Trends | Afterschool & STEM System Building Evaluation 2016

CREDIT Afterschool and STEM report.pngStudents participating in afterschool programs that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) reported increased interest in STEM careers and gains in important 21st century skills such as critical thinking and perseverance. Those findings emerge from new researchAfterschool & STEM System Building Evaluation 2016, an ambitious study supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and STEM Next (established by the Noyce Foundation). The study looked at nearly 1,600 students across more than 160 afterschool programs in 11 states. Key findings show that 80 percent of students reported a positive gain in their science career knowledge and 78 percent experienced a positive change in their self-reported interest in science. By some estimates, nearly 80 percent of all new jobs over the next decade will require STEM skills. However, there we see fewer Latino and African-American workers in STEM fields: while these individuals represent 29 percent of the general workforce population, they make up just 16 percent of the advanced manufacturing workforce, 15 percent of the computing workforce, and 12 percent of the engineering workforce. Additionally, women are underrepresented in STEM jobs, and there has been little improvement over the last 13 years. Female workers represent 24 percent of the engineering workforce, 36 percent of the computing workforce, and just 18 percent of the advanced manufacturing workforce. This new research affirms the vital role afterschool programs play in helping prepare all of our students for success in school and work. “Afterschool programs have significant potential to help young people across America prepare for success in school today and jobs tomorrow,” says Ron Ottinger, director of STEM Next. “Afterschool STEM programs are inspiring and equipping young people to pursue careers they never imagined before—and helping them gain skills needed for virtually every job in the future.” Findings from the research, as well as new articles on STEM learning from policymakers, educators, businesses, foundations, and youth development leaders, can be found online at STEM Ready America: Inspiring and Preparing Students for Success with Afterschool and Summer Learning. 

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Future-Proofing Our Students

An advisor to some of the world’s leading companies talks edtech, students, learning.

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

CREDIT Steve Cadigan img.jpgThis Silicon Valley-based global talent expert and HR (Tech) guru advises some of Silicon Valley’s most reputed companies on issues of talent, recruitment, culture as competitive advantage and leadership. He is former VP of Talent at LinkedIn and founder of Cadigan Talent Ventures. And just recently, Steve Cadigan (pictured, above) announced that he has co-founded Silicon Valley’s New ISDI Digital University™ and will be working hard to promote the first-ever Master’s of Internet (MIB) degree in Silicon Valley. In this exclusive, he talks about lessons from LinkedIn, edtech, advice for edtech startups, his perspective on the state of education—and what lies ahead. 

Any anecdote from your LinkedIn days that informs your current approach in advising companies?  

Steve: For me, it always comes down to culture. Our fortunes changed at LinkedIn the day we became crystal clear on who we were as a company and answered the critical question: “Why does anyone want to work here?” Once we all were on the same page, we then collectively made a firm commitment as a leadership team to be the best company anyone had ever worked for- then things really changed and we started to hire much more effectively and feel more confident as a company. I am surprised at how few organizations ask themselves the simple question, “Why would someone want to work here” in a very honest fashion that extends beyond – cool people, product roadmap or the perks and compensation.

While kids learn in a classroom – life does not continue after school in a classroom- life happens for most outside of class, so what are we doing to help kids in that regard?

What are your thoughts about edtech as a segment? 

Steve: Whenever you look at the viability of a segment, the first question you should ask is “What is the unmet need this segment addresses – and how large is it?” In looking at education today, particularly in the U.S., there is universal frustration on so many levels. Further, there are many different positions around both content and delivery and there is great passion and energy on education in general. Hence, I see a huge opportunity for edtech to address – many unhappy and frustrated customers looking for new approaches and solutions; however, I also see a big challenge because this is an emotional topic and there are wide-ranging opinions on how to solve the many challenges.

Any advice for edtech companies, especially fledgling companies, making their way forward into 2017 and beyond?

Steve: Be very clear on what you are going after. Vet that idea with as many people as possible. Find as big of a hole as you can that needs to be filled so you have the largest possible opportunity. Don’t be naive enough to think that you can do something without people who are already involved in “traditional” education models. I think sometimes people make the false assumption that people who are working in a broken system won’t be helpful in fixing that system. You desperately need people in the broken system to help you understand it and learn what ideas might or might not work. For an edtech firm to have no advisors or staff from the education space is a very risky and faulty approach, in my view. I recall in the early days of LinkedIn, our sales organization was selling a recruiting product to recruiters but had zero people selling who actually had recruited before. While the company did okay with these outsiders, once we put people with the knowledge of what it’s like to recruit (i.e., former recruiters) and how to relate to recruiters, then we really started to connect with customers better, build better products, and get closer to the industry. I think the same applies here to education.

What are your thoughts on the state of education these days? 

Steve: There is universal frustration and disappointment with the state of education today and I fear that people are ready to throw out programs and systems when perhaps just some minor adjustments or tuning is required. I think impatience and frustration is obscuring our ability to see the big picture. I am disappointed that the salary a teacher makes is way below the value we expect teachers to deliver to our precious kids – our future. While we do see a great deal of frustration about the state of education in the U.S., we don’t see much movement on how we compensate teachers.

At the same time, I think parents and communities are putting too much pressure on “schools” to educate and forgetting that an enormous amount of education should take place in the home and in families. We need to help families learn how to help their kids learn at home too – education should be 24×7, not just something that happens in the classroom. It extends well beyond the core subjects of math, English and social studies, for example. While kids learn in a classroom – life does not continue after school in a classroom- life happens for most outside of class, so what are we doing to help kids in that regard? That is a parental responsibility in large measure, and this is a big area of opportunity for edtech to help address: helping families outside the classroom.

With your understanding of company cultures, talent, HR, etc. – in light of that, what is your perspective on the purpose of education? 

Steve: The most important thing we can do for our kids is to help them grow the joy of learning and working with other people. Intellectual curiosity is a gift that will propel people far in life. Learning to think critically, ask questions, seek other perspectives is so important for teams and organizations, both profit and nonprofit. As someone who has recruited thousands and sadly fired many as well – the people who win in organizations are the people others want to be around, the people who are trusted, the people who do what they say they are going to do – it’s not always the smartest person who excels, so much as the person who others want to follow and work around. Sometimes I think we lose the plot with education when we put too much emphasis on grades for individual achievement with academics. Some of my best employees were ones who played a lot of team sports or who were part of group activities and have learned the art of working with others vs. solving a problem on their own. We need to really emphasize collaboration in classrooms and beyond, and value and reward teamwork more than we do today with our kids.

In your opinion, what is technology’s role in enhancing, improving, even transforming education?  

Steve: I see tech as a facilitator in moving education forward but it is not a panacea. We need to find the right balance of tech and human interaction. We need tech to help us link students, teachers and families together and to provide novel and dynamic was of learning. We all learn differently and the more diversity we have in delivery, the more likely we will reach a broader audience.

That said, I really do fear we will put too much expectation on technology to change things for us when we should look to tech to help us learn more about each other and our common humanity. Today, people put their hands and eyes on a device more than they do another human being. Think about the implications around that relative to building trust and teams. How do you trust someone who you communicate more with on a device than you do face to face? So, I see tech helping us in the right way, but it is not the panacea some may hope for and we should not bet on tech to be the solution to all of our problems.

I really do fear we will put too much expectation on technology to change things for us when we should look to tech to help us learn more about each other and our common humanity.

Let’s talk more about the ‘skills gap’, the meaning of ’21st century learning’, and what’s coming down the road very soon. Thoughts on all this? 

Steve: One of the harsh realities we face today is that technology is outpacing our ability to absorb and apply it, and organizations are faced with the huge challenge of finding ways to forecast and develop the skills necessary for the future of their organization. We have yet to find a way to help our workforce adjust as fast as new tech is replacing jobs, so we have some big challenges ahead. As I look at this reality, I think the most important skill we can build today in our workforce is the ability to adapt, to not only live with ambiguity but to be change leaders and to become constant learners. People need to recognize that a deep skillset in a particular area may have a short shelf life, but the ability to learn new skills quickly, and adapt to a changing environment is enormous, and this is what I refer to as future-proofing your career. We will never erase the skills gap as tech will continue to drive innovation and create new requirements and skills. We have to recognize that the more we have a learning workforce and the more we educate in a way that mirrors this changing reality, the more our leaders of tomorrow will be prepared to face whatever comes their way. It’s scary and daunting, yet also exciting.

Who is involved in the MIB – not ‘Men in Black’ of course – but Masters’ of Internet Business? Tell me more about it, who can do it, who is the perfect candidate, tech changes so fast – how do you accommodate for rapid change – how won’t this degree get old or stale fast? 

Steve: The MIB was born out of a fundamental reality: every organization is going through digital transformation today and this is only going to accelerate so we want to help professionals build the skills they need to succeed in the new digital economy and we want to help companies have the talent they need to help them transform.  Nobody is teaching Internet Business skills as comprehensively as we are anywhere in the U.S. I am so excited about our MIB – its the first of its kind in the U.S. – a Masters’ of Internet Business taught exclusively by accomplished business professionals in a highly practical and immersive way with a focus on helping students really build and leverage a knowledge network. We believe the future will continue to involve a great deal of change and so we prepare our students with the skills they need today, but also the ability to learn and adapt as new skills become required in the future. We want to future-proof the careers of our students and to achieve this, we are building a very robust community that lives with our students well beyond graduation to help them with their careers in the long term and that helps them adapt to an exciting and ever changing digital economy. And this lasting network we provide our students is how we ensure that our graduates stay current and fresh with their competitive skills well beyond the duration of the Masters classes.

What is the link between early learning, elementary, middle, high school, postsecondary – and even continuing education and workforce on the job training? Are there certain values or core elements from your vantage point at the corporate level, that educators and technology companies working in education, and edtech companies – people passionate about tech’s role in enhancing education – should bear in mind?

Steve: As I mentioned earlier, given the world is changing at a faster clip today than ever before and the skills required by organizations are also changing at an accelerated clip, the best investment we can make is to prepare our students from the very start of their formal education experience to be agile, to be capable of changing course and pivoting when circumstances require it. We need to help build platforms so that the learning is done in environments similar to the workplace. We need to reconcile working in a reality where we have more information and stimuli than ever before – how can we find the signal in the noise? Helping students build listening and collaborative strategies is paramount.

We just published a long list of honorees—finalists and winners—for the 2017 EdTech Awards. There’s a lot of talent and innovation there. Any advice to these companies and their leaders? 

The best advice I can give any edtech firm is no different than advice to any startup leader – don’t fall so in love with your product that you stop listening to your employees and customers about ways you can improve it. You can and must always improve today, and most of the time breakthrough ideas will come from people outside your company – so you must continue to listen and encourage input from as many sources as possible. The second bit of advice is to leverage the award PR to help you validate your roadmap and use it to hire more great staff and secure better and larger customers. Don’t consider an award the end game, but rather a nice pat on the back to help give you the encouragement you need to continue to work extremely hard to improve your company and your product.

What are your thoughts about the future of edtech? 

Steve: It’s bright but its going to be challenging as there are a myriad of players and flashy shiny objects, all facing a customer base that is complex, frustrated and impatient.

Anything else you care to add or emphasize? 

Steve: Great questions – thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my ideas.

Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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2017 – Finalists & Winners

EdTech Digest Awards Program 2017 | Shaping Our Future 

2017 EdTech Awards image.pngAny education company is, by the era in which we now live, an edtech company. And today, any educator, learner, or leader is at least a nascent technologist. Billions of dollars have been invested in this future, and we will no doubt invest billions more. Whatever the immediate figures, because of the integral nature of education to humanity’s ultimate survival, the long-term trend will only be up. In honoring cool tools, inspiring leaders, and innovative trendsetters in education, we do so with a sense of excitement, but also a sense of responsibility. Dream-to-reality makers are awesome to behold. But the stakes are high because these honorees are shaping our future. Perhaps more so than in any other sector, in education there are mission-driven companies and there are purpose-driven people. For what mission, and for what purposes committed individuals or dedicated groups of people help advance the rest of us, is what we honor and celebrate here. And with that, here’s to the innovators, leaders, and trendsetters shining bright in one of the greatest fields of human endeavor. And the honorees are:

=COOL TOOL AWARD FINALISTS: (Finalists listed below – winners are marked with *)

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new product or service

SMART Learning Suite from SMART Technologies

CSI Private Eye from CSI Literacy

Smartly from Smartly

Sofatutor from Sofatutor

Discovery Education Science Techbook from Discovery Education

Awe Media from Awe Media

Claned from Claned Group

Enrollment Rx

ABCmouse for Schools from Age of Learning

StrongMind Digital Curriculum from StrongMind*


honoree badges.pngPREMIUM PROMO PACKAGE. Get extra help promoting your success! For information about our Premium Promo Package, click here and write in the subject line: PREMIUM PKG


product or service

Top Hat from Top Hat

Flipgrid from Flipgrid, Inc.*

Newsela from Newsela

E-rate Manager from Funds For Learning

Renaissance Accelerated Reader from Renaissance

Woot Math from Woot Math

iTutor from iTutor Group

Makey Makey Invention Kit from Makey Makey

DreamBox Learning from DreamBox Learning

Osmo from Tangible Play

academic gaming solution

CodeCombat from CodeCombat

Sokikom from Sokikom

ClassCraft from Classcraft Studios*

Matific from Slate Science

Grand Canyon Expedition from Brett E Shelton

Writing Games from Toolwire

Triseum Games from Triseum

Prodigy Math Game from Prodigy

MangaHigh

Exotrex Science Adventure Game from Dig-It! Games

assessment solution

FastBridge Learning*

IStation

Learnosity from Learnosity

Renaissance Star 360

Lumos StepUp from Lumos Learning

TAO from Open Assessment Technologies

Sapling Learning

Edulastic

Remark Test Grading Cloud Edition

CLASS Online Assessment and Plan

hardware solution

ViewSonic CDE7061T Interactive Flat

Belkin Air Shield Always On Protective

zSpace Virtual Reality Learning Lab*

ActivPanel from Promethean

RICOH PJ WX415NI ultra short throw projector

collaboration solution

SMART Learning Suite from SMART Technologies

Brainly

HMH Marketplace

eBackpack LMS v4

Nureva Span visual collaboration system

LiveBinders

Explain Everything

BoomWriter

WeVideo*

Declara

communication solution

Netmedia Parents Evening Booking

Blackboard Community Engagement

ParentSquare

ClassLoom

Gather Education

FlexCat from Lightspeed Technologies

OOHLALA Mobile

Bloomz App from Bloomz

FrontRow

360 Alumni from 360 Alumni*

content provider solution

mozaBook from Mozaik Education

Curriki

Shmoop from Shmoop

NewseumED

Kids Discover Online

pivotEd

Creation Crate

NextLesson

Unlock by FLVS

Cognero*

arts, music, creative

iZotope Pro Audio Essentials

Soundtrap*

Digital Theatre Plus

CoSpaces from Delightex

Travels with Music

district data solution

DataSense from Authentica Solutions*

Otus LMS from Otus

GuideK12

Global PD from Solution Tree

ParentSquare

Autodesk Sketchbook for Education

Education Data Solutions

IO Education

Achieve 3000 Leadership Edition

MAP Measures of Academic Progress

e-learning, blended learning or flipped solution

Cudoo

mozaBook from Mozaik Education

FlipIt

IXL Learning

Blackboard Personalized Learning

Edgenuity

DreamBox Learning from DreamBox Learning

PBS Learning Media from PBS

Movenote

Labster*

emerging technology solution

Fulcrum Labs

Boxlight Labdisc*

Full Measure Education

ClassWallet

HumaGram from Promethean

GoReact

Snowflake MultiTeach

Axonify

Modest Tree Media

3Doodler from 3Doodler

higher education learning solution

Top Hat from Top Hat*

Bridge U

Masters and DoctoralNet

Firecracker

SafeColleges Online from Scenario Learning

StepWise from Accuplacer

REEF Education by i>clicker

MyLab from Pearson

panOpen

Ready4

workforce skills or corporate training solution

Fulcrum Labs

University Beyond

Event Leadership Institute

Nepris from Nepris*

Salesforce Trailhead

Bridge from Instructure

Grovo from Grovo

NovoEd

Cognotion

Docebo

IT networking connectivity / access solution

vCloudPoint zero client

Uteology

Thread

Mojo Enforce

Aruba ClearPass*

learning management system

NEO LMS from CYPHER LEARNING

Edsby from Edsby

eBackpack LMS v4

Joomla LMS

Itslearning

Canvas from Instructure*

Jupiter iO by Jupiter Ed

Docebo from Docebo

D2L Brightspace

Motivis Learning

mobile (device) solution

iC30 Cart by LocknCharge

Vernier’s Graphical Analysis for Chrome

REEF Education by i>clicker

Kensington AC12 Security Charging

PadCaster*

mobile app (early childhood/elem)

eSchoolPLUS Family App

Nancy Drew: Codes & Clues

Curious World

DragonBox Numbers app from WeWantToKnow*

Waterford iPad app from Waterford Institute

mobile app (middle and high school)

Autodesk Tinkercad*

Skyward

IXL app from IXL

Schoold

KnoteSter

mobile app (postsecondary)

DubLabs

Myday by Collabco

Bb Student

OOHLALA Mobile

Coursera*

Guidebook

language learning solution

Voxy from Voxy*

IStation

Essential Spanish Vocabulary Flashcards

Middlebury Interactive Languages from Middlebury Interactive

Languagenut

parent/student solution

Blackboard Mobile Communications

Edsby from Edsby

eBackpack for Parents

LivingTree

SchoolMint*

Learning Coach Central

Skookii

IO Education

FreshGrade from FreshGrade

Jupiter IO by Jupiter Ed

presentation solution

ViewSonic ViewSync 3 Wireless Presentation Gateway

Epson DC-21 Document Camera

ClassFlow Desktop from Promethean

Maestro SIS by BocaVox

FrontRow*

professional development learning solution

SimpleK12

Global PD from Solution Tree

Edthena from Edthena

Silverback Learning Solutions

Whetstone Education*

Degreed

Insight ADVANCE

Eduplanet 21

PBS Teacherline

ASCD myTeacherSource 

classroom management solution for teachers

Top Hat

ClassInsights from WebAssign*

Edsby

Showbie

ClassFlow Desktop from Promethean

Ogment

Bloomz App from Bloomz

Carrot Rewards

Jupiter IO by Jupiter Ed

Kickboard from Kickboard for Teachers

security/privacy solution

BrightBytes Digital Privacy, Safety & Security*

EventTracker

Cisco Stealthwatch

DataSense from Authentica Solutions

research, reference, or resource solution

ABC-CLIO Solutions Database from ABC-CLIO*

Newseum ED

Defined Learning

Pearson Writer

Smithsonian Learning Lab

STEM solution

Ardusat*

Lab4u

Defined STEM

Nepris from Nepris

Bring Science Alive!

Through My Window

Elesapiens Science & Fun

Amplify Science

PrepMagic

Cengage: MindTap for Mathematics

personalized learning solution

Fulcrum Labs

IXL Learning

Silverback Learning Solutions*

Zoomi Inc

Fishtree

DreamBox Learning

Expertise Management for Corporate Professionals

Learning Curve

myON

MobyMax

special needs solution

Kurzweil 3000

SMART Technologies

Rethink First

Fast ForWord

Clicker Communicator

Capti Voice*

MAP Measures of Academic Progress

Skills for Autism by SKILLS Global

Pathfinder Health Innovations

MobyMax

MORE COOL TOOL AWARD FINALISTS:

BookPagez

iSpire from School Specialty

Standard for Success

Square Panda*

EduSystem

EdCast from EdCast

QwertyTown

Blackboard Planner

Turnitin

SlideRoom*

Tales2go

=LEADERSHIP AWARD FINALISTS: (Finalists listed below – winners are marked with *)

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edupreneurs, startups

Michal Borkowski

Stanley Watts

Alefiya Bhatia

Greg Davies

David Blake

Carol Barash

Idit Harel

Steve Wandler and Lane Merrifield*

Elad Shoushan

Johanna Wetmore

founder/ceo

Bill Goodwyn

Matthew Pittinsky

Paul Zane Pilzer*

Sam Chaudhary

Jack Lynch

Carol Ribeiro

Eric Yang

Saki Dodelson

Phyllis Lockett

Tom Davidson

school leader

Sylvain Kalache and Julien Barbier*

Barbara Nesbitt

Stu Keroff

Matt Renwick

Brad Currie

Bethany Petty

Joshua Clemmer and Michael Burke

Anna Cutaia-Leonard

Zachary Leonard

Nancy Foote

Darryl Adams

visionary

Matthew Ohlson

Alan Katzman

George Perreault

Patricia Hoge

Chad Lewis

Chris Jagers

Mark Breen

Jessie Woolley-Wilson*

Joe Ross

Damian Creamer

global leader

Kelli Campbell

Jerry Huang*

Elad Shoushan

John Baker

Donna Stoering and Andy Anderson

advocate

Charlene Blohm

John Harrington

Christopher J. Nesi

Jon Corippo

Pam Lloyd*

PR firm/publicist

J Harrison PR Group*

Communications Strategy Group

C Blohm & Associates

PR with Panache

L Wolfe Communications

MORE LEADERSHIP AWARD FINALISTS:

Jay Silver

Matthew Schnittman*

Andre Thomas*

Tyson J. Smith

Michael Moody and Jason Stricker

=TRENDSETTER AWARD FINALISTS: (Finalists listed below – winners are marked with *)

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product or service setting a trend

Wisewire

Wisetail

Discovery Education’s Techbook series

LiteracyTA

Degreed

iTutorGroup

OER Commons*

Teachers Pay Teachers

WeVideo

panOpen

leader setting a trend

Joe Catania

Donna Williamson*

William Bushaw

Len Scrogan

Zac Leonard, Dan Koch, and Alex Stubenbort

MORE TRENDSETTER AWARD FINALISTS:

Curriculum Associates

Schoolrunner*

edWeb.net*

The BLE Group

Open English

Perspectives for a Diverse America

Cirkled In

European Leadership University

PeopleAdmin’s Inspired2Educate

Blockchain Certificates

  

Congratulations to all finalists! Finalists are listed above; winners are marked with an asterisk (*). Honoree badges are above and larger file versions are available here. Also, ask us about our promotional packages to help you in celebrating your success and getting the word out about your efforts; just click here and write: PREMIUM PKG in the subject line. 

* * *

For a reminder notification about the next awards program opening, click here and be sure to include: REMINDER 2018 in the subject line. We will contact you at a later date with more information closer to opening. For a look at past instructions which will be out of date but may assist in planning, click here.

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VR in Education

Today’s challenges and tomorrow’s promise.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jon Roepke

CREDIT Oculus.pngOf all the areas where virtual reality technology is now being used, VR may hold the most promise in education. By enabling immersive experiences, VR can engage students’ imaginations in ways previously impossible. Whether experiencing the undersea wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, walking the streets of ancient Rome, or seeing inside the cells of the human body, the educational scope of VR is truly limitless. The ability to interact in these virtual worlds can enable a more intuitive, play-based form of learning. As a bonus, there are indications that VR even has the potential to increase empathy among students. Despite this, significant challenges remain to the implementation of VR as a true learning tool and not just a fun diversion. Let’s look at where VR in the classroom stands today and where it is going.

Whether experiencing the undersea wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, walking the streets of ancient Rome, or seeing inside the cells of the human body, the educational scope of VR is truly limitless.

Public high schools that have set up VR labs, such as Enterprise Charter School in Buffalo, New York, are witnessing its potential. Richard Lamb, a University of Buffalo graduate school professor working with the kids at Enterprise, has found evidence that VR can be used alongside traditional teaching to improve student engagement, comprehension and critical thinking. In a separate study by Foundry 10, an education research organization, students in 26 schools who tried VR indicated it could help increase motivation, develop new perspectives and promote interactive learning.

Perhaps the most comprehensive example of VR in the classroom so far has been Google’s Expeditions. Using Cardboard VR viewers and Android phones, Google has brought more than 1 million students in schools around the world on what they call Virtual Field Trips. With content provided by AP, National Geographic, and major museums, the destinations range from Machu Picchu to the surface of Mars. The trips have highlighted content with commentary that can be managed by the teacher on his/her tablet. The widespread success of these virtual field trips demonstrates how VR can be a great “equalizer,” providing students in any classroom with access to places and things they would never experience by other means.

In their presentation at Google I/O 2016, the Expeditions team said the most important lesson they learned was the challenge for VR to provide measurable value as an education tool beyond the initial wonder and awe of the immersive environment. For them, the key is how VR can incite students to learn by doing. An example they created was an app where you assemble an array of human bones into a skeleton as a 3-D puzzle. The Google team believes building great VR education apps will demand a multi-disciplinary approach, with input from researchers, educators and game designers.

In addition to VR’s ability to promote interactive learning, early evidence suggests an ability to increase empathy among students. A recent article in Slate notes the impact on students of a 2015 New York Times VR video series on refugees that made kids feel as if they were standing in the Sudanese desert while bags of food fell from helicopters. The study of how VR can increase empathy is a subject at Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. Their research has shown that people who used VR to inhabit avatars of a different race scored lower in tests of racial bias.

It is this shift in perspective, the enhanced ability to perceive and feel other people’s experiences, which may be the true killer application of VR. And while empathy is not technically a school subject, increased empathy not only helps today’s children have a better understanding of important social issues, but also helps them become more engaged in their communities. In a world where most communication technology seems to increase ephemerality and fragment interaction, VR could achieve the opposite, and that would be a very good thing indeed.

Despite all of its potential, very few K-12 schools are using VR today. One major challenge is expense: the best and most immersive high-end systems like Oculus and HTC Vive cost thousands of dollars. Of the schools that now have VR labs, most have funded them through grants. Smartphone-based systems like Gear VR and Google Cardboard are cheaper solutions, but many classrooms also lack the necessary high-speed connectivity. Google Expeditions solved this problem by turning the teacher’s tablet device into a local network hub. Other challenges are institutional and cultural, since historically, schools have been slow to adopt new technologies.

But perhaps the greatest challenge to adoption is this: the metrics to define VR’s educational value have not yet been codified and incorporated into accepted learning standards. It will likely take the multi-disciplinary approach outlined by Google to build VR apps with built-in methods to measure student engagement, interaction and performance, and then translate these metrics into a form that give teachers confidence that learning standards are being met. This is no small task, but the developers who take it on will fulfill VR’s great promise in the classroom.

Jon Roepke is the director of product management for Belkin International, Inc. He leads the creation and fulfillment of new business ventures, and helps define and develop technology solutions, including mobile apps and hardware for next-gen learning environments in partnership with Apple, Samsung, Google and other core technology leaders. Follow @Belkin

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The Irreplaceable Benefits

Taking a good look at edtech in the private tutoring market.

GUEST COLUMN | by Isaiah Zhao

CREDIT Wyzant.jpgIn recent years, the advent of technology has drastically evolved the education system and brought about much convenience. Some classes could be conducted online and textbooks could be completely replaced by gadgets and smart devices. Mainstream classrooms and teachers are not the only ones affected as even the private tutoring services market has been impacted.

Video technology has allowed the best tutors to tutor students anywhere around the world. Hence, there is no longer a lack of quality teachers to teach potential students. Furthermore, the increasing importance placed on test scores to get into college has resulted in an upward pressure on test scores and prep schools. Due to these reasons, the global market is valued at US$100 billion by 2018 and is projected to grow at 7 per cent CAGR. Closer to home, the U.S. market has grown from US$500 million in 2001 to around US$11 billion now, a 20x increase in 15 years.

How EdTech is Changing This Industry

Edtech has affected this industry in many ways. Inspiration can be taken from South Korea, where it accounts for 15 percent of the private tutoring industry. Much can be argued and debated about the national education system in which private education costs account for about 12 percent of total household expenditure but without a doubt their hagwon is the most advanced in the world, with the quickest adoption of edtech. The adoption of video technology has risen many of these super tutors to almost celebrity stature as they teach millions of students every year. This is supported by their successful strategies that has allowed their students to score superior results, which adds credibility to their status as super-tutors.

As technology advances, these online lessons will only become more life-like and both tutors and students alike benefit from the convenience.

While the South Korean market may seem like a dystopian scene from a horror movie, the truth is that it may become the reality locally in a few more years. The U.S. market has been burgeoning in the past years as tutoring companies feed on parent’s fears about their children’s’ inability to keep up. The fastest growing group of customers are high school students who are driven by insane competition for college admissions. A great tutor can make a crucial difference in a child’s life, not only for building scholastic skills required for entrance examinations but also in fostering confidence and building other soft skills.

Why One-to-One Tutoring is the Best

Yet for all the hype about how technology can revolutionize the way we learn and the allure of having classes online, experts are saying that one-to-one tuition is better. Bespoke tuition services are proven to yield better results compared to having mass lessons. Personalized lessons allow for tutors to address the idiosyncrasies of a student and tailoring the lesson to the child’s learning ability, commitment level and expectations. For example, there are many A-students who want A-pluses which would not be able to learn anything from a typical classroom setting catered to normal students.

How EdTech Companies Should Approach This Market

Many U.S. companies have already noted this trend and are already vying for a piece of this growing pie. With reference to other developed countries in Asia such as Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea, the industry only grows faster as times goes. In tutor-matching services, existing players such as WyzAnt (www.wyzant.com) and Tutorz.com (www.tutorz.com) already controls a lion’s share of the pie. The value add that these new companies can potentially bring is through using technology to teach lessons online. The danger with such an approach is the tutors may be tempted to teach more students at once and therefore unable to devote their attention to the specific needs of the children.

Moving ahead, the tutor-matching services are still likely to stay given that individual tutors are still more effective in giving personalized lessons. The advancement of technology allows for these existing companies to innovate and introduce different business models to cater to the needs of the users. For example, Yodaa (www.yodaa.co) a tutor-matching company in Singapore has a very different business model from other tutor-matching services and is proving to be popular among users.

As Effective as Real-Life Interaction

For new technological companies to gain a piece of the private tutoring pie, these companies have an uphill task ahead of them as they must make online teaching through channels like skype as effective as real-life interaction. The current trends look positive as these companies attempt to develop more effective communication channels such as Revolution Prep where they have a two-way webcam with a shared whiteboard. As technology advances, these online lessons will only become more life-like and both tutors and students alike benefit from the convenience.

The tale from South Korea not only serves as a warning for placing too much emphasis on grades and results, but also the ineffectiveness of having extra tutoring lessons in a classroom setting. After all, students are already enrolled automatically in classroom lessons in schools and it is precisely because of its ineffectiveness such that a private tutor is required. As much as technology allows for greater connectivity and productivity, some things will never change—one of which is the irreplaceable benefits of having a personalized tutor.

Isaiah Zhao is a first-year student at Singapore Management University and currently pursuing degrees in both Law (L.L.B) and Business Administration (B.B.M). He aspires to work in the financial sector and is currently a member of SMU Student Management Investment Fund (SMIF) to hone his skills as an analyst. Contact him through yodaa.co

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