At a packed lunch during the 2023 ASU+GSV summit, Bill Gates reflected on his work leading the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he said making an impact at scale in global health was “relatively easy” compared with scaling impact in education. The most crucial puzzle piece, he said: figuring out what really works in order to be able to replicate it.
An annual conference on education innovation and technology, the ASU+GSV summit draws startup founders, edtech CEOs, investors, policymakers, and foundations from over 130 countries. Since its founding in 2010, it has exploded in size alongside the edtech sector itself, becoming a key meeting place for the education innovation community. The 2023 speaker lineup included former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Sheryl Sandberg of Lean In, Sal Khan of Khan Academy, Wendy Kopp of Teach for All, and even Elmo of Sesame Street.
The voice of academic research at the event has, in the past, been limited. However, at this year’s gathering, which took place in San Diego from April 17-19, more than a dozen Stanford scholars spoke to audiences who rarely turn to academia for guidance. Dan Schwartz, the I. James Quillen Dean of Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), the Nomellini & Olivier Professor of Educational Technology, and the Halper Family Faculty Director of the Stanford Accelerator for Learning, gave a keynote the first day on StageX, the largest platform of the conference, where Bill Gates spoke just 24 hours later.
High-quality tutoring is one of the most effective educational interventions we have – but we need both humans and technology for it to work. In a standing-room-only session, GSE Professor Susanna Loeb, a faculty lead at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning, spoke alongside school district superintendents on the value of high-impact tutoring. The most important factors in effective tutoring, she said, are (1) the tutor has data on specific areas where the student needs support, (2) the tutor has high-quality materials and training, and (3) there is a positive, trusting relationship between the tutor and student. New technologies, including AI, can make the first and second elements much easier – but they will never be able to replace human adults in the relational piece, which is crucial to student engagement and motivation.