No. 337 | July 26, 2017

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Edtech insights for decision makers
This issue is sponsored by

“Money talks. I hate to listen. But lately it’s been screaming in my ears.”
— “Emaline” by Ben Folds

No matter how “mission-driven” a business or its investors are, the bottom line has, and always will be, money. And in 2017, the money is roaring back for U.S.-based edtech companies, which have raised $887 million in just the first half of the year.

Yet what’s screaming even louder is the alarmingly small number of women who take up board seats at venture-backed edtech startups. Silicon Valley and technology companies are no stranger to these critiques, but that doesn’t give the education industry an out, especially when directors make strategic company decisions that affect teachers and students. Shall we continue to celebrate funding even when it perpetuates a deep-rooted problem?


WHERE ARE THE WOMEN? Twenty of the biggest U.S. edtech deals have netted more than $2.7 billion in venture capital. Yet of the 116 collective seats on their boards of directors, only eight are held by women. Investors and founders weigh in on how corporate edtech boards still have a ways to go when it comes to diversity—and why that affects both business and users.

THE BULL IS BACK: After a dip in deal flow and venture capital to U.S. edtech companies last year, the industry came roaring back in 2017. During the first six months we tallied 58 deals totaling $887 million. (By contrast, all of 2016 only saw $1 billion raised.) Here’s what the emergence of new funders looking to cut $50+ million checks means for the industry.

HOW MANY JOBS WILL YOU REALLY HAVE? Five? 15? 50? It’s popular these days to talk about how many times millennials will switch jobs over the course of their careers. While some data suggests there’s more movement, not everyone agrees job-hopping is accelerating. EdSurge dives into the numbers on what economists call “churn.”

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: Robots and literacy are rarely paired in headlines, but when it comes to helping students read, one Kentucky summer camp is pulling out all the stops, robotics included. The camps use literacy as a cornerstone for incorporating other geeky interests across photography, yoga, hip hop and of course, our mechanical friends.

WE LOVE THE ‘90s! Edtech has come a long way in the past decade, but there's just something about the '90s: the floppy disks, the colorful iMacs, the Lisa Frank slap bracelets...sigh. We put together our definitive list of the forgotten edtech tools we wish were still kickin' it—and how modern equivalents stack up. (Spoiler: there’s a lot less neon.)

ANOTHER BOOTCAMP BOOTED: Last week Iron Yard, a Greenville, S.C.-based operator of coding bootcamps, announced it will be closing shop at its 15 locations after summer. (It’s owned by Apollo Education Group, which also owns the University of Phoenix.) “The industry as a whole is still young and its leaders face the challenge of a nascent market,” reads the company announcement.

PRECISION EDUCATION: Here’s new spin on personalized learning, inspired by a growing practice in medicine. In “precision education,” there’s no promise of a totally unique experience for every student. Instead, educators create distinct paths of teaching materials based on their students’ learning needs. Here’s our look at three “precision” efforts.


YOUNG BILLIONAIRES: The Global STEM Alliance wants students to become billionaires—but not in the traditional sense of the word. Rather, the nonprofit wants young STEM students to create tools that will “touch, teacher or influence a billion people.” EdSurge’s Jenny Abamu checks out the students’ project showcase, featuring smart solutions to wicked problems in climate change and public health.

EMOTICON: Where in New York City can you meet students from all five boroughs with actionable ideas on making the world a better place for everyone? Here’s a report from Emoti-Con 2017, where young attendees wracked their brains for ways to help people with disabilities to designing an “ideal city” using only plastic cups, LED lights, pipe cleaners, and pompoms.

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Follow your EdSurgents @tonywan, @jencurti0345, @JennyAbamu, @jryoung and @sydneyfjohnson for the latest news and scoops as they hit the wire. And don’t forget @EdSurge to follow us all!

Or, better yet—can you help educators shine through their writing? We’re looking for a K-12 Assistant Editor to find, report and edit stories about how teachers adopt new technologies—and whether all the shiny tools have really made a difference. Check out the job opening here.


GET YOUR STARTER PACK! The internet memes have blessed us with “starter kits” for everything—from “high school in movies” to “college student.” Here’s one from EdSurge columnist Amy Ahearn that actually offers useful tips: a starter kit of what every hopeful instructional designer should know.


LEARNING HOW TO LEARN: Barbara Oakley co-teaches an online course about learning how to learn, and she says students often arrive with wrongheaded notions about what they need to to do succeed. On this week’s EdSurge podcast, she shares what she’s learned about teaching and learning, and why she thinks free online courses like hers may still disrupt education as we know it. Listen to the conversation, or read the article.


MONEY TALKS: Luis von Ahn admits he’s “actually very bad at learning languages.” But the Duolingo co-founder and CEO is well-versed in another lingo: money. Duolingo, which now claims 200 million users across the globe, has closed on a $25 million Series E round (at a $700 million valuation). More details here from our exchange with von Ahn.

FRONTLINE EDUCATION has acquired School Improvement Network, a Salt Lake City-based provider of professional development videos and training courses for K-12 educators. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. This marks the tenth acquisition in Frontline’s history.

BYJU’S, an Indian startup that offers online test-prep and study materials, has scored an undisclosed investment from Tencent, the Chinese internet juggernaut and developer of popular apps such as WeChat. The company had raised more than $200 million before this round.

GRADSTAFF, a recruiting company that helps recent college graduates land entry-level jobs, has been acquired by University Ventures, an investment firm that deals in the higher-ed industry. Financial terms were not disclosed.


STUDY UP: The Education Technology Industry Network, along with Empirical Education, has released “Guidelines for Conducting and Reporting EdTech Impact Research in U.S. K-12 Schools.”

PAINT’S NOT DRY: Microsoft Paint was slated to die, but “an incredible pouring of support and nostalgia” has convinced the company to keep it alive. Here are some of the coolest creations on yet another piece of ‘90s “edtech” nostalgia.

GONE IN A FLASH? Will fans also rally around Flash, the browser plugin that allowed multimedia to play on websites? Adobe plans to kill it in 2020.

DANCER, HIKER, PROGRAMMER, CAMPER: The Girl Scouts has added 23 new badges, 15 of which are related to STEM skills.

BRAIN GAINS: From The Economist: “How the science of learning can get the best out of edtech.”

WHEN ACRONYMS ATTACK: “Forget STEM, STEAM, and STREAM—the newest acronym in education is DREAMS.” (Please stop…)


WHAT DID YOU LEARN TODAY? If a student only remembers that they used a shiny new app, and not what they learned, is technology being integrated effectively? Alabama teacher Nira Dale wondered about this question—and subsequently captured the attention of K-12 and higher-ed aficionados by arguing that instructional design must focus less on learning activities—and more on the desired learning outcomes.


ARE YOU A PERSONALIZED LEARNING LEADER? In partnership with Digital Promise, EdSurge will be hosting the EdSurge Fusion Conference on Nov. 1-3. Hundreds of K-12 administrators will share how they bring personalized learning to life. Want to learn how your company can be involved? Reach out to

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.

Application Success Manager Clever
You're a born leader and problem solver, versatile enough to talk strategy with a customer’s VP of Sales, dive into a spreadsheet with a Product Manager, and present to the CEO -- all before lunch. If you’re a high achiever, we want to talk to you.
Customer implementation / customer success • Startup • San Francisco, CA

Vice President of Sales HireEducation
Our client is a leader in business and educational video solutions who is streamlining the learning process for both students and employees. They are seeking a VP Sales to drive overall growth.
Sales • Startup • Remote

Partner Success Manager Goalbook
Lead Goalbook’s work with our district and school partners across the country. You’ll partner closely with instructional leaders to plan implementations and deliver professional development. Opportunities in both NYC and CA.
Sales • Startup • NYC and San Mateo, CA

Marketing Manager CodeHS
Lead marketing at CodeHS to help us bring coding to more schools. You'll work on newsletters, branding, conferences, and more.
Marketing • Startup • Remote

Test Prep Tutor ScoreBeyond Test Prep
ScoreBeyond blends software, data science, and science of learning to deliver more efficient and affordable SAT/ACT tutoring. By collecting data on student performance, we’re able to implement customized plans and guarantee score improvements.
Teaching • Startup • Remote

Sales Development Representative CodeHS
Work with teachers and administrators to help bring computer science to more schools. You'll be the first point of contact for schools interested in CodeHS.
Sales • Startup • Remote

Software Engineer Literably
Literably automates time-consuming teacher-administered elementary reading assessments, saving a week or more of instructional time per school year. We're looking for a full-stack engineer #1 with an eagerness to improve literacy outcomes.
Engineering • Startup • San Francisco, CA

Operations Manager CT3 Education
The Operations Manager at CT3 is a vital role that increases the impact of our team and programs through innovative use of data and technology. Role is based in SF, CA supporting the CT3 team working with schools and districts across the country.
Operations • Startup • San Francisco, CA

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EdSurge Fusion
500 school and district leaders are coming together around personalized learning and school transformation. Interested in being there? Read more here
Nov 1 to Nov 3 • Burlingame, CA • more than $250

Edtech Opportunities
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NYU Edtech Accelerator, powered by StartEd
Are you a founder solving a problem in Pre-K, K-12, HigherEd, corporate or adult learning? The NYU Edtech Accelerator, powered by StartEd, is a 3-month immersion accelerator program for ed startups who receive up to $170,000 plus legal, HR, and other services. Applications due this Sunday, July 30th!
Applications due July 30th

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