ASU+GSV Summit: schools meet tech, tech meets schools
The biggest conference in the world for global educators, edtech players, and workforce companies best describes the ASU+GSV Summit.
In the 2021 edition, over 4,000 attended in person in San Diego. 10,000 attended online from across the globe, a very impressive number. Education is a $7 trillion industry, and people are taking notice.
If you’re not familiar, ASU+GSV stands for Arizona State University + Global Silicon Valley, which started the summit in 2010. This year marks the 12th time they have brought edtech industry leaders and followers together to share knowledge, network, showcase new developments, and learn from each other.
ASU was ranked the most innovative school in the nation, even ahead of MIT and Stanford. That’s because ASU works hard to create ways for students to get the most out of their time at the university, whether by the creative use of technology or providing unique research and funding opportunities.
GSV is a growth investment platform powering the world’s most dynamic entrepreneurs, companies, institutions, and emerging growth hubs.
Three days at ASU+GSV have been overwhelming but in the best way! The amount of content to absorb was huge and all over the map. Topics ranged from early childhood education, higher education, the future of education, and workforce learning in XR. You might be wondering what that acronym stands for…as well as VR, AR, AI. 🤓 Here is a quick lesson:
Virtual reality (VR) is a simulated experience that can be similar to, or completely different from the real world. Applications of virtual reality include entertainment (e.g. video games), education (e.g. medical or military training), and business (e.g. virtual meetings). This technology requires special hardware such as Oculus.
Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information. Remember Pokemon Go? That’s AR!
Extended reality (XR) is a term referring to all real and virtual-combined environments and human-machine interactions generated by computer technology and wearables, where ‘X’ represents a variable for any current or future spatial computing technology. Anything from VR, AR, or MR, is XR.
Out of all the offerings at the conference, my favorite sessions were anything VR, AR, and AI for education. I believe the future of education is in the virtual world. However, as Derek Belch from Strivr (an immersive learning platform) mentioned, we are just at the beginning of it all. So it’s hard to predict how fast it’s going to scale, or what futuristic tech might come with it. Of course, one of the biggest issues with using VR is the headset and glasses. My take on this is that it’s just like the first iPhone. Everyone was skeptical: it was expensive, you had to buy everything in the App Store, but by the time iPhone 5 came out everyone wanted it for the sleek UI and super intuitive UX.
Another challenge for VR is content. Deborah Serri from Ascend Learning says that content is very important for VR now. VR companies are trying to get as much content as they can to try out different educational opportunities. I’m excited to turn the content I created for English For IT courses into VR. Imagine how hands-on the experience of practicing effective communication is going to feel in a virtual learning environment!
Speaking of content creation, there was a lot of talk about this at the summit. As Nuseir Yassin from Nas Academy said “we hate education but we love to learn.” This is where content creators come to the rescue. Content creators are the best teachers in the world, because they are by necessity engaging. We live in an era when TikToks can be more memorable than a Harvard course. With the help of social media and content creators, education becomes decentralized. Teachers should take a cue from content creators, not just to become more engaging, but they might just make good money as well.
Dreamscape presented a breathtaking VR experience at ASU+GSV. For 40 minutes, six of us traveled to virtual worlds, first flying through a virtual forest just like in the Avatar movie. Then we took a class in biology, trying to figure out what was ailing a cat. Next stop: an ancient Greek classroom learning history, then off to the future! I almost cried, to be honest, at the realization that 1) the future is now, 2) we can technically travel in time, 3) education in VR really works.
One thing you should be ready for when going on your first VR journey is motion sickness. Having a seat helps! It’s something they constantly work on and I’m sure it will continue to improve over time. Also it’s proof of how easy it is to trick our brain 🥴.
There was a lot of talk on the impact of COVID on education. Everyone agrees that it’s important to keep fostering the adoption of tech in education, and not go back to where we were before 2020. Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of the Miami-Dade County school system, gave a very moving speech, noting that despite English language limitations (there are 60,000 students learning English in Miami-Dade) and poverty, the school system handled the crisis well and is ready to continue leveraging software to boost student progress.
I love how Common defined the post-Covid situation during his appearance and what comes next:
This is exactly how I feel about all the changes we had to go through during the pandemic (especially in education) and how to go about tackling them.
Like I said in the title, ASU+GSV is where school meets tech. But what does it mean? Startups can showcase their tech to schools and universities, and educators can check out new trends to see how they might leverage these for their students.
There was a startup competition too! 200 startups were chosen to compete for the grand prize of $1 million. Twenty were selected to pitch on the second day of the summit, then shortlisted to ten, and then down to three finalists.
At the closing dinner we had to choose the winner by SMS voting. I voted for Symba who took the GSV Cup. Symba, an all-female founded tech startup, powers global internship programs with its management platform. Being the solo female founder of English For IT, I know how hard it is at times to pave your way in the male-dominated tech world. I would like to give a special shoutout to Deborah Quazzo, a co-founder of the ASU+GSV Summit for bringing diversity to the tech world. Female-founded startups accounted for more than a third of the 200 present at the summit.
ASU+GSV is a must-go event for educators worldwide. This is a great opportunity to stay ahead of the game and bring innovation to classrooms, which is much needed in many schools and universities worldwide. I believe that educators from public schools and universities should be sponsored by their local government to go to ASU+GSV on a regular basis. I blogged about my experience on Instagram to 44,000 of a mostly Ukrainian and eastern European audience, to spread the word and make the case that action is needed. Educators are the most dynamic people when it comes to self development. They want to grow and obtain new skills constantly, and it’s important that edtech entrepreneurs support this endeavor. Otherwise, how do we make sure the next generation of students will have a high quality education? Teachers are the most important resource when it comes to bringing up smart generations.
Last but not least, ASU+GSV Summit 2022 will take place in San Diego on April 4–6. Save the date!