Categories
Edu Startups Entrepreneurship Tech in the classroom

RemixEd K12: Mixing up #edtech

As part of my new initiative, TeacherSquare, I’m super excited to be partnering with edShelf to host our first educator focused hackathon, RemixEd: Build Tools for Schools which will take place Aug 4-5th at 500 Startups in Mountain View, CA. Building on the vision of previous Teacher Tech Talks, this event is designed specifically for teachers, as part of a larger effort to bring the educator and education startup communities closer together. Only current classroom teachers can submit ideas and Mike Lee, co-founder of edShelf, has been working with them to set realistic goals for what is possible to ‘hack’ together over the course of ~2 days. We have invited developers, designers and students (yay!) who are passionate about building tools for schools to form teams around the educators and their ideas and spend the weekend building something together. We have an impressive line-up of teachers as judges, as well as some of the best edtech entrepreneurs offering their support as coaches.

While I’m sure some interesting (and useful) tools will be created during the event, what really excites me is co-creating this experience to connect educators to the startup world, giving them an opportunity to inhabit a typical startup incubator space for a couple days and get exposure to their lingo and processes. This is a community-driven event and we are still looking for a couple more sponsors to support these efforts. If you’re interested in helping bridge the educator and edtech divide and getting involved as a sponsor, just let me know.

Some of our favorite edtech bloggers are going to stop by and I will be sure to share the highlights in a follow-up post. You can find out more about events like this @TeacherSquare and follow the progress over the weekend using #RemixEdk12.

Categories
Edu Startups Tech in the classroom

Edtech Handbook Comes to Life

Our K12 education system is extremely complicated. I have spoken with a ton of entrepreneurs who are excited by the challenge of building products to help improve teaching, learning, or the school experience itself, but don’t really understand the nuances that make this a particularly tricky space. I have been thinking about compiling this resource for a while and am happy to see this first draft come to life.

An early version of VentureHacks for Education, the Edtech Handbook is designed to demystify the process of launching an education startup, specifically for companies focused on the K12 market. (I would like to add insights from tackling problems in Higher Ed as well, but for now I personally feel that space has gotten quite a bit of attention lately.) This guide is a collection of tightly curated articles from edtech entrepreneurs sharing their direct experience overcoming specific challenges in designing, launching and distributing products for teachers, schools and districts.

This is a community effort and I’d like to thank the early contributors for sharing their expertise. This space is evolving fast. There is no ‘right‘ way to be an entrepreneur. To make this resource truly useful, I encourage this community to comment on these initial perspectives and invite more education entrepreneurs to become contributors. If you want to see an article on a particular topic and/or contribute to this resource, just contact me.

I hope you find this helpful and would love to hear your feedback!

Categories
Conferences/Events Edu Startups Tech in the classroom

Reflections on my First #ISTE12

The past few days have been equally amazing and exhausting. San Diego was lovely, as always, and I managed to pack in quite a bit during the 2.5 days of the ~5 day extravaganza that is ISTE. With ~15,000 attendees and so much to cover, I tried to balance my time between meeting the who’s who of edtech cyberland in the blogger’s cafe, observing sales pitches in the Expo Hall and actually attending some of the sessions. There was so much to take in and it is impossible to capture everything here, so I’ll focus on a few highlights.

  • It is always great to get out of your own little bubble and meet people from the real world.  I think this is particularly important for entrepreneurs from the Bay Area who are building tools and programs for K12, to meet educators from all over the world and get a diverse perspective of what teaching and learning really entails. It was fabulous to meet the Steve Hargadon in person as I’m a fan of his weekly edtech round-up with Audrey Watters, and also learned more about his project here, ISTE Unplugged. I had so many inspiring conversations with educators across the globe, and even some from my own backyard, who are really diving into experimenting with different tools and technologies in their classrooms. I especially enjoyed Adam Bellow‘s session on Web Tools that will make your Classroom Rock, and was surprised to learn about so many new tools (beyond what comes out of Silicon Valley) and see how he had used them with his students. It was also fun to get a sneak peak of the new tool he built, EduClipper, that he is launching soon.
  • Yong Zhao‘s keynote on Tuesday morning was just fantastic. I really appreciated his in-depth critique of the US education system and how we must rethink our broader goals around what we are teaching and what outcomes we truly desire. He shared some really thought-provoking data around how even though US test scores are extremely low, the actual ‘success’ of our economy is based on embracing creativity and entrepreneurship. (I really hope this message gets to policy-makers as well.)  “You can’t teach creativity, but you can kill it and the US does a worse job of killing it than other countries.” He urges us all to not think about education in terms of deficits, but rather focus on skills and talents, leaving me wondering ‘how can we all tap into our inner Lady Gaga?’
  • Hat’s off to Remind101, ClassDojo and Educreations for throwing an awesome Startup Party on Monday night where I made one of my most exciting connections of the event, Andrew Coy from the Digital Harbor Foundation. Andrew is one of those educators where you can feel the passion flowing out of him and I was so energized to meet his first cohort of EdTech Link Fellows and learn more about the work he is doing connecting educators and technologists in Baltimore. I cannot wait to speak with him again and bring some of his ideas and energy to the Bay Area.

Overall, I was really impressed with how organized the entire production was and how many sessions had their resources posted and ready to share. The Twitter conversation (#ISTE12 & a few people were using #ISTE2012) was a constant flow the entire time, so if you were not able to attend or just want to track down some information, I recommend revisiting those hashtags and checking out all the links. I’m still absorbing everything and will probably process it all just in time for San Antonio next year.

Categories
Blended Learning Tech in the classroom

Envisioning the Future of Learning

School’s out for the Summer! I had the pleasure of advising a class in the Learning, Design and Technology (LDT) program through the School of Ed at Stanford this spring quarter, Ed 333B: Envisioning the Future of Learning. The course was co-taught by two of my favorite LDT Alumni, Dan Gilbert and Ami Mehta, who framed the class around two key questions “What should every 11-year-old girl in the world know?  How might we make that happen?” taking into consideration how technology will evolve over the next ten years.

To provide real world context for applying business, design and learning approaches to these questions, we conducted three 2-week long design challenges with real clients from Castilleja Girls School, Khan Academy and TeachAIDS. I was excited to bring some of my experiences from Khan Academy into this class, leading a challenge focused on rethinking how to distribute digital content to empower learners all over the world. The students came up with some creative yet practical approaches and I’m looking forward to piloting this project in partnership with Teach-A-Class and Living Values in Nigeria in the coming months. (Stay tuned for a future post on the launch of my next endeavor.)

The last class held this past Thursday night was a true culmination of the previous exercises exploring business, design and learning approaches, where the students lead the group in their own unique design challenges. What made the process even more special was the presence of some inspiring LDT alumni like Kim Jacobsen, co-founder of Junyo and local edtech community members, like Neeru Khosla, founder of CK12. However, the guests who really contributed the most were Shivali and Sahil, two Bay Area teenagers who not only provided useful perspective on teens going through the education system today but were energetic and vocal participants in the challenges.

I would love to see more classes like this in the School of Ed that are applying learning & design theories to real-world problems and engaging alumni and community members in the process. I’m glad I was able to be a part of this course and hope to stay connected to these students and projects in the future.

Categories
Conferences/Events Tech in the classroom

Connecting Educators and Edtech

In partnership with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, I hosted my second Teacher Tech Talk event yesterday which focused on how some schools and educators are using Google Apps for Education (GAFE). Rushton Hurley, a member of the first cohort of Google Certified Educators and Founder/ED of NextVista.org, kicked off the event highlighting some of his favorite aspects of GAFE but more importantly shared an inspiring message for how educators should approach integrating technology.

“It is impossible to stay on top of current technology solutions… So don’t worry about it! Find what works best for you and use it in a way that allows you to tap into your inner explorer.”

Kim Brown and Tim Sato from Portola Valley School District shared specifics around how they deployed the Google Engine and Chris Buja from the startup, Hapara (fresh out of Imagine K12,) provided an overview of how their Teacher Dashboard makes it dead-easy for teachers to manage and optimize the GAFE experience across countless students and documents.

If you are interested in learning more about Google Apps for Edu, I recommend checking out the upcoming GAFE Summit July 12/13 in Santa Clara and reading Richard Byrne’s (FreeTech4Teachers) GAFE Guide.

If you are an educator and looking to get plugged into the edtech startup scene, check out the Launch EDU conference June 12-13th at Microsoft in Mountain View. Please email Megan Dickey at megan@launch.co for a free ticket.

Thanks to all who attended and helped spread the word. It has been truly energizing to see the growing interest in this community, and brainstorming ways to bridge the educator and edu startup worlds. Keep an eye out for details for the next Teacher Tech Talk event coming up in July all about Formative Assessments in the Cloud.

Categories
Conferences/Events Tech in the classroom

Calling All ‘Teacherpreneurs’

I’m excited to be hosting my next Teacher Tech Talk event later this month, in partnership with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. These events stemmed from my growing interest in bridging the gap between classrooms and the education startup world, and the larger vision is to empower ‘teacherpreneurs,’ who are the ones that will truly drive change in our current education system. Here is the invitation so please help spread the word to any aspiring ‘teacherpreneurs’ you may know!

~

Are you an educator interested in learning how to better integrate tech tools into your classroom? Do you have an idea for a fabulous edtech product that you’d like to share with the startup community? Do you just want to connect with other teachers thinking about these questions and edtech in general?

Join us for our next Teacher Tech Talk event on Wednesday, May 30th from 4-6pm in partnership with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The vision is to co-create a community of educators and entrepreneurs to collectively design and implement solutions to improve teaching and learning for all students.

This event will focus on Google Apps for Education and will feature Kim Brown, Lead Technology Specialist from Portola Valley School District, and members of the technology start-up, Hapara, (fresh out of Imagine K12) which specializes in deploying Google apps in classrooms and schools.

In addition to hearing from these speakers, you will get a chance to talk about the opportunities and challenges associated with technology tools for education and the issues educators are encountering in the classroom that either need to be addressed or share solutions that can be scaled more broadly.

Hope you can join us! Please RSVP.

Categories
Blended Learning Tech in the classroom

A Deeper Look- Blended Learning at DCP

Last fall I was fortunate to meet Greg Klein, Director of Blended Learning at Downtown College Prep in San Jose, and got a chance to see one of the few truly blended learning schools in the Bay Area. Greg manages his lab as a startup, piloting a variety of software programs giving himself and his students a chance to test it all out before integrating it fully into their workflow. As the first guest speaker at my Teacher Tech Talk event, Greg gave us all a deeper look into the tools he uses and some of the key decisions he’s made to cultivate an engaging and highly academic blended learning environment.

It helps to start with a deeper understanding of the student population. Downtown College Prep (DCP) in Alum Rock is located in one of the lowest income communities in San Jose. Greg’s campus serves 180 students (6th and 7th graders) of which 89% are on free/reduced lunch, however, 2/3 of the students d0 have access to internet at home. 60 students at a time spend 90 min/day in the learning lab going through 3 30-min rotations. The computers are setup in rows with a simple system of using red/green plastic cups to identify student progress and who may need some additional support.  Greg went on to share the pretty comprehensive list of tools he uses to structure the content and delivery during those rotation sessions.

Greg and the DCP Team are currently experimenting with these products in the following areas, although many of them can be used in other content areas, too.

Math: Khan Academy*, Manga High**, ST Math***, PLATO, SuccessMaker
ELA: TeenBiz3000*, AcademicMerit*, Quizlet***, TypingWeb
Communication: Edmodo***, Goalbook*, Google Docs***
(* indicate Greg’s enthusiasm for these different products)

A student and instructor favorite, Quizlet, is in the process of launching a beta version of  a new product, Sentencer, that allows kids to collaboratively create sentences and then vote up/down their writings. One of the obvious gaps was software tools to support science instruction and project-based learning (PBL,) and DCP currently uses Google Docs through Edmodo to deliver lesson plans that the teachers themselves created.

In generating this list during the discussion, a teacher made an interesting point wondering if students then had 11 different logins to manage these systems? While a Google Apps login is shared across a few of the tools, there are still several different logins that students have to remember and enter on a daily basis. This tied directly into an early suggestion on the need for unification of tools/systems to make it easier for students and teachers to use and access data from these different platforms.

Special thanks to Greg for being our first guest speaker and sharing these insights from the blended learning environment he’s creating at DCP. Keep an eye out for similar deep-dives as I plan to connect with the blended learning folks at SF Flex Academy and Rocketship sometime soon.

Categories
Conferences/Events Ed Reform/Policy Tech in the classroom

Teacher Tech Talk

During my exploration deeper into the world of edtech, meeting with countless entrepreneurs & investors and attending numerous conferences & events, I feel a very important perspective is missing from this growing movement… the voice and participation of educators. Can we really redesign and distribute new innovations in teaching and learning without active involvement from the teacher community? I’ve been to several edtech meetups, Startup Weekend EDU events and conferences and it’s rare to find attendees that are actually current teachers, working directly with students and trying out the new tools that seem to pop up weekly.

So, what can we do about that? Last night I hosted the first Teacher Tech Talk event to help identify and build a community of educators that are interested in playing a more vocal and active role  in this growing edtech movement. It’s been hard to miss all the buzz around the ‘edtech’ world lately, however, people who have been thinking about ed reform for a while recognize that technology is merely a tool and the larger disruptions and improvements to current teaching and learning practices depend on when/how those tools are used, which is  largely driven by educators.

My goal for this community is to collectively figure out how best to bridge the educator and education startup worlds. How can we get more perspective from what is happening in classrooms and schools into the product development process of startups, rather than when it’s time to find beta testers or product evangelists? The group consisted of current and former educators, entrepreneurs, school/district tech leads and even an investor. The diversity of perspectives lead to a very insightful discussion session, and as this community grows I imagine it will attract more entrepreneurs and investors, however, I’m extremely focused on keeping the content and conversation centered on educators.

After some networking, we settled into a brainstorming and discussion session around what the educators think would make their teaching lives easier. The responses ranged from predictable need for more time, access to devices, actionable data to more collective impact approaches, engaging parents, inter/intra district collaboration and thinking how to bring more relevancy and real-world application to the current standards-based curriculum. Greg Klein was our first guest speaker, invited to share his perspective as a former principal in Oakland and current teacher, leading the blended learning initiatives at Downtown College Prep. He shared an in-depth look into the tools (Khan Academy, Manga High and long list of others) and process he’s piloting at DCP and stay tuned for a follow-up post that goes into more detail. Brett Kopf, co-founder of Remind101, then shared his experience incubating his startup through Imaginek12 and speaking with hundreds of teachers before starting to build his product that aims to power communication between teachers, parents and students.

This pilot event was a success and surfaced some extremely useful feedback on how to grow and shape this community going forward. Look out for an invite to next month’s event and if you’re interested in getting involved in anyway, let me know. As with most startups, I’m figuring this out as I go and can use all the feedback I can get!

Categories
Tech in the classroom

Just ask your teacher!

All good entrepreneurs know that the best way to improve their product is with a user-centered design approach, collecting and incorporating feedback from their target users on an on-going basis. However, when those target users are teachers, there are many challenges to getting some of their precious time and attention. A recent guest post on EdWeek from Roxanna Elden articulately captures the complicated relationship between teachers and education technology.

Enter, BetaClassroom.org. What started out as Jennie Dougherty’s simple blog to share her experiences testing new edtech tools in her classroom has blossomed into a platform for teachers around the world to beta test various products and share/review feedback from other teachers in the network. Beta Classroom connects edtech entrepreneurs with teachers who are excited to try out new products to see what will help them manage their time and classrooms more effectively. I encourage you all to check it out and more importantly invite any teachers you know who would be interested in participating in this community. Keep in mind that it is in it’s early stages, so like any new product, I’m sure your feedback is welcome!

Categories
Tech in the classroom

Barriers in the EdTech Movement

As I begin to explore the EdTech sector more deeply, my first goal is to figure out what efforts have been successful and what are some of the key challenges around product design and implementation. Larry Berger and David Stevenson’s piece, “K-12 Entrepreneurship: Slow Entry, Distant Exit,” from 2007 is one of the most helpful resources that succinctly captures some of the structural, cultural and systemic issues that have prevented large-scale results from initiatives that have been working to improve education through technology for the past 20+ years. While I attempt to provide a quick overview of the 11 Barriers below, I highly recommend reading the full 22-page chapter to digest their examples and suggestions for overcoming these barriers.

  1. The Education Sector Does Not Invest in Innovation- Out of every dollar spent on education in 2005, only 3.5 cents was spent on materials, tools, and services.
  2. Oligopoly- “Big Edu” (the three dominant educational publishing companies) that control 85% of the K-12 textbook market
  3. Decentralization- With 50 State Education Agencies, 16,000 districts, intermediate units in most states, and 65,000 schools, there are a lot of decision-makers.
  4. Vicious Sales Cycles- Slow sales cycles make things hard for entrepreneurs who need capital to keep operating, and who need to prove to investors that they have created something worth supporting.
  5. Pilot Error- Many promising start-up companies have been killed by early interest in their product from people who were not quite ready to purchase it at a scale that is economically viable.
  6. No Return- The return on investment mindset that drives other sectors to replace expensive labor with technology, and that sees the logic of scaling such efficiencies rapidly, does not come naturally to K-12.
  7. Viewing Teacher Time as a Sunk Cost- But even if the education sector is not interested in reducing headcount, it would still be good for the teaching profession, and for the ability of entrepreneurs to articulate their value propositions, if the education system started to quantify the value of a saved teacher hour in terms of its increased instructional output, including the impact on retaining good teachers.
  8. Short-Lived Superintendents-  The tenure of superintendents in large districts, while not as brief as has been popularly reported, averages fewer than five years.
  9. The Vendor Wall-  There are no “business development” people in education, and this sort of close partnership is rare indeed.
  10. Start-Up Capital-  The barriers to entry described in this chapter constrain the size of a potential return in the sector, and education companies require too long – 5 years, at least – to garner a meaningful return. (Because venture capital funds are measured by their internal rate of return, the timing of the return matters a lot).
  11. Free Things – The dual status of education as both a public good and a private industry leads to uncertainty about what aspects of education should be addressed by market forces and what should be addressed by government or philanthropic funding.

This is a slightly longer post than usual, so thanks for reading! If you have experienced and/or overcome any of these barriers, I’d love to hear from you.