‘Bright,’ a New Online Education Publication, Launches

By Mark Walsh — March 31, 2015 3 min read
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A new online education publication launching on Tuesday—called “Bright"—aims to shine some fresh light on issues and innovations in the field.

“Bright hopes to change the tenor of the conversation,” Sarika Bansal, the editor of the new publication, says in a letter to readers. “Our stories will be vibrant —both literally and figuratively. They will be deeply human and approachable, while being smart enough to sustain the interest of education insiders.”

So, what is Bright exactly?

The developers provided links to several pieces that were in the bank and would presumably be published in the early going.

One was a short article and graphic about “the perfect classroom, according to science.” It discusses—and shows—the work of researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California at Berkeley about the ideal classroom: lots of light, a temperature of 72 degrees, calming plants, minimal noise, and wall decorations that aren’t “extremely busy” and that avoid cultural stereotypes.

Another article is about how the web site Pinterest has become popular among teachers for sharing lesson plans and teaching tips. And an essay by a college junior discusses how video games stoked his interest in studying medieval history. The piece is vividly illustrated with images from games

Bright’s developers describe the publication as a “popup,” meaning it will last only three or four months—unless, of course, it strikes a chord, said Gabe Kleinman,the director of business development for Medium, an online platform where the education journal will publish. Medium was founded by Evan Williams, a co-founder and former CEO of Twitter.

“I saw the possibility of a new type of dialogue about education,” Kleinman said in an interview. “Looking at the landscape, it looked like that dialogue was stalled in a lot of the same places.”

These included the “echo chamber” of “one-off” op-ed essays in newspapers about education issues, as well as conferences that recycled many of the same ideas, said Kleinman, a veteran West Coast marketing executive who conceived the idea when he arrived last year at Medium.

“The idea was to create a space in Medium that would appeal to education insiders, but would also bring in voices from beyond,” he added.

Kleinman had a discussion with Lynn Olson of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle about how to structure such an online publication. The Gates Foundation, which provides funding to Education Week to support coverage of the implementation of college and career-ready standards, provided some technical advice to the publication and then handed over the idea for Bright to the New Venture Fund, based in Washington, D.C., Kleinman said.

The New Venture Fund provided an undisclosed amount of money to launch the publication.

I asked Kleinman about a reference in Bright’s public relations materials that said contributors will include “the best product managers in education technology.” Does that mean Bright will publish marketing pitches dressed up in journalistic clothing?

Kleinman said any contribution by a product manager would be more along the lines of a lesson a tech company had learned about a problem in education, as opposed to a pitch for one of its products.

When I asked Kleinman how political Bright was going to be, he asked what I meant by “political.” That pretty much gave me the answer (which he also confirmed) that Bright isn’t planning to delve deeply into the weeds of education legislation and policy proposals.

Still, he said, it won’t be unheard of to have, say, the U.S. Department of Education “jump in with an op-ed.”

Bright is also planning “investigative” pieces, a debate-oriented feature, and contributions from existing outlets such as the Hechinger Report, an education publication based at Teachers College, Columbia University, and EdSurge, and education technology news and information site.

Bansal, the editor, has been with the Solutions Journalism Network, an organization devoted to journalism that is focused on constructive responses to social problems.

Kleinman said he expects four or five fresh posts on Bright each week.

The initial plan for Bright reminds me most of the Education Post, a similar effort launched last fall by Peter Cunningham, the former communications chief for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

We’ll see how well these efforts do to change the conversation.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.