Monthly Archives: March 2011

Is YongoPal the first Post-PC Language Learning Startup?

Yesterday YongoPal introduced a new landing page with a giant iPhone, showing some kind of a message stream similar to Twitter direct messages on the screen. The header reads

Penpals? Lame. YongoPals? Sweet.

If I count correctly this is the third iteration of the YongoPal platform in less than twelve months.

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Skype: Why not build an Expert Directory?

Today Skype officially launched its Skype in the Classroom community. It’s a directory where teachers from around the world can connect with fellows based on mutual criteria such as class size, topic and location. The project has been in beta since December and already attracted more than 4000 teachers.

I think this is a great initiative, bringing teachers and their students together to learn from and with each other. Nevertheless I ask myself why something like this does not exist in the for profit space. I believe it could be beneficial for Skype and online teachers.

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24/7 Teacher Cloud or the Learning Help Desk

Lots of teaching platforms have experimented with the idea of “instant lessons”. A student comes on the platform and wants to take a lesson right away, clicks on the topic he/she wants to learn and picks a teacher or tutor who is online at this very moment.

I wrote about the difficulties on this blog once or twice, nevertheless it seems as if startup founders are quite fancy such a business model, just today I had a nice talk with a founder who thinks about making this part of his tuition service for Math.
Now, one startup even got some substantial funding by prolific investors. So am I wrong in being sceptical about such an idea?

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Can Teaching Platforms Retain Talent?

Preparing myself for an upcoming interview with one of my all time favorite teacher rockstars Koichi I thought about the strange fact that the most talented educators I have come across in the past three years quit teaching live lessons.

This led me to the question if there is actually a way how platforms can retain talent on their service or whether teaching live lessons is just a step stone in one’s online teaching career.

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How to start Teaching Online in 2011

Back in April 2008 I launched my first language teaching related website. After relocating to France and teaching English, German and French at home or in companies I felt, there must be a better way than driving around the French countryside from one appointment to the next.

As I was using Skype to stay in contact with family and friends back in Germany I asked myself why I should not use it for teaching languages. So I changed my flyers on the blackboards in the local supermarkets from I come to your home to learn online via Skype.

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Flashcards – Product or Feature? Part 2 with Greg Detre of Memrise

In part 2 of my KWestions series with startups in the flashcard learning space I covered a service called Memrise.

Memrise is a UK-based startup which has a clear focus on a more scientific approach of helping people to learn, or as they say on their website

At Memrise, we’re integrating everything we know about the art and science of memory to help you learn faster.

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What would the ideal Application for Learners and Teachers look like?

Prior to my presentation at the Virtual Round Table Conference I announced that I was planning a Q&A session afterwards. As I am a talkative person (you did not notice that?) I decided to answer questions from the audience already during the presentation which led to a near precision landing after 60 minutes.

Nevertheless, I would like to dedicate this blog post to a question asked by Arkady Zilberman, founder of Language Bridge, which he send me via email prior to the conference and asked, if I could elaborate on that. So, here we go.

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2011 The Year of YouTube

Next Monday I will be heading to Paris to take part in a YouTube partner event with the flamboyant title “Devenez une YouTube Star”.

The event is in partnership with the EICAR, Ecole Internationale de Creation Audiovisuelle et de Réalisation and aims at teaching YouTube creators and directors how to gain a bigger audience, produce better content and make more money.

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Pearson & McGraw-Hill make Multi-Million Dollar Investment in Inkling

It seems as if the latest study from Xplana in which they predict that the tipping point for digital textbooks is as near as 2015 has opened up the wallets of two major publishers for an undisclosed “multi million Dollar” investment.

Inkling, the maker of the iPad application and platform which delivers enhanced and engaging textbooks, leaving the “flat, PDF-based digital textbooks” behind is the beneficiary and it could give the startup a competitive edge over the well funded competitor the Kno.

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Flashcards – Product or Feature? Part 1 with Matt Messinger of StudyBlue

Over the past months I got in contact with more and more startups in the flashcard learning and spaced repetition vertical.

As I don’t believe this to be a mere coincidence, I thought it would be interesting to do a little series of interviews with some of those companies giving their opinion on a the space in general and why it is such an interesting one to many companies.

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My Contribution to the Virtual Round Table Conference

This weekend it’s time for the 4th Virtual Round Table Conference. From Friday March 25th to Sunday March 27th Heike Philp and her team Shelly Terrell and Berni Wall will host the marathon event on Second Life and several Adobe Connect Rooms.

The price for coffee usually peaks at those times across the globe.

There are a ton of interesting sessions, workshops and presentations to attend and if you have the time and you’re a stayer, yours truly will also give a presentation on “Trends in education 2.0 for 2011” on Friday, March 25th at 5:30pm GMT.

I am going to talk about the major trends we can see at the moment, back them up with some data and give you reasons why the vertical might work or not. As I don’t want this to turn too much into a lecture, I am also planning a Q&A with the audience, so feel free to come and ask me anything. Hopefully, I’ll be able to give you an answer 😉

You can register for the presentation at the Virtual Round Table Conference portal and of course take a look at the other sessions.

Hope to see you on Friday!

Monday Roundup: 2tor, Busuu, Tofugu TV and Sifteo

In today’s MRU we take a look at the whooping $32 million funding for 2tor, the new recording feature of Busuu, the first episode of Tofugu TV and the future of building blocks developed by a company called Sifteo.

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R:ED March 13th to March 19th 2011

  1. Ask a VC: Mike Maples Defends Digg’s Honor and the Kno (TCTV) – Some interesting insights on the Kno technology at the end of this interview.
  2. What Starbucks Taught Us About Redesigning College Campuses – What can we learn from Starbucks changing the way people drink coffee today and can it be applied to higher education?
  3. Communication: Students appreciate polyglot approach – How business students learn multiple languages to boost their chances of getting hired or to choose better jobs in foreign countries.
  4. Could an Apple Magazine Template in iOS Change the Industry? – Will a template for iPad magazines help publishers help to build better experiences and therefore increase sales?
  5. The Future of Reading Online Is Customization & Sharing, Not Tablets (Yet) – Interview on the future of reading on the web with Khoi Vinh, former design director for at SXSW.
  6. 2tor Raises $32.5 Million Series C To Make Online Education Great – “One reason online education isn’t that good is I don’t think it is trying to be that good.” John Katzman, CEO 2tor
  7. What’s the point of learning a foreign language? – Interesting data on foreign language acquisition.
  8. Goodbye Wheelie Backpacks: Digital Textbooks Will Dominate Over Paper Ones Soon – The U.S. the education publishing market has is reaching a tipping point: Within seven years, digital textbooks will dominate over print.
  9. The 10 Most Innovative Companies in Education – from FastCompany
  10. Mint Founder Invests in Semantic Text Startup – TopicMarks extracts the most important information from any text which can help students to learn faster.
  11. College Students Aim to Build a Better Way to Manage Courses – Coursekit is a Facebook-like Learning Management System.
  12. Now Coming to Market: Sifteo Cubes Reinvent How We Play – Amazing technology, mix of building blocks meet the iPhone.

A Look at the Differences between Episodic and Systems Based Content Creation

In a previous posting on this site some Internet based language learning companies came under criticism. They came under criticism for failing to include a strong educational perspective among the top leadership of the company (the top 3-4 decision makers).

In my opinion this criticism is deserved.

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Education has its first Incubator: Imagine K12

By taking just a quick look at my schedule for the coming weeks and all the talks with startups in education 2.0, I can feel in an almost palpable sense that there is something happening in education from language learning over math and science to K12, colleges and universities.

But that’s not only from the startup side, investors ranging from Seed over angels to VCs are also getting more and more interested in the space and therefore it absolutely makes sense to launch an incubator like Imagine K12.

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Languagelab secures $1 million funding for English City on Second Life

Shiv Rajendran, Director at Languagelab and a regular on my webcast review:ed shared some exciting news with me today. The London based startup behind the virtual town of English City on Second Life has closed a $1 million funding round.

In their approach of bringing English learning and teaching into the virtual world of Second Life Languagelab is one of the most innovative startups in education 2.0 .

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How Online Language-Teaching Start-ups Lack Educational Expertise, and Why Language Learners and Teachers Should Worry

Several Internet start-ups are claiming that they can teach people to speak one or more foreign languages, without those people ever entering a classroom. By paying the start-up’s requested fee, students can supposedly access a high-tech body of material that will teach them everything about their new languages they need to know. As a bonus, students can chat on line with other members of the site who are native speakers of the languages they are learning. People can therefore practice a new language from their living room, the airport, a café, or anywhere else they can find an Internet connection. The classroom and language lab, these start-ups argue, are becoming obsolete.

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Learnable Officially Launches with 60 + Courses

Today Learnable one of the new breed of education startups from down under officially launched its platform with more than 60 courses ranging from Yoga to PHP.

In fact, the platform gave visitors access for one or two weeks already but as the team writes on the official Learnable blog, today is the day the doors are bolted in and the sign “open for business” hangs in the window.

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Monday Roundup: Skype, Salman Khan, Woz and Mark Ecko

In today’s Monday Roundup we take a look at Skype’s final plans to display advertisements in the client,  Salman Khan’s presentation at TED, Steve Wozniak’s appeal to educators to be brave and use new technology and Mark Ecko’s fight against corporal punishment in schools which is still legal in 20 of the States in the US and, even more shocking, still very widely used by educators.

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demo:ed Perfect800 – SAT Math Prep

This is a product demo by Robert Gange, co-founder and CEO of Perfect800 taken from our EDUKWEST interview.

Perfect800 is an online training application for students who prepare for the Math part of the SAT. The platform offers tips and tricks for every question, detailed tracking of the progress made as well as game mechanics and rewards to keep the student motivated.

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