The Socratic Method for Edtech Entrepreneurs
Edtech accelerator Socratic Labs commemorated the graduation of its first (“Alpha”) cohort of educational technology companies this week at the Centre for Social Innovation in New York. Socratic Labs founder and master connector Heather Gilchrist, formerly of Grockit, told EdSurge that her ongoing goal for Socratic is to create a thriving edtech ecosystem, to provide entrepreneurs with the resources and networks they need, and to educate investors in the unique opportunities and challenges of the edtech marketplace.
To this end, the labs even provided attendees with a 50 term “Edtech Glossary,” so the non-initiated can begin to separate their FERPAs from their COPPA’s (not to mention their CMS’s, LMS’s, RTI’s, ELL’s, CCSS’s...). Here's a synopsis of the six (of eight) Socratic-incubated that companies presented at the event:
Careerosity provides crowdsourced advice and “career narratives” for university students entering the job market or dissatisfied employees looking to change careers. Founder Waine Tam, a Princeton-educated Goldman alum who transitioned into e-mentoring and entrepreneurship, cites the egregious lack of career guidance in higher education as his inspiration, noting that while most job sites focus on the past, Careerosity focuses on the future, highlighting lifelong learning opportunities and career aspirations.
NuSkool aims to close the engagement gap in urban education by providing gorgeous lesson plans that bridge the gap between classroom teaching and pop culture. Lesson plans, hand-crafted by a team of young teachers, focus on pop music, sports, television, video games, celebrities, and just about everything in the teen and tween cultural landscape. Nuskool co-founder Abran Maldonano notes that the company already has rabid fans in urban schools (both teachers and students), and have penned deals with major educational publishers.
PenPalNews is a learning platform designed to spur “global collaborative learning and dialogue” by connecting students in different locations through passionate writing about a variety of topics in current events. CEO Michael Bernstein, a former producer of NPR’s “On The Media,” envisions a world in which learning is social, topical, and authentic (and aligned with CCSS Writing Standards, of course). Schools seem to agree: 25% of PenPalNews beta schools have become paid customers, and the site is spreading fast.
Student Loan Hero is working to be Mint.com for students--a single place to manage, organize, and repay student loans, while providing users with additional resources and strategies for becoming debt-free faster. As the debate over student loan reform continues to rage, the debt continues to skyrocket. Student Loan Hero already handles more than 340 million dollars in student loans, and the staggering numbers show no signs of slowing.
Teachley is an educational game studio created by three Teacher’s College Ph.Ds and cognitive researchers. Their first elementary math game, Addimal Adventures, is a rarity in the App Store: it has both a deep foundation in educational research and high quality production with the help of top-notch animators and voice talent. Teachley has already received over $1M in grants, but the sky’s the limit: co-founders Rachael Labrecque, Kara Carpenter and Dana Pagar are looking to create a suite of mobile learning games for the consumer and school market, each targeted toward a high-need Common Core-aligned learning objective.
Unbound Concepts adds a wide of variety of “education filters” to the world of print and digital content, allowing teachers, consumers, librarians and curriculum buyers to find resources at the right age level, reading level, theme, context, vocabulary difficulty, and more. Unbound’s CEO, Katie Palencsar, herself a former curriculum buyer, says that Unbound Concepts uses a combination of AI, machine learning and crowdsourced reviews to filter its content intelligently. Unbound’s Bookleveler app is in use by 10,000 teachers and librarians, and a web app is on the way; Unbound is also making deals with major education publishers and digital content partners.