Monthly Archives: March 2012

Ixnay the Disruption: A Least Disruption Strategy to Scale Fast in Schools

Q: Which education startup (company with less than $10MM in funding / revenue) will be the most disruptive in the coming decade and why? (Quora.com post)
A: My vote for Least disruptive provider, and why least disruption is a strategy to Scale Fast in schools (disclosure: the shop I work at): MIND Research Institute. Least disruption: any district/site/teachers/students can weave a revolutionary program easily into the same pedestrian way they do business now (including videogaming by students). In other words, a program that can technically scale nationwide in a few years – governed only by district uptake.
Leverage point: the instructional materials teachers and students use. Instructional materials (old-school: textbooks) are teachers’ tools to help students achieve their objectives. Provide a vastly more powerful, highly engineered, modern tool (picture: swap out hand-saws for electric chain-saws at the urban tree farm) along with a systems-process for integrating and using that tool (picture: don’t forget recharging stations, safety training & goggles, saw maintenance). A revolutionary tool can:
  • be simple for teachers to learn to use, and, can deepen teacher’s content knowledge as they use it,
  • be universally accessible by and productive for any student;
  • enable immersively interactive experience-based learning (consider: what is happening at the moment the student is learning and how interactive is that moment),
  • ensure that students can not just cram and memorize meaningless, disconnected fact-trivia or monkey-typing-procedures.

So, given minimized system disruption, but the addition of an easy-to-use, powerful tool and simple process changes, the bulk of a slow-to-change market can change quickly. MIND Research makes supplemental K-pre-algebra digital math content for 1:1 and teacher direct instruction in schools, delivered thru workstation/tablet/whiteboard. The digital content is visual (no language at first) interactive animated math puzzles, videogames as courseware

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What if a balloon corp. decided funding for the Wright brothers’ R&D proposals?

An insightful Rick Hess blog on the potential for federal government funding of true innovation in education: ARPA-ED: A Qualified Thumbs-Up – Rick Hess Straight Up – Education Week.

As usual Rick reports out the risks not just the promise. Working at a digital content innovator turned down twice by i3 reviewers (U.S. Education Department’s “Investing In Innovation” competitive grants program), it is clearly evident to me that the incumbent education establishment is not open to “breakthrough capabilities” or even “fresh thinking and ideas”. It is as if those reviewing a potential breakthrough aviation project, like stealth technology, already have strong beliefs on what will or won’t work, if not their own competitive stealth projects underway. Selection of ARPA-ED projects to be funded: applicant eligibility, who evaluates project proposals, on what basis, and under what oversight, will be a make-or-break. Just allowing the path-of-least-resistance and least-political-risk of incumbent status-quo thinking will *not* generate education game-changers.

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