Curriculum

Next Gen. Wave III: Be Better and Be Different

By Ian Quillen — November 11, 2011 2 min read

Want to win one of the up to $450,000 K-12 grants under the third wave of the Next Generation Learning Challenges grant program?

That’s easy. Just create an idea for a blended education program that merges the best aspects of face-to-face and online instruction to create more personalization for students. Oh, and that idea has to be completely new, unique, and scalable.

Those requirements, say Andy Calkins and Elina Alayeva of Educause, the postsecondary technology advocacy group that is running the application process, aren’t meant to intimidate. Nor are they meant to downplay the validity already on display here at the Virtual School Symposium in Indianapolis, where Calkins and Alayeva spoke Friday.

But the assumption from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is the main funder the Next Generation Learning Challenges program, is that ideas more disconnected from current practice will bring about more dramatic change, said Calkins, the deputy director of Educause’s Next Generation Learning Challenges work.

“Everywhere we go, we hear lots of discussion about new models in blended and digital learning, and it’s always the same four or five our six models that people talk about,” Calkins said. “Good, I’m glad that they’re out there. But four or five or six points of light do not a movement make.”

The Gates foundation is directing up to $6 million in grants to K-12 projects, and $6 million more to postsecondary projects, as part of the programs third wave. (The foundation also contributes to Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corporation that publishes Education Week.)

Alayeva also explained the decision to ask for blended proposals rather than purely online proposals, within the context of one of the stated goals of Next Generation Learning Challenges: to help find ways to create more pathways to college and careers, particularly for underserved students.

“The hypothesis is that population needs the brick-and-mortar setting and all-around wraparound support that comes with that setting to succeed,” Alayeva said.

Friday marked the first of three rolling deadlines for proposals in the third wave of the grant program. Those interested in applying for the second or third deadlines will need to submit a two-minute video, an abbreviated financial model, and a narrated slide deck. More information on that procedure and on the Next Generation Learning Challenges requirements can be found on the initiative website.

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