Education News

Three Things To Know About “Next Gen Learning”

Texas is home to several so-called “breakthrough schools” aimed at getting kids more involved in what they learn and how they learn it.

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When you hear the phrase “next-generation learning,” what comes to mind?

Do you think of a classroom full of computers? Or do you think of kids getting their own tablet to take home every night?

Texas is home to several so-called “breakthrough schools” aimed at getting kids more involved in what they learn and how they learn it.

Andy Calkins is deputy director of Next Generation Learning Challenges. He spoke earlier this year at the Houston A+ Challenge speaker series.

Andy Calkins is deputy director at Next Generation Learning Challenges. He said the future isn’t about technology, but rather personalized learning.

He spoke earlier this year at the Houston A+ Challenge‘s speaker series and also sat down with News 88.7 Education Reporter Laura Isensee.

Here are three things to know about “next-generation learning.”

1. No More Cafeteria-Style Curriculum: “Next-generation learning is all about moving our schools and our teaching and learning models away from being teaching and curriculum-centric to being student and learner-centric.”

2. What It Means for Teachers: “This is in part all about helping teachers do their most effective work, all of the time. So, all the sort of kludge-y stuff has disappeared from the teachers’ life and they’re really able to just do the highest-level coaching and enabling of students — that is the very reason they went into teaching to begin with.”

3. What About Standardized Tests: “Our grantee schools would say they understand those tests are out there and their pedagogical models – the learning by doing, all of that – will actually produce a skill-set among kids that will show up perfectly adequately on those tests. They say adequately because they’re not test-prepping every single minute of the day. They don’t see the value in that.”

Several Texas schools and programs have received grants from Next Generation Learning Challenges. In all, the advocacy group has invested almost $50 million in K-12 breakthrough schools across the country. The group’s funding comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other foundations. Here’s a look at the Texas programs:


  • DaVinci Minds is a math and science curriculum built around a virtual world where students work with a virtual power grid. DaVinci Minds is partnering with Alamo Colleges in San Antonio.

  • Montessori for All is a charter school in Austin that’s trying to combine charter-school practices with the Montessori Method and blended digital learning.

  • Educate Texas/Communities Foundation of Texas is a partnership with two traditional school districts – Coppell in the Dallas area and Spring in Greater Houston – for using blended, digital learning.

  • Texas Tech University is a program for eighth and ninth graders that tutors students in math and adapts to their skill level.



Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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