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Education Technology

"Shark Tank" Competition Used To Select Education Tech 57

Posted by timothy
from the would-you-prefer-the-texas-school-board? dept.
theodp writes "With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the tech billionaire-backed NewSchools Venture Fund, the Silicon Valley Education Foundation used a competition based on the reality show Shark Tank to determine which educational technology entrepreneurs would win the right to have teachers test their technology on students for the rest of the year. 'Ten companies, selected from 80 original applicants,' reports Mercury News columnist Mike Cassidy, 'had three minutes to convince a panel of educators and then a panel of business brains that their ideas would be a difference maker in middle school math classes.' The winners? Blendspace, which helps teachers create digital lessons using Web-based content; Front Row Education, which generates individual quizzes for students and tracks their progress as they work through problems; LearnBop, which offers an automated tutoring system with content written by math teachers; and Zaption, which lets teachers use existing online videos as lessons by adding quizzes, discussion sections, images and text."
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"Shark Tank" Competition Used To Select Education Tech

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  • And who is ensuring that the companies aren't going to harvest, retain, and ultimately sell all of the data about those kids?

    The answer, probably nobody.

  • but the simple method of firing 10% of the worst teachers and reassigning their students to the rest does more to improve schools than anything else.

    Most teachers know who the worst of the worst are. Principals know.

    If union rules make such an act impossible, keep these 10% worst teachers on payroll and have them sit around watching youtube, but send their students to better teachers.

    • but the simple method of firing 10% of the worst teachers and reassigning their students to the rest does more to improve schools than anything else.

      If such a simple method always worked then you could apply it recursively to improve results further. Clearly, many schools need more than 9 teachers therefore the reality must be more complex than you claim.

      • by ranton (36917)

        If such a simple method always worked then you could apply it recursively to improve results further.

        That is a very odd statement. If eating 10% of a box of cereal with make me full and content, doing that recursively will not improve results. It will make me stuffed and very uncomfortable.

        • If eating 10% of a box of cereal with make me full and content

          That's the thing though it won't. Not always. If you're already full, eating that won't work. If you're really hungry you'll need to repeat several times.

          That's the whole point.

          The OP claimed it was simple. It's not because blind application of the rule does not work. In your restating of the rule, you've implicitly introduced two more conditions: that you are hungry before and theat you are not after. You understand the more complex reality so

          • by ranton (36917)

            If eating 10% of a box of cereal with make me full and content

            That's the thing though it won't. Not always. If you're already full, eating that won't work. If you're really hungry you'll need to repeat several times.

            But I said that eating 10% of the box will make me full. I defined a theoretical situation where that is true. So I don't know what sense it makes to say that it wouldn't make me full.

            You defined a hypothetical situation where removing the 10% worst teachers would improve schools. You then tried to say that if this was true, removing another 10% MUST also help improve schools (implying that if this isn't true, then removing the first 10% didn't really improve schools). My hypothetical situation was used onl

            • You defined a hypothetical situation where removing the 10% worst teachers would improve schools.

              No, I didn't. The OP claimed that in reality removing 10% of the worst teachers would help, unilaterally. He gave no conditions that are required for this to be successful.

          • You are asking the wrong question. The question you want to ask is: For each dollar spent, what has the higher marginal effect, 1. Hiring a few high quality teachers or 2. Hiring more low quality teachers. (Or you can ask the question in reverse.).

            You want to ask the question at the margin because if you do a regressive approach either way you are going to get nonsensical results – either 1 highly qualified teacher for a entire school or a school staffed with a bunch of minimum wage teacher’s ai

      • by ranton (36917)

        but the simple method of firing 10% of the worst teachers and reassigning their students to the rest does more to improve schools than anything else.

        If such a simple method always worked then you could apply it recursively to improve results further. Clearly, many schools need more than 9 teachers therefore the reality must be more complex than you claim.

        Just because a problem is complex doesn't mean that you have to throw out simple solutions. Many complex problems can be helped with simple solutions. Usually not 100% fixed, but certainly improved. We can't let perfect be the enemy of good.

    • If union rules...

      Ah, yes, because in a field where most of the workers are barely scraping by on $30 - 40K a year, not to mention spending a fair amount of their own money on school supplies that their employer should be buying, obviously unions are the problem.

      Dude, get real - this ain't the AFL-CIO, protecting the $75/hr rate of guys who rivet 1 body panel into a Chevy. Maybe if folks such as yourself spent more time trying to help teachers, rather than bitching about the fact that "OMG they have a union," education would

      • by aicrules (819392) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @12:52PM (#46239409)
        Hey the fact is union contracts do prevent VERY bad teachers from being fired. And the net result can be very GOOD teachers get let go instead. Just because one teacher has worked for 20 years doesn't mean they should be automatically kept instead of the 2nd year teacher. Especially if the 20 year teacher is TERRIBLE.
        • Hey the fact is union contracts do prevent VERY bad teachers from being fired. And the net result can be very GOOD teachers get let go instead. Just because one teacher has worked for 20 years doesn't mean they should be automatically kept instead of the 2nd year teacher. Especially if the 20 year teacher is TERRIBLE.

          Fair enough, I just get fed up with the constant union-bashing by people who have no idea what they're on about - they just heard a politician they think they agree with say "dur, unions bad" and parrot that line to the end.

          • by cbeaudry (706335)

            dur, unions bad... from personal experience.

            Unions, had a place, and still do, but not in their current form.

            They are a plague on public finance and a plague on private productivity nationwide.

        • by ediron2 (246908)

          Sorry, not even that is 'fact'. It's a conservative contention that has plenty of disagreement.

          Also, I'm immediately suspicious of any round numbers, so where did this magical
          'Firing 10% helps' plan come up with that 10%? Another conservative meme: fire some people = save money, make everyone else work harder out of fear, and claim success.

          As for resenting a factory worker getting $75 an hour, I vaguely recall that being bullshit, too. Something akin to the anti-USPS accounting tricks conservatives like:

        • Hey the fact is union contracts do prevent VERY bad teachers from being fired.

          I'll ignore the issues implied by the rest of the quote which are somewhat valid, but this is flat out wrong.

          What the contracts do is make it difficult to fire bad or very bad teachers, but it 100% can be done. The trick is that administration has to actually make the effort to document the bad performance and make at least some attempt to allow that teacher to improve. But if a teacher is bad, firing them is mostly an issue of dotting the is and crossing the ts, plus being willing to stand up in the nearly

      • by retchdog (1319261)

        That's all true, but on the other hand, Americans give a shit about cars whereas we really don't care about education. If put to direct vote, I'm fairly sure that the majority would vote to get rid of education completely and just replace it with daycare, if it would save a couple of bucks.

      • Barely scarping by? where I live that's an excellent wage, the average wage for a teacher in my state is $55k... AND they get summers off!!!

        • Where do you live that $30K/yr qualifies as an "excellent wage?" Because I live in one of the most wage-depressed parts of the nation, on the Ozark Plateau, and I can tell you for a fact that 30 grand ain't shit after Uncle Sam takes his cut.

          Then again, who am I to argue with the man that brought us hops?

          Sorry, but I've been wanting to use that one since I first saw your screen name.

      • You don’t want to ask if the pay you are offering is sufficient for a middle class lifestyle, the question you want to ask is if the pay is drawing candidates that meet your qualifications.

        High quality teachers can often make more in the private sector. Teachers tend to be drawn from the bottom half of the college graduates. This tells me something. Also, most teaching positions offer high benefits, such as generous pensions, tenure, and salary advances, which tend to be back loaded - which tend to dr

        • You don’t want to ask if the pay you are offering is sufficient for a middle class lifestyle, the question you want to ask is if the pay is drawing candidates that meet your qualifications.

          High quality teachers can often make more in the private sector. Teachers tend to be drawn from the bottom half of the college graduates. This tells me something. Also, most teaching positions offer high benefits, such as generous pensions, tenure, and salary advances, which tend to be back loaded - which tend to draw in the risk adverse.

          Got any source citation for those claims, or am I supposed to take your word for it?

          My sister was a teacher, see, and although she graduated at the top of her class, she chose to take a lower paying position as a special education teacher in a public school, so my experience is probably colored a bit differently than yours.

          • Let’s see – you sister graduated at the top of her class and was a teacher? What is she doing now? And why are extrapolating from a single data point? That could be dangerous. But since you wanted evidence.

            The countries where pupils do best, such as Singapore, Finland and South Korea, draw all their teachers from the top third of the academic pool. In America three-quarters of teacher-training colleges accept students who graduate in the bottom half of their class.

            http://www.economist.com/news/... [economist.com]

            By the way, I have a pretty good idea what Special Ed teachers do, and I greatly appreciate what they do, but of the 40 or so that I have meet none of them graduated from the top of their class or from top schools. That’s my antidotal evidence.

            • Let’s see – you sister graduated at the top of her class and was a teacher? What is she doing now? And why are extrapolating from a single data point? That could be dangerous. But since you wanted evidence.

              She's no longer on this plane of existence, but I get your point about small data sets.

              The countries where pupils do best, such as Singapore, Finland and South Korea, draw all their teachers from the top third of the academic pool. In America three-quarters of teacher-training colleges accept students who graduate in the bottom half of their class.

              http://www.economist.com/news/... [economist.com]

              By the way, I have a pretty good idea what Special Ed teachers do, and I greatly appreciate what they do, but of the 40 or so that I have meet none of them graduated from the top of their class or from top schools. That’s my antidotal evidence.

              Here's the problem: I looked up the group who did the "research" cited on that page, the National Council on Teacher Quality, and their credentials are shady at best. Some resources:

              http://www.sourcewatch.org/ind... [sourcewatch.org]

              http://www.washingtonpost.com/... [washingtonpost.com]

              An excerpt from the second link:

              Several months ago, U.S. News & World Report announced that it planned to rank the nation’s schools of education and that it would do so with the assistance of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

              Since then, many institutions announced that they would not collaborate. Some felt that they had already been evaluated by other accrediting institutions like NCATE or TEAC; others objected to NCTQ’s methodology. As the debate rated, NCTQ told the dissenters that they would be rated whether they agreed or not, and if they didn’t cooperate, they would get a zero. The latest information that I have seen is that the ratings will appear this fall.

              Rating schools as a zero because they refused to co-operate? Way to screw up your own results, NCTQ.

              • My condolences on your sister. Special Ed is one of those fields where it is hard to retain high quality teachers.

                As for the NCTQ, I think you criticism are slightly off point. There are 2 separate issues here. The first is the objective fact that most teachers are drawn from the bottom half of their class. If you don’t like NCTQ I can find other sources. That is a input – not a result. Your point is that some colleges don’t want to be evaluated is a different question - and is a different

                • Fair enough. I guess my experiences with bad, intentionally-skewed-as-to-produce-the-desired-result "research" over the past couple decades has left me quite jaded and unable to trust any research group to not show some sort of confirmation bias.

                  • Fair enough. A intelligent man knows that ½ of what he is told is false, a wise man knows which half. I trust the Economist but I recognize that is a bias. Always good to check out the primary source data and evaluate it for yourself.

    • by brunes69 (86786)

      Its not as easy to figure out who the "best teachers" are though.

      What do you base it on? Standardized testing? We all know that is garbage. Student surveys? Then the most "popular" teachers would walk and the least "popular" ones would get canned... effectiveness is not always a popularity contest.

      It is hard to define what a good teacher is other than someone who really cares about students and puts in genuine effort. You know it when you see it but coming up with a way to measure it objectively would be di

    • Source? If so, why not fire the bottom 10% of all occupations? What's your plan for those folks?
    • by The Cat (19816)

      Why not send the 10% of teachers to training where they can learn to be better teachers?

  • by sexconker (1179573) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @12:43PM (#46239335)

    All the winners are things that let teachers shit out more auto-generated homework, quizzes/tests, lessons, and tutoring.

    Here's a solution: Hire teachers who know the subject and are willing to teach children. Pay them decently, and fire the teachers who can't teach. Tell the unions to fuck right on off.

    While you're at it, fire the students who screw over other kids because they can't behave like a human being for a few hours a day. Tell their parents to fuck right on off, too. "You're child was expelled for being a fucking nuisance. Correct the behavior or have fun homeschooling the little shit yourself." And hold all the stupid kids back, too. "Your child failed to learn anything and will not advance to the next grade."

    It's fucking simple and it'll fucking work, so it'll never fucking happen.

    • by jhujoe (579368)
      Exactly. All of this stuff just distances teachers from students even more and makes education less humane. There should be NO computers in classrooms. They are a huge distraction. If "education" is about filling up brains with facts, we don't need teachers at all. The public school system is broken. Children need role models and human teachers who look them in the eye and care about them as human beings. Public school teachers haven't done anything like this in decades. This is just the next nail in
      • by werdnam (1008591)
        I think you're being a bit unfair towards some of the ideas. I see a lot of potential, for example, in being able to generate randomized, individualized, instantly-graded homework sets for students. A lot of these systems are pretty "smart," and can identify a student's individual weaknesses and give them more practice where they need it. They can also let students zip past the parts they already understand and so get to harder material as appropriate. The teacher plays an important role in being able to pr
        • by jhujoe (579368)
          I agree with your premise (that it's impossible to expect a teacher to individualize education for 30 students) but disagree with your proposed solution (technology). The real solution is the CHANGE THE SYSTEM. 30 kids to one teacher is a horrible system. 20 kids to one teacher is a very bad system. 10 kids to one teacher is BARELY workable. That's if we care about children getting a good education. Clearly, we don't.
      • by ranton (36917)

        If "education" is about filling up brains with facts, we don't need teachers at all.

        Children need role models and human teachers who look them in the eye and care about them as human beings.

        It looks like we agree on almost everything, except perhaps the solution. I agree that the filling up of brains with facts and skills does not require as much teacher interaction as it does now. I also agree that teachers should be spending more time understanding students, motivating them, guiding them, and supporting them. Instead of just lecturing facts.

        But my solution is to use more automated technology to impart facts so teachers can be freed to be more like personal coaches to the students. Why do we

    • by neo-mkrey (948389)
      Yes! Yes! and YES!!!
  • More trades / tech schools
    Or even a bigger push to go to Community College

  • ...Shark Tank [botaday.com]?
  • ...being "Shart Tank".

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