Testing Educational Technology in Real-World Settings

Bavaro Hall, Curry School of Education

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia’s Jefferson Education Accelerator will contribute to the creation of educational technologies and solutions by helping entrepreneurs test their ideas in the classroom, the Curry School of Education Foundation announced yesterday.

When word of the accelerator program first leaked out last year, the Curry School left its value proposition vague. The idea, as then described, was to create an accelerator/incubator to foster the start-up of enterprises that use technology to improve educational access and outcomes. The Curry School had given rise already to several entrepreneurial spin-offs such as PALS, CaseNex and Teachstone, and the thinking was that an accelerator could support even more.

In formally launching the accelerator yesterday, the Curry School of Education Foundation said it would provide more than office space and venture funding. Said Curry School Dean Robert Pianta, who will chair the Accelerator board:

Increasingly, schools of education have a responsibility to ensure that classrooms and campuses are equipped with tools that carry strong evidence of their effectiveness.

The Jefferson Education Accelerator is building a nationwide network of K-12 schools, colleges and universities that have demonstrated both an interest and capacity, to test promising products and services.

“Successful education technologies must be informed by the insights of teachers, administrators, and real-world implementation data,” said Accelerator CEO Bart Epstein. “The number one criterion for investing in education has to be efficacy. We want to bring transparency to the process of evaluating solutions—to help both educators and investors make better informed decisions and make an impact.”

Bacon’s bottom line: The project sounds  well conceived. Raising capital and finding affordable space is the easy part of launching a new educational enterprise. The U.S. educational system is ponderous and bureaucratic. It resists innovation and change. Decision-making is diffuse. Failure is punished and success is little rewarded. Anyone seeking to introduce new technologies or services to schools would be well-served by testing innovations in real-world environments and providing social scientific support of efficacy. The Curry School’s accelerator addresses those challenges head-on.

There may be hope for American education yet.

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5 responses to “Testing Educational Technology in Real-World Settings

  1. One would think that the private sector would latch on to these innovations and leverage them into better educations for less money…

    and yet I don’t see such innovation nor any willingness to be held to efficacy and performance standards – as proof of their “better than bureaucratic bumbling” methods.

    there’s a huge disconnect between all the good work being done at UVA verses the use of it in private ventures to challenge the public school system.

    Could it be that educating kids is a tougher job that some pro-private-sector folks think?

    For me, the proof is in the pudding. Where are the private sector success stories ? not the PR .. and not the less-than-objective, apples to apples, “studies” – where is the demonstrably proof that the 21st century is created true, real disruptive technology in the field of education?

    • There are plenty of studies, Larry, but they would never satisfy you. On this subject, nothing would convert you. You would simply demand ever higher standards of proof — impossible standards of proof.

      • not studies JIm – real world results.

        where are the educational institutions that have actually adopted the technology and have real testing results to prove the efficacy of their work?

        this is not that hard if the private sector schools really do make real strides that PROVE they have done for education what uber is doing for mobility.

        You put that school in a poor neighborhood – you invite the poor to send their kids there – and you show the world that you’re better than the public schools – and you revolutionize the field – and force public schools to deal with that reality instead of folks on the right peddling this pablum about unions and bad teachers .. you show a better way and the blame game goes away as people choose the better approach and public schools become obsolete and irrelevant.

        That’s how REAL disruptive change takes place. You don’t blame what you don’t like – you provide a better mousetrap and people make choices and the old, bad way goes away.

        instead the anti-public school folks are not about real true change – but ideology.

        talk-the-talk – that’s for any tom, dick and harry and there is no shortage of the posers in this day and time.

        walk-the-walk – stop your yammering and prove what you claim ..can be done. That’s what Apple, GOOGLE, and others have done.

        we need more real people who perform and less posers who blather.

      • re: studies vs proof

        this is amusing. We want to make significant and fundamental changes to public education based on “studies” done by folks who are opponents of public education and who have a track record of producing studies festooned with propaganda, misinformation and disinformation.

        No thanks.

        how about some real-world pilot projects instead?

        How about some real schools operated with Koch or ALEC money or venture capital money to remove all doubts we might have with “studies”?

        Let them stand-up some schools in the poorest performing neighborhoods to prove once and for all that non-union “good” teachers along with some new technology can beat the pants off the “ponderous and bureaucratic” K-12 schools.

        I’d be totally fine with parents getting govt vouchers for private sector schools with PROVEN results. And I’d be fine with those pilot schools “proving” that if you focus on core academic and not soup-to-nuts amenity courses – you can get real results as well as help prove why we are currently spending so much money on public school K-12 and getting crappy results.

        So I’m totally on board with ANY and ALL private sector schools – as long as they are held to the same academic standards as public schools AND they actually deliver results – BETTER than public schools.

        But I do not want to see K-12 private schools that work like the higher ed fly-by-night schools that fleece young soldiers of their hard-earned education benefits. We don’t want to give money to the poor to then have it fleeced from them on fly-by-night private K-12 schools.

        You guys (Conservatives) have these hairbrained schemes when it comes to education, health care, and a few other things where you want things implemented that have scant evidence to prove that they work.

        We’ve spent 15 years listening to them talk about their “ideas” about health care and education -but do not want to be held to any accountable standard. You want carte blanche to essentially destroy the current institutions and replace them with unproven and unaccountable replacements .

        so no sir .. we don’t want, nor need, no stinkin “studies”. We want to see actual results from real programs. Just how hard can that be?

        If the Mercatus Center at GMU partnering with Koch and ALEC want to really get in this game – then do it.

        Bill Gates and Warren Buffet do put their money where their mouth is on education – why not the Conservatives?

        If Koche and ALEC and others have money to produce bogus studies why don’t they have money for some real schools to actually prove what their studies purport to show?

        this goes along the current Conservative modus operandi which is to put blame on the existing institutions … damage, undermine, vandalize, shut them down and replace them – not with proven alternatives, nope – with “ideas” and theories promoted in bogus studies funded by the anti-govt/anti-institution types.

        we have this whole generation of Conservatives now – who basically live in a dream world of what they believe – who do not want to evolve and change the current institutions – nope – they’ve got to be destroyed and rebuilt from the ground up.

        No thanks.

  2. Jim – do you not have any confidence at all in the private sector’s ability to innovate and adopt disruptive technology rather than stand around and wait for govt vouchers or make other excuses for why they cannot succeed?

    Jeezy Peezy – guy – where would Uber be these days if they stood around waiting for govt to make their job easier?

    You guys want change.. You say the govt sucks.. Fine – get off your duffs and stop expecting the govt to help you!

    what happened to that good old Conservative ethic you keep espousing!

    😉

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