Imagine K12 - Y Combinator for Education

Submitted by Faisal Anwar on Fri, 04/29/2011 - 4:22pm.

Imagine K12 is another startup launch initiative being pushed by some veteran Silicon Valley folks. The model is "unabashedly inspired by Y Combinator" and seeks to give guidance and support to new startups looking to reshape education. Here is a link to the basic structure of their program:

This could be a great experience for Edlabbers or a useful model to look at for our own Launchpad 39B initiative.

Trends in Ed: Goodbye Books?

Submitted by Fred Rossoff on Fri, 04/29/2011 - 1:54pm.

The University of Denver has recently announced that its planned renovations to the Penrose Library will include the permanent removal of 80% of the books to an off-site storage facility, so that the building can be transformed into an “academic commons,” with more room for collaborative study spaces. Although there has been some pushback from the faculty, it looks like protests have been “muted.”

Economics & Education: Momentum for Educational Tech?

Submitted by Skanda Amarnath on Fri, 04/29/2011 - 9:31am.

As my recent post on Pearson's acquisitions of education technology firms and Frank's recent post on the Bloomberg Businessweek article suggest, there is an apparent wind flowing through the sails of edu-tech. Yet in a time where momentum appears to be gathering, I caution those who are eager to jump out of their seats. I would love to see innovation in the education space be wholly unleashed, as the tech sector was unleashed in the 1990s. Yet most of the tech boom that was not bubblicious was rooted in very obvious productivity gains that were there for the taking if firms were simply willing to invest in superior information technologies.

On the other hand, I cannot think of many technological solutions that are guaranteed to yield bang for the buck for cash-pressed schools. Do not get me wrong. There are plenty of good products out there and some worthwhile investments that ought to be made, particularly in developing better platforms for educational data mining and sharing. Yet the necessary objective research has not been completed to conclusively claim that investing in technology X will yield improved student performances currently. Compare this with the state of Corporate America in the 80s and 90s, when it was obvious that information technology investments could cut out a lot of the busywork that occurred on a day-to-day basis.

Slowmation: Using animation to teach math and science

Submitted by Melanie Hibbert on Fri, 04/29/2011 - 12:08am.

Slowmation is a website from Australia that hosts short student-created animation videos explaining math and science concepts. The videos are made using stop-frame animation that play slowly at 2 frames/second.

The website creators are also doing a lot of research on what learning benefits occur when a student "translates" an idea from one mode to another (i.e. translating math concepts into visuals and sounds).

(A warning that you might get sucked into spending 30 minutes watching videos about things like food groups and lightning, but nothing is cuter than a video about dinosaurs narrated by a kid with an Australian accent).

Trends in Ed: It's easy being green!

Submitted by Joann Agnitti on Thu, 04/28/2011 - 5:16pm.

In the past, schools have received special recognition for high scores on tests, smart students, and superior teachers. Now there’s another award to vie for, recently announced by the Department of Education: the Green Ribbon! Winners of this award will include schools that provide healthy and sustainable learning environments and teach environmental literacy.

The goal of the program is to set kids up to be lifelong environmental citizens. The great thing about it is that we all reap the benefits from Green Ribbon winners. For example, by teaching kids environmental studies, they gain the tools to come up with solutions for a green future. Their future! Our future! Everyone wins! I salute any undertaking to greenify this place. Smaller carbon footprints ftw!

The Green Ribbon schools program will be modeled after the DoE’s Blue Ribbon schools program, awarded to high performing public and private schools. Applications to be a Green Ribbon school will be released later this year with winners announced next year.

For more information, check out the press release from the DoE.

Ed Tech Gets Big Bucks

Submitted by Frank Webster on Thu, 04/28/2011 - 12:48pm.

This article in Bloomberg Businessweek reports renewed interest in online learning companies by venture capitalists to the tune of $177 million:

Educational Tech Gets a Second Look

"Education is having its Internet moment," says Rob Stavis of Bessemer Venture Partners, a prominent venture fund.

Economics & Education: The Role of Incentives in IQ Testing

Submitted by Skanda Amarnath on Thu, 04/28/2011 - 9:57am.

Angela Lee Duckworth of UPenn has a paper out on the role incentives play in inflating IQ scores. It seems to indicate that incentives do play a role in inflating scores and that they have greater impact on those with below-average IQ scores than those with above-average IQ scores all things remaining equal.

Couple things to keep in mind: Angela Duckworth has apparently shown bias in promoting some of her earlier studies. One commenter on Marginal Revolution points out:
"Low-stakes” is probably the operative word here. I haven’t read this paper, but Duckworth has previously published a really incompetent or, rather, dishonest anti-IQ paper called Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents (no it doesn’t except in Duckworth’s range-restricted sample)."

Scrumblr: Collaboration Tool

Submitted by Julia Martin on Wed, 04/27/2011 - 11:22am.

Look at this cool new open source collaboration tool: Scrumblr.

I attached a screen shot of the sample board they have below.

Trends in Ed: Pearson is Making Moves

Submitted by Skanda Amarnath on Wed, 04/27/2011 - 10:53am.

Looks like Pearson is doing big things. This will probably be followed up with and Econ & Ed post soon but this is certainly has the capacity to shake up the education space. Pearson undoubtedly has the kind of platform and clout to get actual changes implemented in school systems, while the companies they have acquired all have produced some fairly practical yet innovative products. With all mergers and acquisitions, there is always the concern that new management means mismanagement. Nevertheless, the acquisition of these small-cap firms probably increases the likelihood that their ideas will be implemented in more schools across the country, and that undoubtedly is a good thing.

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