MEP 077 Dan Cogan-Drew Newsela Meet Education Project EDUKWEST

MEP #077 with Dan Cogan-Drew, Co-Founder and CPO of Newsela

In this episode of Meet Education Project, Dan Cogan-Drew shares some early life experiences that have influenced his work in the field of education. He also talks about the company he co-founded, Newsela, an education technology start-up that delivers written news to readers in K-12 classrooms.

Guest Bio:

Dan brings twenty years of professional experience spent working towards a more perfect union of education and technology.

Most recently, Dan was the founding Director of Digital Learning at Achievement First Public Charter Schools, where he spearheaded the integration of digital learning technologies across twenty-two schools, including flipped classrooms, mobile learning, and 1:1 computing. He was also a founding member of the Gates Foundation Next Generation Community of Practice, traveling the country to visit sites of innovation and reviewing dozens of software products across K–12 math and literacy.

Prior to this, Dan was Director of Programs at the Connecticut Career Choices Program, where he developed blended high school STEM programs and co-authored one of the highest rated applications to the Race to the Top I3 grant program. Before that he taught and developed federally funded professional development programs in the Graduate Department of Education at Tufts University. Dan also rode the dot-com boom as a content producer at Fact City, a search engine startup.

He began his education career in Teach for America in Wrightsville, GA, and went on to teach in public and private schools, as well as in the US Navy. He holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from Wesleyan University, an M.A. in English Literature from Brown University, and an M.A. in Educational Studies from Tufts University.

Dan is a longtime youth and college coach and two-time world champion ultimate Frisbee player (1999 and 2000) with the legendary Boston club team Death or Glory. He and his wife are raising two Newsela readers in New Haven, Connecticut.

Show Notes:

01:58 Dan’s background

03:16 I’m sure that your upbringing and what you’ve gone through and the experiences that you had have had a huge impact on your success at all those different levels.

05:27 So you yourself struggled with some literacy issues early on

06:00 What was the different way that you started to go go about it in graduate school?

10:33 I’d like to get into the company. What was the genesis for the company and the product that you’ve been developing?

14:44 You had to level the content at five different levels. How do you go about doing that? What’s the software that you developed that does that sort of work?

17:52 As a student progresses through Newsela and whatever content that they’re reading, how do the teacher and student know when they are able to move to the next level? Is there something adaptive that says the student is now ready based on how they’ve comprehended the existing level?

20:21 Right, and the kids start challenging themselves, and engage with the content.

21:27 Do you see applications in the future for fiction content, not just non-fiction?

23:13 Most achievers have a really close relationship to failure. Can you let the audience in on a failure that you’ve experienced and how you and the company have been able to grow from it?

26:33 What is the book that’s most influenced you and why?

Count of Monte Cristo

Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey

28:07 Do you watch documentaries, and if you do, what’s your favorite? Favorite movie?

Good Will Hunting

29:21 If you could have dinner with someone you admire, past or present, who would it be and why?

3rd grade teacher Tom Doran


Meet Education ProjectFor more episodes featuring thought leaders in education visit, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and follow Nick DiNardo on Twitter.

Nick DiNardo is the founder and host of the Meet Education Project, a podcast series featuring entrepreneurs, VCs and thought leaders taking action on the future of learning. Nick has worked in education for 10 years, working for some of the big players (Pearson & McGraw-Hill), as VP of Marketing for a seed stage ed tech startup, and an independent consultant. He also serves on the board of directors for Argosy Collegiate Charter School in Fall River, MA. When he's not chatting about the future of learning, Nick is reading, traveling, golfing, or drinking a glass of whisky (sometimes, all of the above).