John Dewey’s Legacy Runs Deep in Roblox, the Highest Valued Edtech Company in the Industry

Mar. 4, 2021


Roblox, now valued at $29.5 billion, is in the John Dewey zone, the John Dewey who revolutionized the way we think about education in the West. Born in 1859, Dewey received a doctorate in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University in 1884, becoming the quintessential thinker in a school of philosophy called Pragmatism. He is considered a seminal figure in the Progressive educational reform movement that emerged in the first half of the 20th century. One of the main themes of the progressive movement in education was that top-down teaching, or what William Glasser in his book The Quality School calls boss-led teaching, or authoritarian models of instruction, should be replaced with a curriculum that focuses on real world experiences. In his world, the democratization of education meant that schools should be “an embryonic community life, active with types of occupations that reflect the life of the larger society and permeated throughout with the spirit of art, history and science … ” (The School and Society). Dewey once said that we should teach chemistry by having students cook breakfast.

Now meet Roblox, the highest valued content-based edtech company in the $10 trillion global edtech industry. Roblox was co-founded in 2004 by David Baszucki, an entrepreneur, inventor and engineer ranked by Goldman Sachs in 2018 as one of the 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs. In January, the San Mateo, California-based company, which teaches kids how to create and code their own educational games, raised $520 million at a $29.5 billion valuation, which is twice the valuation of the previously highest valued edtech company, Yuanfudao, a China-based K-12 online tutoring company valued at $15 billion. In a TechCrunch article, Baszucki explained that the genesis for Roblox came from his previous company called Knowledge Revolution, which made teaching software that allowed students to “simulate physics experiments,” which students ultimately turned into a game.

Welcome to the gamification of education. Roblox meets John Dewey, 199 million users in this “embryonic community” (RTrack), learning real life skills, solving real life problems in a fun, interactive, collaborative environment. Roblox now has an estimated 36.2 million daily active users, subscribers that are creating their own metaverse, with some of them making money from selling educational games they create on the Roblox platform. Wow. Students create and can sell their own new, engaging material, games that teach solving real-life problems. With their Roblox studio platform, a user can “create anything and release with one click to smartphones, tablets, desktops, consoles, and virtual reality devices.” Roblox also offers free lesson materials, with coding training to develop games that teach history, geography, art and more. So here we have it, Dewey’s progressive educational ideology packaged in 21st century technology. Dewey sums up his theory of education in one of his famous quotes: “Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking: learning naturally results.” The legacy of John Dewey continues to run deep in the ed-tech revolution. Congratulations Roblox. Job well done.

According to backlinko.com, there were 8.71 billion hours of user engagement on Roblox in the third quarter of 2020, up from 2.1 billion hours in early 2018 and “Roblox added 5.01 billion hours of engagement in the first 3 quarters of 2020 alone.”  Revenue for Roblox reached $587 million for the first nine months of 2020, up 68% over the previous nine months.

 

 

Roger James Hamilton is a futurist and social entrepreneur. He is a NY Times bestselling author and the founder and CEO of Genius Group, the world’s No 1 entrepreneur education group. The Group has a global faculty, a global curriculum and global campuses including its online campus GeniusU, the edtech arm of Genius Group. Already they have served 1.4 million students in 200 countries, and with recent acquisitions valued at $80 million, revenue is expected to reach $35 million for 2020 with projected revenue of $100 million in 2021, the Company sees itself is as “a leader of the long-awaited revolution in education, with a bold mission to educate over 100 million entrepreneurs to achieve the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”




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