Last Tuesday and Wednesday, Jason Calacanis hosted the first LAUNCH Education & Kids Conference in the Microsoft Silicon Valley Conference Center. The two day conference featured more than thirty startups on stage, showcasing new features or presenting their company for the first time in public.
In this first post covering the event, I am going to focus on startups in the classroom technology and teacher development space.
Teacher Training & Development
Bloomboard is one of the two winners at SXSWedu that took place earlier this year. The platform enables school administrators to observe and evaluate teachers and then offer them tailor made learning plans. The aim is to get away from the one size fits all model in teacher development in order to provide them with truly individualized support and professional development.
My opinion: I think it’s a logical step to offer teachers the same individualized learning tools we want to see for students. Personal and adaptive learning is the way to go, so why should teachers be the ones who have to learn their things the old way?
Demo Lesson wants to streamline the teacher recruitment process from both sides, the school administrator as well as the teacher who is looking for a job. As many schools already ask for recordings of demo lessons, teachers can simply upload their recordings to the website, fill in all other information needed which leads them to a complete online CV. Teachers can then browse through open positions and directly apply for an interview on the Demo Lesson website.
On the other end, the person in charge of hiring new teachers has an interface in which all applicants are shown with their profile. Based on the uploaded demo lesson video, administrators can get a quick first impression and with a few clicks they can invite interesting applicants for an interview.
Demo Lesson is the winner of the Startup Weekend EDU Bay Area event earlier this year.
My opinion: In an increasingly tough and competitive job market, new and more efficient ways to recruit good teachers is an interesting vertical to be in. The process seems to be straight forward and tailored to the needs of teachers and administrators alike. More general platforms like LinkedIn don’t seem to be that popular in the education space hence Demo Lesson (great name for the product) should be able to gain good traction.
Global Imagination / Magic Planet
Global Imagination is the company behind Magic Planet, an interactive globe for the classroom. The company started to build this product for museums as the price point was hefty, around $25,000 per piece. Now priced at around $6000 the Magic Planet is getting into the reach of schools and I think it is a pretty amazing product for the classroom.
An interactive animation is displayed inside of the globe with makes it look as if a real small planet is standing in the classroom. This way various concepts can be explained, from weather to earthquakes, tsunamis and much more. Of course, the planet displayed is not limited to the earth, it can be any other planet in the solar system.
My opinion: Though I really like the technology and product, I think the price point is still very high, probably too costly for most classrooms. The judges at the event were also worried about maintenance costs and how robust the product actually is. Nevertheless, Magic Globe is far ahead of the learning experience compared with a classic globe or map.
SMALLab Learning is a startup that builds embodied learning environments. Embodied learning is an emerging field that blends the learning sciences and human computer interaction. Cognitive scientists found evidence that humans learn better when their entire body is involved in the process. Through SMALLab Learning’s products students are not only using their minds to learn but can interact with experiments in science class.
My opinion: Similar to Magic Globe SMALLab Learning is enhancing the learning experience in the classroom by offering more than just sitting on your chair and watching a video or listening to the teacher. I think it’s great to see that class time finally gets redefined and that moving around is also becoming a normal activity outside of sports classes.
Nearpod gives teachers control of what students see on their iPads when used in the classroom. Teachers can create interactive and multimedia rich presentations from anywhere, as all content is hosted in the cloud. In the classroom they can then beam the presentation on students’ iPads and control what the students are able do with it. There are also features that enable students to directly submit responses, and teachers can then measure those results on an individual or aggregate basis.
My opinion: Everyone knows that students are not always paying attention to what the teacher is doing. If you give them iPads I think one can be sure that some of them will use it to do other (allegedly more interesting) stuff in class. With Nearpod the teacher has total control of what is being displayed on the iPads and it also helps the teacher to get instant results on how well their class is performing.
ManyLabs is a learning platform that incorporates games, simulations, and sensors. These lessons have a foundation in math and data, and they will span a range of topics: biology, physics, energy, ecology, urban planning, economics, health, and statistics. Using old mobile phones and cheap sensors, ManyLabs creates tools to measure a variety of different things like pollution in the water, air pressure, temperature and so on.
Through the web based platform students and teachers can create and share lessons with minimal coding, or upload, download and share the data they gathered.
My opinion: Again, a startup that wants to make science more engaging, relevant and fun. Using simple and cheap technology in combination with an open, web based platform the possibilities are endless as a whole community of enthusiastic teachers and students are going to shape the product over time.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, LAUNCH Media, LLC