Monthly Archives: December 2013

The #edtech Phenomenon of 2013: Video

Fact of the day: The Buggles with their “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first song ever aired on MTV. Now, more than thirty years later, we can safely state that radio is alive and kicking. At the moment video is breaking through in education. In the same token, it will not replace text, audio, and pictures, but complement them.


2014 is just around the corner and the ol’ 2013 calls for recaps. Audrey Watters compiled some nice Top 10 educational technology lists on her Hack Education blog.

Let’s take a closer look at three of the lists, namely investments, acquisitions, and mentions in the New York Times. The investment top 10 first:

1. Laureate Education ($150,000,000)
2. Lynda.com ($103,000,000)
3. OpenEnglish ($65,000,000)
4. Coursera ($63,000,000)
5. Knewton ($51,000,000)
6. Sympoz ($35,000,000)
7. Instructure ($30,000,000)
8. Pluralsight ($27,500,000)
9. Jumpstart ($26,800,000)
10. creativeLIVE ($21,500,000)
10. WyzAnt ($21,500,000)

(Actually it is a top 11 since creativeLIVE and WyzAnt grabbed the same amount of funding and therefore are both included in the list.)

What’s striking of the list is that 6 of the companies are more or less based on sharing video content online, whether streams or downloads. They are Lynda.com, OpenEnglish, Coursera, Symptoz, PluralSight, and creativeLIVE.

If you take a look at the media coverage, by virtue of the NYT mentions list, the phenomenon gets even more amplified. 8 out of 10 on this list are dependent on video content:

1. Coursera (video)
2. edX (video)
3. Udacity (video)
4. Khan Academy (video)
5. Amplify
6. inBloom
7. Lynda.com (video)
8. Udemy (video)
9. 2U (video)
10. CreativeLive (video)

Pretty impressive. Video has truly been the edtech phenomenon of 2013. However, it is not yet very mature and hasn’t so far resulted in too many notable acquisitions. In the following list none of the companies are truly video-based (neither buyers nor the ones who got sold):

1. Learnboost (acquired by Automattic)
2. Learning Catalytics (acquired by Pearson)
3. Knowillage Systems (acquired by Desire2Learn)
4. Degree Compass (acquired by Desire2Learn)
5. Root1 (acquired by Edmodo)
6. Livemocha (acquired by Rosetta Stone)
7. Late Nite Labs (acquired by Macmillan)
8. ALEKS (acquired by McGraw-Hill)
9. Altius Education (acquired by Datamark)
10. Grockit (acquired by Kaplan)

My prediction is that in 2014 we start to see MOOC providers and other video-based edtech companies getting acquired and integrated into platforms and online content offerings. Higher education is leading the way but K-12 is following in one form or another.

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Shanghainese Children Do Almost Five Times More Homework Than Finnish Children

Do you remember from your childhood schoolyard that all practice was frowned upon? It was almost like cheating. If you were the best in mathematics, shooting hoops, or climbing trees, you mustn’t reveal to your friends that you had been practicing to acquire those skills.

Bart repeating.

As grown-ups, we know better. We understand that becoming good in something typically takes time and practice, practice, practice. Of course innate capabilities play a role, but repetition makes a world of difference.

That being said, seems like grown-ups in some countries have taken this a bit too seriously. I was browsing through the latest Pisa data [PDF] and found some staggering numbers on how much time children spend on school activities outside the actual school hours.

In the following I compare Finland (#12 on the mathematics rank), OECD average, South Korea (#5 on the rank, being highest of OECD countries), Singapore (#2), and Shanghai (#1).

There are differences on the percentage of students attending after-school lessons. In Finland more than half of the students don’t attend those lessons at all, roughly a third spend less than four hours a week, and less than 10 percent spend more than four hours. It was a bit of a surprise to me that the OECD average numbers actually represent less after-school attendance than the Finnish numbers.

But in Far East, things are different. Only a third or less of the students don’t attend after-school sessions at all in Korea, Singapore, and Shanghai. And in Korea, almost a third of the pupils spend four or more hours per week on after-school lessons.

An even more significant finding was related to the amount of homework assigned to the students by the teacher. In Finland, Pisa-aged students receive some 2,8 hours of homework per week. OECD average is almost the double of Finnish amount: 4,9 hours per week.

Korea was a surprise with only 2,9 hours per week, virtually the same amount as in Finland. This does not reveal the whole truth, however. For example, Korean kids spend 3,6 hours per week in after-school classes organized by companies, compared to 0,1 hours of Finnish children.

Back to the homework numbers: Singaporeans do homework for 9,4 hours and Shanghainese as much as 13,8 hours per week! That’s two hours per day, including weekends, against Finland’s half an hour per day, including only weekdays.

Spending as much time on after-school activities as the current top Pisa performers do probably has a direct impact on their positions on the rank. As we grown-ups know, practice makes perfect. But we also know that children need play and recess. Let’s not forget that.

This is No Pisaster

So the news finally broke [PDF]. Finland is officially out of top 10 dropped in OECD’s latest Pisa ranking. Seems like we are #12, if I’m reading the table correctly. are #12 in mathematics, #6 in reading, and #5 in science.

So, what should we do to make our way back to the top? Panic? No, we should do nothing. We should just

Keep Calm and Carry On.

Of course I’m being provocative here. We should do plenty of things to ensure the best education for our children. It is just that we shouldn’t do it because of some dubious ranking system. A good position on a list like this is a by-product, not a goal to strive for.

Furthermore: as Tim Walker noted in his blog post a couple of days back, assessing even individuals with some standardized testing is difficult. So how on earth could we manage to pull it off for nations?

We should naturally do everything we can to prepare our children for the future. No, let me be more precise: we should support the children in building the future for themselves. And by ‘we’ I mean the whole ecosystem, consisting of teachers, students, parents, educational material providers, technology vendors, government officials, researchers, etc.

There are a number of things we should do, regardless of any rankings. I am thinking, in no prioritized order:

  • Embrace the media and technologies children use
  • Cater for individual learning needs of students
  • Ensure the motivation of students and teachers
  • Closely follow research and actively try out new ways of learning & teaching
  • Respect local cultures but utilize global findings and best practices
  • Co-create and enrich educational materials with children and teachers
  • Build bridges and feedback loops between education and corporate life
  • Provide a safe environment for learning to take place
  • Realize that coming up with all this takes resources

To finish with a cautionary example: here’s what we shouldn’t do, ever. Poor Korean kids! If anything like this is going to happen, I will—to quote a famous Finnish ski jumper—move to Copenhagen and apply for Swedish citizenship.

Update 4.12.2013, 3:30PM I found out that “pisaster” is an actual word, meaning some kind of a starfish type of creature. However, I hope you understood that I was trying to be funny combining Pisa and disaster.