We live in truly interesting times. As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, our world remains on the edge, facing a number of potential existential threats including climate change, the impact of growing inequality and war. However, we also stand on the edge of breathtaking opportunities as a wave of innovation and emerging technologies — like Web3 and the evolving metaverse — hold the potential to not only address the grave challenges in front of us, but will revolutionize every aspect of our lives. .
That’s why this year ASU + GSV Summit— “Ed on the Edge: Imagining a New Era in Which People Have Equal Access to the Future ”—could not be more timely or more important. Scheduled for April 4-6 in San Diego, California, this year’s summit will feature some of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs, leaders, educators and investors who are creating innovative ways to meet our challenges.
The lineup includes Pulitzer Prize-winning author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman; former US Secretary of Education John King Jr .; philanthropist and 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang; US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy; and “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.
I recently spoke with Deborah Quazzo, the co-founder and mastermind behind the summit, about how the “Ed on the Edge” theme will touch on some of the challenges, as well as the promises of innovation during this time.
Phyllis Lockett: When I hear “Ed on the Edge,” I think about both the urgency and acceleration we’ve seen in innovation in the last two years, which was brought about by Covid-19 and the other threats we face. Is that what you intended?
Deborah Quazzo: Yes, that’s exactly the reason for this year’s theme. Speakers and panelists will touch on this idea that the Covid-19 years have been “the best of times” and “the worst of times,” to borrow from Charles Dickens. On the one hand, the education sector finally began to receive adequate capital in 2021 — a direct response to the crushing needs that the pandemic revealed to the world. But on the other hand, the pandemic made it much more difficult for people to climb out of poverty.
We really are “on the edge” with so many of the challenges that you mentioned, which is the connective tissue for our 15 channels. “Cutting Edge Innovation in K-12,” for example, will look at innovative new learning models that have the potential to transform learning. “Leading Edge Tech” looks at artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality and other tools that make learning an immersive experience. “Earth on the Edge” explores how the education community can address climate change.
Lockett: You’ve assembled an incredible lineup. I’m particularly interested in hearing more about programming on K-12 education, since that’s my passion. What’s on tap?
Quazzo: As you know, the K-12 world has struggled during the pandemic, but the path to recovery and future excellence should not take us back to the old ways. Instead, this is the time to reimagine what K-12 education can achieve in the United States. Other countries are deploying affordable private school models that are driving change at scale. For example, Valenture Institute, an organization in South Africa, will share its online high school model, built with the University of Cape Town, that is revolutionizing access to quality K-12 education for students there.
Many of our 15 channels speak to the need to reinvent some parts of the K-12 system. Knife’s Edge: System Change in K-12, ”for example, offers 13 panels presenting innovative new models for education. Two of those discussions, “The Power of School Choice” and “The Rising Tide of Affordable Private Schools,” look at learning companies that have successfully achieved scale — along with issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Our “Career Readiness: Expanding the Edge ”channel will feature a number of conversations on the topic as well. For instance, the idea of credentialing learning that happens anywhere, including beyond the four walls of the classroom, is a topic that I know is of interest to you. This “Unbundled Learning — And How to Rebundle Pathways” panel will feature Julie Young from Arizona State University, Jean Eddy from American Student Assistance, and Alberto Acereda from Education Testing Services.
Lockett: One shift we’ve seen because of the pandemic is greater openness among parents and students to technology and hybrid learning. Given that, what leading-edge learning technologies are you most excited about?
Quazzo: This is such an exciting moment for innovative learning technologies, something reflected in the surge in edtech social impact investing. One trend in particular that is worth following is the transition to Web3, a decentralized version of the internet that’s emerging as a way to scale technologies to broaden and democratize access worldwide. Cathy Hackl, CEO and chief metaverse officer of Futures Intelligence Group and the foremost “evangelist” for Web3, will speak to this. Web3 also makes me think about the exciting opportunities that will come from blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies and NFTs, which will be the subject of the “Web3 101” panels. There will also be an on-stage demonstration of the minting of an NFT.
Gaming has long held the promise of transforming education, and recent advancements in the evolving metaverse may be the catalyst for realizing that promise. We’ve assembled panels that will bring together industry experts from Roblox, Epic Games, Unity, Microsoft, Schmidt Futures and Games For Change that will explore whether this is finally the moment that gaming becomes the game-changer for driving engagement and outcomes for students .
Lockett:: One of the cornerstones of ASU + GSV is cultivating the pipeline of innovators and entrepreneurs in education, and highlighting seminal work. Who are some of the leaders you will recognize this year?
Quazzo: Yes, we’re thrilled to honor this year Innovators of Color: Adrian Ridner, co-founder and CEO of Study.com and Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III, the outgoing president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County — who will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award after leading the university for 30 years. We’ll also present two other Lifetime Achievement Awards to Sesame Workshop co-founders Lloyd Morrisett and Joan Ganz Cooney.
Likewise, I’m also excited about our 2022 Power of Women award winners: Smita Deorah, co-founder and co-CEO at LEAD; Kim Smith, founder of the Pahara Institute; Jane Swift, former Massachusetts governor, and president and executive director of LearnLaunch; Jamie Candee, president, CEO and board director of Edmentum; and Krista Endsley, CEO of LINQ. We’ll also announce winners of the GSV Cup, the world’s largest edtech pitch competition where startups compete for $ 1 million in cash and prizes. The 20 finalists were selected by judges from more than 175 leading venture capital firms and strategic partners. These companies are headquartered across the globe and serve “pre-K to gray” learners.
And one of the most exciting events will take place at the superintendents’ reception Tuesday night. Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, of the legendary rap group Run-DMC and author of a new children’s book called Darryl’s Dream:, will perform. In addition to his groundbreaking influence on music and culture, Darryl has also been an advocate for kids in the foster care system and childhood mental health.
Lockett: It’s no surprise, given its profound influence, that ASU + GSV 2022 is sold out, even as in-person conferences just begin to re-emerge. For those not in San Diego, you’re offering an online experience for portions of the conference. How can people join?
Quazzo: Yes, portions of the programming, including keynotes and selected panels, will be available free to virtual attendees. It’s such a great way for people to engage if they can not come in person. Virtual registration is available at our website home page.
Lockett: This experience always inspires me and pushes my thinking. Given the urgency of the moment, I know education innovators will find immense value in joining the Summit, and connecting to the GSV online content in the exciting months ahead.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.