NBC's Education Nation Slated for September

NBC's Education Nation Slated for September


MAKE A NOISE, FIND YOUR VOICE: For the third consecutive year, NBC News is hosting a three-day long talkfest around education, its "Education Nation" symposium. It will take place on Sept. 23-25 in New York City, this year centered at the beloved New York City Public Library. In past years, it's been a star-studded gathering of education, business, government and philanthropic leaders. Coming on the heels of the Chicago teachers' strike, NBC should make a special effort to mix up the digerati with a healthy dose of educators.

For entrepreneurs, one of the highlights last year was the "Citi Innovation Challenge," a competition jointly sponsored by NBC News, Citi and NewSchools Venure Fund. Three startups are chosen (largely by NewSchools Venture Fund) to undertake five "challenges." (Full disclosure: EdSurge has received funding from NSVF.) The experience culminates with the startups doing a "pitch." Whichever one racks up the most points for all the challenges wins--and takes home $100k in funding from NSVF and an incalculable amount of media attention.

Last year, Class Dojo vaunted to world attention in part through the exposure it received by winning the Citi Innovation Challenge and getting time on NBC News' "TODAY" show. (Here are last year's three final pitches.) Word on the street is that more than 3.5 million teachers and students are now registered for Class Dojo--a breathtaking adoption rate, especially for an education company.

This year's champions will be:

  • NoRedInk: a grammar and writing skills program developed by high school teacher Jeff Scheur that uses content from students' favorite celebrities, friends, and personal interests. Scheur is part of the current Imagine K12 cohort--and is reportedly looking for a technical cofounder.

  • Pathbrite: helps students (or anyone) create a digital portfolio of their work, weaving together digital images, video and other materials. CEO and founder, Heather Hiles has been in education for more than 20 years, including serving as a Commissioner of the San Francisco Unified School District. She's already raised more than $4 million in funding.

  • ReadImagine, which hasn't officially launched its website yet, uses iPad technology and cool content to encourage kids to read. It was developed by a trio of students at Stanford University's graduate program in business and education.

For their first challenge, the trio will get coaching from Al Roker about how to connect with an audience--and then an opportunity to write and record a short presentation. Then the hard work: they have to convince the world to "vote" them up.

The Challenge organizers have yet to lay out the other challenges that the three companies will undertake but they will likely involve variations on presenting the platform. The judging panel includes Craig Barrett, Retired CEO/Chairman of the Board, Intel; Kaya Henderson, Chancellor, Washington DC Public Schools; Walter Isaacson, President & CEO, The Aspen Institute; and Mark Mason, Chief Executive Officer, Citi Holdings.

Oh, but there's more! The actual symposium will be bracketed by NBC News reports and programming on education from Sept. 21 through 28. Of particular interest: portraits of ten successful school programs from around the U.S., along with details about how they did it.

We're looking forward to those portraits--as well as hearing the voices of teachers from throughout the U.S. who are making a difference every day. Let's spend less time on the grandiose calls for change and focus on the actual gritty work by the folks on the ground--even if they don't always see eye to eye.

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