Next generation learning (NGL) describes teaching and learning practices and structures that will prepare today’s students to master this high level of cognitive and social learning. NGL is personalized and deeply engaging, focused on deeper learning
of higher-order content, complex skills and the integration of the two. It can take place any time and any place, is enabled by new tools – technology, performance-based assessments, and flexible learning environments, and offers students socio-emotional supports in their learning. NGL will enable our education system to prepare far greater numbers of learners for productive adult lives in the 21st century.
The challenge is daunting. Scaling excellent next generation learning at the K-12 and post-secondary level enables all American students to gain the knowledge and skills for the 21st century. It will be possible only if we “do school differently,”
and in fact, re-imagine notions of school altogether. Educators are caught at the intersection of changing global demands and stagnant, inflexible educational policies and school structures that create barriers to new ways of learning. Personalized learning will require changes on every level and in every role. Our current system fails to provide the essential structure and enabling systems to allow for truly innovative uses of time, instructional practices and diverse resources to develop deeply engaging personalized schooling. These are needed to enable far more learners to master the academic and cognitive knowledge and skills required to meet the challenges of the future.
Education reformers know that change is necessary if our schools and communities are to prepare today’s young people
for full civic participation and rewarding employment in the new knowledge-based and technology-based global labor market. A new generation of education entrepreneurs – in the public sector, nonprofits, and private-sector ventures – are working on this challenge, striving to increase both the effectiveness of American education and the reach of new approaches.
Fortunately, the environment for change has improved greatly, with a major step forward seen in the progress of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and the accompanying efforts by two consortia of states to develop higher quality assessments. More than 40 states have already adopted the new standards
in mathematics and English language arts and are beginning to grapple with implementation. With this movement, the nation has the first large-scale meaningful common expectations for the performance of students, teachers, and schools, as well as the vendors and innovators who seek to bring new and improved practices and tools to the education marketplace. The Common Core is a foundation for building a shared understanding of
what needs to be accomplished in American education and for prioritizing immediate and long-term needs. Equally important is the movement to develop assessments to replace state tests that have too often narrowed content and reduced the complexity of skills taught. Ultimately, common standards and
assessments, along with advances in information technology, will promote and support new ways to deliver differentiated instruction, and expert systems that guide teachers’ professional decisions.
In short, the Common Core makes next generation learning technically possible and financially viable. It also provides a platform to move even further towards more robust definitions of deeper learning and to clearer articulations of the non-cognitive and affective skills required for postsecondary and professional success. We can reasonably expect that, over the next few years, the Common Core will stimulate the marketplace to deliver a “toolbox” of techniques and technologies available to American teachers that will grow significantly in both size and sophistication. More fundamentally, next generation learning has the potential to shift many deeply embedded notions about when, where, and how learning ought to take place. NGL platforms will increase our capacity to connect students with learning experiences that are motivating, relevant, and richly informed by what we know about the intellectual and social development of children and adolescents. It will multiply the productivity of teachers, expand the reach of scarce pedagogical and content-area expertise, and give all educators access to timely support throughout their careers. Moreover, NGL may even build new bridges between schools and other sectors
of society, including post-secondary institutions, non-profit organizations, and employers, and allow us to credential learning that happens outside of traditional schools and classrooms
by defining competency-based, not time-based, learning progressions.
The potential of NGL goes beyond the provision of learning platforms for students and educators. NGL also offers tantalizing new capacity to solve entrenched systemic problems and enable higher levels of performance by states, districts, schools, and teachers. The critical school reform innovations of the past decade have become the essential building blocks to help integrate and develop next generation learning. The same ecosystem that is enabling NGL can also speed the cycle of innovation by allowing solutions to be developed collaboratively, vetted rapidly and reliably, and shared more efficiently and equitably.
School reform initiatives over the past two decades have ushered in specific changes and altered the way we think about school reform. Charter schools and district initiatives to replace low- performing schools, for example, have brought new school models to the field while also demonstrating that reinvention is possible and even necessary to break patterns of failure. New pathways into teaching have provided alternatives to traditional teacher preparation and encouraged thoughtful consideration
of why young people choose to become teachers today, what might keep the best of them in the profession, and how their skills and knowledge can be expanded and maximized over
Next Generation Learning – Introduction
time. New accountability mechanisms have raised the bar on school performance and prompted fresh thinking about what the United States can reasonably expect of its schools and what its students can accomplish.
Public education now has a small but vibrant sector of education entrepreneurs and a growing market for the innovations they produce. Yet capacity to implement and capitalize on new practices is still tremendously uneven around the country,
and our ability to scale up successful models is limited. The tools and practices that fall under the rubric “next generation learning” can help address that situation, partly by providing new resources to teachers and students in a scalable way.
If implemented with care, next generation learning will enhance, not diminish, the fundamental values upon which American public education is built, including equitable opportunity for all students, public accountability, and a commitment to excellence. By increasing the capability of our education system to meet students’ individual learning needs through the wise and savvy use of time, human capital and technology, NGL gives our
nation a chance to do what it has never done before: educate all American young people for the challenges of higher learning, work, and citizenship.
To learn more about the state of the field of next generation learning, the Stupski Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of
New York, and the Opportunity Equation commissioned a
study by The Parthenon Group. Parthenon analysts compiled
a comprehensive market fact base and interviewed over 100 district and state-level practitioners, entrepreneurs, policy experts, vendors, and funders to determine the potential for NGL and identify how to go to scale from its current nascent stage. The first of the two papers that follow, Next Generation Learning – Defining the Opportunity, describes the vision and building blocks for next generation learning — as well as myths and misconceptions about NGL that need to be dispelled if its promise is to be realized. The second paper, Next Generation Learning – Scaling the Opportunity, highlights barriers to scaling NGL models and offers recommendations for addressing those challenges.