This post is part of our new Future of Education series which interviews the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we recently had with Thomas Ketchell, CEO and Co-founder of Sutori.
1. What’s the history of Sutori? Where and how did you begin?
TK: Sutori began as a way to present history in a format that is easily understood, engaging, and familiar to the 21st-century student.
The idea was born from live-tweeting The London Great Smog of 1952 through a first-person narrative and comparing it to current air pollution disasters encountered today.
We saw the value in bringing historical events to life and thus the idea for Sutori was born.
2. What specific problem does Sutori solve? How do you solve it?
TK: Much of the technological improvements in education have been focused around STEM subjects with little attention paid to the liberal arts and social studies in particular. Following on how Sutori is used in the classroom — we are filling two voids. The primary void we are filling is to bring content to life through our interactive storytelling platform (lots of images, quiz questions, videos, embedded resources) and get students engaged in their studies.
The second problem we are solving is through our story creation tool. Built for education, it is the perfect partner for 21st Century project-based-learning, enabling students to use primary and secondary sources in an easy-to-use, collaborative and creative format.
3. What’s the future of education?
Prediction #1: We seem to be obsessed with automation in education but I don’t believe we will be able to replace a teacher with a robot. Teachers play such an integral part in the development of a child and whatever the future of the classroom of tomorrow, the human teacher will always be there to guide and educate.
Prediction #2: I see the school, as a building and as an institution, having a complete overhaul. Traditional subjects will become more flexible and practical; English and social studies, for example, will be more about filtering, understanding and expressing information, while science and math more akin to engineering. The theoretical will become more practical. Analysis of data, being able to prove what we put forward, will become a key skill.
Prediction #3: Teachers lecturing out lessons to passive students will disappear. The current trends of project-based learning and collaboration will continue, just as the digitisation of learning. It’ll be about skills, not knowledge for knowledge’s sake.
In this transformation, schools will become collaborative spaces to maximize learning and develop children’s abilities, not the rigid institutions they are too often in today’s world. Schools times and learning environments will be flexible. Students will be able to follow their interests earlier in life, follow courses that interest them rather than be imposed something they don’t enjoy.
4. What are the top 3 technologies trends you’re seeing in education?
TK: There is a big emphasis on VR in classrooms and the accessibility of digital products has made it a smooth process for many schools as they become more digitally focused.
Trend #1: Steady broadband/internet connections. It may sound obvious but there is still a lot of investment needed to improve school networks. The internet helps learners of all ages, giving teachers the freedom to use tech products and apps in the classroom.
Trend #2: VR & 360. Through products like ThingLink or Google Expeditions, students can be transported to almost any place on earth and interact with what’s around them.
Trend #3: Mobile devices. It’s been quite mind-blowing to see the proliferation of devices in classrooms as students have more access to smartphones. Education developers are now creating progressive web apps which are mobile friendly to ensure students can learn at their own pace no matter their location.
5. Why is the education industry ripe for disruption?
TK: I’m not so keen on the word disruption in education. I think we’re going through a transition phase right now. The movement to digital in education continues to spread and shows no sign of letting up. Access to OER and readily available tools and content will make it easier for teachers to deliver quality interactive lessons that engage their students and have them participate in a more active role. With the expansion of technology across classrooms all over the world, it’s an open space that will keep growing.
I would say however that the big education publishers, whom had such an easy ride for decades, need to “disrupt” their old ways of thinking and doing if they want to still be around in the near future.
About Thomas Ketchell
Thomas Ketchell is CEO and co-founder of Sutori. A TedX speaker, Thomas was recently selected as a Forbes 30 under 30 honoree for education and continues to fight for immigration reform in the US.