Guest Post: The Future of School, Piece by Piece

Note: For the next 12 weeks I’ll be sharing this Digital/Edu space with some excellent professionals in the area of learning and innovation for one weekly guest post. In addition to helping bring new voices and ideas to our readers, this will help me as I finish the first draft of my forthcoming book, The Test, on the past, present and future of testing in public schools, to be published by Public Affairs in 2015.

This guest post is by Matt Candler, founder of 4.0 Schools, a 3-year-old early-stage education incubator that brings people with classroom experience into the entrepreneurship process. They run programs in New Orleans, LA and New York City, NY. Follow 4.0 on Twitter at @4pt0schools and 4.0 Schools on Facebook. Learn more about 4.0 at

Candler blogs at You can follow him on Twitter at @mcandler.


4.0 is a community of passionate people building the future of school, one piece at a time. There’s only one requirement for members: a willingness to challenge the status quo in schooling. We invest in people who refuse to accept that school in its current form is what kids need to thrive in today’s global world.

More than 300 people have completed training in experimentation and innovation at 4.0, and almost 50 have teamed up to launch more than 20 new businesses and schools.
I wanted to share a few examples of problems members of the 4.0 community have attacked so far and share a few problems we want to attack next. If you’re interested in attacking good problems, we’ve got programs and money to help you do it.

caption: Dimitric Taylor, graduate of 4.0 Essentials intensive. Photo courtesy of Dear World.

caption: Dimitric Taylor, graduate of 4.0 Essentials intensive. Photo courtesy of Dear World.

Some questions we’ve started to answer.

Q: Can we get kids more psyched about learning by teaching them to make stuff?
A. It is decidedly so.
Maker State started as an effort to start stand-alone maker spaces (where parents could bring kids on evenings and weekends to learn programming, electronics, 3D printing, and how to design their own clothing.) In the first few weeks of piloting, Maker State founder Stephen Gilman realized schools wanted maker spaces, too. He signed up seven in a few weeks and is teaching schools new ways to teach Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts, Math.
Q: Can we give teachers and parents customized learning interventions for every child?
A: Signs point to yes.
Branching Minds plans to help people understand what’s blocking a kid from learning a specific skill or piece of knowledge by providing feedback within seconds of answering a few simple questions. Their pilot gets under way in a few weeks when they start testing their first offering – a web search tool that brings the functionality of WebMD’s Symptom Checker and Amazon’s Marketplace to teachers and parents 24/7.
Q: Can we make hiring a substitute teacher not suck?
A: Without a doubt.
My wife spent part of our first year in California subbing. The kid part was great. The “figuring out where to be, when, and what adults you were supposed to help” sucked. It was painful for schools and teachers to find a good teacher who could keep learning going. This is why teachers are like camels.
Enriched is like an Uber for hiring. Through subscriptions to Enriched, schools can help Enriched screen talent that’s aligned to their culture ahead of time, letting subs jump right in and increase learning while teachers take the breaks they need to sustain themselves.
We give members of the 4.0 community money and training to hack on good problems.
Every few months, we give members of 4.0 a chance to win money to spend on prototypes and solutions to their favorite problems.
On January 20th, in Brooklyn, NYC, we’ll hear from members who are working on some promising new solutions to hairy problems in education. A panel of teachers–that’s right, teachers–will give away $10K to the group with the most potential to make teachers more awesome. The crowd will give someone else another $10K for the idea they like best.
Pitch Night is open to the public and one of the most exciting events we run. Join us if you’re near New York.
We’re putting Lean methods like “failing fast” and prototyping to work in education.
There are hundreds of big, hairy problems that need more curious people attacking them. A few weeks ago I proposed 4 Frighteningly Ambitious Experiments in Education for 2014:

  1. Set up skunkworks in No Excuses schools.
  2. Start low-cost private schools in the US.
  3. Put coders in public schools.
  4. Pods of parents quit private schools and go out on their own.

To encourage teachers and technologists to work on these problems (and others they bring to us), we’re partnering with EDesign Labs to run a 12-week Prototyping Bootcamp this Spring in New York City. Teams will prototype new digital learning tools and experiences and test them in the field with kids and peers. Apps are due February 3.

We don’t know what the future of school will look like, but we’re determined to build it, one curious experimenter at a time. Are you one of those curious people? Then what are you waiting for? Get started at

POSTED BY Anya Kamenetz ON January 16, 2014

Your email is never published nor shared.