EdSurge’s Plans for 2016

column | Entrepreneurship

EdSurge’s Plans for 2016

By Betsy Corcoran (Columnist)     Dec 9, 2015

EdSurge’s Plans for 2016

In late 2010, a group of four of us got together and began planning EdSurge. We had two ideas in mind: We wanted to support the education technology ecosystem that was beginning to take shape. And most critically, we wanted to give schools and teachers as much information, contacts and support as possible, with the goal of helping everyone make strong decisions about the emerging tools and the implications of using those tools for teaching and learning.

That’s what we’ve been doing for almost five years. It feels like we’re just getting started.

More than a million words (literally!) later, I’d like to share what we’ve learned, questions still gnawing at us and some of our goals for 2016.

Stories matter

Yep, we’re committed to telling stories and to helping others who have something insightful to say to tell their tales. More than 500 people have published on EdSurge so far. We’re eager to expand that network, especially to those whose voices are often muffled—including students.

We want to hold ourselves to a high standard, too: Expect to see us dive deep into tough stories this year: What are the conditions under which technology is making a difference? When does it not? Why?

When we started EdSurge, many of the companies that we wrote about were little more than a whisker of code written by someone munching on ramen noodles. As organizations have grown in size and complexity, so, too have our questions. We’ll be doubling down on exploring the impact of technology in education—and who is delivering on the promises they make.

People matter

So, you’re thinking: “C’mon EdSurge, did it really take five years to figure out that people matter?” Well, no—but insofar as what we should do about it, well, yes.

Here’s why: Over the past three years, we’ve now hosted 18 full-fledged conferences on technology, more than 30 meetups, four jobs fairs, two awards programs and heaven knows how many gatherings and panels. The learning that happens at these events is extraordinary. Even more so is what people want to do when they meet.

Educators have asked us to ramp up the professional learning opportunities available at our conferences. We finally feel we have the resources to deliver that—for teachers and for other education leaders. And we’re excited about giving the companies that have some of the most widely used products opportunities to do more training at our events as well.

Educators deserve personalized learning

“Personalizing” education for students became a theme of this past year. We believe that education leaders could use some personalization as well. We’re doing this by growing our Concierge product and service, which offers educators a way to short-list tools that are most appropriate for their school and teachers.

Learning doesn’t stop after high school

During EdSurge's first five years, we’ve focused squarely on the experience of teachers and students up through high school. But of course, high school is just one marker. We're now starting to ramp up our writing about the role of technology in learning beyond grade 12, from experiences in community colleges and four-year institutions to the learning that happens outside of formal schools. To help guide our work, we’ve assembled an Advisory Council of seasoned research and strategy organizations including The New Media Consortium, SRI International and Tyton Partners.

Expect to see more stories about the role of technology in higher ed, starting, for now, in the postsecondary section of our site. We will also start adding more structure to our Edtech product index to include tools designed to serve older students. Along with hearing more from faculty in higher ed, we hope to amplify the voices of students seeking technology to support their learning goals. And we also intend to shine a light on students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds as they create paths to future opportunities.

EdSurge was fortunate in its early days to have some support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to build out our product index. I’m pleased to report that the Gates Foundation has awarded EdSurge a two-year cornerstone grant to explore the impact of digital learning in higher ed. Expect to see us write more, build out our index and spur robust conversation around the role of digital learning in post-secondary institutions. But as in K-12, EdSurge’s work in higher ed will extend beyond digital learning and follow the issues and debates that emerge in the community.

Raise that bar

We’re raising the bar—for ourselves, too: Just as we expect more from the edtech companies that are now more established, you should expect more from EdSurge, too.

In addition to expanding into higher ed, we have big plans for our K-12 work. This includes developing a fuller research program, such as a year-long project on the edtech industry; richer, deeper journalism, refreshed and vibrant presentation of our Edtech Index; a snappier, deeper jobs program; more thoughtful professional development learning opportunities; and yes, a fresh look for our newsletters and the site overall.

With a little help from our friends

That work will take smart people, time and additional investment—and I’m pleased to share today that our investors agree. We’ve raised an additional $2.8 million in funding for this work. The funding comes primarily from our current investors with two new groups joining: 1776.vc and the Omidyar Network, which is a philanthropic investment firm, making both for-profit and nonprofit investments. With that funding, we’ve grown our team to about 30 people.

Our independence remains critically important to us and to our investors and to our board. We're proud to include Jennifer Carolan (Reach Capital), Matt Hanson (GSV Capital) and Tory Patterson (Catamount Ventures) as board members, along with me and Tyler McNally (EdSurge's President). But we are equally proud that the EdSurge team members together own a healthy majority of the company.

We continue to be awed and inspired by the thousands of educators and entrepreneurs we meet all the time. So thank you—for reading and making use of EdSurge, and for giving us a spot in this evolving and exhilarating world of education. We are indeed learning every day.

Learn more about EdSurge operations, ethics and policies here. Learn more about EdSurge supporters here.

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