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Donor Q&A: Bradley Horowitz, Google

January 27, 2022 New Classrooms

Meet Bradley Horowitz

Bradley is an Advisor and VP of Product at Google, and over his tenure there has led the development of products such as GMail, Google Docs, Google Photos and Google News. He is also a member of the New Classrooms Board of Advisors, sharing advice and technical expertise with respect to New Classrooms learning solutions. For this issue of The Giving Theory, we interviewed Bradley about the intersection of technology, innovation, and education.

What first drew you to New Classrooms?

As a Silicon Valley “techie,” New Classroom’s data-driven, personalized, technology-forward approach immediately resonated with me. It’s a solution that makes sense based on first principles thinking. What’s really unique is that it draws equally from deep experience in the discipline of learning (both academic and experiential) and a fluency with state-of-the-art technology, as well as a vision for how to bring them together.

What do you think it will take to transform education?

Patience and commitment. I have a high degree of confidence that New Classrooms truly has discovered, implemented and deployed a “better way” forward for all parties, but unfortunately a mission as grand as “transforming education” will also require time and evangelism. But like all worthy missions throughout history, this is an effort worth making and I believe secular trends will ultimately be in our favor.

How have the educational disruptions of the past two years changed your view of our educational system?

I’ve heard it said that the last two years have been a sort of “time compression machine” for the world, throwing us abruptly into a future that was perhaps inevitable, but would have otherwise rolled-out over decades not years. I think there’s an openness now to things that would have otherwise been “uphill battles,” including furthering the role of technology in the educational process. Another unintended consequence of lockdown was that parents were offered an over-the-shoulder view (sometimes literally) of how their children were spending their time. I think all of this has led us to a moment of great opportunity for New Classrooms.

How do you think technology can be most impactful in addressing current educational challenges? (In ways beyond providing students with equipment or ensuring digital access.)

I think that beyond just providing screens and access to students (of course important prerequisites), we need to use technology to reinvigorate the joy of learning. In my own experience, the most useful and inspiring learning experiences were those that kept me at exactly the right level – whether that was building up my confidence via ongoing mastery, or taking me just out of my comfort zone when I was ready and able to absorb something new.  It’s both sad and unnecessary that the education experience should ever be boring or tedious to students. To me, helping students discover and continually experience this joy – that’s what “transforming education” is about and why I’m so excited by what New Classrooms is doing.

Given your background developing transformative technology that has fundamentally changed how people communicate and get information, what advice do you have for shifting mindsets on how we “do education” and helping people to see the benefits of change even if it’s disruptive?

Change is hard. Invoking Hemingway, I think the answer is that this change will happen “Gradually, then suddenly.” With every school we light up and every student, parent and teacher who gets firsthand experience of our process… we win another heart. We’ve always believed at Google that having a better product is what inspires this word-of-mouth marketing, turning a passive “audience” into active advocates. I think that’s exactly the process I’m seeing at New Classrooms. So I think my advice is to continue to focus on the experience for our constituents.