Imagine K-12 is a small organization that works with budding edtech companies as they prepare for their initial introductions to the public. These companies go through startup boot camp, Imagine K-12 staff supporting and encouraging them along the way, and this culminates in a Friday afternoon pitch and Q & A to a room full of teachers. The idea is that the teachers will ultimately be the users and rather than wait for the products to be fully developed, the companies can gather feedback from users and rapidly prototype solutions.
I have been attending this event for some time. In fact, I believe I have been to all 4 events that have been held so far. I am proud to say that I was one of the initial users of educreations, a company that is now solidly established with a large community of teachers and classrooms creating and sharing video lessons daily. And this is just one of many create ideas that have gotten their start at Educator Day and who have benefited from establishing symbiotic relationships with their end-users, interested and resourceful teachers.
For this post I would like to share a few of the ideas that blew me away last week. There were a total of 9 companies that presented; all of them have interesting features to contribute to the edtech space.
In all of my time in attendance, I don’t this I have ever heard the kind of crowd response that plickers received. This team is clearly led by a former teacher, as the problem of practice was relevant and authentic. The concept is that clickers, little devices that allow teachers to quickly poll their students, are great pedagogically but cumbersome technologically. Plickers uses simply code recognition to create an app (currently on available on android) that can read and compute little codes your students hold up. So instead of having to charge, and hand out little devices, you simply hand out pieces of paper. This is a brilliant solution for schools with limited to no technology, and students who don’t all have smart devices, i.e. most urban schools. Lastly, the founders are working on some back end aspects of the system, such that it could tally your student’s responses over time and enable authentic real-time data collection. If you believe that this is valuable, contact the firstname.lastname@example.org.
And become a part of the prototyping process.
The second product that caught my eye is learn.ly. For as long as I can remember teachers have always been talking about revising written work. They spend hours providing feedback, both about the overall ideas and about specific sentences. At Envision Schools we are very committed to revision and for our portfolio artifacts teachers and students use the shared doc capabilities of google docs to provide and respond to feedback in the form of comments. Where learn.ly takes it to the next level is by allowing teachers to leave audio feedback in specific locations in the document. Firstly, leaving audio comments will save teachers time which is a huge motivator. Secondly, there are many students who will be able to access audio comments with higher success than written comments. Specifically, students with dyslexia who use assistive software to write, such as Dragon Dictate or Co:Writer and English Language Learners who are developing an ear for their new language.
Honorable mention goes to opus, a website for generating math worksheets that are common core aligned, that can increase in difficulty and complexity, and that keeps track of which problems you like and recommends these to your friends.
And Tinkertags offers students the opportunity to customize their sneakers with LED’s and introduces them to computer programming by being able to adjust the light’s patterns and colors. This product was developed to bring initial Computer Science concepts to students who are typically excluded thus attempting to diversify the field. My only feedback is that while the presentation used high school students as examples of the target population, my instinct is that this product would more likely appeal to a younger crowd.
I encourage my readers to check out the Imagine k-12 website for a comprehensive list of the remaining companies, as well as past companies.