Tom Vander Ark & Andy Calkins
There are a growing number of next generation models in K-12 as a result of new thinking about learning design and deeper understandings of college and
career readiness, enabled by cheap devices, better tools, and foundation support. They personalize learning in blended and competency-based environments. These models revolve
around students and learning, rather than teachers and direct instruction as the primary pedagogy.
We’ve chronicled the development of next-gen schools (here and here) and see hundreds of districts and networks
adopting next-gen strategies. We’re optimistic that broader adoption of these strategies will produce better student outcomes. Following are 10 examples of
next-gen learning in K-12.
10 examples of next-gen K-12
These examples are not single course innovations, they are engineered solutions. The first half are districts or networks; the other half are school-wide
models. There are hundreds of examples and they have big implications for
We see 10 implications for HigherEd; some directly as a result of next-gen models, some resulting from next-gen policies, some from EdTech and consumer
variables impacting both K-12 and HigherEd.
1. Better prep: Almost every state has adopted higher standards in reading, writing, and math that will, over time, result in better college preparation.
2. Better mindset: Following the lead of next-gen models, a growing number of K-12 schools are promoting a growth mindset and high agency learning.
Stronger executive functions should result in improved persistence and self management.
3. More credit: The expansion of dual enrollment and other college credit options are increasing the percentage of students entering college with a
significant amount of credit.
Consumer variables impacting K-12 and HigherEd
4. Better employability: Led by next-gen models and
scholars like David Conley
, there is a stronger K-12 focus on success skills. Persistent youth unemployment following the Great Recession has made more young people aware of the
need for work experiences and job skills.
5. Better LX: The widespread use of personalized and blended learning is creating a generation of demanding consumers that expect high engagement learner
experience (LX) with some ability to customize their own pathway. Many learners will be seeking more active and applied learning in more authentic
6. More CBE: There is a slow but steady increase in the percentage of K-12 students able to learn at their own pace and progress based on demonstrated
mastery. Competency-based education (CBE) is working its way in from the edges including credit for prior/outside learning, individual pacing, rolling
7. More options: In addition to school choice, high school students in most states have access to online learning options and, increasingly, to authentic
learning experiences outside of school (externships); the combination is creating a more demanding consumer and setting the stage for a unbundled HigherEd
Infrastructure variables impacting K-12 and HigherEd
8. Blended staffing: Next-gen models incorporate differentiated and distributed staffing. New models leverage the talent of great educators and support
educators in teams, with most working in facilitating/coaching roles. Speech therapists, language teachers, and mentors are all available at a distance
address problems and expand options.
9. Mobile: with nearly ubiquitous mobile penetration, learning platforms and tools must increasingly be optimized for mobile use (e.g., DreamDegree).
10. Integrated IT: The old challenge of “technology integration” is being replaced by an integrated design opportunity, next-gen learner experience
supported by an integrated IT stack (LX+IT, e.g.,College for America). Behind all of it is machine learning: adaptive learning, conversion
optimization, and operational efficiency. Some HigherEd models will take advantage of this opportunity, but most likely will not.
In short, HigherEd institutions will need to enable a bundled multi-provider experience (or risk becoming part-time providers), focus on employability
skills and experiences, and take learner experience much more seriously.
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The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.