success is psychological; the world is volatile and the street is my education” explaining the power of the mind to him as a way to gain motivation. He also identifies the importance of street knowledge. AT 37 seconds he states “shaping the nation, like the blueprint of a mason” implying the hidden agenda of secret societies which only some have any idea about or even that our founding father Washington was a mason. At 43 seconds he uses an image, “I’m like the little kids on TV that dig through the trash; I hustle regardless of the way you talk shit and laugh; a lot of n***** drop science but they don’t know the Math, cause their mind is narrower than the righteous path.”

All of this is emotionally charged and we have all seen those commercials that exploit the 3rd world. The Math he is referring to is actually lessons brought forth by study within the older hip-hop sects, such as Wu-Tang. The knowledge that the righteous path is narrow is also a biblical reference and has been restated over and over. When you look at the song in its entirety the energy you feel is devoted and out of time, so to speak. He acknowledges his music is political and can in fact endanger his life.

One tremendous line at me is at 1:17 when he says, “Like Yeshua, Ben Yousef flippin through Genesis; ignorance is venomous, and it murders the soul” referencing the alternate name of Jesus and the quick reference to ignorance seem to link a way to perceive a document that has caused so much destruction through the eyes of an enlightened being. Immortal’s rhymes have normally been high and angry, yet this song reflects a wisdom that I believe he walks with. Immortal’s music is transformative in ever case. Some of his lyrics are not for the faint hearted though.

These are just a few examples and the transformative nature of these artists music can become more apparent as one listens deeply. Music now a days often is not listened to , but just played to zone out. The depth of artists today in mainstream media lacks, yet the depth of underground artists continues to flourish.

Concluding Rant

What was your experience? What emotions are elicited by the artist? How did these songs alter your thinking regarding hip-hop music and culture?

These are some fundamental questions that I employ when I “actively listen” to hip-hop. It is critical we acknowledge the power of hip-hop to teach and enhance our consciousness. After I complete this film on hip-hop’s power, I will then provide a book outlining the theoretical framework for deep analysis on hip-hop discourse.

What is more important is to get HHBE into schools with curricula that will motivate youth towards paths in higher education and paths of purpose. Hip-hop saved my life and gave me purpose. That purpose is to change the face of education and bring trust back to the student/teacher relationship.

I am hip-hop! This is the mantra we live by in hip-hop culture and this is meaning. Hip-hop is at a cross-road, and the youth are starving for meaning in their lives and in their music. The time to bring about a revolution in hip-hop is now and the consciousness of hip-hop will create the means by which this happens.

Anthony Pineda
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Conscious Hip Hop for Social Change: An Interview with Anthony Pineda, Founder of Creatrix Institute

Anthony shares video examples of transformative hip hop in his guest post, here

For many of us, music plays a huge role in our lives. It is the soundtrack to what do and think about. It is helps inform our memories. It can shift our mood and give perspective. It can make us want to dance. And, according to Anthony Pineda, it can be a powerful force for transformative social change.

Meet Anthony Pineda, Founder of Creatrix Institute

Anthony holds a Masters degree in Consciousness and Transformative Studies from John F. Kennedy University and is the Anthony Pinedafounder of Creatrix Institute. He is currently finishing a documentary on transformational hip hop—the culmination of over seven years of research and work.

Anthony has been a student of the effects of music and human consciousness since 1999, when he reflected on the role music played in his own life. Hip hop, specifically a genre dubbed ‘Conscious Hip Hop‘, transformed his outlook and personal and professional goals. It was a catalyst to his personal evolution and launched him on a path to deepening his understanding of the music and sharing its potential with others, especially kids.

In fact, Anthony has demoed a class called “Hip Hop & Poetry” in local middle schools and high schools in Silicon Valley. He designed a class specifically for emotionally disturbed students and used conscious hip hop as a way to connect, related, and help students move forward.

Starting with the music, he analyzes elements that make it conscious-raising and transformative, as well as creating ways to discuss themes of overcoming hardship and challenge through examining lyrics and message.

Conscious Hip-Hop: A Tool for Social Innovation?

Anthony firmly believes in the power of hip hop to be conscious-raising and in a word, transformative.

What struck me most about meeting Anthony over a year ago during the course of our New Leaders Council Fellowship in 2012, was his determination to create the life he envision for himself and share his knowledge and passion. From becoming a father at an early age to finding his voice and purpose in hip hop, he has worked against numerous challenges to pursue his education, develop his art, and set a meaningful example for his family. It is humbling to meet such a determined, committed proponent for social change.

I had a chance to sit down with him and discuss in depth his evolving view of music, hip hop, conscious hip hop, and the 2.0 version he calls transformative hip hop.

 

Q | When did the transformative/conscious hip hop movement begin?

Anthony Pineda, Founder of Creatrix: The movement of transformative hip-hop was in the beginning, in my opinion. Hip-hop began in America as a way to transcend socioeconomic and environmental situations. It was to expose the ills of society and a critique of what was happening on the streets of impoverished areas of America.

Some may argue that the golden age of hip-hop through the mid 90’s with Tupac began a new stage in conscious hip-hop. I believe it was created with this premise of being transformative, so the basic foundation of hip-hop culture is a conscious movement. I feel that transformative hip-hop is a new phrase I feel I am contributing to the academic discourse of hip-hop studies. People often use ‘conscious hip-hop’ or even ‘spiritual/positive hip-hop’ to define sub-genres of hip-hop music, yet transformative hip-hop denotes a process by which the music offers a new perspective to become self-aware and change one’s path.

 

Q | How can someone get involved in the movement?

Anthony: First, I think its important to note that hip-hop is a global youth culture and most of our youth are in fact involved with the movement. The way to get most involved in the movement is to become a practitioner of the craft or culture. To be involved means to act, and action can occur in many ways. For me, becoming not only an emcee, but to actively engage my community and help facilitate dialogue regarding hip-hop as a way to educate youth is part of my path within the movement.

 

Q | Tell us about the film project and what you hope to accomplish with its release?

Anthony: So the film represents the story/narratives of Hiphop music and culture. The power of Hiphop to save the minds and lives of people who use it to evoke their consciousness. We are looking at the impact of the music to be transformative and educational.

The main themes are education, spirituality, and story. The therapeutic implications of Hiphop are innate, so perspectives will solidify the current and ongoing research of Hiphop within institutions and systems. We are interested in personal stories with the youth and desires to expand Hiphop culture as a main aspect towards educational aspirations and what would it mean to include Hiphop in schools with structure and curricula. I have been documenting hip-hop in my life for 7 years and this film is the culmination of my transformation and research.

I hope that people begin to question the stereotypes of hip-hop and what we can accomplish with hip-hop in schools and around the globe. I also hope people acknowledge the power of lyrics in hip-hop to advance human consciousness. I want this to be the first installment of future projects on hip-hop research in visual form and to continue to document what it means to be hip-hop and what our responsibilities are to youth and their development. Hip-hop is more then entertainment and culture, it is a way of life and a spiritual practice by which people transform.

 

Emmie Thomas
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Interview with Emmie Thomas: Co-Founder and CEO of Knowji, a Mobile App for Literacy

Literacy is a deceptive statistic in America. As we covered earlier, though the U.S. appears to top the charts in literacy rates globally—the numbers don’t account for low literacy. This is a topic ripe for social innovation.

Knowji, an App for Literacy

The need for new ways to address literacy was not lost on the founders of the mobile app Knowji, Emmie and Nick Thomas. They began researching literacy in America and learned the stark statistics of effects of non-literacy and low literacy from the Digest of Education Statistics and National Institute for Literacy, and were not just alarmed—they were moved to action.
Emmie and Nick have taken an active role as social entrepreneurs to develop a comprehensive, gamified app that gives users multiple ways to learn new words. Illustrations give a visual cue, recorded audio provides another way to learn, and new words are provided with context, synonyms and “collocations” (i.e. examples of common phrases that utilize the word.)But this app is not like reading a dictionary—users are introduced to characters and led through various games and exercises to test their knowledge. It is a way not only to learn basic words but to continue expanding vocabulary with advanced words.
Innov8Social had a chance to sit down with Emmie Thomas, one of Knowji’s co-founders to learn about the app she helped create and the inspiration behind Knowji.You can check out the multiple Knowji offerings in Apple’s mobile App Store and try out the free trial version which has samples of the other offerings.

Meet Emmie

Emmie is passionate about literacy, in part because as a first-generation American, she has lived its reality.  After her family’s  Emmie Thomasmove to the U.S. she saw and experienced the challenges of building her own vocabulary, comprehension, and literacy. Her efforts paid off and she completed her undergraduate education at NYU in Business and Finance. She pursued a career in asset management, technology development, mobile sales, and business development for nearly two decades before setting her sights on something much closer to heart and central to her identity.
After hearing a commencement speech by Bill Gates in July 7, 2007 calling graduates to take action to address some of the world’s most pressing issues, Emmie began researching resources for developing and furthering literacy in English. She found existing tools to be linear and, on the whole, outdated. With emerging technology such as smartphone apps and tablets, she felt like there were better, more-tactile ways to learn and to teach.
Emmie, and her husband Nick Thomas–Knowji co-founder and CTO– set out to pursue a big idea. They wanted to make literacy learning fun, educational, and comprehensive through a series of apps that engaged users by introducing compelling characters, establishing storylines, and using data-driven techniques to achieve true learning.

Literacy as a Spectrum, Not a Checkbox

When we sat down to discuss the interview questions, Emmie introduced an interesting concept.She mentioned that through her research she had found literacy to be a spectrum rather than a checkbox. Though we feel compelled to adhere to statistics that gauge literacy as percentage points, in reality, she noted that there are levels and grades of literacy. People might pass the basic definition of literacy but may actually be competently illiterate—they may be able to read and write, but have a minimal level of comprehension so as not to be able to read and understand a set of directions, a contract, or a newspaper article. Emmie observed that these individuals often fall through the cracks of the education system and may never have access to tools and learning techniques increase and expand their comprehension to a functional level.

Read the Interview

Q1 | Innov8Social: What drew you to create education and literacy apps?

A1 | Emmie Thomas, Co-Founder & CEO of Knowji:

Sure, I would like to begin by establishing what most people perceive when they think of the word “literacy” or “illiteracy”. We think of someone who cannot read or write at all, someone poorly educated. If we think of literacy in that context, the percentage of Americans who suffer from this is relatively small. However, if you include those who can read and write English in America but perform at the lowest level of literacy skills, approximately one in four American adults are functionally illiterate. Their literacy level is too low to perform basic functions in the workplace like paying bills, understanding legal and financial documents and using technology.
The effect this has on those people and society as a whole is staggering, and we feel that there is a real opportunity to make a difference. To date, we have published a set of 12 Apple iOS apps to help move people beyond functional illiteracy and all the way to advanced literacy such as teaching words for the SAT and GRE. Now we’re in the process of building more content for future apps. In particular, we are developing content to help people, specifically ESL/ELL people who are below functional illiteracy level in English.

Q2 | Innov8Social: Tell us a little about how Knowji started and its mission?

A2 | Emmie, Co-Founder of Knowji:

It was really a confluence of two events that gave birth to the idea of Knowji. Firstly, I was considering going to grad school at the time and found myself struggling to build my vocabulary for the GRE exam. I had thousands of words to learn and I was struggling to remember them all, and I found myself unnecessarily wasting a lot of time and effort in studying. At the same time, I was at an inflection point in my life where I felt a strong need to find work that was meaningful and fulfilling. This led me to explore and research different ideas, and out of that I found those ideas around education were the most compelling and fulfilling to me. I think the reason for this is because my family value education so highly. Education is the ticket to opportunity, to freedom, and it’s a great equalizer. My parents came to America specifically so their children would have the opportunity to go to college.

So the combination of these two events led me to the idea of starting a company that could work on problems in education. The reason we honed in on verbal development is because of the struggles I personally experienced and witnessed growing up in New York City. These are problems people often live with all their lives. However, with the right learning tools, these are problems that can easily be addressed. That’s the opportunity we’re excited about. I know since I started using Knowji myself, I have found myself to be a better communicator and writer. In today’s online and social world, having the ability to communicate well is crucial to success.

Our mission is to leverage technology and innovative content to bring affordable high quality education to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Q3 | Innov8Social: What drew you to create education apps?

A3 | Emmie, Co-Founder of Knowji:

In addition to what I said earlier, I feel strongly about empowering people in a way that is sustainable. Since I was a small child growing up in New York City, I’ve often pondered the question of how we can help lift people out of poverty, and thus reduce violence and suffering in homes and communities. I still think about this question, almost every day, and the solution that most resonates with me is this famous quote, “you feed a man a fish, you feed him for a day. You teach a man to fish, you feed him a lifetime.”

Q4 | Innov8Social: Where do you think the greatest opportunities are for the meeting place of technology + education?

A4 | Emmie, Co-Founder of Knowji:

This is a great question. We see four opportunities: Self-paced learning, adaptive and customized learning, distance learning, and mobile learning.

a) Self paced learning. Today technology can empower people to learn at their own pace. We see this in the results from people using our apps. Some of our users take two to three times longer to learn a word than others. In a traditional classroom, all students at the same age are under pressure to learn at the same pace. What if instead learning was self-paced? Students could self study while teachers are freed up to spend their time helping students through difficult problems.

b) Adaptive Learning. This is an area of opportunity that takes learning to a whole new level. Computers can aid in learning in ways that are humanly impossible to do. For instance, a computer can perform complex mathematical algorithms that generate a personalized curriculum tailored to the exact needs of each student. It can track an unlimited number of answers and behaviors from each student year after year, and at any time crunch all that data instantaneously to figure out the best lesson at that precise moment for a student’s learning style or ability. So a computer can perform tasks in scope and dimension that are humanly impossible, and therefore in the domain of education, become an amazingly powerful personal tutor in a way that was never before possible. I should add, we don’t for a moment imagine this usurping teachers in the classroom, but we certainly see it as an incredibly powerful tool to augment classroom teaching, and further empower students.

Our apps are a version of this personalized adaptive learning, though on a smaller scale. Based on a student’s interactions, our app presents words that the student is struggling with more frequently than other words. The app also calculates an optimal time when the student should drill each word so as to maximize their memory retention of the words. We’ve really just begun in terms of the complexity of our adaptive learning algorithm. Yet despite that, our apps are already helping people learn and remember hundreds of words in just a few weeks.

c) Distance Learning. Teachers and professors are no longer required to be physically located in the same classroom as their students. High quality education is now available to millions if not billions of people across the globe – either for free or at a substantially reduced rate. We’re already seeing this with companies like Khan Academy, Uadacity, and universities like MIT and Stanford that are spearheading this change.

d) Mobile Learning. With a mobile device, anyone can learn any time and anywhere. This is a very exciting opportunity when you consider that one in five adults on the planet cannot read or write. That’s 1.5 billion people. What if we could equip every child with a mobile device like an iPod Touch or an iPad that doesn’t require a persistent Internet connection? They could receive education even if they have to work to support their family. Studying a few minutes every day could empower a child to become literate, and who knows, that could open up for them the possibility one day of college.

Q5 | Innov8Social: What trends in education technology excite you?

A5 | Emmie, Co-Founder of Knowji:

If I had to pick one, I would pick mobile learning. However, I think the fusion of trends I mentioned is what makes it an extremely exciting time to be working in this area.

Q5 | Innov8Social: What advice do you have for other social entrepreneurs starting out in the education technology sector?

A6 | Emmie, Co-Founder of Knowji:

 

  • Always pick a problem/solution space that you are already intimately familiar with. I think it is really hard building something great if you don’t intimately understand the problems of your users or customers.
  • Have someone on the team who knows how to market and network in your target market. So for instance, selling to K12 schools has been a challenge for us because no one on our team had the connection or experience selling into K12 schools. We’ve had to build those connections as we go along. That takes a long time.
  • Finally, be very committed to your cause because this will help you stay on course when the going gets tough. And it will get tough!

 

Q7 | Innov8Social: Social entrepreneurship comes in different flavors. There are non-profits and for-profit companies. Why did you not choose to make Knowji a non-profit entity since it has such a social mission?

A7 | Emmie, Co-Founder of Knowji:

We thought through this question carefully when we started the company, and our decision ultimately came from a two important principles. First we want to be a self-sustaining organization, one that doesn’t require us to seek donations. Secondly, we aspire to be a company that will one day inspire other companies to do good and do well at the same time.

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Is Literacy an Issue in the US?

AlphabetLook up literacy rates of countries around the globe and you’ll likely find a near-perfect score for the U.S. However, that 99 percentile assessment is glossing over some key issues regarding the ability of Americans to read, write, and comprehend—and the broad-ranging implications low literacy carries.

DoSomething.org published a list of 11 Facts About Literacy in America. Here are some of the most telling findings:

Findings on Literacy in America

There is a correlation between low literacy and jail time.   Over 65% of students who can’t read competently by the time they finish 4th grade will be in jail or on welfare at some point in their lives. Close to 85% of youth tried as juveniles are functionally illiterate. 7 out of 10 inmates in prison cannot read above a 4th grade level.
There is a correlation between low literacy and welfare. An estimated 75% of Americans receiving food stamps function at the two lowest levels of literacy.
Americans are generationally becoming less literate. In a study done in 2011, America was identified as the only free-market OECD country in which the current generation was less well-educated than the prior generation.
You can be literate, but functionally illiterate.  These statistics defy the 99% percentile of literacy. That is become literacy is a broad term that doesn’t account for literacy that is so basic that it is not functional in daily use.
Low healthcare literacy costs the U.S. millions (if not billions) of dollars annually.  Low health literacy relates to the ability of individuals to grasp basic health information, take medications according to prescriptions, and utilize the healthcare system. An estimated $70M to over $230B is lost annually due to low health literacy.

Literacy, Ripe for Social Innovation

Beginning to understand the truth about literacy calls for action. Social innovators are well-suited to utilize scarce resources to create meaningful impact in the realm of literacy. Though socio-economic conditions can impact the access to education a child or adult has to resources that teach literacy—literacy is, at its essence, a learned skill. It can be taught at any age.

Social Entrepreneurs Tackling the Literacy Divide

There are social entrepreneurs who are addressing this issue. Take a look at Innov8Social’s recent interview with one of the co-founders of Knowji–a mobile app specifically designed to address the country’s literacy divide.
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Infographic: Educating the Workforce of the Future

infographics.org

This interesting infographic designed by Hyperakt and published by GOOD and the University of Phoenix on Visual.ly is a telling snapshot on the kinds of education needed for careers in the past and future.

College is not for everyone—with under half of the U.S. population pursuing an Associate’s or undergraduate by the age of 27. But increasingly, college is what employers are looking for–with more than 60% of careers requiring at least an AA degree.

The look into the growing and declining careers and median incomes also gives insight as to kinds of roles and degrees that have a strong future.

With the infusion of technology, online learning, and focus on entrepreneurship—it will be curious to see what this infographic looks like  in 20 years.  There are new, emerging ways of learning that don’t yet fit into traditional buckets of education. And soft skills such as social media savvy and online commerce are creating new paths for careers.

Let’s check back in 20.

 

 

Kalen Gallagher
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Interview with Kalen Gallagher, Social Entrepreneur and Elected Leader

Meet Kalen

Kalen GallagherKalen Gallagher is a social entrepreneur’s social entrepreneur. He doesn’t just resemble what it means to pursue social impact with an entrepreneurial mindset, he pretty much embodies it.Talk to him for a few minutes and you’ll notice that he possesses many of the characteristics of fellow millennials. Easy-going, confident, and ready to take on (and lead) change, Kalen has served his community as far back as he can remember. As a student at Westmont High School in San Jose he was active in community service organizations.
Kalen attended UC Davis as an undergraduate and served in student government in the roles of Senator, Vice President, and student body President. He stayed on at his alma mater for law school, graduating from UC Davis Law in 2009. Where passing the California Bar exam often signifies an official entry into the profession, for Kalen it was a turning point at which he decided to steer away from practicing law to focus on education. He took on the role of social studies teacher at a KIPP Heartwood Academy, a public charter school serving East San Jose.Kalen’s path to creating impact and pursuing entrepreneurship led him to join an education technology startup called ClassDojo in 2011. ClassDojo is a tool that helps teachers improve behavior in their classrooms and captures and generates data on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators. The Next Web named it one of the top education apps of 2012.

For Kalen, the roles of educator, innovator, and leader push him to seek different avenues to create impact. In May 2012 he announced his candidacy for Campbell Union High School District Board of Trustees. An elected position, he would be running against an incumbent and vying for a four-year term. In a close race fueled by grass roots campaigning, social media pushes, and plenty of precinct walks—Kalen won a seat on the Board on election day in November 2012.

I have had a chance to get to know Kalen, through one of his passions–New Leaders Council. Kalen and Reeta Sharma,  co-founded and co-direct the Silicon Valley chapter of this progressive fellowship program to build skills in leadership and social entrepreneurship…which I participated in as a Fellow in 2012 and continue to be involved in as an member of the Advisory Board.

Innov8Social caught up with Kalen to find out about his commitment to social entrepreneurship, and his path in the field.

Read the Interview

Interview with Kalen Gallagher, Social Entrepreneur and Elected Leader

Q1 | Innov8Social:   How do you define “social entrepreneurship”

A1 | Kalen Gallagher, Social Entrepreneur and Campbell Union High School District Board Trustee:  To me “social entrepreneurship” means using the principles of entrepreneurship to create sustainable, long-term solutions to our society’s biggest problems. While traditional entrepreneurs are primarily focused on earning money, social entrepreneurs seek societal change.

Q2 | Innov8Social:   What inspired you to run for office?

A2 | Kalen: I decided to run for the school board of my old high school district because it has been plagued by numerous issues for years with little discussion at the board level on how we can turn things around. Since well before I walked through the gates in 9th grade our dropout rate has been incredibly high, we’ve had low test scores, the number of our students going to and through college has been small, we’ve had the lowest paid teachers in the Bay Area, and even today we have a disturbing lack of technology available to teachers and students. While the districts around us are thriving, we’ve been held back, which is negatively impacting thousands of our community members every year. I think there’s a lot that bringing my teaching experience, the “startup mentality,” and higher expectations to the board can accomplish.

Q3 | Innov8Social:   What have you learned about the intersection of start-up entrepreneurship and education technology through ClassDojo?

A3 | Kalen: We’re in the middle of a dramatic shift in public education, powered in large part by young teachers. Any teacher 30 or younger (about 30% of all teachers) grew up in a post-AOL world, which means the internet has been ingrained in their daily lives since childhood. These teachers, along with older tech-savvy teachers, are helping change the expectations, and delivery, of public education.

This has been coupled with a revolutionary change in purchasing power. Traditionally if education companies wanted to reach teachers, they had to sell to districts, which was a slow, frustrating process. Today the internet and spread of cheap internet connected devices allow education companies to go straight to teachers and skip the middle man. Teachers are also much more in tune with the tools they want and need than a school board or administrator could ever be. Now, hundreds of teachers can be using a tool within a district without the school board having even heard about it. This new distribution strategy is allowing the shift we’re experiencing today.


Q4 | Innov8Social:   When did you decide to actively turn away from the practice of law to the practice of social entrepreneurship?

A4 | Kalen: It might seem ridiculous, but I actually knew I would never practice law when I applied to law school. To me law school represented something very attractive: a 3 year, socially-acceptable vacation that would give me amble time to explore my passions and learn the legal structure of California.

I spent the summer after my 1L year in deep-reflection, trying to figure out how I could make the biggest impact possible on the issues I’m passionate about. After all the soul-searching, research, and informational interviews, it was clear to me that if I should devote my life to improving public education. The lack of a quality of public education for all is at the core of most issues that plague the United States today. Four days after taking (and somehow passing) the California Bar, I was in my new classroom at KIPP Heartwood in East San Jose.

Q5 | Innov8Social:   Do you have any tips for those who want to create a career that creates social impact and profit?

A5 | Kalen: Genuinely care about the issue you’re trying to solve. Listen to your users. Focus. If you don’t do all three, you will go nowhere.