Rethinking Education for the New Digital, Personalized Economy
By Antigone Stark (age 15), Sumay WEquil (age 12), and Aila WEquil (age 9)
WEquil.School is the world's first student led project-based global learning community. We don't have grades, curriculum, or formal teachers. Our school was created by Sumay Lu, with support from her family, during the pandemic of 2020 when she was 11 years old. During this interview with GoGuardian in July 2020 she articulated her vision for a Flutter based WebApp for learning by doing. Less than a year later, on May 26th 2021, Tim Sneath who leads Google's Flutter division found her school's YouTube channel and said he was "Blown Away! On June 3rd, 2021 Sumay gave a second interview, this time to Google developer, Pawan Kumar, on the PK Show where over 9,000 people saw her share her vision of a global learning community helping kids "prepare for the real world by doing real things".
Deep Learning is how students at WEquil.School are able to create real value. Our students publish stories, compose music, build apps, designing products, teach classes, and start businesses. Children develop projects based on their unique strengths and interests, so they become motivated by curiosity instead of fear of failure. They publish and demonstrate their projects so parents have complete records of accomplishments and can fully assess progress and satisfy state homeschooling requirements and use their growing body of work in job or higher education applications.
We discovered the Deep Learning principles and process by interviewing hundreds of kids and parents and reviewing the literature and insights from leading minds across the field of EdTech short for Education Technology. Many of the most powerful insights we gained were from listening closely to children...a demographic often ignored when seeking out opinions on how to achieve better outcomes from schooling.
What we learned is challenging to put into a single article...because the implications of software eating the world and resulting platform technologies has far reaching implications beyond just the childhood education. So rather than share everything we chose ten videos and articles that we believe best explain the impact for young people preparing for our new digital, creative, personalized, global economy.
Deep learning is especially powerful in a world where knowledge and signaling value to the work force is essentially free. The world started changing with the Software Revolution, and it accelerated with the Pandemic. Formal curriculums and college diplomas were a critical part of learning and entering the work force ... until the internet and near universal acceptance from top employers that all you need to get a job and grow a career is the ability to demonstrate your value. Those who fail to understand this will increasingly feel the pressure from a global labor force that can learn anything and increasingly work remotely to create value in a world that is increasingly digital.
Deep Learning Process
Humans learn best by leveraging their curiosity to create something useful for other people. Deep Learning begins with an idea for a project. Like a seed being planted the student uses this idea to create a Minimum Viable Project (MVP) ... the simplest possible manifestation of the idea. They then share it with the community to socialize and build relationships. Finally, they use feedback to grow their seed ... by iteration and improvement. We detail each of these steps using our five paragraph framework below and complete the process by sharing with WEquil.School.
Write to Communicate
Socialize and Build Relationships
Feedback, iterate and improve
Re-Assess and Explore
1. Write to communicate
While practicing Deep Learning, your first step should be to write to communicate. All of the standard approaches to research apply, such as researching the topic thoroughly and noting references as applicable. The goal is to synthesize the knowledge learned on the topic into key points you wish to communicate to yourself and others. At WEquil.School we provide new members with three project templates on our home page to help them get started. We also encourage students to use simple, understandable language. Overly complex words might signal that one is an “intellectual” but ultimately only distracts from the main points of your writing. You want to “write to communicate” so you maximize understanding, crystalize the important concepts, and attract the most attention from readers that share your interest. This allows your network of deep relationships to grow as you learn together from soliciting feedback, iterating, and improving the value you add over time.
2. Socialize and build relationships
Once you have made a project about something you are interested in, it is important to share with others and collect feedback on your project and project idea. This is the case because not only can you improve on what you are doing, but you can refine your understanding of value. Do not try to make your project perfect before sharing with others, aim for a C-. Then, after gaining feedback you know next steps to improve on your project and whether or not it is adding value to others. By socializing your project you can build relationships with others who are interested in the same topics, opening doors to collaboration.
3. Feedback, iterate and improve
Once you have collected feedback go back through your project and make changes. When reading others' feedback identify the things that people thought added value to them and the things that did not. Not only should you take the feedback and improve on your current project, but apply them to new projects in the future. Keep in mind that you don’t have to accept all pieces of feedback if you don’t agree. After all, it is your project. One way to edit your article is to make your language as simple as possible to understand. This allows you to have a wider audience because more people can understand you.
Members demonstrate their projects every Saturday. This demonstration is critical because it gives students a chance to be teachers. By verbalizing their projects to other students and guest speakers they grow confident and parents can more accurately assess their competence. There is no faster way for kids to learn than to teach...and demonstration does exactly that.
5. Re-Assess and Explore
The mission of WEquil Group is to help members find their Path to Equilibrium. That path is one that only you can truly follow. That is why it is so important for members to think deeply and Re-Assess what they want to do next and explore opportunities. Each project should help the student understand a little more about who they are, what they are good at, and expand their awareness of what they can do. While exploring, try to find the project that help you use your curiosity to grow your strengths towards creating something valuable. That is your next step on your Path to Equilibrium.
Deep Learning Principles
We created the Deep learning process by listening closely to our members and standing on the shoulders of giants. To share everything we reviewed would require a book...so instead we provide just ten perspectives to prepare young people for the New Digital Economy. At the end we share our Five Principles of Deep Learning.
Ten perspectives to prepare young people for the New Digital Economy
Documentary on High Tech High - Most Likely to succeed
Ken Robinson - Do schools kill creativity?
Jordan Peterson - Importance of Reading and Writing
Paul Graham - The Lesson to Unlearn
Elon Musk on why he created a homeschool
Steve Jobs - Stay hungry ... stay foolish
Rick Flurie - A different approach to education
Jeff Maggioncalda - The future of jobs and education
Sal Khan - Let's teach for mastery
Naval Ravikant - Arm Yourself With Specific Knowledge
We provide summaries and links to these resources below...and then summarize them into the five principles of learning that we use at WEquil.School to better prepare our students for the new digital, decentralized, personalized, global economy.
1. Documentary on High Tech High - Most Likely to Succeed
Most Like to Succeed is an educational documentary available on Amazon Prime. Public education became necessary during the industrial revolution, when people needed to be trained in specific skills to perform well at factories. Now, technology is continuing to replace all jobs that don’t require forms of human creativity (cashiers, receptionist, waiters, etc), yet the public education system stays the same. In order to succeed in the modern world, Most Likely to Succeed says we must first adapt to technological advances and approach learning differently. Most Likely to Succeed mostly reviews a charter school called High Tech High that is implementing a new radical approach to education. One main principle of High Tech High is project-based learning, which they demonstrate at the end of each year to the public. This helps students retain their knowledge and skills because the information they learn is relevant. While creating projects, they also developing soft skills such as confidence and public speaking that are becoming more valuable in today's economy.
2. Ken Robinson - Do schools kill creativity?
Sir Ken Robinson is a British author and education advisor. He is scared about public education. He criticizes them for draining kids of their creativity and stigmatizing failure. Back in the industrial revolution if you had a degree, you were guaranteed a job. That isn’t the case anymore, but the education system hasn’t changed. Robinson believes that education should be individualized because everyone learns differently, and that arts and creative subjects should be held in the same esteem as math and science.
3. Jordan Peterson - Importance of Reading and Writing
Jordan is a clinical psychologist, author and professor. He often stresses the importance of reading and writing to develop your ability to think. According to Peterson, the first step to writing is to find a problem you are interested in and then research about it so you have something to say about the problem. Once you’ve done that, you can start organizing and summarizing information from your resources. Remember to include your opinions to add value to the reader. Pick the right words using trial and error and your best judgement. By reworking your sentences, you hone your ability to articulate. Your speech is your most powerful tool and will lead you to success. Never change your writing to please others, especially if you don’t agree with it. This will slow the process of finding your true voice.
4. Paul Graham - The Lesson to Unlearn
Paul Graham runs the Y Combinator, the most successful startup incubator in the world. In this essay he talks about why students should not focus their learning solely on getting good grades. He criticizes public school tests for being highly hackable, meaning students notice trends in tests and adapt their learning to get better grades. This is because they can only test for facts. This is very different from the real world, where graduates are tested on things that are not hackable. These real world “tests” are not based on fact and not enforced by an authority. This is problematic because students who are trained to hack the test don’t have practice facing real world, unhackable tests such as creating something valuable to others.
5. Elon Musk on why he created a homeschool
In this video, Musk stresses the importance of explaining the application of learning. He mentions that the brain discards information that it believes is not relevant, so teaching a student about something without demonstrating its real life application will decrease student retention. The last point he makes is to teach problems instead of tools because you will learn the tools along the way but will automatically know the application and relevance.
6. Steve Jobs - Stay hungry ... stay foolish
In a graduation speech at Stanford, Steve Jobs encourages the new graduates to follow their curiosity, no matter where it takes them. He says that you should always dive into what you are interested in even if it doesn’t seem to be practical. Jobs recounts that after dropping out of college, he sat in on a calligraphy course. At the time, he was simply interested in calligraphy; and in no way did it connect to his aspirations in computer science nor would it get him a job. Later, however, he discovered useful applications for what he learned! His experience in calligraphy class actually helped him develop aesthetically pleasing computer styles and fonts that are so distinguishing to the Mac. Jobs also points out that everyone dies at one point, and life is too short not to do what you love. Above all his message is to find your interests and follow them.
7. Rick Flurie - A different approach to education
In this video, Flurie points out that public schools are following the same systems as public schools in the industrial age. Back then, public schools were meant to prepare students for jobs in factories. However, the economy has changed drastically since then and technology has largely replaced these jobs. Based on the growing unemployment statistics, Flurie predicts that there won’t be enough qualified workers to fill the creative and entrepreneurial jobs that are needed. He points out that everybody has unique strengths and interests and by introducing them to a project based, self directed, mastery based, and individualized education model, they will be more excited to learn and better prepared for the future. Grading does not allow you to improve upon failure and learning from failure is one of the best ways to learn.
8. Jeff Maggioncalda - The future of jobs and education
This video features an interview with Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of the online learning platform Coursera. Coursera is revolutionizing education by making college courses available online and introducing microdegrees. You can get many microdegrees and lots of different subjects you are interested in instead of solely dedicating yourself to one field. Jeff points out that in the future most jobs will be working with data in some way shape or form and we should prepare our future workforce for that. With technology improving so rapidly, Maggioncalda states that it is crucial for people to continue learning through their entire lifetime and it shouldn’t be that when you stop schooling, you stop trying to learn altogether. You want to distinguish yourself in the workforce and one way to do that is to have a broad array of microdegrees.
9. Sal Khan - Let's teach for mastery
Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy hosts a Ted Talk about the concept of mastery in learning. He says that the academic model commonly used in public schools is not based on mastery and therefore leads to gaps in learning. Mastery requires 100% understanding, yet grading systems often accept 80% and above as proficient. This becomes a major problem as classes build on each other. Consider Khan’s example of building a house. First, you tell your architect to build the foundation in two weeks. After two weeks pass, the foundation has a couple cracks and wet glue, but it is mostly done. So you tell him to build the first floor. Like the foundation, there are also a few problems. But not quite enough to cause major worry. You carry on this process until the third floor when the house collapses. The little problems added up, and combined with the pressure from the weight of new levels, caused the collapse. You can equate this concept with education. Khan says the goal of learning should be to always achieve mastery on each level to avoid a collapse in learning. He points out that this was previously impractical, because teaching would have to be individualized to each student's abilities. Now, however, tools such as khan academy allow students to fill in their gaps and achieve complete mastery.
10. Naval Ravikant - Arm Yourself With Specific Knowledge
Naval Ravikant a serial entrepreneur and angel investor who created Angel.co. He provides many insights relevant to the new digital economy and how to succeed on YouTube. The concept of Specific knowledge is one that our CEO Sumay has focused on while building WEquil.School because of its importance in leverage our unique qualities to make us irreplaceable. In her words..."Specific knowledge is knowledge that people can not teach, but can learn. They can learn this through experiences and all the different circumstances you have. Some examples are: your childhood, your friendships, different conversations, your interests, your personality." You achieve Specific Knowledge by creating a series of experiences that match one strengths and interests with adding value to others. By following this path you discover ways you can become most valuable to the world because no one can be a better you than you.
Five principles of learning:
WEquil.School's leadership team synthesized these perspectives along with all our interviews and other research down to five principles.
1. Teach to problems not tools
2. No grades, iterate and improve
3. Share and learn with others
4. Build on strengths, interests and passions
5. Teaching is a great way to learn
In our experience, these principles allow kids to learn far more effectively because their education experience is tailored to them and reflects how value is created in the real world.
Learn more about www.WEquil.School ... and join our Education Revolution.
You can join WEquil.School by creating a project from our home page.
This article was sponsored by the WEquil.School Leadership Team.