Fixing Education for the AI Era – Introducing Esther Wojcicki

Esther Wojcicki, educator,  journalist, vice chair of the Creative Commons board of directors, and Chief Learning Officer at Planet3, is not satisfied with the education system as it stands. Throughout her decades as a teacher, she has argued that there are 5 key ingredients for success: trust, respect, independence, collaboration and kindness (TRICK).

These key qualities are fundamental building blocks of the pedagogy which she employs (and wrote a book on) known as Blended Learning, which combines online digital media with traditional classroom methods. Wojcicki successfully used Blended Learning to launch Palo Alto High School’s award-winning journalism programme, which boasts a host of publications run independently by the students.

This success came about through her determination and courage to define the system. Although she “threw out the textbook and waited to be fired”, she was met with approval and support by the school. They helped her to bring in technology and move toward a Blended Learning classroom. In this project-based environment, students were able to work individually and independently, developing their strengths and combatting their weaknesses.

Wojcicki disapproves of the strong emphasis that modern education places on testing. She says that

“Today, the magic key for policymakers and administrators is testing. Their reasoning is that if we put enough pressure on teachers using their salaries as motivators, then kids will test better and learn more. In fact, the opposite is true. Testing is one of the major problems in education today. It forces teachers to teach to the test and it cuts creativity. It is hard for teachers to individualize when the book and curriculum are prescribed and required.”

In order to repair this problem, she has joined the ranks of Planet3, an exploration-based learning company, as Chief Learning Officer. Planet3 employs the latest technology in order to immerse the student in the subject matter by providing them with a “a complete interactive middle school science curriculum”. Although their aim is currently limited to science at the middle school level, Wojcicki hopes that this interactive, individualistic form of learning will become more widespread.

Her life-long goal has been to help others succeed or in her words“I like people and I wanted to help them be the best they could be”. She has been achieving this goal through her journalism program at Palo Alto High School and through her leadership at Planet3. She hopes that students will “learn how to learn” and that students will stop learning just to ‘pass the test”. We look forward to see what she will do next to fix education. 

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