No. 369 | March 6, 2018

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Edtech insights for decision makers
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From Tex-Mex/Indian fusion cuisine to an impromptu visit from the Education Secretary, Austin never ceases to amaze and surprise. As we enter Day 3 of SXSW EDU, the editorial team has been racking up the step count as we cover highlights from the big panels and sessions—as well as the juicier tidbits heard only in the hallways. See the highlights from the first two days below. Can you believe we’re only halfway through the conference?


DEVOS THE MODERATOR: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made a last-minute appearance on Tuesday, where she repeated familiar tropes around the need to “rethink” American education. But in an unusual move, she spent the bulk of the session asking questions and seeking advice from three industry panelists. We got front row seats to her panel moderation skills—and the accompanying scoffs and assorted reactions from the audience.

JAPAN TO THE RESCUE? Seed capital has been harder to come by for early-stage education technology entrepreneurs. But word on the street is that an American ally in the Pacific will be stepping up to fill the gap. Here’s our scoop on a new fund that could bring as much as $40 million to seed and Series A deals for edtech startups.

WHY NINJAS & ROCKSTARS HURT DIVERSITY: Those may be metaphors that describe the ideal workers at fast-growing tech companies. But in job descriptions, those labels can feel exclusionary and dissuade potential candidates from joining your organization. At a session about improving recruiting, hiring and cultural practices, panelists shared tips about how edtech organizations can meaningfully tackle diversity problems (and what not to do).

WHO KNOWS WHAT YOU’LL FIND AT SXSW EDU? Session topics this year ran the gamut, from classroom practices to business—from the boardroom to the playground. And in between, there was a U.S. Congressman’s pitch for a bipartisan student loan relief bill and teachers sharing humbling stories around their struggles in the classroom. Here’s our highlights from Day 1 of the Austin extravaganza.

—Day 2 brought us Google, “reality education” and an atmosphere much changed from previous conferences. Check out how one author thinks we should be teaching AI to small learners and thoughts on which country is really leading the world of edtech in our continuing coverage.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Some of the familiar faces gathered at SXSW EDU sported new titles on their name badges:

—Din Heiman, the former chief operating officer and general manager at BrainPOP, has taken a new job as president of digital literacy company Achieve3000.

—Steven Hodas, former executive director of NYC Department of Education’s Office of Innovation, is now vice president of education at the Anti-Defamation League, tasked with creating online programs for its anti-bias and anti-bullying curricula.

—Mike Lawrence, former CEO of CUE, is now senior director at student information system company PowerSchool.

—Mark Miller, a managing partner at Good Harbor Partners, is now also chairperson of Boston edtech incubator LearnLaunch. He takes over for Jean Hammond.

—Liam Pisano, former managing director of LearnLaunch’s accelerator program, is now a managing director at EduLab Ventures, a new edtech fund based in Boston. (Read more here.)

—Katrina Stevens, former deputy director at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology (and a former EdSurge director before that), is now director of learning science at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.


EDSURGE IMMERSION: April 15 in San Diego: Get your edtech company into the fast lane with Immersion, a hands-on workshop for edtech entrepreneurs. In the room: VCs from Owl Ventures, Reach Capital, Rethink Education and SJF Ventures; experts on hiring, marketing and the markets. Plus: Larry Berger, CEO of Amplify (and Wireless Generation founder) on the future of edtech. Bring your pitch deck, roadmap or marketing blueprints—or whatever keeps you up at night. Leave with a plan. Sign up here.

HIRING UP A STORM? Or making your first hire? EdSurge is hosting its 11th semi-annual jobs fair series to help edtech organizations hire the best talent in edtech. All the locations and dates here.

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ASK BETSY: EdSurge CEO Betsy Corcoran makes a crazy offer to edtech entrepreneurs in month’s EdSurge Insider, our monthly missive to keep you on point about how EdSurge can help you. All you have to do is ask. Okay, yes, first you need to subscribe. Start by clicking here.


STANDARDIZED TESTING AND GAMING: After years of watching heated debates about their exams unfold, the Educational Testing Service is finally ready to make public statements about changes that it hopes will address concerns. The group’s research team has been evaluating ways to apply aspects of personalized learning and gaming into their tests—a process that it admits is difficult but necessary.

FROM MOOC TO BACHELOR’S: When MOOCs began to take off in 2012, their pitch to investors often included jargon around “disrupting” the way education is accessed and consumed. These days, though, many MOOC platforms are courting the traditional higher-ed market they once rebuked, often by hosting fully-online master’s degrees for universities. This week, one of the largest providers, Coursera, announced it’s going one step further with its first fully-online bachelor’s degree.

Sponsored by Kiddom
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS: What types of administrators drive student achievement, and which qualities are a barrier to success? After thousands of hours spent talking to school leaders, Kiddom’s Melissa Giroux says, “we’ve distilled our learning into three model administrator profiles—and two not-so-great ones.” The good: empathizers who ensure staff have a balanced workload. The bad: impulse shoppers who “choose separate software to solve every problem.”

LINKING TOOLS ACROSS RESEARCH: Last week Elsevier continued its drive to provide tools for the entire researcher workflow process by announcing a partnership with a nonprofit named Hypothesis, which makes online annotation software. Here’s why higher education leaders have been watching Elsevier’s overall strategy with caution—and some concern.

FAILED ALERTS: Some say the third time’s a charm. But can—or should—the cliché hold up in higher ed? Tallahassee Community College is finding out with a technology known as early alerts, which aim to notify a professor or advisor about students who show early signs of struggle. After two failed attempts and more than a decade of trying to make the tool work, the college again finds itself redesigning its early-alert platform.


CHEATERS BEWARE: Last week at the Bay Area Learning Analytics Conference, a senior data scientist from digital education company Chegg explained how the company’s tutoring service uses machine learning to catch cheating requests on its platform.


MONEY TALKS (AGAIN): Elsa, a San Francisco-based startup behind an English-learning app that focuses on pronunciation skills, has raised $3.2 million in a “Pre-A” round led by Monk’s Hill Ventures, a firm based in Southeast Asia.

LIFELONG FUNDING: Degreed, a San Francisco-based company behind a “lifelong learning platform” that helps professionals and companies develop and certify skills, has raised $42 million in a Series C round led by Owl Ventures and Jump Capital. This latest infusion puts the company at $75 million of venture dollars raised.


Sales of print and digital textbooks from preK-12 publishers were estimated at $2.8 billion in 2017—a slight dip from the previous year. (Education Week)

Chromebooks still reign supreme in the U.S. K-12 market, but Microsoft is catching up. Futuresource reports that sales of sub-$300 Windows devices in this market grew 6 percent in Q4 2017 over the previous period. (Futuresource)

The annual edtech industry conference formerly known as EdNET has morphed into EdNEXT, which will be a series of three one-day events in Chicago, New York and San Francisco. (PRWeb)

With a $30 million grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, researchers from Harvard, MIT and Florida State University, along with Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, are banding together for a “Reach Every Reader” initiative. The five-year program aims to develop tools for instruction and assessment that help kids read on grade level by the end of third grade. (MIT News)

The three winners of the annual Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education, each of whom will get $50,000—and a bronze sculpture. (McGraw-Hill Education)

Looking for a job in edtech? You’ve come to the right place. EdSurge has the leading edtech jobs board with over 400 openings from schools, nonprofits and companies.


District Partnerships Goalbook
Goalbook is hiring for District Partnerships to fuel our growth. You’ll lead efforts to bring Goalbook into school districts across the country and work closely with instructional leaders.
Sales • Startup • San Mateo, CA

Community Specialist Teachers Pay Teachers
From collaborating on exciting new initiatives, to acting as a trusted TpT voice, to creating and maintaining programs that recognize educator awesomeness, the Community Specialist is an essential and nimble part of multiple projects and goals.
Customer Implementation / Customer Success • Startup • New York, NY

Trust and Safety Coordinator Teachers Pay Teachers
Teachers Pay Teachers (or TpT, as we call it) is looking to add a member to our Marketplace Integrity team to preserve and protect our marketplace and community with objective policy enforcement, thoughtful community support and education, and implementation of systems.
Operations • Startup • New York, NY

Education Partnerships Manager CodeHS
CodeHS is hiring for an Education Partnerships Manager to help manage relationships with different educational organizations, and ensure the success of various partnerships.
Customer Implementation / Customer Success • Startup • New York, NY

Director, Educational Research and Evaluation Anti-Defamation League
The Director of Educational Research and Evaluation provides leadership and management for all efforts relating to ADL Education’s evaluation and implementation, program and impact research, engagement and marketing analytics. Apply:
Curriculum design • Non Profit • New York, NY

Online Learning Program Manager Anti-Defamation League
​ADL is expanding its portfolio of online professional learning and is seeking an experienced Director of Online Learning with a background in K-12 professional development to lead the Online Learning team. Apply:
Curriculum design • Non Profit • New York, NY

Education Marketing Manager Anti-Defamation League
The New York headquarters of Anti-Defamation League is seeking an Education Marketing Manager to support the design departments and execution of marketing strategies for online and offline education products and services. Apply:
Marketing • Non Profit • New York, NY

Product Manager Pathgather
Pathgather builds solutions to help employees advance their careers through learning. We're expanding our product team and are looking for an experienced product manager to join us to help make enterprise learning better.
Sales • Startup • San Mateo, CA

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SXSW EDU Conference and Festival 2018

We’re at SXSW EDU® in Austin, Texas, March 5-8, 2018, for four days of compelling sessions, engaging learning experiences, film screenings, startup events, business opportunities, networking, and much more!
Mar 5 to Mar 8 • Austin, TX • more than $250

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