EdTech disrupting the way we teach and learn
Education has benefited hugely from the influx of new technology. EdTech, which merges innovation with teaching, has made education more accessible and comprehensive across the world. Established schools have adopted robotic teaching assistants, VR experiences and Artificial Intelligence, whilst virtual classroom and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) give those without access to physical teaching the opportunity to learn.
This year’s Bett Show hosted 919 EdTech firms from young companies to long-standing businesses like Acer. But which new startups are helping to accelerate the adoption of technology within education, and how are they doing it?
1. Play My Way
EdTech startup Play My Way was recently showcased at TechCrunch Disrupt London 2016, an event which brings together the most disruptive global startups. Play My Way is essentially an app that runs on top of other apps like YouTube and games on children’s iPads. When prompted by parents, the app interrupts videos and game-play to ask a question related to the curriculum. This gives the child an incentive to learn, and creates a negotiating tool for parents. As of last year, Play My Way had already signed with 10 schools. In 2016, it was awarded Best App for Children and received one million in seed funding. The company is now looking for Series A investment.
2. Artificial Intelligence Ltd
Artificial Intelligence Ltd is a SaaS platform that was set up by former teachers. The inspiration came from one founder’s curiosity in what their child was actually being taught at school, and how they were dealing with it. The platform uses AI facial recognition, eye tracking and emotion recognition to work out how a child is feeling when answering questions on an iPad. The tech can be used in both primary and secondary education, but has potential in other sectors like healthcare and marketing. It could also be used in training and other educational facilities. The startup is looking for two million in funding, and was amongst the EdTech companies at TechCrunch Disrupt London late last year.
Edovo is a unique EdTech startup founded in 2013 and based in Chicago. They provide secure, wireless tablets to incarcerated criminals that can browse cognitive behavioural therapy, vocational training and academia. The tablets are equipped with real-time tracking and content controls. Education is thought to reduce the likelihood of recidivism by 43%. In 2015, 5,600 inmates completed 162,000 lessons using Edovo. Inmates are rewarded for learning with certificates that can be presented to courts, future employees and staff as an indicator of co-operation. Last week, Edovo won first place at the Global EdTech Startup Awards (GESAwards), taking home $10,000 and access to global incubators.
Kytabu is based in Kenya and offers pay-as-you-go, mobile education. The textbook-subscription app allows students and teachers to access learning materials via desktop or low-cost Android tablets, paying small amounts that they can afford for the content that they need most. The cost of up-to-date books for the classroom is a real barrier to higher quality education, especially in the poorer areas of Kenya. Since 2012, the app has enabled users to view any textbook from the country’s entire curriculum, paying per hour, day, week or month and for one page, chapter or whole book dependent on what they can afford. The technology behind Kytabu is a microSD memory card and a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication), data-enabled sim card. It might not be the flashiest tech, but their contribution to the expansion of education using innovative yet affordable tech won first prize at the 2016 GESAwards.
3DNovations is a Virtual Reality platform geared towards the improvement of education, training and community learning. The main focus is on teaching skills associated with digital and STEAM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) via VR. According to the startup, their services are particularly useful for students with autism and complex needs. They also offer campus solutions, which set up virtual learning environments based on client requirements. They have already partnered with city councils, hospitals and the government Department for Work and Pensions. The platform was showcased at the Bett Show 2017.
In 2015, AI startup CogniToys revealed Dino, the first in a line of cognitive toys that listen and respond to children. CogniToys began as a Kickstarter project in February 2015 and has already received over five times more than its pledged target of $50,000. The toy can access the Internet, and uses this to answer children’s questions. It’s also connected to IBM Watson, and is equipped with emotion and voice recognition software. As the child interacts with Dino, it gradually personalises conversations. Mixing inquisitive children with powerful AI has raised some eyebrows, but parental controls are in place to track the interaction. The company’s vision is to makes toys affordable, fun and educational.
7. Code Club
Set up in 2012, Code Club is a not-for-profit, UK-based network of after-school coding clubs. The company is funded by donations and was created to teach nine to 11 year olds the basics of programming. The sessions are run by expert computer programmers, who volunteer to join the programme. The course is taught over four terms, progressing from Scratch to Python, one of the most popular programming languages. In 2014, Code Club was named as a ‘Best European Startup’ at the Europa Awards. Since then, the company has grown, and now holds events across the country to bring young programmers together. The next meet will be held in Belfast at the end of the month.
8. Primo Toys
Primo Toys is based in London and designs toys that teach children how to learn, play and create with technology. Their flagship product is Cubetto, a wooden robot that comes with a board, blocks, maps and a story book. The blocks represent directions which send Cubetto on adventures around the maps and books. Through selecting blocks, children between three and six learn the absolute basics of programming and robotics. Primo has stated that Cubetto would also be perfect for classroom use, as well as at home. The company was set up in 2013 and has currently raised $1.18 million in equity funding.
3D printing is perfect for education because it allows students to visualise a concept and then test it out quickly and cheaply. 3Dexter is a Delhi-based startup that sees 3D printing as essential in enabling innovation, and wants it to become part of the curriculum. The EdTech firm believes that 3D print technology is vital for experimental, DIY learning. Since its creation in 2015, 3Dexter has carried out 3D modelling and production workshops in 30 Indian schools, accumulating 3,500 participants. As well as showing the popularity of educational 3D printing, the company demonstrates that EdTech is a global movement, and not just confined to wealthy schools. So far, 3Dexter has received $150 thousand in seed funding.
Nearpod is a U.S. EdTech startup that combines VR and AR technology with traditional lesson plans. Learning resources include 360 videos and photos, as well as a PowerPoint-inspired application that can be used alongside them. Content is shared via connected iPads and mobile devices, which are also used to assess students in real time. The company received over $9 million in a Series A funding round in the summer of last year. Nearpod is one of many startups who have recognised the potential of VR for education, as well as utilising the ever-growing number of personal devices.
EdTech is transforming the way that educators and students learn, from simple apps to AI-powered toys. It’s not just traditional educational facilities that benefit from innovation either. Technology is enhancing education in domestic environments through products like CogniToys Dino, and even in high-security prisons through Edovo. By using EdTech in learning environments, whether real or virtual, educators are encouraging the creation of a tech-savvy population well-equipped to navigate a rapidly changing world.