Episode 10- Identifying and Solving Problems in Education with Dr. Juul Christensen

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In today’s episode, Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen and I discuss some of the problems and challenges facing our current education system and possible solutions. Dr. Christensen is the Executive Chairman and founding partner of https://area9lyceum.com/ (Area9). Growing up in a family of educators, Dr. Christensen has long had an affinity for both teaching and learning. Since founding his first company in 1997, he has continued to devote his professional life to advancing an improved, highly individualized way of learning, and has been driving the development of Area9 and McGraw-Hill Education’s adaptive learning platforms. In addition, Dr. Christensen serves on the boards and advisory boards of several educational organizations, and have served on numerous boards – both commercial and non-profit – boards the past 20+ years . He is available to connect on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ulrikjuulchristensen/

Transcript

Erin Starkey:
Welcome to Reimagining Schools, a podcast from the Edupreneur Academy. Today, I’m talking with Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen, a medical doctor who has created several highly successful businesses focused on how we can help learners more efficiently and effectively retain and recall critical information.
Erin Starkey:
Hi, Dr. Christensen, thank you so much for joining us today. How are you doing?
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
Good. Thanks. How are you? Thanks for having me.
Erin Starkey:
I’m great. Yeah, we really appreciate you coming on and sharing a little bit about your background and I would love to just start there. You have a really unique background in medicine and education. I’d love to hear a little bit about your background and what led you to education and entrepreneurship. Just tell us about your history.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So I grew up with education, both my parents were teachers, and that was everything we discussed at home. We didn’t discuss medicine, we discussed education and pedagogy and how to get people to learn and how to make learning meaningful.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
But then for a long time, I thought I wanted to become a physician and went to medical school. Then suddenly in medical school, the two worlds converged. And I got a chance to look at, why do people actually make mistakes? A lot of it, we thought originally was around what we today call 21st century skills, like collaboration, communication, teamwork, that kind of stuff. And it’s also a really important factor, but there was another part which was the iceberg below the surface, which is everything that you’ve learned up until then. Your ability to use your knowledge for something that is purposeful and not just having passed exams and gotten grades.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
And that shows it exactly head when something collapses and patients are dying because of human error and large part of it was related to education, related to how do we learn things? How do we learn the right things and how do we learn things that are really useful? And how do we secure that we have them available when we need them. So when the patient collapses or something really bad happens, you need to have learned things a lot better and a lot deeper than we originally thought. At the same time was, this is back in during the CD-ROMs, we thought that a technology like CD-ROMs would change the world. Obviously it didn’t, the internet arrived and obviously the internet in itself didn’t, but you’re beginning to do things where you might be able to make educational interventions with a very big impact.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
And that was how we got started thinking. Maybe we could scale this from more than just being dozens of people, to hundreds of people, to thousands of people. Then eventually, while we worked with McGraw for a long time, we were able to reach several million students in a meaningful way and demonstrating that they really learn. That’s been the last 25 years or so in a nutshell, which is, every time we dig deeper, we realize that there is an even bigger need for securing meaningful learning and purposeful learning to happen.
Erin Starkey:
Interesting. That’s interesting that your parents were both educators, and so that was your upbringing. I was also raised with educators in my family and so, I understand that focus and just having that heart for how we figure out. I’ve heard you talk about kind of the mountain of stuff that students need to understand and know. So you originally thought that through the lens of medical students, correct? And kind of what they needed to learn. And of course, what an important field to be able to distinguish between the information that’s really important. I’m sure that most of that information that they’re learning is critical to their success and their job. How did that lead you to where you are now in terms of creating a business around that and how did you get started with creation of a business?
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So we originally were just like young. I was a medical student. It was a computer science student and a civil engineering student. All three of us started high school together. And at some point the project we worked for and worked on didn’t really need us anymore. They were like, oh, now we got a lot of EU funding. And now that the big boys play and we were like, “Okay, we’ll go somewhere else. And let’s see if we can scale this and make computer simulators for emergency medicine.” And then we realized, wow, we need money for this. Like we didn’t need to get paid, but we we needed money to buy flight tickets, to go out in the world and show people. So we basically had to learn how to run a business.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
We had to find people who were willing to pay something for what we were doing. And after a few years we realized this is hard. This is actually really hard, and we tried with the most like cutting edge problems early, which was using simulators in healthcare, which was pretty sexy. We got a lot of attention, but at that point we thought we were probably 10 years ahead of the market, particularly if we wanted to try to pull it off on our own. And we teamed up with the first one large emergency medicine company. And then later, right after September 11th, we got a little bit cold feet on whether we were on the right track here because we kept month by month having to think about whether we could pay wages. And we were about 55, 60 people. So it was not like a small company.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
And we decided to say, let’s just partner up with somebody, find a safe harbor for the vision for this, and then we ended up being a quite fortunate move. While we were in it, we probably regretted it a little bit, but afterwards getting four years in the senior leadership of a large international company, like right out of med school, I sold this company a month before I graduated and basically started full-time the day after. And I was defacto full-time in Sophus Medical, it was called. But the day after I graduated, I had a full time job on the executive team for this Norwegian-based, but international company. And we were able to continue to build these things and learn, like we learned some very significant lessons around how do you make sure that the product fits what the market is ready for?
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
And like the products eventually in some of the markets that it was used had a good, almost 20 year run in some of the largest certification programs for advanced life support, basic life support, pediatric life support with American Heart Association and still else today, that company is in great shape. I think they have well over a hundred people in Copenhagen, still working for Laerdal. We’ve started building some of those learning platforms again now together with the company who originally acquired us, which is a lesson of a couple of things I think for entrepreneurs, which is like make sure you don’t burn too many bridges.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
I think it’s probably one of my greatest accomplishments or our greatest accomplishments that we’ve been able to win and order 20 years later that they bought our first company to address. And now we’re doing it despite the fact that the other company is still there, that we’ve been able to innovate and stay relevant, but at the same time, be able to part as friends and go different ways for a period of time and then things converge again.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So I think that this aspect of building a business and particularly building partnerships as part of that business was a lesson learned during those four years. Before we then realized that we were probably too young to be in such a senior layer and a large relatively conservative organization, we were like, let’s just try to cut all the safety net again and go out and say, four of us wanted to work together and like rented an office. We’d gotten paid some money for that first company. Rendered an office in the middle of Copenhagen and a whiteboard and bought some crayons and started drawing and realized that after a year that we were barking up the wrong tree and had to completely course correct. Meaning going back to what we knew we were really good at.
Erin Starkey:
Yeah, interesting. Well, sometimes being a naive about maybe the challenges that you’re getting into or facing is not necessarily a bad thing, because it allows you to move forward without the fear of really knowing what you’re getting into. So it sounds like that was part of it. I think I heard you say there that some of the challenges that you face were seeing if the market was ready for the product, and that sounds like it continues to be a challenge, continuing to stay relevant in the market and continuing to find ways to kind of persevere, regardless of kind of what happens there. It sounds like you spent a lot of time on something, which I’m sure was probably frustrating and then really needed to pivot directions. So how would you say you of got through those challenges, or can you think of some ways that you were able to kind of persevere even in the face of those challenges?
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So I think that there are some like more… which is more the craftsmanship of entrepreneurship, which is that it’s as late as just a few hours ago, I quoted my old mentor and friend from Laerdal, which was like, don’t trust build it and they will come. Or are we now building a product, looking for a market? Those kind of phrases are… That’s just important to constantly keep having that acid check in your head or like that master test that you constantly recalibrate based upon. But then also making some really bold decisions and killing your darlings. I think that objectively the simulators we built 20 years ago are probably among the most sophisticated still ever made 20 years later. And I still would say that it’s 10 years ahead of the market.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So we were not just a little bit off. We were like way, way off in terms of addressing not just the real needs, but the perceived needs. And you need to be able to do both to get from where we are today to where we need to be many years from now. And I think that that aspect of killing your darlings and being able to abandon things that you feel really passionate about instead of just completely in a stubborn way, completely persevere and follow something where it might actually be a red herring, at least commercially.
Erin Starkey:
And that kind of leads us, I think, a little bit into just sort of education in general. I mean, you probably have a really interesting perspective having seen that in kind of the systems in multiple countries, but what kind of challenges do you think are facing the educational system in the U.S. right now and kind of how does that lead into ideas that you have for solutions and what you think would be helpful the future?
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So I think the biggest challenge or the biggest problem, not the biggest challenge, but the biggest problem is that we are completely not set up to address the number one finding and conclusion we have come to after 25 years of research and development in this, which is people learn very, very differently. And it’s not because of some magic thing about auditory visual learners and we hope that there is a pill that can fix that, or we just give somebody something to listen to and then somebody else will read it, and then it’s all good. No. No matter what we do, no matter how good we get, we still see an order of magnitude difference in the difference, like just between the slower learners and the fastest learner, not the slowest and the fastest, but just even when you just look at the middle 90% of the learners, you still see a 10X difference.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
We’re not set up for that. We’re not set up for the fact that when the entire system is based on Carnegie units and seat time, and what if that seat time doesn’t fit the need? We can always debate whether you need geometry or statistics, but the bigger problem, no matter where we look, we find this thing. And the crazy, crazy, crazy part of it is there is very little that indicates that just because you perform well, learning fast, that has anything to do with long term aptitude or performance. And for some of the 21st century skills, I will bet right now without having every evidence to support it, but just the initial data point we have, there might actually be a reverse correlation with some of the 21st century skills that we are looking for.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
Therefore, the problem, as I see it is that it’s a system set up to deliver manufacturing of certain kinds of human robot, rather than a system that is geared towards making the maximum delta for each student. I think the biggest challenge is that this is a system that is dependent and has currently not failed completely, at least has, I think has failed in some ways, but we’ve still been able to have enormous growth, an enormous wealth production with the system the last 100 years. So why has it not gone worse? It has not gone worse because of heroic teachers, teachers with a heart that was adding a part to this that was phenomenal. But if you are to change an entire profession to teach in another way, I think that’s the biggest challenge to address the problem.
Erin Starkey:
Yeah, the mindset of that. And do you see the problem being the same for all learners, whether they’re K through 12 and higher education, or do you distinguish that as different issues?
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So if you have a system that can work for the middle of the road student, and you initially think that maybe there’s a factor of two difference between what the lowest common denominator is and what the high… The slowest learner and the fastest learner, it’s okay. Then we are hitting a wide part of it if we use 45 minutes or a Carnegie unit for something. But if it’s a 10X, you’re losing to very, very big 10X. Suddenly you’re using the majority of the people we are trying to educate. And then of course, some of them will recover. Some of them will find other ways, their parents will pay for tutors. And it leads to the huge inequities we have. Like when we try to work around this, we generate some of the side effects that we’ve been observing and discussing for years.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So the thing here is that I profoundly believe that we need to figure out these two problems and we need to do it without jumping to conclusion saying laser discs or CD-ROMs or the internet or digital or adaptive or whatever it is will solve all the problems. It’s a matter of saying, how do we find a systemic way, a systematic way where, or both actually, where we can have a constantly upward spiral and not chasing every shiny lure in the water and constantly not be getting better, but rather end up as we do in my other profession, which is medicine, where we are actually constantly getting better, we do have a common language for what science is and how do we interpret scientific results?
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
Why is this drug better than the previous one? When can we afford to move to this drug? When is the benefits not big enough except for a certain population? When we are not nowhere near there in education, which means that it calls for. And I think that is the way to address the first two, the biggest problem, and the biggest challenge is we need to become methodical about this.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
We need to use learning science and learning engineering to become methodical around how do we constantly get closer to these goals and establish common yardsticks and ways to then have civilized conversation, not an emotional one, but one that is based on science, one that is based on facts, one that is based on understanding, and not just quantitative science, but also human sciences, because there’s tons of psychological research that is being ignored every day, because we have an opinion about how things could be.
Erin Starkey:
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So, it sounds like regardless of whether it’s a first grade student or an adult learner, that the challenge and the problems are very similar and that the mindset behind how we’ve set up the system has a lot to do with the future of kind of how we figure out how to change that, for sure. So what do you see, or how do you see the future of kind of technology changing the role of the teacher, because you mentioned, talked a little bit about teachers have kind of been the key piece there that has sort of persevered through that? So as we keep moving towards the future of adaptive learning or AR/VR, how do you see the role of the teacher changing in that?
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So I think there are so many motions about this subject that I honestly believe are completely unjustified. I understand why, but I don’t think that they’re grounded in facts. If you make a comparison and say, “Is it more interesting to be a physician today than it was to be a physician 100 years ago?” I would it’s probably more satisfying to be a physician, at least in some ways, the work pressure is enormous, but the problems you’re tackling every day, the qualification, the precision of your diagnosis, your ability to save lives and make your patients feel better is in a stratosphere away from where it was a hundred years ago.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
With more technology than ever before, but we’ve not made humans so powerful. We are just solving more sophisticated problems.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
I hope that that’s the same thing we’ll see with teaching, which is that in the past, you would solve like… Let’s say that you were marking homework, you were correcting spelling mistakes, all sorts of stuff that I think will go away relatively soon. What will not go away is the teacher’s role as the catalyst for human interaction, as in the social emotional development. The areas where I think a lot of teachers have their main professional identity, we just need to remind them that it’s not living up to Carnegie units and delivering the same lecture again and again, which can feel comfortable and safe where it’s more the part where if you ask teachers what they’re most proud of, sometimes often we hear, “That’s when I made a difference in somebody’s life.”
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
Do more of that and less trivial marking of homework and logistical management and classroom management and some of the things that are more mechanical. So I think that yes, technology will be able to eliminate this the same way as lots of people don’t even know what a regular typewriter is. Why would we ever go back to using a regular typewriter, it’s a monotonous improvement, meaning there are no side effects from using a computer and a word processor in your computer compared to a typewriter. A typewriter is clearly not and has any advantages over your digital tool.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
And I think we’ll see a lot of these, but we will also, right now, we’ll also see a lot of completely useless inventions that should die relatively soon. And that’s why we need to be careful that we don’t jump on the laser, the CD-ROM, AR/VR, whatever the flavor of the month is, and become methodical about because you and I can easily explain to a five year old why a Word processor is better than a typewriter where it’s really hard to correct your mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. That’s why in an environment where you can make mistakes and fix them quickly, they would’ve been an advantage over a mechanical one where you need to find your own correctioning. Like, no disadvantage. And we can explain to a five-year-old. In education, not so much, we will have people who jump on the bandwagon of saying, “Oh, VR must be the future for everything.” Probably not. For some things, but not for you.
Erin Starkey:
I think that those are all just tools obviously. And I think that over the last couple of years, with COVID, especially, we’ve really emphasized the importance of that connection with another human, that that’s important to the learning process, that we certainly have learned to just throwing content at any age of student is not the answer to, or solution to students learning better, being isolated in our places away from other people and ways to engage with others certainly doesn’t help the flight. And so we can use those tools to support systems and to support teachers, but we also have to find ways to continue that connection, whether it be like this online or in person or in different ways. So, I completely agree with that.
Erin Starkey:
Kind of shifting back to thinking about your early days in your career, was there anything that stands out to you as kind of beneficial in terms of getting started? And is there anything that you wish you would’ve done differently now, knowing what you know now and looking back at your beginnings of your sort of entrepreneurship ways?
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So one of the things that we did well was first of all, we broke all rules, we were best friends who made a business together and you’re not supposed to work with your best friends. And I think that a lot of people are afraid on how they will be react when there are crisis, when there is a chance to actually see if you can get advantage over your best friend and the best friend will get mad at you because you did that. I think if you trust yourself and if you establish a sense of loyalty and a sense of honesty and a tradition of that, and basically are willing to share, and I don’t see such a big disadvantage of doing it. I see tons of advantages because like building a business, going through the tumultuous face that most young companies go through, doing it with your best friends makes it a lot more satisfying and a lot easier to deal with. Also because you spend an awful amount of time together.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So I’ve had this luxury that when we are working together, I’m with my best friends, several of them since high school still here, and they’re all still here. And I think that that’s a testament to don’t be afraid of that, do it, but also be willing to make some personal sacrifices where you could take advantage of a situation or where you would be able to play yourself in a stronger position. So I think that this part of working as a team, rather than trying as a founder to say, I want to have 80% of the equity before we go into a very prefixed set of a method for raising capital. And except that you’re much stronger as a team. So I would every time do this again, build a team that I trust, share generously and fairly, and typically in a musketeer manner where, whether in some cases have been the more senior, the one who could have taken advantage of it, we share completely equally.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So, I think that’s one thing. I think the other thing is that, be really careful about what kind of funding you’d take in. And we were about to get on the wrong track a couple of times, and we sold some companies on the way where it was really hard to get aligned with the acquirers in terms of culture and fit, and it was not a single… It was not because there was something wrong with them. I think there was something misaligned that for some of it, I know how to do it better now. We are getting better at it, but we were still able to still do business with the company, the first company that was the acquirer of our first company.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So I think it’s a complicated world, this thing about, A, how do you get the funding? How do you make sure that you align the expectations with external funders. We’ve funded most of what we did ourselves, because we got a little bit scared after the first round being like, we didn’t think we could work efficiently if we had somebody else pulling the steering wheel all the time. And we have now been really fortunate that when we decided to get a major investment from the Danish Sovereign Fund and the European Investment Bank, and few others, particularly high net worth individuals were the passion for education, and Lego was the latest one, the Danish, very famous Danish brand. We spent a lot of time making sure that we were aligned culturally, and in terms of what ethical and business objectives we had. And it’s really easy when you’re squeezed for cash and don’t know how to pay wages in a couple of months to go with people who have different ambition with the company.
Erin Starkey:
Sure. Yeah, that makes sense. And I think you have a unique perspective. I often hear that entrepreneurs really struggle with that in the beginning, especially as kind of that it feels such like a lonely place to be because they’re often doing it alone and you’re, you’re trying to find mentors and other people that you can be around. So I think your situation was definitely unique and that you had a group of people that you started with and that’s great that it worked out well for you guys too. And so that’s an interesting perspective, but I think it comes back to the same answer that I hear a lot is that you continue to network and surround yourself with other people who are like minded and that are interested in the same things that you are and working towards the same goals that you are. And you just happen to have a group of you that were ready to go with that. So that worked out well for you guys. What advice would you give to other educators that might be interested in sort of education and entrepreneurship and getting started?
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
I think the first one is to do it as a team. Like that is really important. I think the second one is the product market fit. Make sure that you are solving a problem that is real because the vast majority of tech companies that I have looked at in the past, the best exit scenario for them is the next school’s theory. Like basically finding somebody who will pay more money for it than they really should be, because before they find out that this may not be as good of a story as it sounds like on the surface of it. And you don’t want to be in that category if you’re an educational entrepreneur, because that’s a risky thing. Because a lot of them actually never get that exit and they never make any impact.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So I would say start the other way around and say, how do I build something that I’m sure builds enough value and that I can execute, getting to scale at building value. Don’t worry so much about how you get a lot of customers early, but make sure that you solve the real underlying problems. So similar again, the analogy medicine would be, make sure you have the effective ingredient right. Then there is a second phase of execution, which is to execute it at scale and get it out there. But worried less about how you live up to some parameters that investors are often, in my opinion, over focused on which is, “Oh, have you found a way for early customer acquisitions?” Like, well, why don’t you scrutinize more whether the effective ingredient is the right ingredient or whether you can begin to execute this at scale and then let’s figure out customer acquisition costs.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
And I think that some of these things, and for some companies, they have to play the other game. But if you’re an educator who genuinely wants to try to build something that has an impact on education, a method and a mantra that we’ve lived by is that we build real products for real clients who pay real money for real results. So we don’t get ahead of ourselves and say, “Now we have to give it away for free and then we have to figure out how we make money on the way.” But actually say, “If people won’t pay for it, maybe the product market fit is not right. Maybe we’ve not solved the right problem. Maybe the fixed ingredient is not there. And on the other hand, stage far away from the modern educational alchemy of like, there are many promises of the education worlds equivalence of like weight loss pills, or either pill, and smoking cessation will be possible. Like these miracles don’t happen. It’s as hard as weight loss is smoking cessation to change the habits in education. So I would say take it serious and be patient.
Erin Starkey:
Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, those are obviously bandaids and not solutions for the root cause of things. And so it sounds like that you are very interested in seeking out really the root cause kind of the underlying reasons, why was something is a problem or an issue in figuring out how to solve that and then the rest of those issues can work themselves out after that. That makes a lot of sense. And my original background was in science. And so kind of using the scientific method to solve problems is how I tend to approach things too. And I think that makes sense in business as well. So I appreciate that perspective.
Erin Starkey:
Would you mind telling us just a little bit more about your company in area nine and kind of what they do, and then just how our listeners can learn more about your company and love to hear more about that?
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
Sure. So almost four years ago, we assembled everything we did in education under one company. And while we are probably most well known for having built LearnSmart and SmartBook from McGraw-Hill Education and in the medical community knowledge plus with NEJM, the group behind New England Journal of Medicine. We built all the entire infrastructure for when you produce content, when ingest content, when you deliver it, when the platforms are used to tie this together with educators and even with parents. So it’s very broad learning systems, including the infrastructure needed for large scale publisher, a learning companies or school systems to build what they put in it. So in some ways you could say that it’s like Adobe Creative Cloud for media agencies that everything you need to be able to do.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
If you are one of these stakeholders, we want to be able to build the best-in-class tools. And we humbly believe we’re beginning to be there, that in the different categories that you have the best curation tools, you have the best ingestion tools, the best analytical tools, so that you can tailor for this very diverse needs because we work across what we see as four different, distinctly different segments of education, K-12. We don’t do early childhood, but K-12, we do higher education. We do workforce and corporate education, and then we do government and defense, they all work remarkably different. And our platforms are used across all of them. We have a special concentration of interest and investments in math education where it’s obviously one of the harder nuts to crack where we’ve spend a lot of time understanding that, but we work across everything from the softest. How do you change character and how do you affect 21st century skills education and made a cognition, which has been one of my big research area, and then all the way to how do we actually learn basic algebra.
Erin Starkey:
And that’s an area that it’s really interesting to me as well. So I know that you’ve done quite a bit of research on metacognition and the kind of unconscious competent versus the conscious competent. And so would you maybe talk a little bit more about the metacognition piece of that? I think that’s really interesting.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
Yeah. So in addition to the vast differences that in terms of speed by people or the speed people learn at, the biggest thing we found is that are the biggest inhibitor to speeding up learning and to becoming more efficient as a learner, more targeted is that if you’re not good at diagnosing what you know and don’t know, it really slows you down, not just for initial learning, but particularly for learning, you need to retain. So this ability to be able to look at yourself and do what, and as Ericsson called deliberate practice, this skill of deliberate practice could potentially be one of the biggest single factor contributors to improving how well and how fast and efficient people learn at.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
And it’s not just a speed game, but it is an important thing to look at because if you run out of time before you’ve learned what you need to learn, whether it’s in one environment or another, there is only 24 hours a day. So this is one of the important problems we need to address figuring out how do we speed this up? And for us, what we’ve seen consistently is at addressing the ability to know what you don’t know and shape that skill to identified quickly and accurately what you don’t know. And therefore you can focus your efforts there. And that is a game changer.
Erin Starkey:
It’s so interesting. And I think it definitely adds a different aspect to sort of shifting our mindset about what we realize that we know or what we realize that we don’t know around mistakes and just our mindset. And so I think that’s a really important piece of learning. So thank you for sharing more about that. Is there anything else that you’d like to just kind of share as kind of a final note with educational innovators about your past or what you think is important?
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So I think one of the biggest trend shifts to see in the foreseeable future is that hopefully we will see a huge challenge to the classic standardized tests and this single dimensional grading. I think that we are going to see a landslide towards more competency-based, more mastery-based education, because it’s an obvious conclusion on the electro shock that the education world has been through the last couple of years, which is maybe there are other things to this. Maybe this is not just a matter of performing well in the SAT and the ACT. This is much more a matter of what can you use it for. And I think that there are great initiatives out there, the Mastery Transcript Consortium being one of them that I’m closely affiliated with.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
And I think that being able to build school around, let’s start with figuring out what we need to use knowledge for, and then target the pathways that they go through towards those goals, rather than saying, “Here are all the different things you need to know about math.” I’m of the firm opinion that most of these things in math probably need to stay, and something that eventually you need to get there. But pathway to getting there could be very different from what we’ve seen today, and your ability to use it as a consequence of a different path to getting there could be that it would be much more useful, but I do think that we need to reshuffle what we are doing, and right now, you have a grid lock where there is so little navigation space when you at the same time as trying to score high on a standardized test have to try to see if you could re-engineer what school could be.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
So I think that if we change that ultimate requirement, and that’s what the Mastery Transcript Consortium, for instance, among others are trying to do to say what if we instead said, that there are other ways to get into your university of choice or your dream college that you can actually do that after you have presented your transcript that shows that you have built, like in high school, you made this bandaid that could be attached on the water. And this were the things you did around it. By the way, you also did the statistic and analysis, and how many of them that fell off. So I think I’m optimistic that we will see this change within the next decade.
Erin Starkey:
Yeah, me too. I think it’s a wonderful time to be involved with innovation and education. I think the technology has really kind of caught up. I mean, obviously in terms of testing and high stakes testing, I think we’ve come a long ways from just the days of just asking multiple choice questions that can easily be graded by a computer or a Scantron system. And so we’re much farther along in the technology process, which is helpful in terms of being able to do what you’re talking about, where computer systems are more able to figure out sort of the more than just one response or an ABCD answer to questions. So I think that that really helps us to be able to do that in a different way that we can measure students in different ways. So, I appreciate your perspective and I really appreciate your time today and thank you so much for coming on the podcast, and I’ll be sure to put all of your information in the show notes as well, but thank you so much for coming. I appreciate you being here.
Dr. Ulrik Juul Christensen:
Thanks for having me.
Erin Starkey:
Yeah, thank you.

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