Imagine K12 Graduate Profiles: CodeHS, NoRedInk, SmarterCookie

Imagine K12 Graduate Profiles: CodeHS, NoRedInk, SmarterCookie


On Friday, October 26, the third cohort of eleven startups in Imagine K12's program presented onstage to investors and media for Demo Day, the culmination of their fast-paced, three-month journey through the edtech incubator program. In our ongoing series this week, we'll take a look at each company and see what they're all about. (See our profiles of EdCanvas and here and our profiles of Digit Whiz, Tioki and DSK here.)

Code HS teaches students the basics of coding through video lessons, in-browser practice, and personal help.

Co-founders Jeremy Keeshin and Zach Galant met during their freshman year at Stanford. As lead teaching assistants for introductory computer science classes, they saw that having a positive initial experience in coding helped to keep students engaged for a long time. CodeHS focuses on teaching the logic and philosophy of code rather than the syntax. Early lessons use a dog named "Karel" to visually demonstrate to students what their code is doing.

How Does It Work? Students watch videos and practice coding in-browser using Javascript. Tutors grade a student's code and offer comments and suggestions.

Who's Using It? The program launched this spring and a few high schools are now piloting it, including College Track in Oakland and East Palo Alto's Phoenix Academy.

Business Model: CodeHS offers freemium content with subscription levels at $25 and $75 a month for home users. Interested parties can contact CodeHS for their school rates. Subscriptions offer personalized help, debugging, and access to more content.

Competition: Other MOOCs including Codecademy and Treehouse teach coding using videos and in-browser practice; still others, such as CodeHero, offer in-browser opportunities to experiment with code. Even so, CodeHS further supports its experience with personalized tutoring.

Check this out: CodeHS scales its tutoring system, allowing high performing learners to become teachers.

NoRedInk generates online grammar practice based on the interests of the student. Teachers get to see a color-coded heat map of their students' strengths and weaknesses.

For founder Jeff Scheur, a major pain point of teaching high school English was correcting the same grammar mistakes over and over. Papers became a tedious affair rather than an opportunity to connect with students.

He tried grammar workbooks but their content was often limited and they still had to be graded by hand. After grading 15,000 papers over eight years of teaching, Scheur decided to attack the problem head on: Developing NoRedInk became his personal mission to allow teachers to focus on high level concepts and not reduce grammar practice to multiple choice questions.

In September 2012, the product was awarded $75,000 in NBC's Innovation Challenge; Scheur has also raised $450k in seed funding from Learn Capital and Hyde Park Venture Partners.

How Does It Work? A student selects his interests the first time he logs into NoRedInk. Topics range from movies, sports teams, and musicians to the names of friends. This generates a personalized curriculum in the grammar categories his teacher chooses. Teachers receive heat maps of their class' performance in different grammar categories.

Who's Using It? In the eight months following its launch in Februrary, NoRedInk gained 70,000 teacher and student users across 4% of schools in the US. While students from kindergarten through college are using it, Scheur says that he would like to target the middle school through high school market.

Business Model: Teachers and students can sign up for free. A premium version is also available for $10 per student per year. NoRedInk currently has 300 schools on a waiting list to pay for this premium content, which consists of expanded grammar categories.

Competition: We're just starting to see digital technology attack literacy in earnest. Expect to see more competitors emerge in 2013.

Check this out: Beliebers will be happy to track down the missing comma in this sample sentence--"If Justin Bieber doesn't get his hair cut soon his grandma will be very upset."

SmarterCookie allows teachers to upload classroom videos and receive timestamped feedback from coaches and other teachers.

Tess Brustein and Mike Gerson met in college. As a teacher and consultant, respectively, they felt that the system of lecture-based professional development was broken. They developed SmarterCookie as a way to extend the reach of coaches and keep professional development personal, by collecting video of teachers at work and sharing it with relevant commentators.

How Does It Work? Teachers record their lessons with an iOS device or webcam and upload it to SmarterCookie. They can then share their video with coaches or other teachers who can give them feedback at specific points in the video.

Who's Using It? Since launching in September, SmarterCookie has found traction with Teach for America coaches as well as a few charter and public schools in Brooklyn.

Business Model: Teachers can sign up for free and share videos with colleagues. Coaches can buy subscriptions which support networks of teachers, allows coaches to post their own best practices videos, and upload longer videos. Plans start at $25 a month to support up to five teachers. The subscription is covered by the coach's school unless he is a private consultant.

Competition: Other video professional development products like Torsh's Talent, MyTeachingPartner, and Great Teaching, Great Feedback.

Check this out: Schools can build local libraries of video--that means teachers can check out the best practices from other teachers from their area who are dealing with similar issues and students.

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