INNOVATIVE IDEAS: Educators from around the world kicked off the Global Education Conference with a flurry of talks and exchanges on Monday. WIth about three talks scheduled every hour it's impossible to summarize all the conversations. In one session, EdSurge interviewed Jennifer Carolan, who directs the Seed Fund at the NewSchools Venture Fund. (Editor's note: EdSurge has received an investment from the NewSchools Venture Fund.)
Highlights from Carolan's talk:
She noted that as she reviews almost 70 applications a month from startup companies, she's observing several emerging trends:
Mobile technology for the classroom
Technology that "takes advantage of the diversity of learning
Communications technologies broadly
Between 10% to 30% of the traffic frequenting some of the companies supported by NSVF come from international locations. She also noted that NSVF, which is a nonprofit, is interested in mission-driven companies that are working to narrow the achievement gap. Even so, companies must have a sustainable business model--because otherwise they won't be able to help anyone.
Q: What companies that have come out of New Ventures that have been successful financially?
A. Wireless Generation and Carnegie Learning.
Q: What does it mean when you say NSVF "supports" companies?
A: NSVF makes investments that can range from $50K to $200K in startup organizations. Because it's actively involved in education, it also provides support in other ways, including making introductions to potential partners, general business guidance and hosting meetings to highlight the work of the companies it supports.
Q: Why do we seem to hear more about "innovative" charter schools than traditional districts?
A: Carolan said she feels districts are as innovative as any other group (including charters), but conceded that traditional district teachers may face more internal battles or push back when they try out technological approaches.
Q: Australian teachers are using SmartBoards; French teachers are not. Which is the best direction?
A: It's possible to be innovative no matter what the device. The important point is what question is a teacher trying to solve -- and then what tools will support that education philosophy.
* Is any company trying to create a vetting process for Badges as a supplement to HS and College transcripts or anything in that genre to your knowledge?
A: Carolan pointed to Mozilla and some of the badges created by Edmodo.
* What trends are you seeing in universities?
A: The NSVF focuses on K12 but clearly MOOCs are an interesting trend.
Q: Are there opportunities with in the "closed" google apps for edu for developers to sell to that group of schools?
A: Carolan pointed to NSVF investment, Hapara.
Q: How about professional development? I am concerned about PD for teachers as well. It is really difficult to find the proper type, time, and quality of PD when teacher's already have a very busy life.
A: Professional development is crucial, Carolan agreed; she also pointed to Bloomboard as an example of a company helping bolster PD programs.
Q: Any tips for introducing lots of new technology with little money and school support? I am a librarian with only 6 computers in my library, but I want to deliver digital literacy, library/research/revision skills, etc lessons!
A: Plenty of startup companies have free "beta" programs that might be worth considering.
Other questions raised included:
Q: Do large companies who are giving apps away stifle or stir innovation in K12 space if the innovation might require school buying or subscribing to an app/service? (Google as example)
Some of the companies Carolan highlighted include: