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EdSurge: Word Jousts, Groupons For Higher Ed, And The Flipped Classroom

EdSurge–a weekly handbook for the “edsurgents” of the digital education revolution–is sharing notable news with Fast Company every week.

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Education is going
unplugged. Entrepreneurs and educators from all over–Silicon Alley to Silicon Valley and far outside the U.S. boundaries–are
experimenting with tools aimed at changing the way we learn as radically as
digital technology has morphed how we communicate, shop, even how we make friends. EdSurge is becoming a weekly handbook for the “edsurgents” of this digital
revolution. Now the EdSurge team will share notable snippets with Fast Company every week.

Here are a couple of questions that
have been making the rounds of those working on
education reform: What slows down edtech companies, particularly
startups? What can the government do to help get technology that
genuinely accelerates learning into the right hands? In late August, the
Obama administration unveiled its Startup America partnership,
aimed at giving additional support to, yep, startups. Now we’re hearing
rumblings that more support is coming for folks–including teachers,
edtech entrepreneurs, and others–who are thinking hard about designing
and using technologies to ramp up learning and teaching. A “learning
technology” shindig at the Eisenhower Executive building is planned for
Friday September 16, starring Sec. Arne Duncan. All the gory details coming soon. 

GETTING TO THE ROOT OF IT: Fascinating projects going on over at Mountain View-based Root-1, a quiet startup with some powerful brains at work. Root-1 has debuted two seemingly simple games: Xwords, which offers up contemporary crossword puzzles, and Word Joust,
a vocabulary-building game that students can play solo or in
competition. This first Word Joust is built around 3,000 SAT-type words.
But 10,000 students in Singapore (soon rising to 40,000) are playing an
experimental, browser-only version (Word Kungfu) based on elementary
school word lists.

At the core of Root-1 is a platform that can handle
any list. Later this autumn, the team plans to open its doors so that
anyone can create their own Word Joust (or Kungfu, or other linguistic
melee). Built into to Root-1s projects are some cool adaptive techniques
that should help the platform deliver ever more relevant games the more
people play. Did we mention that former Google execs’ are jousting away
at Root-1? We call that sirenic!

DOES THIS ADD UP? Chicago-based National Louis University offered a steep tuition discount on Tuesday, using Groupon. The university’s deal is a nearly 60% discount for a three-credit introductory course that is part of a graduate degree in teaching. It’s available for 15 takers (students) and will close by the week’s end. Groupon’s magic has long been about coaxing consumers to try oh, say, eyebrow threading and eyelash extensions by offering a can’t-be-beat deal. Seems an odd way to convince people to become teachers. We wonder how many will click on the “Buy it for a friend!” option? (Groupon, meanwhile, said Monday it is reevaluating the timing of its IPO. Blame the markets? Or Groupon managers odd attitude toward the sacrosanct pre-IPO quiet period?) We’ll wait for a discount on classes at Harvard.

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FLIPPIN’ CLEVER: Lots of people ask how to be a “thought-leader” in a noisy marketplace. Here’s a clever approach: Knewton sponsored a smart infographic about what the “flipped” classroom means. Neat way to galvanize the discussion–and keep Knewton‘s name front and center.

[Top Image: Flickr user Alaskan Dude]