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Ed Tech Insider

Learn the latest trends from the Education Technology industry before they hit the mainstream news. Andrew Cohen interviews the most influential and fastest emerging industry leaders about the innovative projects they are working on.

On Screen with John Katzman, founder of 2Tor

By , 1/17/2012 at 7:46 am

John Katzman, founder of 2Tor

When most people think of online college classes, the first thing that comes to mind is often a “cheaper,” more convenient alternative to traditional in-person courses.  The problem with this model is that “cheap” often brings with it a grossly inferior learning experience.

John Katzman is trying to change all that.  After a successful exit of his last education startup – The Princeton Review – Katzman has founded 2Tor as a way for universities to finally offer high-quality online degree programs.  2Tor’s instructional designers work directly with professors to incorporate their content into the company’s growing array of flexible tools, for high-impact education delivered both asynchronously and synchronously.  According to Katzman, legitimate online degree programs should focus on “excellence first, and cost containment second.”

I sat down with John Katzman this afternoon to learn more about the history, justification, and future of 2Tor.  Please check out our conversation in the video below, and be sure to let John know what you think!


On screen with Gagan Biyani, Co-Founder of Udemy

By , 12/14/2011 at 8:37 am

Have you ever wished that you could take an on-demand video course for interesting topics like building a website, starting a company, or doing yoga?  Gagan Biyani has.  That’s why he and  co-founder Eren Bali decided to start Udemy, an online course authoring and sharing platform that aims to “democratize online education.”  I actually interviewed Eren nearly a year ago about his role as the technical founder, and now that the company has raised a Series A, I thought it was a good time to catch up with the other co-founder Gagan to see how Udemy’s plans have evolved.

As you’ll see in the video below, Udemy still combines series of instructional videos into full courses that can be purchased, shared, and even certified.  But they now have even bigger plans to expand on their additional features such as the addition of articles, presentations, assessments, index-able videos, and a variety of other social and collaborative education activities to create a richer overall learning experience.

Be sure to check out our interview below and tell Gagan what you think! (more…)

On Screen with Nihal Parthasarathi, Co-Founder of CourseHorse

By , 9/26/2011 at 8:26 am

Nihal ParthasarathiFinding a one-off course in your city can be a huge pain in the butt.  For all memorable history, if you have ever been interested in learning to cook, program in Ruby on Rails, dance salsa, or do improv monologues in foreign accents, the only comprehensive search option has been to seek every business and college’s course catalogue and/or pray that google will deliver the right class for your keywords.  This is hardly an efficient solution for someone who deeply wants to learn a subject.

Enter Nihal Parthasarathi and Katie Kapler, the founders of CourseHorse.  After a few frustrating years of trying to find great classes to quench their young adult thirst for knowledge, the pair has created an ecosystem that finally makes it easier for you to find and enroll in the best classes in your city.  The service is really taking off in New York and will be continuing to expand in terms of both geography and functionality as the company grows.

I sat down with Nihal today to hear more about how CourseHorse works and where it’s going.  Check out our video interview below, and be sure to tell Nihal what you think! (more…)

On Screen with Ben Kamens, Lead Developer at Khan Academy

By , 9/14/2011 at 8:13 am

Ben KamensIf you work in the world of Education and you haven’t been sleeping for the past five years, then you will surely have heard about the amazing stuff that Khan Academy has been doing lately.  It’s no longer just an online library of charismatic math tutorial videos as many people think.  Rather, the Khan Academy has recently begun releasing a new type of learning trajectory based on “knowledge maps,” with which students can boost their math skills more efficiently than ever before, using interactive exercises, remedial videos, and facilitated collaboration between teachers and other students.  Learners have never before had such effective resources for working at their own pace while leveraging human tutors only when most deeply needed.  Bill Gates deems this model to be the greatest hope for solving the ”mind-blowing misallocation” of resources in education today.

I sat down with this afternoon with Khan Academy’s lead developer, Ben Kamens, to learn more about how Khan Academy’s model works, and about its plans for future technological advancement in education.  Please check out the video(s) below and let Ben know what you think! (more…)

On Screen with Scott Young – Author of “Learn More, Study Less”

By , 8/25/2011 at 7:58 am

Nobody is born with an understanding of the science of how we learn things most efficiently.  Aside from a few genetic prodigies, the skill of being a fast learner is generally acquired over time, often with a lot of outside coaching.

Scott Young seems to have recognized this phenomenon and has set out to help those who have not been lucky enough to have had these formative “learn-how-to-learn” experiences.  Through his prolific blog and his well-circulated series of books (including “Learn More, Study Less“), Scott has taught hundreds of thousands of people how to think about complex learning content in order to most firmly ingrain it into our heads.  He advocates a system of concept maps that help us link ideas to each other in a way that helps us form a bigger picture.

I also happen to be a huge advocate of this approach, and I think it is the perfect complement to the “memorization”-based techniques that Brainscape can help learners apply as a review of the core information that we need to internalize.  Please check out my conversation with Scott below, and be sure to tell him what you think!


On Screen with Vicki Davis, the Cool Cat Teacher

By , 7/18/2011 at 9:00 am

“You can’t have excellence in education without global collaboration.”  Those were the first words Vicki Davis uttered in a great vinterview I had with her over Skype this afternoon, and they mean a lot coming from her.  Vicki is one of the most significant leaders of the movement toward connecting K-12 students with their global peers to work together on meaningful projects.  Through her prominent blog (The “Cool Cat Teacher“) and through the Flat Classroom Project, which she co-founded, Vicki has facilitated dozens of key initiatives under a single umbrella through a growing network of affiliate educators and a slew of Web 2.0 tools that allow students to collaborate asynchronously more effectively than ever before.  Vicki reminds us of the recent Business Week study showing that 1 in 5 of us will be on a first-name basis with someone in India within the next 5 years, and highlights that our schools have no excuse not to foster a future workforce with a global mindset.

Please watch our discussion below, and be sure to watch out for Vicki’s upcoming book: “Flattening Classrooms, Expanding Minds”.  Oh, and don’t forget to tell Vicki what you think! (more…)

On Screen with Steven Anderson – founder of Web20Classroom blog

By , 6/14/2011 at 10:04 am

One of the educational technologists I’ve been following most closely on Twitter over the past year has been @web20classroom – a blogger named Steven Anderson who works as an instructional designer for the Winston-Salem, NC school district.  Steve’s blog and tweets have helped keep the EdTech community abreast of recent technology usage trends at both the classroom and school district level, and they have helped provide numerous resources (like these) in an industry that desperately needs such aggregation.

I sat down with Steve this afternoon to discuss his views on how to best incorporate technology into the classroom, and how ensure that it is tailored to students’ needs – rather than teachers just using technology for technology’s sake.  Please check out our conversation below, and let Steve know what you think!


On screen with Aaron Knight – founder of PhraseMix

By , 6/7/2011 at 10:23 am

Aaron KnightLearning a language through short vocab and grammar drills only get you so far.  The types of idiomatic expressions we use in everyday speech simply cannot be illustrated without a bit more situational context.

That’s where PhraseMix comes in.  The website’s founder Aaron Knight has been assembling hundreds of phrases over the past few years, and combining them with real-life situational contexts to help English learners study them better.  His daily posts and tweets have already helped thousands of ESL students improve their English conversational skills.

I sat down with Aaron this evening to discuss PhraseMix’s learning benefits, and to explore its future plans for technology enhancements. Check out our conversation below, and be sure to tell Aaron what you think!

On screen with Jan Reichelt – co-founder of Mendeley

By , 5/31/2011 at 10:22 am

Jan ReicheltIn many ways, the advancement of science itself is largely dependent on the efficiency with which the world’s top scholars can produce and share academic references about their discoveries.  Yet until recently, this process has been extremely cumbersome  for most research teams. (more…)

On screen with San Kim – Founder of ShowMe

By , 5/24/2011 at 10:20 am

We’ve all experienced frustration with a textbook’s poor attempt to explain a difficult concept to us.  The unfortunate fact is that sometimes, no matter how good the writer or illustrator, some concepts are just too difficult to explain clearly using static text and images.  If only there was some way to make the experience of having a private virtual tutor accessible on demand. (more…)

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