For a nice change of pace, here’s an innovation in education that’s got absolutely nothing to do with iPads. A group called Seekers Unlimited is trying to raise $8,000 on Kickstarter to release a series of “edu-LARPs.” That would be educational live action role-playing games.
“You might think of it as re-enactors with foam swords, but there’s much more to it than that,” says the organization’s fundraising coordinator, Whitney Beltran, in an accompanying video. The explainer shows kids in Babylonian headdresses adjudicating according to the Code of Hammurabi, which sounds like a great way to turn a playground into Lord of the Flies but hey, whatever gets them reading. Or, as the pitch puts it:
A new study conducted at a Kentucky college confirms what we all learned first semester of freshman year: math and science majors seem really great, until students realize that they’re really freaking hard.
Led by Berea College’s Ralph Stinebrickner and the University of Western Ontario’s Todd R. Stinebrickner, the study surveyed 655 students at Kentucky’s Berea Read More
Would You Like AI With That?
Hey you there, in the cardigan with the exhausted slump to your shoulders. Are you sick and tired of painstakingly grading 900 hand-scrawled answers at a go?
Well, here comes technology to your rescue. Popular Science reports that Xerox is planning to debut new software that would let printer-copier-scanners act as an automatic grader. Better living (for overworked teachers) through artificial intelligence!
Pop Sci says:
If The Breakfast Club taught us anything, it’s that anyone–even the popular girl and the nerd!–can land in detention. It’s highly unlikely, however, that an entire school would be sent to detention simultaneously, no matter how Mean Girls they get.
But that’s exactly what happened at a secondary school in Nelson, New Zealand, when a computer glitch accidentally sent out text messages to the parents of almost every student notifying them that their child had to report to detention.
It’s a tale as old as time: professor assigns you a truckload of reading, you skim it, maybe highlight some parts if you’re feelin’ real fancy, and close the book while praying a close-read isn’t required for the exam. But all good things must come to an end some time, and cheating on your reading assignment is no exception: The New York Times reports that professors are wising up to your game, and beginning to use technology to help them determine whether or not you’ve actually completed the assigned reading.
Silicon Alley U
There has been a lot of drama around the new engineering campus that Cornell and Technion will be be building on Roosevelt Island. But in the meantime New York’s exisiting universities have been seeing strong growth in the number of students interested in studying computer science.
Columbia, NYU, Queens College and the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken all reported increases in enrolment for CS classes between 30-50 percent, and a increase in computer sciences majors of 10 and 12 percent at NYU and Columbia. The best part is that students, at least the one quoted in this article, are already beginning to gravitate to New York as a place to study because they see it as a springboard to a startup hub.
“When I was thinking about schools, I wanted to go somewhere that had a start-up ecosystem—in and around cities—but I wanted a place that wasn’t unilaterally focused on technology as an engineering problem,” Arvind Srinivasan, a Columbia sophomore from Fremont, California studying computer science. ”New York is really the up-and-coming place because people who don’t have traditional technology backgrounds are starting companies in completely different sectors and utilizing technology.”
The former chancellor of New York City’s public school system, Harold Levy, is now an early stage venture capital investor. Today Late Night Labs, an online education startup, announced it was raising $1.1 million from a group of angel investors including Mr. Levy.
Late Night Labs offers a virtual laboratory where students can conduct chemistry and biology experiments. At a time when schools around the country are being forced to make tough budget decisions, it provides a useful replacement for expensive “wet” labs that rely on real chemicals. Plus, there is way less chance one of the teachers will go rogue and start dealing meth.
New School Learning
If you click over to the General Assembly website these days you will find a new section for video classes under the heading Hybrid Education. It’s the most robust online learning efforts GA has introduced so far, and gives a taste of the way they will be deploying the $4 million they raised earlier this year from folks like Yuri Milner and Jeff Bezos.
So far there are two courses online, Introduction to Web APIs and Forming Your Startup. They are on the short side, 45 minutes and a little under half and hour. The lesson on Web APIs is the sort of tutorial you might image finding on a Khan Academy. The course on forming your own startup, with Adam Dinow, an attorney at Wilson Sonsini, is a uniquely GA product, covering the legal intricacies and tax advantages of forming an LLC versus a C Corp. with the upbeat zeal of web tutorial.
Lots of talk about class wars everywhere right now! The 99% vs. The 1%! A millionaires tax and a billionaires tax! And so on. But now you know: the difference in between the haves and the have-nots? An iPad, obviously.
The Third Degree
Yesterday Knewton, the Union Square-based online education startup, announced a $33 million Series D round led by Founder’s Fund, the VC firm co-founded by Peter Thiel. That might explain why Betabeat heard Mr. Thiel’s fellow co-founders Ken Howery and Luke Nosek were throwing a pre-game party Friday night in New York.
Existing investors Accel, Bessemer and FirstMark also participated in the round, along with Pearson, an education publisher, putting Knewton’s valuation higher than $150 million, according to TechCrunch. Another New York City-based education startup, 2Tor (get it??), raised $32.5 million earlier this year. But what sets Knewton apart is the adaptive learning algorithm the company developed, which figures out student’s weakness and can be applied to any type of curriculum.
Indeed, after trying its platform out in test prep, Knewton is now being used by all 10,000 incoming freshman at Arizona State for an online math readiness course.
Betabeat talked to COO David Liu about why Knewton isn’t making teachers obsolete, how its adaptive learning algorithm works, why Mr. Thiel would invest in an education startup and why Mr. Liu thinks Knewton is, basically, going to take over the world of personalized education.