Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Education tech funding soars -- but is it working in the classroom? - Fortune

Education tech funding - Fortune:

Education tech funding soars -- but is it working in the classroom?






 Technology has captured the American education system. As it does, the money keeps flowing in — and so do questions about its impact.

From iPads in kindergarten to virtual classrooms in high schools to online graduate degrees, technology has captured the American education system. As it does, the money keeps flowing in — and so do questions about its impact.
In 2014, venture funding for education technology reached $1.87 billion dollars. It’s expected to hit $2 billion this year. That’s a big jump from $385 million in 2009,according to CB Insights, the first year the venture capital research firm started tracking education funding.
“The education space is attractive because it’s a big and important part of the economy,” said Rob Hutter, managing partner of Learn Capital an education based venture capital firm. “The edtech companies that get funding can be important 50 years down the line, and not just in a few years.”
And it’s a good business to be in, said Bob Sun, founder of online math site, First in Math.
“There’s a high profit margin with no warehouses and not much cost except for research and development,” explained Sun, who also said his firm has grown 20% in the past six years and hasn’t needed outside funding.
But while many sing the praises of education technology in the classroom, some question if it’s having the desired effect.
“Education technology is not yet a proven solution for learning, and limits the experience of education and human interaction,” argued Art Langer, academic director and faculty member of the Executive Masters in Technology Management at Columbia University.
Education technology takes off
The beginnings of education technology have mirrored the advancement of tech itself. As computers got better and faster in the 1960s, colleges like the University of Illinois introduced computer terminals where students could access resources on a course and listen to pre-recorded lectures. By the 1980s many college courses were accessible online at university libraries.
Then along came video conferencing which reached thousands of students. The 1990s and 2000s saw the explosion of the internet and online classes. The National Center for Education Statistics estimates the number of K-12 students enrolled in online distance learning programs increased by 65% from 2002 to 2005.
Add to this smartphone apps, laptops and iPad accesses, and classrooms of all ages have some sort of technology at their fingertips. And at least one study says it’s all for the good.
“Education technology allows students to share their work and collaborate beyond their schools walls,” said Wendy Eiteljor, director of education technology for pre-K to grade 12 at the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Penna.
“It’s also providing alternative ways for students to participate in discussions,” she added.
Drawbacks to high tech
But some in the field see roadblocks to all the technology that’s flooding the system. One of the biggest areas of concern, among many, is access, said David Liu, COO ofKnewton, a learning technology provider that develops platforms to personalize educational content.
“It can heighten the disparity between rich schools and poor schools, putting disadvantaged students even Education tech funding - Fortune:

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