The Coming Revolution in EdTech

There has never been a better time to be bold.

GUEST COLUMN | by Rusty Greiff

CREDIT 17761776 was a killer year for a start-up! In that 12-month span, and in the decades that preceded it, a community of ambitious entrepreneurs channeled unusual courage, conviction and a world-shaping vision into a working MVP – an independent American life. They were probably a little bit crazy – but their 250-plus year “pilot,” with its necessary pivots and A/B tests, has proven to be an imperfect but sustainable success story.

Our Challenge Cup series, held in over 16 innovation hubs globally, and growing to over 50 cities around the world next year, identifies the most dynamic education start-ups in the world.

Today, a new band of Jeffersons, Franklins and Adamses is launching start-ups that re-imagine how we learn and teach through adaptive and personalized platforms, engaging and interactive products, and sophisticated data analytics and assessment tools—in some cases in the palm of our hands.

We hear the bubble-bursting declaration from skeptics, but the Edtech Revolution is alive and still playing in a 5 million person open online course near you!

Last month I joined Washington, D.C.-based global incubator and seed fund, 1776, to identify and partner with these high-potential and performing teams to launch and help scale transformative learning companies.

Through my own efforts with phenomenal teams – at Grockit, Sylvan Learning and other edtech start-ups – in successfully scaling learning businesses, and through my failures in poor product launches and missed growth opportunities, I’ve learned that turning a great idea into a viable product and a sustainable company takes a lot more than access to capital. The biggest challenges facing investors and entrepreneurs in edtech remains product adoption, competitive differentiation, sales cycles and growth timelines.

Every month, well-intentioned and aspiring entrepreneurial teams are realizing that an ever-changing and overwhelming mosaic of regulations, powerful branded market leaders, and complex purchasing and delivery dynamics can impede growth at the global, local and state level by intimidating entrepreneurs, institutions, and consumers alike.

At 1776, we believe early stage growth is realized only when the best, highest-impact products and teams are integrated with distribution channels, expertise and relevant school and consumer relationships to validate their products and models. Through our evolving national network of decision-makers, funders and corporate and non-profit partners, we help promising companies cut though red tape and navigate conventional potholes.

Our Challenge Cup series, held in over 16 innovation hubs globally, and growing to over 50 cities around the world next year, identifies the most dynamic education start-ups in the world that we connect with senior government, education, business, investor and operating leaders to nurture edtech companies, often culminating into global corporate, consumer and institutional partnerships.

There are new revolutions to launch and we see compelling trends that should encourage edtech innovation including:

  • Increased for-profit educational spending – with over $125 billion spent in childcare, K-12, post-secondary, and corporate/life skill training – roughly 10% of the estimated $1.3 trillion education spending in the U.S. in 2014;
  • Impressive capital invested especially in seed and Series A – with over $1.3 billion invested in edtech companies in the U.S. last year;
  • New funding sources from global foundations, family funds, and philanthropic venture vehicles to new seed accelerators are, in many cases, thoughtfully channeling capital into for-profit edtech companies;
  • Explosive growth in the global educational consumer – especially in the Middle East, Asia and African markets – in core and supplemental products and services providing greater opportunity for U.S.-based startups and international edtech companies to scale in emerging markets;
  • A multiplying effect as life-long learners using mobile platforms and consumer devices offer new content, curriculum and personalized or collaborative instructional opportunities; and
  • The “science of learning” in data analytics, efficacy research and assessment is transforming the products and models impacting forward-thinking schools, institutions and their community of learners.

Educational entrepreneurs have extraordinary problems to address – from early childhood development, to closing achievement gaps in K-12, to teacher success and effectiveness, to improving college preparedness, retention, and graduation as well as 21st century skills and career readiness.

So patriots, unite! With such an array of important challenges to solve, there has never been a better time to be bold. We at 1776 are excited to partner with fearless teams, rule-adjusters, imaginative thinkers and doers, and a community of partners to launch the next wave of smart solutions that will transform education around the world.

Onward!

Rusty Greiff is Managing Director of 1776, a Washington, D.C.-based global incubator and seed fund that helps engineer the success of the world’s most promising startups tackling important challenges in education and other areas.

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Top 10 Geography EdApps for Kids

GUEST COLUMN | by Karen L. Mahon

When we’re reviewing educational apps, we find that the toughest academic subject to find high quality educational apps for is Social Studies. It seems like there must be a million drill-and-kill flag apps, but really strong instructional content is much more rare than we’d like. To make your hunt for high quality geography apps a bit easier, today we’re sharing Balefire Labs’ 10 top rated geography apps. These apps have stronger instructional design than the bulk of the geography apps on the market that we’ve seen. Hope they’re helpful to you in finding resources and helpful to your kids for learning geography!

Here we go, starting with number 10….

#10 TapQuiz Maps World Edition

TapQuiz Maps World Edition app iconBy Rolzer, this app presents a printed name of a state, province or country and the learner must find that location on a map. This app does not have adapting levels of difficulty, nor is it mastery-based. But it does have error remediation and detailed performance reports. We recommend this app for ages 10-19+ years. It is available in the iTunes store only (Free). To see Balefire Labs’ full review of TapQuiz Maps World Edition, click here.

#9 GeoBee Challenge HD by National Geographic

GeoBee Challenge HD app iconBy the National Geographic Society, this app has three challenges: multiple-choice geography questions, tagging locations of printed names on an interactive map and tagging spots on a map that correspond to pictures of locations. Unfortunately, this app does not include adapting difficulty, error remediation or performance reports, but it is mastery-based, so kids can’t continue to the next, more difficult level without mastering the current level. Because it does not have error remediation, be mindful of giving it to easily-frustrated students to use independently. We recommend this app for ages 10-14 years. It is available on the iTunes ($1.99), Google Play ($1.99) and Amazon Kindle ($1.99) stores. To see Balefire Labs’ full review of GeoBee Challenge HD, click here.

#8 Capital Cities of the World Countries Quiz

Capital Cities of the World Countries Quiz app iconFrom Bogumil Sikora & Paridae, this app is all about learning world capitals. The app presents the name of a country and the learner must choose its matching capital city from an array of four choices. This app does not have adapting levels of difficulty, but it does have error remediation, detailed performance reports and is mastery-based. This app does include ads. We recommend this app for ages 12-18 years. It is available in the iTunes (Free) and Google Play (Free) stores. To see Balefire Labs’ full review of Capital Cities of the World Countries Quiz, click here

#7 Tiny Countries

Tiny Countries app iconBy TapToLearn Software, this app presents multiple-choice geography problems and the learner must choose the image, from an array, that correctly answers the question. The problems are grouped by continent and the learner cannot progress to the next continent until the current one is mastered. This app does not have error remediation, so again we urge caution when using with easily-frustrated students. It also does not have detailed performance reports. It does, however, have adapting difficulty levels and is mastery-based. We recommend this app for ages 9-12 years. It is available in the iTunes ($3.99), Google Play ($4.99) and Amazon ($4.99) stores. To see Balefire Labs’ full review of Tiny Countries, click here

#6 US Geography with Flat Stanley HD

US Geography with Flat Stanley app iconBy Flatter World, Inc., this app requires that the learner use an onscreen slingshot to fling Flat Stanley onto the target named state. The learner must then construct, letter-by-letter, the name of the state to which Stanley has been flung. We like that this app is mastery-based, but it does not have adapting difficulty levels, error remediation or detailed performance reports. As ever, we recommend caution in using an app without error remediation with easily-frustrated students working independently. We recommend this app for ages 8-12 years. It is available in the iTunes store only ($1.99). To see Balefire Labs’ full review of US Geography with Flat Stanley HD, click here.

#5 Intro to Geography – North America, by Montessorium

Intro to Geography - North America, by Montessorium app iconIn this app, from Montessorium, the learner is required to complete a variety of activities, including matching the shape of the country to its location on the map by dragging it, touching a country given its spoken name, matching a country name and its flag by drawing a line between them and matching a country shape to its printed name. This app has adapting levels of difficulty and is mastery-based, which will help provide motivation, but does not include error remediation or detailed performance reports. Our usual warnings about the lack of error remediation apply. We recommend this app for ages 7-12 years. It is available in the iTunes store only ($3.99).  To see Balefire Labs’ full review of Intro to Geography – North America, click here

#4 EdScout Europe

EdScout Europe app iconThis app, from iHomeEducator, presents the name and flag of a European country; the learner’s task is to touch the corresponding country on an onscreen map. This is a simple and easy-to-use app. It does not have adapting levels of difficulty, nor is it mastery-based, but it does have error remediation and detailed performance reports. We recommend this app for ages 11-16 years. It is available in the iTunes store only (Free). To see Balefire Labs’ full review of EdScout Europe, click here.

#3 EdScout World

EdScout World app iconThis app, also from iHomeEducator, works exactly the same way as EdScout Europe, but presents the name and flag of any country in the world. The learner’s task is the same; she must touch the country on the map that corresponds to the name and flag. As is the case with EdScout Europe, EdScout World does not have adapting levels of difficulty, nor is it mastery-based, but it does have error remediation and detailed performance reports. We recommend this app for ages 11-16 years. It is available in the iTunes store only ($3.99). To see Balefire Labs’ full review of EdScout World, click here.

#2 Earth Challenge

Earth Challenge app iconFrom Tegulan, Earth Challenge is similar to the EdScout apps in that it presents names of places and the learner’s task is to find and touch the location named on the world map onscreen. Earth Challenge does not have adapting levels of difficulty or error remediation (use caution, as usual), but it is mastery-based and has detailed performance reports. We recommend this app for ages 9-19+ years. It is available in the iTunes store only (Free) To see Balefire Labs’ full review of Earth Challenge, click here.

And the #1 educational app for geography is… US Geography by Mindsnacks.

US Geography by Mindsnacks app iconThis is our all-time favorite geography app that we have reviewed. There are eight different and fun activities in this app and it targets state history and culture, capitals and cities, state shapes, famous landmarks, flags, nicknames and mottos, and lakes, rivers and other landforms. That is a larger range of content than we’ve seen in any other geography app. But on top of that, US Geography by Mindsnacks has adapting levels of difficulty, is mastery-based and has detailed performance reports. The one key feature we’d like it to have is error remediation, which is currently lacking. But the adapting difficulty and high rates of responses required by the app will keep most kids motivated and engaged. We recommend this app for ages 10-13 years. It is available in the iTunes store only ($1.99). To see Balefire Labs’ full review of US Geography by Mindsnacks, click here.

And because we like it so much, here is a video preview:

We hope this list has been helpful to you in your quest for the best geography educational apps for kids! Please let us know what you think.

Karen L. Mahon, Ed.D., is the founder and president of Balefire Labs, an educational app review service for PreK-12 that evaluates apps for instructional quality. To learn more about the integration of educational apps in the classroom, watch the free webinars with Karen, sponsored by the Center on Innovations in Learning at Temple University, now available On Demand on Balefire Labs’ Professional Development page.  Balefire Labs is an online review service for educational apps for iOS and Android; they’ve reviewed more than 3,700 educational apps to date and evaluate them according to their instructional quality and usability, based on scientific research. To access all of the reviews available on the Balefire Labs website, sign up for a free account here.

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Cool Tool | Ed Tech Developer’s Guide

Ed Tech Developers GuideJust released: the Ed Tech Developer’s Guide, a first-ever guide for developers, startups and entrepreneurs from the U.S. Department of Education. “We canvassed all parts of the education ecosystem to make sure the guide will help meet the actual needs of the folks out there who want to apply technology in smart ways to solve persistent problems in education,” says Richard Culatta, also speaking for Marcus Noel and Katrina Stevens from the Office of Educational Technology. Secretary Arne Duncan officially released the guide this morning at the ASU+GSV Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona. Also, check this out: you’re invited to join them for two Twitter chats about the guide:

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Effectively Communicating

Finding the right technology to connect to the right students. 

GUEST COLUMN | by Teege Mettille

CREDIT Northland CollegeAt Northland College, a small private liberal arts college along the south shore of Lake Superior in Ashland, Wisconsin, we have the unique mission of combining the liberal arts with a focus on issues of the environment and sustainability. Our 600 students come from communities throughout the United States and around the world. Because we are a small school with a unique mission and approach to higher education, we must do a good job of communicating who we are. At the same time we need to attract the students who are well matched to our college. To confront this challenge, we needed a partner with an honest approach that would work well to connect students with colleges that would be a good match; one that doesn’t just send us lists of names, but would work closely with us to get our message in front of the right student at the right time.

Many colleges are combining innovative education delivery models with equally innovative recruiting practices.

If they had the direct experience of working with colleges and they knew how to reach out to students we might otherwise have missed, that would be the partner we would want. That would be a tremendous advantage. In addition, if they helped us remain connected with our best potential leads throughout the recruiting process, that would also be desired. Their involvement with us would mean that our efforts are less resource-intensive and more personal for each student. The result would be an increased ability to meet our admissions goals.

The Ideal Partner

A partner that brings a team of experts with specific knowledge and expertise in each phase of the process would be an ideal partner. We would want professionals with in-depth knowledge of admissions processes and a wide range of skills relevant to our needs – everything from social media to on the ground knowledge of the state of Wisconsin and what it has to offer students. In these days of social media and mobile devices, one should be able to go to a team with questions about pretty much anything and get a good perspective on how best to proceed.

A partner offering a strong tool would be one focused on connecting students who are truly interested in what we have to offer. If every student who fills out a profile is doing so for the express purpose of providing our school with information about themselves, then there is great benefit to us in seeing what they are actually interested in, who they are, and why they are considering our school. It is a vastly better way of getting accurate information, instead of just looking on their Facebook account. In fact, we were lucky enough to have found exactly that kind of partner in Chegg Enrollment Services.

Changing Nature of Admissions

The 
emergence of “for
-profit” colleges has
 changed the nature of the admissions process. Many colleges are combining innovative education delivery models with equally innovative recruiting practices. Colleges in general have to be mindful of how they try to attract students in this highly competitive environment. Working with a trusted partner, I have the confidence that our recruiting practices will be ethical and effective, and will reflect accurately our focus on embracing innovative education delivery models.

A partner that can really nail the customer support and relationship end of things is a particular plus. Working with a team so diverse in interests and talents makes it easier to connect with admissions administrators and potential students. And it also helps if they are a pleasure to work, but these days, a partner always on the edge of innovation in what they do to ensure effective communication — is a vital requirement that cannot be ignored.

Teege Mettille is Executive Director of Admissions at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin. Write to: tmettile@northland.edu

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Trends | For Educators (from Apple)

CREDIT For Educators from AppleAn FYI that Apple has released a cool new “For Educators” page designed to be a good first place to look for apps, books, courses and collections of interest to professionals in the field of education. The education resource brings together content from iTunes U, the App Store and iBooks Store to help educators in their professional practice – highlighting lesson ideas, activities, sample courses, success stories, professional development materials, and links to curriculum by level and subject. Inspiring lesson ideas, teacher’s start kits, apps for teachers, books for educators, using apps in the classroom, teaching with iPad, content creation in the classroom, courses aligned to standards and success stories are all part of a rich mix of resources presented in an easily accessible way. Check it out on iTunes: itunes.com/ForEducators

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