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  • 10.20.11

EdSurge: Mapping The Edtech World, Flipped Classrooms, And More…

The latest stories from the bleeding edge of education thinking.

A
few highlights from the recent issues of EdSurge,
the edtech entrepreneur’s weekly roadmap.

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MAPPING
THE WORLD

Every pioneering settler needs a map and now the NewSchools
Venture Fund
has started to make one of the edtech world. With
support from the
Laura and John Arnold
Foundation
, and contributions from edsurgent dudes Michael B. Horn and Anthony Kim, NSVF’s Ted Mitchell and
Kristina Ransick have pulled together a marvelous connect-the-dots portrait of
the industry, cataloguing companies into four high level groups (such as
curricula and instructional systems) and then into more specific areas (under curricula:
tutoring, test prep, digital textbooks, etc). The project aims to give
entrepreneurs and funders (nonprofit and for profit) a clearer view of the
industry. The market map OF 230 companies was unveiled at a meeting of
philanthropists in San Francisco. Click here to start
your voyage through the edtech marketplace
. The challenge, of course, is
keeping it current. Other catalogues of the edtech world, such as StartL’s Dealbook,  have
languished. No word yet on how this one will be maintained.

NOT
TO BE FLIPPANT:

We’re fascinated by the rumbling debate on the “flipped classroom”
model, where students watch lectures at home and do teacher-guided homework in
school. Fans
are exuberant.
Skeptics raise the “digital divide” issue: we
can’t take for granted that everyone has the hardware and networking gear to
stream videos. (That’s led by Microsoft,
Comcast,
Best Buy, and others working with the FCC’s Connect to Compete initiative to try to
bridge the gap.) Then there are the critics: Education blogger Frank Noschese
worries about the excessive
marketing hype
around Khan and warns against the rebirth
of the “filmstrip teacher.”
Liz
Dwyer from GOOD asks
whether a video is more active or engaging than
reading a textbook. Who’s to say that students are paying attention–or just
chattering away on Facebook? (This latest
study
from Rey Junco suggests this is where they spend on average 106
minutes a day.) Even earning “badges” for working through problem
sets is tricky, as
students using Khan Academy in Los Altos schools are learning
.

What
gets lost in this whole “flipping” debate (forgive the pun) is the
fact that it’s a tool. And just like you can’t use a mallet as a screwdriver,
one tool won’t educate every student. (Personalization people!) Illinois
teacher Brian Bennett emphatically reminds us “the
flipped class is not about the videos”
.

EdSurge
agrees: we’d like to hear more about how teachers are deploying
video as part of a multi-faceted teaching strategy
–even if they learn a
few lessons along the way because it doesn’t work as
planned
–rather than treating video lectures or the flipped classroom as
the cure-all for our education woes.

BLENDED, NOT
STIRRED
So
called “blended learning” continues to be the biggest buzzword in
this industry. The term embraces many instances where schools fuse technology
and traditional teaching. Exactly what does that mean? Industry consultants, Ed
Elements, offer up this
spiffy, eye-candy video
explanation of the different flavors of
“blended learning” that it has seen. These guys should know: they’re
the architects behind a number of pilot blended learning programs throughout
the U.S.

THE
GRADES ARE IN
: Last week’s 2011
Excellence in Action National Summit on Education Reform
also rolled out
the Nation’s
Digital Learning Report Card
, grading states’ digital learning programs on 10 criteria. The yet-to-be-released bill tracker feature looks promising
for policy wonks.

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UNPREPARED
FOR CLASS
:
Clever advertising from edtech company, Knewton:
an infographic
about how unprepared
many American students are for college (see below).
Knewton knows a bit about prepping: the Manhattan-based privately-held
edtech firm, which employs 70 people, makes test preparation programs that it
reports are used by thousands of students at colleges and universities
including Arizona State University, Penn State University, University of Nevada
(Las Vegas), Mount St. Mary’s and Washington State University.

It’s
prepping itself for a bigger role in education, too. Last week, Knewton
announced it had raised a $33 million series D financing round from investors
including Founders Fund, education publisher
Pearson, as and previous investors, Accel, Bessemer and FirstMark.

Knewton
got its start in the lucrative test-prep business and has been building an
“adaptive” engine that presents learners with different types of
problems depending on how they’re doing. So far, it’s operated in the post
secondary space. But Knewton plans to use its newfound equity cash–along with
the partnership with Pearson and, on the horizon, other significant
publishers–to get into K-12. Schools hunting for “adaptive” language
arts programs will likely welcome the move. Jose Ferreira, Knewton’s
blunt-speaking founder and CEO
, tells EdSurge
that Knewton will likely launch its K-12 programs in 2012. “You can only
be competitive if you convince publishers to adopt you as a standard,”
Ferreira says.

EdSurge is a community watering hole and resource for those engaged in the emerging eco-system of education technology. Sign up for their weekly newsletter here.

[Image: Flickr user frankjuarez]

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