Google veteran Max Ventilla has started a new type of school that integrates technology and personalized education as early as kindergarten. AltSchool is a for-credit network of small schools that use a combination of individualized teaching techniques and massive amounts of tech funding ($133 million to date) to create a unique experience for children. It’s a sort of educational experiment in real time.
Each student has a playlist of all the tasks they have accomplished. A “parent portal” allows parents to view this information and see how their child’s education is progressing.
According to its website, AltSchool is “a collaborative community of micro-schools that uses outstanding teachers, deep research, and innovative tools to offer a personalized, whole child learning experience for the next generation.”
Students range from pre-k through eighth grade, and each classroom is mixed-age. Each micro-school consists of 80-150 students, which allows teachers to adapt as needed based on what specific students and communities need.
Currently these schools are only available in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, and Chicago, but Ventilla has plans to expand and even offer the AltSchool programming in traditional public schools.
There are no principals, secretaries, or administration. Teachers run all aspects of the school, with AltSchool’s headquarters in San Francsico overseeing things.
Technology is a big focus: Every student entering in pre-k is issued a tablet, which is switched to a laptop later on in their educational career. Students receive instructions for various tasks through a playlist with a set of digital “cards” explaining what they’re meant to do. Some tasks are online, while others involve interacting with other students in the classroom. These tasks are more or less aligned with Common Core curriculum requirements.
AltSchool isn’t available for just anyone, however: A year of schooling can cost up to $30,000. Financial aid is available, but spaces are limited, potentially leading to the cutthroat competition seen for charter school spots.
There’s also the question of privacy. With all that student information being passed back and forth electronically, some education advocates are concerned about potential privacy violations, especially given that AltSchool is a for-profit institution. However, Ventilla is confident that the information collected will never be used commercially and will always be collected in a way that respect’s a student’s anonymity.
Whether or not AltSchools and their methods catch on remains to be seen.