Hello again! Last week I wrote about the importance of the first few years of life, what we in Kinedu understand to be both critical and under-attended by most. We take for granted those precious months where the brain is most sensitive to learning. Today we have incredible amounts of tools that can help us navigate our child’s development. Technology is leaping forward at a speed unheard of in human history. It is time to take advantage of the convergence of technology and early developmental science to improve the outcomes of millions of children across the world.
Deflationary economics, technology, and our future
We think we can impact how parents engage their babies throughout the world. The timing is just right – on one hand, we now know enough about early development to understand its importance and magnitude; on the other hand, technology has advanced so far that we can reach, with a voice that will be heard, hundreds of millions of people across the whole world, not only developed countries. Take my home country, for example – nearly 30% of all Mexicans have smartphones with broadband access. Broadband penetration is no longer something the elites have – some even want to declare it in the constitution as a universal human right!
Mark Suster, a leading venture capitalist and avid blogger, talks about the deflationary impact of technology as his investment thesis. Like never before, our unprecedented access to technology – both getting cheaper every day and becoming much more prevalent in our daily lives – has helped society accomplish achieve things such as (and I quote a few of the achievements):
- “Large scales of connected people & information never seen before in humanity
- Unprecedented transparency of information
- Socially connected individuals and platforms that enable faster roll-outs of successful products
- Payment ready consumers (Amazon, iTunes, PayPal) and businesses (Google AdWords, Square)”
Yet think about one sector that hasn’t caught up with these amazing innovations. Yes, I know there are many – but I was thinking of education. Most of the innovative companies working in the intersection between education and technology have not taken advantage of the deflationary economics megatrend. I believe the reason to be very simple – they’re thinking inside the “education box”. We need innovations outside of the box!
I’m not saying these aren’t great companies that aren’t building breakthrough products. Knewton, for example, is building a platform that allows for student personalization of coursework, ensuring no one slips through the cracks. The technical feat of building adaptive learning software is unparalleled. Blackboard allows educational institutions to “elevate their students’ learning experience” by improving course creation tools and connectivity. General Assembly is pioneering a new way to teach through full-time and part-time courses.
These companies aren’t dramatically reducing costs dramatically for the consumer; they are leveraging technology to improve our tools for education. Improving our toolset is something completely necessary – but this isn’t breakthrough innovation in the likes of Amazon. However there is one example that dramatically changed the educational landscape: Khan Academy. Salman Kahn has managed to teach millions of children across the world basic skills and pioneered a new model of teaching by leveraging technology. Not only did he improve our toolset, he found a creative and low cost way to reach a large chunk of humanity.
I believe the time is right for this type of innovation in early development. Yet dramatic breakthrough innovation won’t come at the hands of government institutions or private sector childcare centers; it won’t come by improving the traditional set of tools schools have through technology. This innovation only comes by empowering people across the world to be their own teachers – leveraging technology (both in content and distribution) to reach millions of people across the world. Disruptive breakthroughs in education will only come when we stop thinking about empowering schools and start thinking about empowering individuals. We need to understand that most children around the world are not attending schools. According to the OECD, 70% of children under 3 are NOT enrolled in childcare – which potentially means they are at home. Targeting traditional educational institutions cannot – by definition – be disruptive!
We want to enable every parent across the world to become the main promoters of their babies’ early development. If you read through the first part of this post (the importance of the early years), you now understand how critical the interactions between parents and babies are in forming the basic architecture of the developing brain. During this time, children build the foundation on which future learning and executive functions all flourish.
Leveraging technology, we can move parents to be active while their baby’s grow. We can get parents to change their daily routines and talk, sing, and dance more with their babies. We can get them to work on their serve-and-return interactions in order to engage them. We can give them ideas that stimulate their babies’ growth across all developmental areas, helping them achieve their developmental milestones in time. We can get them to spend 20-30 minutes a day of quality time with their babies.
This is precisely what we want to accomplish. We want to digest and take the most recent findings in early education to every parent across the world. We want to help every parent increase the quantity, but most importantly, the quality of their interactions with their babies, boosting brain development. We want to do this by building the best content and media – videos, blogs, tweets – to effectively communicate with the new generations of new parents. We want to build the best tools that leverage the most modern mega tech trends to be as efficient and effective as possible. We think that this is the kind of dramatic, breakthrough innovation that dramatically increases accessibility to early childhood knowledge for millions of people. We think Kinedu is innovative and we know that we will have tremendous impact on generations of children.
Feel free to reach out to me – luisg (at) kinedu.com – I’m happy to hear what you have to say.