Curry School to Launch Education Technology Accelerator

Bavaro Hall, Curry School of Education

I like the sound of this news from Potomac Tech Wire:

The University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education plans to launch a new education technology accelerator in Charlottesville, school officials said. … The news comes amid a sharp increase in venture capital for education technology companies in recent years, with UVA Curry spinning out such organizations such as PALS, CaseNex and Teachstone. “Given these trends, and a strong belief that research-backed, education technology innovations can dramatically improve educational access and outcomes, UVA Curry is planning to start its own accelerator/ incubator program that is focused on driving innovative new startups in education,” the school said.


 is a “screening, diagnostic, and progress monitoring tool for measuring the fundamental components of literacy.”

Teachstone claims to improve learning from birth to high school “by making teachers more effective in their interactions with students” and using “proven approaches” in classroom observation and educator professional development.

CaseNex supports educators through an online, case-based approach. Multimedia cases, or “slices of life,” says the company web page. CaseNex forms a realistic connection between professional learning and the complex school environment. I’m not sure what that means. Is it like the business school “case” method brought to K-12? Could be promising.

Curry’s education accelerator is significant in many ways. First, it’s example of the kind of entrepreneurial activity, recently highlighted by PeterG, flowing out of UVa. Go Hoos! Second, it is indicative of the creative thinking and entrepreneurial energy emerging from the educational profession after decades of institutional lethargy. The willingness of venture capitalists to invest hard cash affirms that these ideas have some merit.

Which brings us to the third point. Watch out! The traditional model of K-12 education is being disrupted at many levels, not just by online learning. Traditional public-school bureaucracies are dinosaurs. We don’t have to spend more public money on education in Virginia to get better results. We need to break down barriers to innovation and find out which of these new ideas will work. School systems that experiment aggressively will thrive in the years ahead.


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16 responses to “Curry School to Launch Education Technology Accelerator”

  1. Les Schreiber Avatar
    Les Schreiber

    All this sounds great . The problem is getting in the classroom. I taught Economics,US and Comparative Government for 17 years. About 10 years ago my former employe,r Maggie Walker Governor’s School ,introduced tech.As someone who was brought up on Windows 64, it was yellow and had an eraser on its tip, never once did anyone from what passed for management there attempt to show me how to employ technology in my subject area. Sounds great but provide the resources to use it on a daily basis.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Terrifically helpful comment.

      It suggests the much of the wonderful new technologies and tools that are now available are not in many cases being properly used to their full potential or to perhaps to anywhere close to their potential, and/or are perhaps being misused or are not being used at all.

      I have no personal knowledge these suspicions. But your comment does not surprise me. It recalls the”Missing Grand Piano” article posted here.

      If rampant, what a waste this is. Not only does it waste children lives and those of the good teachers deprived on these tools (the most important concerns), its also wastes those professional lives, talents and money spent inventing and developing this stuff. And it waste taxpayers dollars too.

      Inventing wonderful things is only the first step here. Marshaling those tools and the people skilled to use them in a forceful, organized and effective ways that directly and powerfully help kids is critical to success.

      At the risk of political incorrectness, a Marine once told me something that became a sort of mantra applicable to a surprisingly wide variety of things:

      Building Marines and the right weapon for each Marine was plenty hard. But it was only half the task. Indeed, it was highly dangerous and the height of irresponsibility to build either unless each and every Marine was taught to use, and refrain from using, his particular weapon like an wizard. Absolute wizardry was demanded over and over. Otherwise, any given Marine was likely die and take a lot of Marines with him, and any else (man, woman, or child) that might by chance be within range.

      However dramatic that statement, I suspect the risks of error with tools of education by those who use them are very demanding. That using them right saves lives. And that using them wrong or not at all, takes lives.

      1. I perhaps was remiss in my earlier response.

        Teachers come in all shapes and sizes including ones that are less than “tech” savvy and the irony is that many are totally on board with Smartphones ….. but not so much with computer “stuff”.

        Just a couple or three years back though all of them at our local schools had to start communicating via email as virtually everything administrative was moved form paper to electronic so there was no choice.

        Smartboards, COWS – laptops on a cart… WiFi, and tablets though have swooped into the schools.

        And yes.. it’s a huge culture change – and no…not enough courses to “teach the teachers”.

        Computers don’t just introduce technology into a workplace – they often fundamentally change the way the business is done – sometimes in ways that are steps backward , not forward, at least not right away.

        Public schools usually have some level of training resources to go along with the technology upgrades but as Les says, not enough.

        I do wonder how smaller non-public or quasi-public schools would do a better job of leveraging technology if they have more meager resources but ultimately I would expect them to be more motivated to embrace the technology simply because if done right – it could well be more cost effective – and smaller schools probably more nimble than the larger versions.

        I think all of this – KEY – the future – to get more kids able to compete for global jobs, to be more cost-effective, less expensive for education – so that we have enough money to pay pensions, to reduce the number of people who need entitlements, less folks in prison, less mom-only households, and more taxpayers.

        on a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 9.5 verses a 5 or 6 for settlement patterns, higher ED, rolex watches, you name it.

        even the deficit and debt are related to our ability to get our education house in order.

        perhaps even boomergeddon itself is related to our ability to deal with this issue.

        1. reed fawell III Avatar
          reed fawell III

          Larry, I think you are on to something big. Something far bigger and more important than most people, who should know better,realize.

          1. I appreciate the kind words and realize you are making an effort to keep things smooth… but the two things that are my passion are education and transportation/commerce and I believe that both are fundamental to the economic success of this country and we’re losing our way on both.

            education and transportation are not “amenities” but “must haves”.

  2. It’s not going to be automatic. The reality is – and I know this sounds counter to what one would think – but many teachers are technology dinosaurs!

    They not only do not embrace technology – they fear it – they LOATH it!

    As much as I support public education – this is an area where private/choice/charter/home can and should challenge the current dynasty.

    Teachers are people and people fundamentally do not like change when it gets it the face of their career!

    you either convince them to have an attitude adjustment – or you just go around them…

    But this is an example of how UVA and other institutions can partner with start-ups.

    there is a huge jump from what is accomplished from a theoretical perspective in an educational institution like UVA to actual on-the-ground technology that integrates into the work place.

    It’s going to be tougher with the core academic, K-3 areas where “almost” is not good enough but in the higher grades for non-required electives, it ought to be a slam-dunk.

    there is no reasonable reason why kids in 9-12 cannot use technology to learn non-core electives – and in the process – save taxpayers a bundle.

    In most schools – we still do not differentiate between the different types of teachers. A teacher is a teacher is a teacher but I can tell you that a reading specialist in K-3 is not a job that any teacher can do.

    It’s a particular skill that you do not acquire from a generic education degree.

    we need to start recognizing this.

    not all teachers – teach the same thing – and not all class sizes are the same importance.

  3. Not dissing Les here… I highly respect ANYONE who teaches for a living.

    It’s a tough,tough job whether its K, k3 or 10th or 11th from what I’m told.

    The younger kids need skilled diagnostics folks but elementary folks would be sorely challenged by the upper grades.

    I’m told the upper grades can resemble the Bar Scene from Star Wars with all the different personalities and drama and some can be borderline criminals.

    so thanks Les.. I’m quite sure I had a couple in high school like you that I highly appreciated!

  4. DJRippert Avatar

    Amazing to see the Cuccinelli campaign blunder with education reform. Cooch actually has some interesting ideas on how to reform education in Virginia. Unlike his tax plan, the education plan might someday see the light of day. So, what does he do? Focus on education? Nope. He stays negative on McAuliffe and falls further and further behind.

    1. DJ – do a blog post on his plan – please! I’d like to hear an objective account.

  5. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    As much as I agree tech is important I disdain the craze over STEM. Humanities are equally important. So what if they don’t easily earn revenue and keep up with the Chinese.

    That’s great if you see humanity as one, giant for-profit corporation as people like Jim Bacon do but there is more to life than that.

    1. I guess it depends on how important it is that people be able to afford jobs. I’ve heard of two Richmond companies recently who want to hire local employees with basic math competencies (less than calculus and trigonometry) and cannot find them. There are jobs going begging because our workforce lacks basic mathematical skills.

  6. DJRippert Avatar

    I have to disagree. First, I am not sure how you define “craze”.

    “Thirty-six percent of white, 21% of black and 22% of Latino undergraduate students in STEM fields finished their bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields within five years of initial enrollment.”

    Source: CNN

    That’s a pretty weak kneed “craze”.

    I am also surprised by the idea that chemistry, physics and especially math are somehow less humanitarian than, say, anthropology. Math is a language all its own. It is used to define everything from the arc of a stream of water in a fountain to the probability of Northern Virginia supporting McAuliffe in November. It can be incredibly abstract or entirely concrete.

  7. I also think humanities are important and I agree the focus on STEM is off the mark in that its being used as a PROXY to describe educations comprehensive and rigorous enough to compete for jobs in the Global 21 Century.

    The ONLY justification for tax dollars in my view is to provide an education that will produce a taxpaying citizen who can financially care for him/her self and family and not need entitlements.

    Beyond that – no one is restricting anyone – parent or child for ALSO pursuing MORE – on their own dime.

    The problem with the”humanities are important” narrative is that it then engenders others like “sports are important” and it progresses to “photo journalism is important”, etc.

    I agree they are important but they should become so prolific that they compete for school resources against the fundamental core academics.

    We now have generations of kids whose are being told to not take the “hard” courses but to choose from the wide area of less difficult courses to “enjoy” their experience and to preserve their QCA so they can get into a good college.

    The other OECD countries are whipping our butt for world jobs and more and more of our folks are either trying to make a living in a service occupation or need entitlements.

    We need to get back to the original purpose for why we take money from people to educate others; it’s not a “freebie” for the others to “enjoy”. It’s a payment towards a future where that debt needs to be repaid for future generations and you can’t do that if the only job you can have is flipping burgers while doing “art” in your spare time.

    did that rattle your cage Peter? Come back with a hard counter… seriously … we need the debate!

  8. Technology and Teachers –

    is an interesting subject all on it’s own – in part – because teaching is one of the few professions where one can still have an entire career within a school system or one essentially like it even if they change work locale – unlike the rest of the world where there is less and less permanence at a single employer anymore.

    People who know their jobs are not likely permanent know the importance of keeping up with technology – and making sure their technology abilities are duly claimed in their resumes.

    Now flip back to a teachers 20 years into their career at one school or school district – and the attempts to introduce and leverage technology into that school and you end up challenging people who never were really pushed to adopt technology in executing their job – unlike much of the rest of the job world.

    So you have brand new degreed teachers who are likely if not comfortable with technology – not threatened by it either.

    So trying to introduce things like tablets and wi fi into a schools with the mean employment span is 15-20 years is a real challenge – when you think how far technology itself has moved in that time.

    I have the benefit of personally knowing not one – but probably a half dozen teachers and we regularly “talk” and I realize two things: 1. just how difficult a job they have and 2. they are humans with humans flaws and foibles.

  9. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    Larry – before this article and article titled “Charlottesville’s Surprising Start-up Strength” fall below the radar screen, you might consider copying some of your comments on the latter article into this one. That way this article when archived can by used as resource for future discussion.

    Regarding your above comment that: “But this is an example of how UVA and other institutions can partner with start-ups …” “There is a huge jump from what is accomplished from a theoretical perspective in an educational institution like UVA to actual on-the-ground technology that integrates into the work place.”

    Perhaps your last sentence goes to the heart of the biggest challenge. Perhaps institutions like Curry School can use its faculty and students to partner up with pilot public schools to find ways to make this “huge Jump.” And that both partners agree up front go at it aggressively as if kids lives depended on it. Because of course they do.

    Regarding the last comment, I suspect, but do not know, that public schools, or at least many of them, are quite capable of being Immovable Objects should their personnel choose to do so. Hence the selection of the right pilot school would be one key to the effort having a chance at success.

  10. I hate to think that school teachers would end up not engaged in that profession – as a career.

    or perhaps that they’ll be at one school for 7 years then another for 5 years then perhaps a charter or a choice school, etc…

    but I do not think technology alone or a resistance to it in public schools means that non-public/private/choice/charter/home would be less resistant and more embracing of it.

    Look at the difficulties in medicine incorporating technology these days.

    You can have a secure online banking account but you can’t have a secure online medical history.

    why can’t you be wheeled into an ER – unconscious and the folks trying to help you – bring up your medical history and know how to proceed – right then and there instead of waiting for duplicative medical tests to ascertain your status?

    I am not convinced that non-public/private/choice/charter/home is necessarily going to incorporate technology any better – although I think they have stronger incentives to do so and over time will likely do so.

    I’m not convinced that right now – we actually know exactly what to do with technology – in schools – nor medical.. but we are inexorably headed that way.

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