"Increasingly, kids are spending their time in gaming. Think about gaming as the new form of social media. People talk about the metaverse and you just see companies like Roblox and Minecraft and how they are just taking up such a large amount of time. I mean, you ask any kid what do they do after school or when they are not hanging out with their friends, and they're playing games. There are companies like DreamBox learning and Prodigy and others that do use games to teach that I think increasingly we can think about how can the gamified mindset can be applied to learning and how can you actually go ahead and take the platforms where they are already spending a ton of time on and give them learning assessments that are wrapped around." - Mercedes Bent, Lightspeed Venture Partners
Our guest today is Mercedes Bent, Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, Mercedes is focused on education and consumer early stage investing. Previously she was working in VR and a General Manager at General Assembly.
In this episode, we explore how EdTech is shifting and giving more power to parents and students. We look at social learning and gaming, which together offer a lot of promise for the future of education.
Here are some thoughts from our discussion:
We used to think of EdTech as B2B. Here are some tools, sell them to schools, they'll figure out what to do. But now it is about consumer choice. Parents got a taste, and now want to drive the learning experience.
08:11 - I think parents now want to know way more. We're seeing the biggest school shifts that have been seen since before the charter school movement. We had homeschooling almost triple in the past year. We had tons of movement from public to private and back and forth. Really parents are saying now, micro schools, homeschooling hybrid learning virtual schools, they want more options. And so that is going to force education to become a consumer product. And I don't think that is how we thought of education in the past. We thought of education like EdTech, education technology, mostly B2B. You know, take some tools, sell them to schools, and then the school decides what to do with them. And now I think we're seeing a lot more influence from parents who want products like ClassDojo and Outschool, and they want them to be part of their class, not just their child's supplemental experience, but that core experience as well.
11:04 - Parents were always stakeholders and teachers always wanted them to be stronger stakeholders, but now technology is a way for them to really get them looped into the classroom.
We are in the deployment age of EdTech. Just as the first use of electricity was in Edison's DC central stations but then it spread everywhere causing an explosion of innovation, so is EdTech now spreading into novel learning experiences. New virtual schools are not just porting the offline experience online, they are using tech in new ways.
A new learning experience based on EdTech is Social learning. Wikipedia replaced Encyclopedia Britanica. Instead of a sage on a stage dictating what we need to learn, it's all there, user-generated. People can use tons of decentralised information to learn. They also learn by teaching a peer, since teaching is the ultimate form of learning. New startups like Fiveable are conduits for social learning.
Social learning is increasingly hard to separate from gaming. Kids spend all their extra time playing games. Its hard to see where games end and social learning begins.
11:42 - Social learning is this idea that more education tools will drive education through the connection of the knowledge of the people being taught instead of having a "Sage on the stage". That's really what the internet did. The internet, instead of saying, "You have to go to the thesaurus, or you have to go to the encyclopedia, to one source of information to learn everything", it said, "Let's connect everybody and have tons of available decentralized information and be able to learn from anywhere". And so that is now happening with social learning tool.
12: 57 - There's still a lot of, stigma or just cultural norms from how school has been structured for so many years and decades that we think learning is a person speaking at us and telling us what to do. But that's not always true. I've seen environments be really successful at social learning when they've gotten everybody to buy into the idea that sharing is learning.
Here's a thought...How can you embed learning experiences in kids' existing social experiences without estranging them? You don't want to add the boring school wrapper onto things that are supposed to be fun. But are there ways to be nuanced about it? Assessing them though game mechanics for example?
21:53 - Increasingly, kids are spending their time in gaming. Think about gaming as the new form of social media. People talk about the metaverse and you just see companies like Roblox and Minecraft and how they are just taking up such a large amount of time. I mean, you ask any kid what do they do after school or when they are not hanging out with their friends, and they're playing games. There are companies like DreamBox learning and Prodigy and others that do use games to teach that I think increasingly we can think about how can the gamified mindset can be applied to learning and how can you actually go ahead and take the platforms where they are already spending a ton of time on and give them learning assessments that are wrapped around.
The guiding question: How do we use the wrapping of what kids want to be and where kids want to go to teach them more real-world things?
27:50 - How do we use the wrapping of what they want to be and where they want to go and use that to that have them teach things? "Okay, you want to be a YouTube star. Do you want to be a YouTube star for cooking? Well, guess what? You need to know a lot of chemistry for cooking." How do we incorporate the learnings and just wrap them in more real-world, non-school things? Career education and gaming would actually be two things that would really drive the engagement cliff to not fall off quite so much for the middle schoolers and high schoolers.
There's still a long way to go. Direct instruction is what we recognise as learning today. Peer-to-peer learning goes against what parents are used to, it's a different structure than what we believe learning growth looks like.
Here are some resources mentioned in our discussion:
- Mercedes' post about the Lightspeed EdTech Portfolio - https://mercedesbent.co/2021/02/24/lightspeeds-edtech-portfolio/
- Mercedes post about 3 trends that are here to stay - https://mercedesbent.co/2021/08/03/edtech-post-pandemic-3-trends-here-to-stay/
- Fiveable, StudyStream, Career Karma, Forage are some social learning startups mentioned by Mercedes - https://fiveable.me, https://www.studystream.live, https://careerkarma.com, https://www.theforage.com
- Mercedes on the Ventures Stories podcast - https://soundcloud.com/venturestories/the-state-and-future-of-edtech
- Will the Consumerization of Education Continue? With Jennifer Carolan - https://blog.enrollhand.com/consumerization-k12-education/
Where to learn more about Mercedes:
- Twitter - https://twitter.com/mercebent
- Personal Website - https://mercedesbent.co/
- Lightspeed Venture Partners - https://lsvp.com
Where to learn more about Enrollhand:
Our webinar: https://webinar-replay.enrollhand.com
Our free Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/schoolgrowth/