I was a social science major so humor me for a moment; a revolution requires a shift in power. So when we talk about “revolutionizing education”, we are fundamentally talking about a shift in who holds the power. In a traditional classroom, the power has typically been held by the teacher. And on a broader school setting, the principal and school district have the power. Any technology that only deepens the control, oversight, and micromanagement of teachers and students will not be a part of any revolutionary transformation. And if our (technological) powers aren’t being used for good, they might even deepen the inequitable distribution of power and resources in schools. Decoded: the money and energy invested in their endeavors won’t make anything better for students.
Today, technology is a part of education because it is a part of life. Now, it’s our job to ensure that we use that technology to empower young people at every junction, allowing them to engage in work and learning that excites them. On its own, a technology-infused classroom may not be any more empowering than whatever came before it – we’ve all heard of worksheet-type work on iPads and big-brother oversight platforms that breed more angst than anything else. Young people are natural learners – if we give students the opportunity to use that technology to make curious connections, learn skills as they need them, build real relationships and ultimately have more agency over their learning, we have a better chance at being of part of the pending revolution.
A common misconception when it comes to the conversation is that revolutionary learning experiences come from new-age technology, like 3D printing, virtual reality, etc. At, we take a different approach, using basic technology to connect everyday learning. We look at opportunities for game-changing learning experiences – ones that connect students to the world beyond the classroom– and we find the gaps that keep these experiences out of reach for many classrooms. Then we take that opportunity gap and talk to everyone who will listen about it, learning what technological bridge might help more educators re-create that kind of authentic learning in their classroom.
When we wanted to create ways for young people to engage in hands-on entrepreneurship (more specifically, the ability to start classroom-based student-run businesses), we talked to hundreds of educators. We learned that their inability to handle the money kept many educators from even trying to make entrepreneurship a part of their classroom experience. The solution was an e-commerce platform () built with Shopify technology that would allow any classroom to operate under our non-profit umbrella, letting us handle the banking and taxes. It’s not groundbreaking technology; it’s an unusual application of existing technology that is making the entrepreneurial process more accessible for thousands of students every year.
As the world gets more digital, we have to commit ourselves to being more human. The revolution is not about technology; it’s about people creating the world they want to live in and using the tools at hand to make it happen. We will need to continuously root ourselves in the questions, “Is this technology supporting the learning and empowerment of all young people? Does this contribute to a future with more liberation and opportunity for more young people?” The answers should steer us in the right direction.