Tag Archives: edtech

European Education Technology

The Failure of European Investors to fund European Education Technology

The recent acquisition of French e-learning company CrossKnowledge by US publisher Wiley for $175 million is another example of something that we at Edxus have been charting as a trend for some time: the apparent failure of European institutional investors to recognise the strong case for investment in European education technology.

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BR Education Ventures Fund

HEDLINE: Bertelsmann launches €30 million BR Education Ventures Fund

Bertelsmann, an international media company based in Germany, announced that it will raise a €30 million ($43 million) education technology fund in partnership with Brazilian investment company Bozano Investimentos.

Bertelsmann holds a 30% stake in the BR Education Ventures Fund, Bozano Investimentos serves as the fund’s manager. A first closing in the amount of nearly €20 million has already been completed.

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LearnLaunchX Boston

Overview: The seven Edtech Startups in LearnLaunchX Winter Cohort

Editor’s Note: This post has first been published on edcetera – straight talk on edtech.

LearnLaunchX, the Boston based edtech accelerator announced the seven startups that will take part in this year’s Winter cohort. The startups receive up to $18k in seed funding, free workspace for up to six months, access to the LearnLaunchX mentors and other perks.

The goal of the accelerator is to bring these early-stage startups to a point where they have validated their business model and are therefore be attractive to investors. The demo day of the winter cohort is set for May 2014.

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start edtech

EdTech: Not Quite There Yet

Just like we use B.C. and A.C. today to divide history between two periods, so will B.I and A.I be added in the future to reference that point in time when Internet really changed everything. I do not know what that date will be, but it certainly hasn’t arrived yet, because despite all the hype the Internet is still in its infancy -especially when it comes to its Educational potential.

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EDUKWEST 100 Audrey Watters Hack Education

EDUKWEST #100 with Audrey Watters of Hack Education

EDUKWEST 100 Audrey Watters Hack EducationAfter more than three years of edublogging, vlogging and interviewing I’m happy to share that EDUKWEST made it to its 100th episode!

It’s without a doubt an achievement for the site itself as you, the audience, see the value in our work. I will admit that I am also a little proud of myself that I have had the endurance to continue doing the interview series when it’s definitely a challenge to figure out how to make it viable for the team but to keep it ad free and free of charge for our users.

You will have noticed by now that EDUKWEST gets some (philanthropic) support from Macmillan Digital Education and if you know someone who would like to do the same, please put them in touch with me. If someone would like to buy one of us an occasional cup of coffee whilst editing video and audio we are happy to receive your donations as well.

Long story short, for my special episode I invited my esteemed colleague Audrey Watters who has been writing for Hack Education almost as long as I have been doing EDUKWEST.

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Over the Counter Data in Edtech

Over-the-Counter Data Is the Next Frontier for Data in Edtech

Over the Counter Data in Edtech

Educators have widely accepted the importance of using data to inform their treatment of students’ needs. This is a good thing, as research touts the benefits of effective data use. Thus many educators worldwide have embraced data use with gusto. Unfortunately, educators’ widespread data use is not quite a good thing.

A significant portion – and some research claims most – of educators analyzing and using data are doing so incorrectly. For example, a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education (2009) at districts with reputations for strong data use found only 48% of teachers correctly interpreted given data. Much research supports this trend: educators are using data to inform decisions, but they do not always understand the data they are using. Since their data-misinformed decisions impact students, this is a significant problem. Fortunately, edtech can do much to help if it improves in key areas.

Consider an Analogy

Which offers you better medical care: 1) treatment or medicine administered via a personal visit with a doctor, or 2) over-the-counter medicine administered by yourself? The answer is easy: a personal visit with a doctor, as he or she can ensure the treatment or medicine is used appropriately. However, this does not supplant the need for over-the-counter medicine, as it is not always possible to visit a doctor for every cough or sniffle. While a doctor is not present to explain the over-the-counter medication’s purpose, ingredients, dosage instructions, and dangers, any remedy you buy in a store comes with a detailed label and other supports outlining these matters. Just as it would be wrong to board up pharmaceutical aisles in stores and withhold basic medicine from people who are not receiving it directly from doctors’ hands, it would be equally ludicrous to rip the labels off over-the-counter medications, leaving people with no way to use them wisely.

So, how does this relate to schools and edtech? Educators use data to treat students, and they use edtech data systems (or reports generated from those systems) to analyze this data. However, these educators are usually operating without the data-equivalent to over-the-counter medicine. They are essentially opening data bottles with no labels, and swallowing the contents nonetheless. This is because supports that commonly accompany over-the-counter medicine to ensure it is used properly (thorough labeling, supplemental documentation, online access to a help system, effective package/design, and appropriate contents) are not utilized in most of the edtech data systems or reports educators use to analyze data. Thus this highly utilized sector of edtech typically denies educators the analysis supports that could significantly improve educators’ use of the data.

How Has Edtech’s Data Role Progressed?

Before the rise of technology and user-friendly data systems, school staff did not have site-wide access to data like they typically do today. Staff and students could not benefit from extensive, timely data such as classroom assessment data that could be used to closely monitor student progress and customize instruction accordingly. Perhaps staff received blocks of data by the government, a consultant, or a district-based trainer once or twice per year, but this could not help their students on an ongoing formative basis, and it only offered educators isolated points in time during which students’ needs could be assessed and remedies determined. With this arrangement, educators were like patients with limited access to doctors and no access to over-the-counter medication.

Now most schools are using a data system with an intelligible interface that puts data at the fingertips of most staff members. However, the data reports contained therein are generally not accompanied by guidance on their purpose, how to properly read them, how to properly interpret the data, and analysis misconceptions to avoid. Essentially, educators are like patients using medication in unmarked – or marginally marked –containers. A data system might label a report (“Growth Report,” “Year-to-Year Comparison,” etc.), but relying on mere titles is akin to taking pills in a bottle marked only as “Cold” or “Flu.” Anyone using such data to inform decisions is assuming as much risk as someone opening a pill bottle that reads “Flu” and chancing ingestion of the wrong number of pills, at the wrong time, for the wrong type of flu, and in direct opposition to dangers. Imagine the ramifications for students and staff affected by the decisions made in such a way.

With educators making so many data analysis errors even at districts known for their data prowess, current data analysis supports are clearly not enough. Professional development (PD) is needed and effective, as are good leadership and staff to assist with data use, but we further these supports’ impact when we prescribe an Over-the-Counter Data (OTCD) format for the data we are using.

What Is Over-the-Counter Data?

There is no price tag tied to OTCD. Rather, it is a design approach any edtech data system or report is free to utilize to help educators make more accurate analyses of data. While most data systems are simply “showing the data,” OTCD addresses key ways in which they can better help educators use that data correctly. Inspired by the varied ways in which over-the-counter medication supports the successful use of its contents, OTCD involves embedding data analysis supports directly within reporting environments and adhering to best practices within 5 component categories:

Label – The label functions as an appropriate report title (clear, concise, consistent with logic of report suite titling) and appears as a footer and/or annotation on each report to provide the most important information needed for analysis.

Supplemental Documentation – Since you should not cram all information needed for analysis onto the report itself, explanatory information accompanies each report via links to an abstract and/or interpretation guide providing more analysis guidance specific to the report and its data.

Help System – An online help system built within the product and accessible via an easy-to-spot link offers lessons on using the system (tech lessons), which is common, but also on data analysis (specific to the data and assessments used in the users’ region), which is uncommon.

Package/Display – Report format (how the data is displayed) assists proper analysis by maintaining credibility, offering key features, and adhering to principles of good design that assist analysis ease and accuracy. Reports are accessible (e.g., it’s easy to find a particular report) in a manner that offers easy navigation.

Contents – Reports operate with input controls that specifically facilitate recommended data investigation practices, feature expiration- and audience-sensitive contents, and comprise a suite of reports covering all key needs without overwhelming users.

Specific attributes contained within these OTCD components are detailed at www.overthecounterdata.com/otcd. These recommendations summarized by OTCD are based on research in education and edtech, as well as research in a variety of other fields (e.g., behavioral economics, design, business analytics, technology, etc.). OTCD assumes an edtech data system or data component already meets basic requirements widely accepted and discussed for at least a decade (students tied to unique identifiers, online access for all staff, longitudinal reporting capabilities, etc.), which so many data systems already include, and summarizes what their next milestones should be.

What Can We Do?

OTCD holds great potential to help educators and – most importantly – students, but only if it is implemented in areas of edtech and reporting that communicate data to education stakeholders. Everyone involved in education and edtech can play a role in this endeavor:

Educators – You are the edtech customer and thus edtechs respond to your requests and want to meet your needs. Communicate your need for OTCD to your edtech vendor and work to see your OTCD requests implemented in any area where data is being communicated. Knowing most educators are misusing data in its absence, OTCD is an urgent request.

Edtech Staff – If your system includes a component that communicates data, adjust your system to adhere to OTCD. This has a significant impact on students and thus is a matter of moral responsibility. Fortunately, OTCD also creates more cost-effective efficiency in your product and improves your product’s success and marketability.

Edtech Investors – When determining which edtech startups or projects in which to invest, check edtech candidates for OTCD. Many edtech products contain a feedback component where they are communicating data, and poor communication is not cutting edge. Rather, a firm understanding and implementation of OTCD allows edtechs to perform better and thus compete better in the market, all while being more efficient with design and resources. Products adhering to OTCD are more worthy of your investment than those failing to implement research-based practice.

OTCD is the next frontier for data in edtech. It is time for conversations about edtechs that display data to hold higher standards and reflect OTCD best practices ascertained by the research community. When Over-the-Counter Data is realized in products educators use to view, understand, and use data, it will be a great victory for students and all roles seeking to help them.

C12 Audio Podcast

C12 Interview: Ilan Samson of QAMA Calculator (Audio)

C12 Audio Podcast

C12 Interview: Ilan Samson of QAMA Calculator

  • recorded: July 27th 2012
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Enter QAMA, truly one of the coolest, most thoughtful, welcome bits of ed tech to hit math classrooms in a very long time. Created by Ilan Samson, a retired physicist and serial inventor, to address exactly the problems I described above, the QAMA calculator forces students to provide a reasonable estimate for their answer before it will output the exact answer.

C12 Interview Ilan Samson QAMA Calculator

C12 Interview: Ilan Samson of QAMA Calculator

Editor’s Note: The post originally appeared on ZDNet Education. Click here to read the entire post.

C12 Interview Ilan Samson QAMA Calculator

Calculators are designed to eliminate the need for repetitive, tedious arithmetic, leaving time to actually think about the math. When used correctly in the classroom, modern graphing calculators can do wonders for visualization, simulation, and encouraging that critical thought that we’re all after.

They were supposed to eliminate the tedium and simple mistakes that plague many calculations but instead have become the go-to device for any math problem. Worse, students frequently lack the mathematical savvy to know when the answer output by the calculator doesn’t make sense. Estimation, it would seem, is a lost art.

Enter QAMA, truly one of the coolest, most thoughtful, welcome bits of ed tech to hit math classrooms in a very long time. Created by Ilan Samson, a retired physicist and serial inventor, to address exactly the problems I described above, the QAMA calculator forces students to provide a reasonable estimate for their answer before it will output the exact answer.

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Ilan covered much more complex functionality later in our interview (I’m afraid that when you stick a couple of math geeks together, we can get a bit long-winded, so I didn’t include the entire interview here); however, the concept remains the same. Force students to demonstrate conceptual mastery and then give them the exact answer. The calculator is really quite amazing in its ability to determine appropriate degrees of allowable error and to prevent gaming of the system through any sort of trial and error. In fact, the logic built into the little machine would make one heck of a case study in a computer science class.

The calculator also allows for the estimating requirement to be turned off, but not with out a set of randomly flashing LEDs alerting instructors that students aren’t stepping through the full process in determining their answers. It isn’t often that a device will make me really say “Wow – this could be a game-changer.” The QAMA calculator, though, is precisely that. At around $20 a piece, these little devices are quite inexpensive and yet stand to change the way a couple generations of students have been using calculators. The ability to simply estimate is so critical in not just mathematics, but in all applications of math; the QAMA calculator is a no-brainer place to start in shifting the way our students learn math, logic, reasoning, and more.


How Using A Drawing Tablet Revolutionized My Online Tutoring Service

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by James Ashenhurst (@jamesashchem). He is a Ph.D. organic chemist, online tutor and the founder of Master Organic Chemistry, an online guide to introductory organic chemistry. In collaboration with Metamolecular he recently published theReagents app for iPhone, a guide to the 80+ reagents in undergraduate organic chemistry.

I’m an organic chemist and I tutor the subject online through Skype. Chemistry is a very visual subject. So one of the major problems I had to solve in order to provide a valuable online tutoring experience was to be able to draw structures for my students in real time.

My initial approach was to buy a dry-erase board and an HP webcam and to hold the board up in front of my webcam when I wanted to show my students something. Unfortunately, this was not without its problems: if bandwidth was tight, my video would get fuzzy, and I’d often have to
refresh my screen. Sometimes I’d be refreshing my screen >15 times per session. I am certain that the poor connection quality led to the loss of several tutoring clients, who were clearly disappointed with the experience.

Another problem with using a whiteboard was that it failed to give a student a permanent record of what we talked about. This meant that students had to take notes during our session, and I had to hold up my whiteboard to the camera for extended periods. One brute force way around this – recording sessions – led to file sizes of >1GB, which presented its own problems. As an alternative, I found myself spending time after each session writing down a text summary for each student’s tutoring session. This ate up a lot of extra time – sometimes as much as 30 minutes per session.

What I wanted was to be able to draw something on my screen and have my students see it in real time. So about a year ago, I bought a Wacom Bamboo Pen Tablet. The idea was to draw structures on my tablet while using the Screen Share feature on Skype. After playing around with a few drawing programs I found TabletDraw by Moo software, which provided me with a very customizable drawing platform.

Basically, this just lets me create blank slides, which I can write on in any method I choose, and then save them as JPG files. When the session is done, I zip up all the JPGs and email them to the student.

After implementing this I noticed four things

  • First, my students never complained that they couldn’t see my screen, so their happiness with the experience had increased considerably.
  • Secondly, since I could now save my drawings, I could now give my students a permanent record of what we talked about.
  • This led to the third effect: we could cover more material during each session, since I no longer had to hold up my whiteboard to the camera, waiting for the student to finish taking notes.
  • Finally, I no longer needed to create text summaries of the main ideas of our sessions afterward, so it saved me countless hours of extra work.

In other words, this approach led to better, more productive tutoring sessions for both myself and my students. Because we were covering more ground, I could feel justified in charging more, and furthermore I spent less time after each session making summaries. It was the single best  $70 I’ve ever spent for my tutoring business.

Hopefully it shouldn’t be too hard to see how a tablet can be used in combination with Skype to tutor other subjects with a visual element, such as mathematics, physics, or biology. I hope you find this helpful!