Competition in the field of education technology has become intense over the last few years, and those involved with the vertical like Gary Michelson and Alya Michelson believe it’s beneficial for students and teachers in the long run.
Dr. Gary K. Michelson and Alya Michelson, founders of the Twenty Million Minds Foundation, believe innovation in technology is what pushes education to its limits and bolsters student achievement.
Many different educational research companies are competing to get their technology in classrooms. This competition usually goes through a series of tests and screenings with students and educators of all kinds.
In Silicon Valley, companies are in a race to see who can get their learning tools into classrooms first and build educational devices on a larger scale. The Silicon Valley Educational Foundation in conjunction with the NewSchools Venture Fund formed iHub, a program that brings together entrepreneurs and educators to develop products that help the learning process’ efficiency.
Muhammed Chaudhry, CEO of the SVEF, believes they would be doing a disservice to the community if they did not utilize the advantages that surround them.
“In our schools, you wouldn’t know if this was Silicon Valley or the Midwest or Mississippi because we haven’t been able to harness the innovation in our backyard,” he says, “We want to change this. We want to create an ecosystem where innovation is in the DNA of our schools.”
Ten companies competed in February to be a part of the first project from iHub. Students and teachers were involved in a four-month study of products designed to meet educational needs. Companies like Cuethink, LearnBop and Knowmadix all vied to showcase their achievements in the field of educational technology.
The judges for the competition were Blanca Herrera, principal of Ida Jew Academies, Craig Blackburn, director of the Santa Clara County Office of Education, and Kathy Gomez, the superintendent of the Evergreen School District.
The products that were showcased were judged on how easily they would be able to transition into schools and classrooms and how they would affect student performance. The judges posed questions to the companies such as issues with data transfer, authority over assignments by teachers and the ability to combine knowledge and share with other educators.
Phil Kim, COO of 20 Million Minds, understands how competitions like these can push the field to its limits.
“For the companies, the visibility afforded by these gatherings can really provide a surge in interest among forward-looking, innovative early adopters that will go on to become the evangelists for these platforms in their respective institutions and learning communities. As investors in the education vertical, we love to see large-scale competitions of this sort that really showcase the depth, breadth, and maturity of the Ed tech ecosystem today.” says Kim.
Those invested in the well being of students like Gary Michelson and Alya Michelson know the importance of support for these kinds of competitions, because it helps create a culture of risk taking within education.
“The next question is: How do we scale this?” says Chaudhry. “And that’s not something you pay for or insert through a pill. It’s a DNA thing.”
There are products like the interactive white board shown at the British Educational Training and Technology Show that have been around for years, but are just now showing some new innovations. IWBs are very popular products that have been around since the 1990s, but are now focusing on teacher student collaboration via computer or smart phone.
Product specialist at iBoardTouch Malcolm Taylor tells TechRadar that the competition in the interactive white board market has increased due to the product’s popularity.
“It’s now a case of who can provide the better solution as opposed to who can provide the flashiest whiteboard,” he says. “It’s about giving teachers the right tools. That could be videoconferencing software that allows for remote teaching, or the ability to record classes so that teachers can prepare video tutorials and have them ready on the school network.”
When designing the proper tool to help students with their academic achievement, oftentimes the student creates something that fits in a larger puzzle. James Blackburn, the sales and marketing director for GoPrint3D, believes the student’s ideas can often open doors to solutions in other fields as well.
“In product design, students can construct things as part of wider kit – parts of a car for example,” says Blackburn. ”It not only has to fit together, but the wheels have to turn and you have to test for dynamics. That can form an introduction into the wider world of manufacturing, and the concepts are used in many different industries – from automotive to aerospace and healthcare.”
The technological advances in teaching tools over the years have been a series of newer, more efficient innovations that improve student performance. Although there needs to be some tightening of screws as far as product performance and financial availability, the competition between companies to get these tools in classrooms is great for learning. Education enthusiasts like Gary Michelson and Alya Michelson understand how important these showcases are in advancing learning to the next level.