In fall 2007, Larry Berger, CEO of Wireless Generation (now Amplify) was invited to submit a paper to an “Entrepreneurship in Education”
As education entrepreneurs know, growth in K-12 comes hard. Sometimes very hard. We were living Marc Andreessen’s startup mantra: “You only ever experience two emotions: euphoria and terror.”
The edtech boom of the past two decades promised efficacy and new instructional models. Many teachers instead experience it as “clutter.” But poorly integrated standards, curriculum, assessment, and intervention materials have always been a problem.
When it comes to instruction, the work consists of four segments: core curriculum, supplemental (intervention, test prep, little books) curriculum, assessment, and technology (hardware, infrastructure and connectivity). Each of these workstreams are run by separate teams, using independent funding streams, only rarely coordinating. Schools rely—as they always have—on the hero in the classroom, who has to somehow synthesize everything for a roomful of children, every single day.
Twelve Years Later: How the K-12 Industry and Investment Landscape Has Shifted (Part 2)
Twelve years ago, Amplify CEO Larry Berger and I wrote about the “pareto distribution” of companies in the K-12 sector.
The “oligopoly” was the natural outcome of a highly decentralized system and fragmented demand. To serve 15,000-plus districts and more than 100,000 school buildings, a company needed huge sales and service teams; to afford them, the company needed a bookbag full of products across content areas, grade ranges, and use cases. The structure of demand created the “Big Three”—McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Pearson.
Meanwhile, the number of small players—further right on the pareto distribution—has grown dramatically. Online distribution and freemium business models have enabled companies like Flocabulary, Newsela, Nearpod, and others
few alternative models to consider:
companies like Remind, ClassDojo, and Edmodo, who all adopted a “West Coast” approach: collect active users now, with plans to monetize later.
The second includes the “platform” players—Schoology, itslearning, Canvas, and other LMS-like platforms. They have set out to do something differently, only possible by means of technology—to be the search, storage and distribution platform for instructional content. Google Classroom has instead emerged as the de facto standard platform, fueled by the runaway adoption of Chromebooks.
The third includes “policy responsive” players—companies like Panorama, Ellevation or Wireless Generation. hese companies help school systems meet a new policy requirement—social-emotional learning, English Language Learning, and reading assessment, respectively.
But we’re not “decluttering” our classrooms or in our schools. What would it take for the private and public sectors to work shoulder-to-shoulder?
a catch-22: so long as buying is fragmented, it’s hard to justify the integrated product investment; so long as products are fragmented, it’s hard for a district to create an integrated instructional model.
According to both Apple and App Annie, a website that tracks the popularity of mobile apps by number of new downloads, Remind, a school communications platform, took the #1 spot on the chart of free iOS apps.
Remind’s app allows educators, parents and students to send and receive text and voice messages, as well as share attachments and links to digital educational resources. The company was founded in 2011 with a straightforward value proposition: to provide teachers with a safe and secure way to send homework or study reminders to students and their parents on mobile devices without using personal phone numbers.
Those features may seem simple by today’s standards. But it’s amassed a growing footprint, claiming users in more than 70 percent of U.S. public schools. Grey adds that Remind today has 27 million monthly active users (which breaks down to approximately 2 million teachers, 13 million students and 12 million parents). Across them, Remind says 17 billion messages have been sent since its launch.
Along with simplicity, Remind’s timing may have also helped the product find a receptive market. The company’s launch in 2011 coincided with the start of a period that saw smartphone adoption among U.S. adults steadily grow from 35 percent in 2011 to 77 percent in 2018, according to the Pew Research Center.
At its core, Remind remains very much a school communications tool, says Grey. But his grander vision is to evolve the app into what he calls an “educational platform” that allow users to share content from other providers. For instance, when Remind users compose a message, they can currently connect to their accounts on Google Classroom, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Quizlet and other tools to directly share documents, Powerpoint slides, flashcard sets and other kinds of files.
ProProfs Brain Games provides templates for building interactive crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, word searches, hangman games, and sliding puzzle games. The games you create can be embedded into your blog or shared via email, social media, or any place that you’d typically post a link for students. If you don’t want to take the time to create your own game, you can browse the gallery of games. Most of the games in gallery can be embedded into your blog.
ClassTools.net templates for creating map-based games, word sorting games, matching games, and many more common game formats.
Purpose Games is a free service for creating and or playing simple educational games. The service currently gives users the ability to create seven types of games. Those game types are image quizzes, text quizzes, matching games, fill-in-the-blank games, multiple choice games, shape games, and slide games.
TinyTap is a free iPad app and Android app that enables you to create educational games for your students to play on their iPads or Android tablets. Through TinyTap you can create games in which students identify objects and respond by typing, tapping, or speaking. You can create games in which students complete sentences or even complete a diagram by dragging and dropping puzzle pieces.
Wherever I’ve demonstrated it in the last year, people have been intrigued by Metaverse. It’s a free service that essentially lets you create your own educational versions of Pokemon Go. This augmented reality platform has been used by teachers to create digital breakout games, augmented reality scavenger hunts, and virtual tours.
There was a time when Kahoot games could only be played in the classroom and only created on your laptop. That is no longer the case. Challenge mode lets you assign games to your students to play at home or anywhere else on their mobile devices.