Technology offers incredible potential to make kids’ education more accessible, exciting, and effective.
One of the big reasons we’re excited to focus on child development is that we believe innovation for kids has lagged what it’s done for adults. Because tech veterans are increasingly frustrated by this phenomenon as they have children, we think there’s an amazing opportunity for the sector to catch up.
We’ve already seen significant innovation and progress across many aspects of education in the last few months. What’s exciting about some of these initiatives is that they’re done in partnership with (and in support of) experienced educators.
Our partner Sesame Workshop announced an AI-powered vocabulary learning app in partnership with IBM Watson, and its school pilot is showing great early signs of efficacy.
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative pledged $5M to help Bay Area teachers afford home down payments. (This follows their numerous investments and grants made in education, including in technology businesses and in the Primary School, a health and education focused pre-school for low-income students.)
Mark Benioff is giving $100K innovation grants to middle school principals in the Bay Area.
These are all great examples of the tech industry working to augment (not replace) proven approaches to education. It’s a principle underscoring our recently announced investment in Outschool.
Many have touted the importance of personalized education and, more specifically, broader access to quality content and educational experiences that allow students to be more self-directed in their learning. While digital content has a role in that, we believe that teacher-student interactions remain critical. However, not all students are able to access a local class taught by an expert in their area of interest.
That’s where Outschool comes in.
Outschool provides an online marketplace for individual classes as well as semester-long courses that allow students in any geography to experience live, video based lessons with great teachers. Those teachers may be full-time educators or sector specialists, which unlocks the potential for PhD students to teach young kids about their research, for instance. Unlike adult-focused platforms (such as Skillshare, one of our investments), these classes are designed specifically for young learners. This obviously affects the content offered, but also ensures that teachers and class sizes are tailored to children and young adults.
While there are great online offerings for adult learning, it seemed crazy to us that there wasn’t something designed just for kids.
As Outschool grows, we hope it will be an important resource in allowing kids to design and experience learning programs according to their unique needs and interests.