EXTRA, EXTRA! The EdSurde Annual April Special!
If you’re reading this, it means you made it through last year’s zombie apocalypse. We salute you on this fine April 1, a day dedicated to celebrating pranks, hijinks and jokes. But we here at EdSurge are keeping things serious, bringing you today’s most pressing edtech news in our fifth annual EdSurde Report. An app that might actually work, a ball-pit classroom, and a wearable “information absorber.” It’s all here, and it’s totally not fake news.
Happy April Fool’s Day, folks!
GOING ALL IN ON MATH: “Math is boring. Gambling is not.” So goes the motto behind Steve and Kate’s Camp newest and most innovative education endeavor, Gaming Studio. By playing games such as blackjack and poker, students learn everything from addition, to probabilities, and even proper betting techniques. “I learned that pocket jacks are very dangerous,” one student says in a video released by the program. “They may look good, but the chance of a higher card turning up on the flop is 52 percent.”
YES/NO: Education entrepreneurs, ever so savvy, are taking the “Lean Startup” model to the next level. Dubbed the “Boolean Startup,” every decision, from executive hiring and product development to who’s washing the dishes, will be made as as response to a ”Yes/No” question. “Should we put together the April Fool’s newsletter this year?” (Yes.) “Who’s editing it?” (No.) Da Nyet, the self-proclaimed chief evangelist of the Boolean Startup movement, cites his alma mater’s website—“Did Duke Win?”—as inspiration. (The answer: No.)
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE: As the battle over school choices rages, one Texas district has decided it’s time to put choice back into the hands of those who matter most: the students. That’s why they’re rolling out their Every Student Selects Act (ESSA), which lets students as young as three choose the environment that suits their unique learn style. Best of all, students aren’t limited by outdated ideas about the traditional classroom; choices so far have included a McDonald’s ball pit, a Limited Too dressing room, and a medium-sized closet.
SXSWEDU better watch out, because a group of local education entrepreneurs just debuted a rival conference called “NXNEedu” (pronounced “North by Northeast-E-D-U”). “The conference is meant to function in a completely opposite fashion from SXSWedu,” reports a NXNEedu spokesperson. They aren’t kidding: not only will the conference take place in the dead of winter in the snowy mountains of upstate New York, but a startup showcase by the name of “Sunk” will actually take $5M away from a popular edtech company chosen by attendees, and panel topics will include “abacuses in the classroom” and “unpersonalized learning.”
WHAT’S IN A NAME?: Refinance Help, an online platform and app that allows students to compare refinance options for their loans, has taken a new approach to the company name game: normality. “We initially thought to name the app Cha-Ching, WOW-Zoo, or BaBop, but then we realized that those names made no sense, and we would have to spend a lot of money and time advertising what we do,” explained the company’s CEO, Geraldine Kostas.
PRESS RELEASE 101: Interested in PR but not sure where to start? LinkedIn has you covered with this quick guide on how to write the perfect press release. Some tips? Start with a headline, mention the company name “somewhere,” and take a trip…to Ikea?
TRUE ‘FITBIT FOR EDUCATION’: Turns out you really can track learning. According to a patent application filed by startup NoSweat, the company is working on a headband with a sensor that will detect when the wearer is absorbing new information. The headband would then transmit the information to a paired Fitbit or Apple Watch over bluetooth. A source inside the company admitted that engineers are struggling with false positives (was that really meaningful learning, or just a random thought?), and they also worry that users could game the system (which is being sold as a way for teachers to verify homework was completed) by simply staring at Twitter all day.
TAKING YOU HIGHER, AND HIGHER, AND HIGHER….
BARTER SCHOOL: As student loans reach absurd levels, schools and universities are scrambling to offer alternative means to support cash-strapped learners. Some want to take a cut of learner’s future income. A new university, BarterU, is offering an unfettered array of free educational options—depending on what students are willing to give up. You can trade your car (with less than 100,000 miles) for admission into its two-year associate’s program. A bachelor’s will cost your house. And you won’t believe what you’ll get in return for your firstborn.
NO FLIPPING WAY: Professors at a small-liberal arts college in New Hampshire are protesting a new requirement limiting the amount of lecturing allowed in introductory courses. In an effort to encourage so-called “flipped teaching,” where students watch lectures online and class time is used for more interactive activities, college leaders mandated that no more than half of time in in-person courses could rely on a live lecture format. In response, faculty members are refusing to comply, and there’s been talk of holding a day-long lecture-fest to celebrate the power of lectures. “Lectures can be boring,” one long-time professor admitted, “but instituting time limits violates academic freedom and common sense.”
A NEW U: University of U, a professional development program focused on crafting individuals’ social media personas, launched this week with a ribbon cutting at its Los Angeles headquarters. A blended online and brick-and-mortar institution, the school offers courses on selfie-taking, profile composition and photo caption strategies. “We’re teaching students all about self branding–the real skills they need to be successful in the twenty-first century,” says the school’s president Ken Carr. University of U is currently accepting applications for its first 25-person cohort. What they’re looking for in applicants? “At least 5k existing followers on some social media platform,” says Carr, “and an iPhone 7.”
KA’CHINGS AND MORE
CR-APPY: New edtech organization Edu4Apps recently announced a Series A round of $5.2 million. The organization has built a business on selling cheap education apps (think $.50) that are purposely low-priced. “The idea behind the business is that by the time you buy the app and realize it’s dumb, you’re too lazy to return it and get your money back because the price was so low to begin with,” laughs CEO Jeremy Laughlin.
THE LITTLE THINGS: The California-based edtech firm, BlendGO celebrated its first 7 cents of profit this week, after 10 years in operation. The gains were initially meant to be split as bonus checks across the company, but investors found it more equitable to share it as dividends that would be reinvested into shareholders’ capital.
NO BUCKS GIVEN: SmartMe, a Silicon Valley-based edtech startup, announced it will be shutting its doors this week after yet another unsuccessful funding round. The company claims it’s “revolutionizing learning” through its online platform, but failed to disclose what that platform actually does. “It’s been a good run, I guess the market just wasn’t ready for SmartMe,” says company CEO Pat Myback.
Crafted with love by the EdSurge team, who’s currently running from zombies: Tony, Mary Jo, Jen, Jeff, Jenny and Sydney.
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Author: Eduardo Sergio
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