NYCDOE iZone Issues First Edtech Challenge

NYCDOE iZone Issues First Edtech Challenge


GET TO WORK: The New Year's barely a week old, but the New York Department of Education's iZone (which we covered here) already has a mighty tempting assignment. On Monday, NY mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott issued the nation's first district-sponsored challenge through iZone's Innovate NYC Schools initiative.

The inaugural Gap App Challenge asks developers to submit functional apps, games, or other programs for two categories: one dealing with curriculum and instruction (with a specific focus on middle-school math), and one for creating better engagement opportunities for educators and parents. (An example would be something that provides them with actionable data about student learning and encourages them to collaborate.) Tech requirements and other question are addressed in the FAQ.

The application involves the usual background and description, along with images, videos, step-by-step testing instructions, and how the product can be used in a pilot and align to Common Core Standards. Here are some tips on what they're looking for.

Applications will be reviewed by two panels, one comprised of teachers whose main task is to ask, "Is this something that I would want to use in my classroom?" The other includes a motley crew of DOE officials, techies, and investors who will weigh in on who gets the cash prizes. ($15K in cash to two first-place winners, $5K each to two runner-ups, and $1K each to five honorable mentions. All nine also get $6K in Amazon web service credits). They include:

  • Kara Swisher (AllThingsDigital)
  • Alexis Ohanian (Reddit)
  • Matt Greenfield (RethinkEducation)
  • Tom Vander Ark (Learn Capital)

Cash and bragging rights aside, what's probably more valuable is the opportunity to pilot in iZone classrooms. All participants are eligible--even if their stuff isn't 100% polished. Says Steven Hodas, Executive Director of Innovate NYC Schools: "There'll be a separate process to reach out to developers for apps that may not be ready for prime-time--the diamonds in the rough--but show potential for use."

And don't fret about working with the largest school district in the U.S., reassures Hodas. "This is not an RFP. We're not putting out a set of specification that says this is what we want. We are presenting a problem knowing that there are a number of different ways it can be solved. This is the essential component of challenges. We want to look at anything that can be potentially be used." Submission from both startups and companies who've already been on the market will be considered.

Applications are due April 10, and winners are set to be announced in June. Follow @innovatenycedu for updates.

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