HEAR YE, HEAR YE: Pearson officially announced applications for its second round of Catalyst, the incubator that the company launched in 2013. According to Diana Stepner, Pearson's VP of Innovation Partnerships, this application process will look slightly different from last year's. First up, Catalyst is offering a total of ten challenges "that Pearson is looking to partner with startups to address" (including "Learning Outcomes Rubric & Data Platform" and an "English Language Learning Game"). Catalyst will also be a virtual incubator this year, meaning that startups will not have to relocate in order to participate. (Last year, acceptees worked at Pearson's headquarters in London.) Applications for Catalyst can be found here.
COURSERA'S FEMALE STUDENTS: Coursera celebrated International Women's Day (March 8) by sharing insights about its female students, who make up 40% of its users. Among countries, Romania currently has the highest proportion of female students (nearly 50%), followed by Greece and Canada. (The U.S. ranks fifth at approximately 42%). Courses about food and nutrition, teacher PD, and medicine were the most popular, while computer science and engineering ranked at the bottom. (Sigh.) Also illuminating is the data on the fraction of students at a given age who are female, which in India dips significantly at age 20 but spikes again at age 50. "Female Courserans themselves are living proof of how online education empowers women," writes the authors.
DONOR DATA DIALOGUES: K-12 crowdfunding site DonorsChoose is looking to help the public understand what iPad donations and fully-funded projects reveal about schools in America. Recently, DonorsChoose.org CEO Charles Best gave Co.Design access to the company's data on what teacher-proposed projects get funded. As reported in FastCompany, Best explains that DonorsChoose hopes that releasing this data will help make, "government education spending smarter, better targeted, and more responsive.”
Turns out that the best place to be a student is in New York, where teachers proposed 1,894 projects for every 100,000 students in the public school system from 2008 to 2013. (Sorry Ohio students--you had the lowest rate, with 380 projects per 100,000 students.) Some other key data points:
- Music and arts projects were the most successful funded campaigns, while applied learning requests (this includes tablets/computers, early childhood development products, and college prep materials) were the least successful;
- Eight of the nation’s ten least-funded states for literacy and language are in the South (with Arkansas being the one exception);
- DonorsChoose still has a higher success rate than comparable sites--69% of projects are funded in comparison to general crowfunder Kickstarter's 44% success rate.
Curious to learn more? Compare each of the states' donation data with FastCompany's interactive infographic.
WHAT'S AN AVOCADO? In an op-ed on Huffington Post, Sabina Bharwani, director of educational technology at Teach for America, argues that content providers could do a better job at "culturally responsive teaching" so as "to acknowledge the need for reflecting end consumers in the makeup of any company." With all the attention on the lack of diversity in the tech industry, Bharwani says entrepreneurs can no longer be "culturally neutral to the needs and aspirations of culturally diverse learners." Teachers often make culture-specific requests to companies, and those that have responded--she cites BrainPOP and Qlovi--have been able to grow their user base. Hey, Sal: Not everyone knows about the joys of avocados!
OUT OF THE SHELL: Forbes contributor Jordan Shapiro has a lengthy Q&A with Jim Shelton, deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, on the big issues from personalization and privacy. Here's Shelton's take on the latter: "We also don’t want unwarranted panic to result in bad legislation or regulation that robs us of the opportunity for the potentially fantastic advancements ed tech holds. That would be like someone passing laws that keep us from buying nice things because burglars might break in and steal them."
X'ED OUT: EdX announced an "expanded membership structure" that will allow other universities, foundations and organizations to join its community, which currently numbers 32 institutions. Notable additions (aside from schools) include the Smithsonian, International Monetary Fund, and the Linux Foundation, which will be offering its "Introduction to Linux" course (which usually costs $2,400) for free. The press release touts this as a move towards making a broader array of courses accessible--but only if you live in U.S.-friendly countries. Like Coursera, edX is subject to federal regulations that requires it to block students in Cuba, Iran and Sudan due to political quabbles.
NOT JUST A FIVE-WEEK FIX: Teach for America is no stranger to criticism, specifically when it comes to the organization's five-week summer training program (called "Institute") for incoming corps members. But TFA's leadership appears to have been listening to those "poor teaching training" call-outs. During her SXSWedu keynote last week, former CEO Wendy Kopp referenced Teach for America's plans to provide a year of training for a subset of its newest college recruits. This news had been previously announced in the week by current TFA co-CEO Matt Kramer during a "What's Next for TFA" address in Nashville, TN.
In his address, Kramer explains that TFA will run a pilot to test the senior training waters. The pilot will target 2,000 college juniors applying for TFA's 2015 corps. A small percentage of that group will receive a year of training with classes in pedagogy, cultural competency, and classroom topics like management. More info here.