I’ve seen how many EdTech founders often have untraditional education backgrounds or faced major disadvantages in the education system growing up. I can’t say that I had one of those experiences. I went to a public high school with a strong reputation for students and immigrant families who valued academic achievement. I was very concerned with getting good grades and test scores (even for classes that I was not interested in), with the intention of using those accolades to get into college. I left high school thinking that I had done very well and that my 4 years had served its purpose.
In my freshman year of college I still had a very rosy perspective on education. I was doing well in my college courses, and the academic rigor of my high school prepared me for college level classes. The discipline I learned in high school from managing academics along with sports proved to be extremely useful.
My perspective on education changed when the pandemic started.
First, the switch from in-person to remote learning got me (and probably everyone else) thinking about how students learn best. Never, and I really mean never, did I ever put thought into how I learned or how I was absorbing content. All throughout high school I was just passively cruising along in school, with only grades in mind. But then remote learning started — you had students all over talking about the worthlessness of Zoom classes and sleeping through the lectures, and suddenly I started to think more actively about my own education.
This bit of introspection led me down a rabbit hole the summer after my freshman year and during the height of the pandemic. I worked on an EdTech startup project as part of an entrepreneurship program hosted by NYU. I had a ton of fun. I thought it only made sense that as a college student I was best equipped to try and solve EdTech problems.
After the project, I was not only excited to explore more about VC, tech startups, and EdTech, but I had a ton of free time on my hands. I spent much of that summer learning about those 3 areas.
The thing is, that summer was the first time I had proactively gone out and tried to learn something on my own, without someone pushing me to do so. In high school I was always learning from a curriculum that someone else had made for me. I also had no time to explore areas I was passionate about. In fact, I was not passionate about anything during high school. I realized that summer that I was more than capable of learning things on my own, but I never had time to do that in high school or even college for that matter.
I was so excited by the idea of learning things on my own. But I also wondered if there was a model for education that not only taught you things but also balanced that with encouraging students to develop passions and learn on their own. I found amazing EdTech startups that did just that.
I also began to revisit my high school experience and realized the many things that it failed to deliver on.
For example, I realized that when you can’t seem to get interested in a class in high school, it’s not because you generally lack grit or determination. It’s simply because you lack the passion for it, yet high school will punish you for that.
These backwards looking self reflection exercises got me more and more excited about exploring innovative ideas in education. And it helped me to realize how important education is in my life.
I realized that education has given me so much. Education has given me the tools to develop opinions on my own, the opportunity to meet amazing people, and the opportunity to get internships and professional experiences. It’s kept me out of trouble and it’s taught me discipline. Education helped my parents build the kind of life they wanted in America. I want students younger than me to understand the power of developing your passion and taking an active role in their own learning experiences. Education has the potential to be much better, and I’m excited to find out how.
During this fall semester I’ve been researching EdTech trends and companies to build an investment thesis in the virtual schools / virtual supplements to traditional schools space. Hopefully I come up with something by the end of it all. I learned a lot from a VC internship this past summer and I wanted to take what I learned and try something on my own. I wrote this first piece to organize my thoughts on why I’m doing this project. If you have any resources, books, opinions, or cool companies to share with me in the EdTech space, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! I would really love to hear your thoughts.