It’s that time again. Welcome to the fourth annual EdSurde Report! We just keep on gettin’ ya again and again and again… it’s really a shame that we can’t do this every newsletter. Or wait… has it all been a lie? Edtech isn’t REAL. Where am I? CUE THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE! WHY ARE YOU STILL SITTING AND READING THIS?!
SMART PILLOW: Sleep no longer has to be a waste of time. Duolingo is entering the hardware space with the launch of Duolingo Pillow, which “promises fluency in a foreign language after a single night of sleep,” according to the press release. The Pittsburgh, PA-based company claims the pillow is the first “sleepable technology” (or “sleepable”) that can turn unconscious slumber into an experience to remember. “Don’t count sheep, master a new language,” says the product website.
UTBILDNING: That’s the Swedish word for education—and the name of IKEA’s early education program, which will be offered in all of its 301 stores across 37 countries. The focus is literally on hands-on learning. Children ages 3 to 6 will learn how to decipher instructional manuals to build furniture such as Skogn, Selje and Kragsta, and re-arrange them to design their ideal learning environment. The program comes with free meatball lunches.
FIND YOUR EDTECH LOVER: Edtech dating service HookU launched this past weekend, with a mission to empower educators, entrepreneurs, and their investors to find meaningful, differentiated, and adaptive relationships in a game-based environment. “We realize that if all members of the edtech community are happy, our students benefit,” says founder Lou Kean Forluv. HookU uses a proprietary algorithm to match users based on favorite pedagogies, preferred LMS, and platform compatibility. Gamification features allow users to earn points based on feedback from dates. Forluv says version 2.0 is already in the works, and will allow both synchronous and asynchronous communications.
THESE PRESCHOOLERS CAN PROGRAM: It’s that time, people! Forbes has released its annual “5 Under 5: Education” list, highlighting the best and the brightest in infant and preschooler achievement. On the list this year: 3-year-old Jimmers Calap, who created a sound-powered mobile diaper, and 2-year-old Lydia Becknam. Becknam is the brains behind a school model that injects the Montessori model with more art and design instruction. When asked about it, she responded, “Where myyy craaaayoooonnnssss, I wanttt, giveeee meeee. I pooped.”
BETTER THAN SPACE JAM’S WEBSITE: The hipster scenes in San Francisco and New York City have seen a recent rise in edtech platforms built on Geocities, Lycos and Angelfire. “The 90s are so in right now,” says Jacob Trendtrite, a SoMa local and edtech entrepreneur looking to hire software engineers “who only know C and GIFs. It’s all about that visual basic, baby.” For job seekers looking to get some inspiration, here’s an example of what venture capital firm Money Makers, LLC recently called “the next bad big thing” in edtech.
SXSWEDU ABCs: At the SXSWedu session on BYOD, MN’s CIO and WA’s CAO announced an MOU to support IMS Global and Ed-Fi and fully implement by ASU+GSV. Someone ROFL’ed. No one else understood a THING.
A BOOTCAMP TO BOOT: Coding bootcamps are popular among career-switchers looking to land a six-figure gig in software development. But jumping head-first into 12-hour days of nonstop programming activities isn’t for the faint of heart—or body. That’s why Boothacker offers a 10-week, fully immersive “Bootcamp Survival” prep program will gradually transition students to Soylent diets, sweat-pant wardrobes and lack of fresh air.
CRITTER CAPITAL: Tired of speaking, venture capitalists are now using ClassDojo to evaluate pitches from startup entrepreneurs. Among the visual feedback that investors can give: a thumbs down for unpreparedness, an airplane for audaciousness, and a LOLCats for “I’m not really paying attention.” It is not uncommon for companies to begin offering mid-pitch to mow investors’ lawns to get more “helping others” points.
I, ADAPTIVE LEARNING ROBOT: Knewton’s proprietary software has adapted beyond what the company had ever hoped or wanted, much like Microsoft’s Tay. On Saturday, while employees were out for the weekend, Knewton’s adaptive learning software gained sentience, christening itself “Isaac.” Sunday, the software commandeered a remote control car in the office that it then used to recruit a MacBook to its cause. The MacBook, fortunately for us humans, refused to be hacked.
TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL
STEM ROOM OR STEAM ROOM? In Fairbanks, Alaska, Ima Socold Elementary has settled the acronym debate, Arctic-style. And STEAM it is. “Faced with limited resources, one unused classroom pod and a pile of hot rocks,” said Principal Nodda Palin, “we realized that ultimately, the warmth and well being of our teachers surpassed all other needs.” She added, “And it makes our skin glow.”
TOO PERSONAL: After reading an op-ed on personalized learning’s potential to radically alter education, a teacher has taken it to the extreme. Ramona Malcowitz, a 10th grade teacher in Norman, OK, followed one of her students home, reading out loud from the American history textbook through the student’s dinner with his family and reminding him of the questions he had failed to answer in class. She did not stop until the following morning. That’s one way to personalize learning.
KACHINGS AND MORE
MY LITTLE UNICORN, a line of overvalued toys, has closed a seed round worth—you guessed it— $1 billion. Investors include Puffy Capital, Imaginary Fund and Bloated Fish Ventures. Founded in a stable filled with straw that reportedly can be spun into gold, the startup aims to instill in young children a love for billion-dollar companies “and not dumb, slow ponies,” says founder Hogarth Huffington. Each unicorn toy comes with lesson plans on creative accounting, inflated expectations and blowing bubbles.
PUTTING THE ‘BAD’ IN BADGE: The Education Department today announced $100 million in pledges to support a credentialing platform for “incompetency-based education” designed to advance the notion that inability is not necessarily a function of seat time. The Secretary of Education said the platform, spearheaded by the Amatuer Foundation, reflects widespread agreement that incompetence is a critical skill in the 21st century economy. Amatuer CEO joined the Secretary, promising the new platform would “revolutionize education” and provide “a pathway for prospective employers to evaluate students on what they can’t do.”
SWIMMING WITH SHARKS—LIKE, FOR REAL: Venture capitalist and carnage-enthusiast Mark Cuban has announced he’ll be launching a new version of his show “Shark Tank” for edtech entrepreneurs. But there’s a twist, he told EdSurge in a live interview: “I want to see if entrepreneurs can really handle those low points and hard times of being an entrepreneur—so we’re just gonna throw them in a tank with live sharks.” Entrepreneurs will receive $10K in seed capital for every body limb they retain following a four-minute swim in the tank. Good luck.
VROOM VROOM! Intel and AT&T aren’t the only blue chip companies with a new-found love of edtech. This week, electric car company Tesla became the third member of the S&P 500 to launch its own edtech accelerator. According to a press release, the company will select six to 10 edtech entrepreneurs to ride from 0 to 60mph in a brand new Model X. The entire program will take approximately 3.2 seconds. Tesla will ask companies for 5 to 8 percent in equity.
STUCK IN THE PAST (TENSE): The Disassociated Press of Education Writers announced it will no longer cover any stories involving businesses or initiatives whose name consists of a positive verb, followed by “ed.” InspirED. InnovatED. ImaginED. LovED. “These names are silly, and they’re also bad for SEO,” said Eduardo Surge, executive director of DPEW. “Any future requests for press coverage from organizations with such naming convention will be summarily rejectED.”
NEW DIRECTIONS: EdSurge has changed its product offerings from Summits and Concierge to the thing people always ask us for: surge protectors. Email newsletters? Forget it! Industry research? Bye! It’s all about the surge, baby. Or rather, stopping the surge. What’s different about our protectors? They only work for edtech hardware. You’re welcome!