Sunday, September 29, 2013

Accelerating Education


Education is changing rapidly and there are so many organizations trying to drive that change to create better opportunities for students. But many of those education organizations are not realizing their full potential. They get mired in the various issues and problems that prevent them from to taking their idea to scale. They hit the many roadblocks involved with changing education and can't find ways around them.

That is why AcceleratingED was launched. We have the expertise you need to accelerate the important work you are doing to help teachers and students. 

This is not easy work and almost impossible to go it alone. Change comes painfully slow in K-12 education - especially if you don't have the plan necessary to create a sustaining organizations.  

You have to have:
  1. A compelling mission, vision and goals.
  2. An amazing team with the right people in the right jobs
  3. Your team fully aligned to the goals with a performance management plan to keep them on track
  4. The right metrics to ensure you are achieving your mission
  5. The implementation plan to get you there
  6. The problem solving ability to make the right course adjustments if you are not hitting interim goals
  7. The marketing, public relations, and fee-for-service opportunities that ensure more education leaders are aware of your great work
  8. The ability to see the landscape for additional opportunities
  9. The ability to celebrate success
That's what we do at AcceleratingED. There is no single problem that will solve America's education issues - but your education program might help the U.S. take a giant step forward if you have the ability, and assistance to bring it to scale. 

We look forward to working with you. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

US2020 City Competition

US2020 has set some incredible goals in moving the needle on getting more students interested in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM).  Their mission is to "catalyze moments of discovery through increased interactions with passionate, caring adults from the STEM professions"

Their goal is to get companies to commit 20% of their employees doing 20 hours per year in 2020.

They are holding a US2020 City Competition to jump start the initiative as announced at the Clinton Global Initiative - they will select 3-5 cities to share in $1 million in resources based on their plans to significantly increase STEM mentoring for girls, low-income youth and students of color.

Probably shouldn't tout that too much as I am going to get the Dallas team rallied around this!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Success in EdTech

EdNET starts off with a bang - how to succeed in the K-12 marketplace from people who know - Michelle Molnar has a great write up in Marketplace K-12:

"Companies that sell into the K-12 marketplace need to provide research to support their products' value, give teachers and students more data so they can monitor educational progress, and look beyond U.S. borders for growth.

The marketplace isn't always a friendly one. Education businesses face a sometimes "broken" procurement model, "abysmal" K-12 budgets, and questions about why they expect to make money for their role in providing products or services to educate America's children."

From the speakers - 
  • Karen Cator from Digital Promise - provide laser focus on measured outcome, hone to ability to read data so educators can help students, user research to explain value to educators, give students access to data so they can take charge of their own learning
  • Diane Tavenner from Summit Public Schools - existing platforms don't give us access to the data we want, need modular content and resources that can be sued individually or in combination across subject areas, LMS that allow students to control their learning, operability across devices
  • Scott Hines from Hines Global learning - districts are in the way - he markets directly to teachers, to students and parents to gain traction and get things done.
  • Linda Burch from Common Sense Media - three hottest apps from their Graphite site that rates tech - Toontastic - digital story telling via cartoons, Learn with Homer, learn to read app for kids 3-6 and Design Squad teaching engineering to 3-8 year olds. 
  • Andrew Calkins Next Generation Learning Challenges - many app developers are bypassing districts going direct to teachers.
Pretty great list. I will add to the pile on that going direct to districts seems like a waste. More and more districts are pushing dollars to the schools giving teachers much more say in the process. Building trust with teachers through free content, trials and full engagement is the best way to grow your edtech business. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Latest in EdTech on Display

Very cool day in Massachusetts for LearnLaunchx - they brought in a bunch of companies and a bunch of funders for a Demo Day -


The LearnLaunchX companies presenting at the 2013 Demo Day were:
Listen Edition: Public radio stories, lesson plans and activities that enliven STEM and social studies curriculum, foster critical thinking and listening skills, and align with Common Core State Standards (CCSS), led by respected public radio reporter Monica Brady-Myerov.
Gradeable: A new assessment and feedback tool that helps teachers give students smarter, faster feedback and reduces their overall workload. Developed by a team from MIT and Harvard, it uses optical character recognition to handle paper inputs in both written answer and multiple choices formats, and provides simple, visually appealing reports.
Cognii: Using powerful natural language processing technology, Cognii enables automatic assessment of students’ essay answers. Cognii helps learning service providers create personalized and engaging learning environments which can measure students’ content mastery.
Empow Studios: Bringing technology, arts, and learning together, Empow Studios helps young learners discover and build talents that will prepare them to navigate, master, and thrive in their future careers and lives. Empow Studios programs teach exciting robotics, video game design, animation, and other creative skills for the 21st century to kids 4 through 15 years old through after-school, holiday, and summer programs. Opening in Lexington Town Center this fall, the company is poised to grow to new communities and regions through franchising.
Countdown: A planning tool for creating Common Core-aligned instruction that allows teachers and districts to map standards by day across the school year, link curricular resources, share calendars, manage changes and create a record of what is taught. Countdown improves pacing, increases the effectiveness of co-teaching and supports standards-based teaching and learning.
EduCanon: Powerful, easy-to-use video tools for teachers to create highly engaging and interactive video instruction. EduCanon adds formative assessments into videos, and empowers teachers to quickly identify and track students’ grasp of concepts. Created by teachers, for teachers.
Intellify Learning: Provides a standards-based instrumentation framework for online course developers and schools, curriculum and learning designers, and Ed tech application developers. Led by LearnLaunchX entrepreneur-in-residence Chris Vento, former CTO of Blackboard, WebCT and Cengage, Intellify’s cloud-delivered data and analytics drive the progressive refinement of on-line learning experiences.
About LearnLaunchX:
LearnLaunchX is an ed tech accelerator dedicated to growing great education companies. Based in the Boston area, often referred to as the world’s education capital, LearnLaunchX provides select companies with seed funding, workspace, an unmatched team of mentors with deep domain experience and relationships, direct access to the learning marketplace and strategic advantages in navigating successive funding, growth, market entry and exit cycles.

Computer Science in Schools - too many barriers

As we ponder ways to improve computer science and see disturbing statistics like "in 2012, of the 42,000 high schools in the U.S., only 2,100 - 5 percent - offered the Advanced Placement computer science course" you realize that there must be barriers to getting this great content into the hands of students.  

The first place to look is to the supply of teachers and luckily the Computer Science Teacher Association (CSTA) published a paper called "Bugs in the System" that highlights the issue - from the report: 
"teacher certification in the 50 states and the District of Columbia makes it clear that the
certification/licensure processes for Computer Science are deeply flawed. In Florida, for example, would-be Computer Science teachers have to take a K–8 Computer Science methods course that is not offered in any teacher preparation program in the state. Prospective Computer Science teachers often meet difficulty in determining what the certification/licensure requirements are in their own states because no one seems to know. Add to that frustration the confusion that persists around what Computer Science is and isn’t and where it fits in K–12 academics, and it’s astounding that professionals with such valued expertise persevere to become Computer Science teachers."

There are solutions to the certification issues, but we need to bring the right people together to make this happen. When I was working with Alternative Teacher Certification, the group that had the most knowledge and ability to get things done was the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC).  

Recommendations from CSTA's report include:
  • Establish a system of certification/licensure that ensures that all Computer Science teachers haveappropriate knowledge of and are prepared to teach the discipline content
  • Establish a system of certification/licensure that accounts for teachers coming to the discipline from multiple pathways with appropriate requirements geared to those pathways.
  • Establish a system of certification/licensure that accounts for previous teaching experience(“grandfathering”) for teachers with at least two years of experience teaching Computer Science courses that are aligned to grade-level CSTA K–12 Computer Science standards.
  • Provide a certification/licensure pathway that includes both content and pedagogical knowledge for those transitioning into teaching from industry.
  • Require teacher preparation institutions and organizations (especially those purporting to support STEM education) to include programs to prepare Computer Science teachers. 
  • Establish a Computer Science Praxis exam that assesses teacher knowledge of Computer Science concepts and pedagogy.
  • Provide comprehensive professional development for teachers to enable them to achieve or maintain certification/license or endorsement in Computer Science.
  • Incentivize school level administrators to offer rigorous Computer Science courses offered by qualified Computer Science teachers
A review if certification requirements working with NASDTEC professional could find some easy solutions to many of these recommendations - it is really a matter of finding the content to give to potential teachers to make them effective.  I will be meeting with various teams over the coming months to see if there is a way to solve this problem. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bringing Educators and Industry Together


I have come across two great ways to match industry talent with classroom needs that are very cool. The first is a brand new company call Nepris.com – they have an online engine to match very specific teaching needs with outstanding talent in industry. The video shows engineers from General Motors talking about pneumatics for a math class. A one-hour class done through the platform’s live video that fully engages all (but one) of the students in the video. The best part of this from the educational perspective is the teacher fits the industry experts into her lesson sequence. She is not just having an expert come in and talk about what they do – they are coming in and helping the students gain a deeper understanding of the content they need to master for the class. More to come on Nepris no doubt.

The second program I found fascinating this week is a program out of Fargo, ND called Teachers in Industry. This is so cool because it is being driven by the economic development council as a long term solution to workforce shortages. Their conclusion was that they needed to get K-12 STEM teachers into the workplace to see, first hand, the skills students need to succeed.

Here are my notes from a call with them on how they are doing it –
  • The program is housed with the economic development council
  • North Dakota State University built the curriculum for teachers 
  • John Deere Electronic - smart electronics in tractors - they were a huge partner in building this out as they see the need for STEM capable students. 
  • The solution was summer internships for teachers in local plants dependent on STEM 
  • They had to figure out how long should this internship be, where teachers should go and what should they do - - 1 math teacher first year, 4 teachers the next and 6 teacher this year. 
  • Teachers spend four weeks in the internship – in each week they spend 4 days in the work environment and 5th day the collaborate on what they have learned and how it can apply to their classrooms 
  • Teachers have said it is the best professional development they have ever had. 
  • Very easy time getting companies on board - even though they really won't see a pay off for quite some time they understand the long term implications of this program 
  • Harder time getting teachers interested in it - the length of time, summer is a challenge but they are getting more and more buy-in from schools 
  • Teachers earn CEU's for the program and teachers get paid $2,000 for the internship – the Regional Education Association pays half and the company pays half. 
  • Teachers use the engineering design process to create lessons they will use in the classroom. They build it, try it out in the first semester and then modify it based on input and metrics. 
Industries want the STEM problem solved and know they have the expertise to help get it done. With programs like Nepris and Teachers in Industry that truly match the needs with the expertise, we can see some tremendous gains. More to come…..

Thursday, September 19, 2013

BOOM - MIT MOOC Certificate in Computer Science!

MIT is moving from the single course to a course sequence that will result in a certificate in computer science! As soon as this is available, I am all over that course. From the Edx site -

"MITx, the massive open online course effort at MIT, has announced new certificates for completing sequences of related modules or courses on the edX platform. The sequences, called "XSeries" sequences, represent a new approach to MOOC instruction and certification across integrated offerings more expansive than the individual courses that have thus far defined the MOOC landscape. The two initial XSeries sequences are Foundations of Computer Science and Supply Chain and Logistics Management. Curriculum for each XSeries is developed by MIT faculty members and overseen by their academic departments."

"Starting in Spring 2014, the XSeries sequences will use edX's new ID verification process, providing the added value of identity assurance for the certificates. This new edX functionality uses webcam photos to confirm student identity, provides linkable online certificates, and requires a modest fee. Prices for XSeries courses will be announced later this fall, and students will also have the option of auditing the sequences for free." 

Could this be one of the keys to recruiting and training more teachers to teach computer science? While I am sure that there is not one single answer to that question, this could be a great help.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rethinking the Diploma

I have had ongoing debates with friends and colleagues about the usefulness of the liberal arts education in today's working environment. While it should teach critical thinking and analysis aand provide reasearch and writing capabilities, it doesn't quite prepare students for jobs.

It appears that Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman agrees - in order to make higher education more effective and affordable he wrote that we have to completely overhaul education -

“To do this, we need to apply new technologies to the primary tool of traditional certification, the diploma,” he wrote. “We need to take what now exists as a dumb, static document and turn it into a richer, updateable, more connected record of a person’s skills, expertise, and experience. And then we need to take that record and make it part of a fully networked certification platform.”

This on the heals for the Chamber event yesterday where the panel noted that there is a steep disconnect with what business needs and what higher ed is providing.  

Some cool companies highlighted in the article that are unbundling the degree:

"In various ways, a few companies already reveal what digital degree alternative might look like: startup Smarterer (see disclosure) offers lifelong learners and job candidates ways to measure and prove skills acquired outside the traditional classroom setting through crowdsourced tests. And job search site Bright gives employers a quantitative way to assess and rank applicants’ experiences and education.

But Degreed, a startup launched by a member of the founding team of ed tech company Zinch (which later sold to IPO-bound textbook rental site Chegg), comes closest to matching Hoffman’s vision of technology-driven credentialing. Its slogan (“jailbreaking the degree”) lines right up with Hoffman’s goal of “disrupting the diploma” and its service is very similar to the design specs he lays out.
The company, which has raised $900,000 in funding and just graduated fromKaplan’s TechStars-powered ed tech accelerator, gives users an online, updateable and machine-readable repository for tracking all of their learning — from a Harvard education to classes on Coursera or iTunes to educational books and videos. It also aims to score those experiences so that users and employers have a modular way of understanding a person’s collection of skills. Sincelaunching last year, the company says, users have uploaded 1.5 million pieces of credentialing information to the site."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Real Teacher Training - no more drive bys


Had a great interview with David Butcher on Training the Next Generation of STEM Teachers - here is a quick excerpt -

“This is the work that has to be done as we go school by school, teacher by teacher, and student by student,” said Dave Saba, COO of the NMSI. “At the university level, the UTeach Institute team works closely with all our schools in the program to ensure fidelity to the program and success in recruiting the best in math and science to become teachers. At the K-12 level, our team is out in schools year-round working with administrators, teachers, and students to remove the barriers to student success.” This year, NMSI trainers helped more than 9,000 teachers introduce more rigorous hands-on learning in the classroom. Schools that adopted these lessons have seen Advanced Placement passing soar from 33 percent to 85 percent and high school graduation jump from 73 percent to 93 percent in just three years, Saba told IMT Career Journal. The challenge is helping teachers master the content and the strategies required to make this approach a success, Saba said. “To create that kind of change, it takes teacher supports — not the ‘drive-by’ training that is done in most districts, but training done over three years with online support and additional resources,” he said. “That is the only way to achieve lasting change in the classroom.”

So true! 

Connecting Business and Education

I sat in on the morning part of the Connect the Dots program hosted by the United States Chamber of Commerce.  There was some great nuggets of information pulled out for your viewing pleasure -


  • If your family makes less than $35,000 a year, your child stands a 7% chance of completing college.  
  • Cisco education told business majors to stop avioding higher math and technology classes. If you really want to compete in today's work environment you have to have them.  We are producing too many business majors who go into business to avoide the harder classes.
  • Business has to help connect education to the job needs they have today.  There are recent studies that point to a glut of some science majors - while companies complain they don't have enough. There is s steep disconnect on the exact need and what K-12 and higher education are producing. 
  • We are giving kids a false sense of security with low standards and expectations. Kids are graduating high school thinking they are college ready and they are not. They end up in remediation and then end up dropping out.
Not a bad way to spend a morning -