Seeking Funding? Four Key Questions that Define True Innovation


Reposted from Hanover Research Insights:

Innovation has become a major buzz word in the grants world. Funders increasingly want to support social experiments that will yield positive, cost effective solutions to problems, and they want to do so by investing in models that provide scalable solutions in new, novel ways.

One of the latest examples is First in the World (FITW). This U.S. Department of Education (ED) grant program was announced May 16, which set aside $75 Million in funding for higher education institutions that can demonstrate innovative models to improve student access, retention, and completion. The grant program is part of President Obama’s larger plan to make college more affordable, so that more students enter and graduate. The catch: grantee hopefuls must articulate proposed innovation in their applications. While the Department wants applicants to innovate, it also wants applicants to outline their strong theory of action and existing evidence of promise for the proposed methodology.

Advance planning and preparation is key in developing an innovative program or practice. The basic rule of thumb is to think outside the box and propose something unique; repackaging existing programs as an enhancement or expansion simply won’t pass the innovation test. If your organization is truly ready and able to innovate, take the time to know the existing practices in your field, what works well and what does not, and who the appropriate collaborators are for you to work with to build a solution that will bridge the gaps.

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Teaching Conditions State-by-State

Reposted from WalletHub:1j

It’s no surprise that the high turnover rate within education has been likened to a revolving door. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about a fifth of all newly minted public school teachers leave their positions before the end of their first year. And almost half never last more than five.

But besides inadequate compensation, other problems persist in the academic environment. Teachers, especially novices, move to other schools or abandon the profession “as the result of feeling overwhelmed, ineffective, and unsupported,” according to the ASCD. And without good teachers who are not only paid reasonably but also treated fairly, the quality of American education suffers.

In light of World Teachers Day on Oct. 5, WalletHub analyzed the 50 states and the District of Columbia to ease the process of finding the best teaching opportunities in the country. We did so by examining 18 key metrics, ranging from median starting salary to teacher job openings per capita. The results of our study, as well as additional insight from experts and a detailed methodology, can be found here.

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“WEB” Documents One Laptop Per Child Implementation in Peru

WEB docu

Reposted from The Next Web:

Filmmaker Michael Kleiman has released WEB, a documentary that takes a close look at the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) rollout in Peru while examining the larger social implications the Internet will have as it spreads to new populations around the world. The micro and macro threads that WEB follows make it a fascinating film. Interviews with academics, technologists and entrepreneurs tackle the subject on an intellectual level, while watching the excitement of the children as they start using their laptops adds a vital emotional dimension.

The OLPC project has faced heavy criticism over its effectiveness and execution, and some of those concerns appear justified in the film. The foundation has lost much of its early momentum, but it does continue to operate. While Kleiman’s overall portrayal of the OLPC comes across as positive, he doesn’t shy away from showing the technical challenges and lack of training that have plagued the endeavor.

A scene where children collaborate to create the Spanish Wikipedia article for their small town is as powerful as the scenes of technicians fiddling unsuccessfully with the equipment are uncomfortable. If anything, WEB corroborates my impression that OLPC is a well-intentioned, but deeply flawed, project that sometimes manages – when it actually works – to change the lives of ordinary people in remote places.

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Investors Poised to Exploit Education Market


Reposted from The Nation:

Eric Hippeau, a partner with Lerer Ventures, the venture capital firm behind viral entertainment company BuzzFeed and several education start-ups, has argued, despite the opposition of “unions, public school bureaucracies, and parents,” the “education market is ripe for disruption.” His vision is the growing sentiment among investors. Education technology firms secured a record $1.25 billion in investments across 378 deals in 2013, while analysts predict that number will continue to surge this year. Since 2010, Moe has led what has been billed as the premiere education investment conference, which takes place annually in Scottsdale, Arizona. The first year attracted around 370 people and 55 presenting companies. This year, that number soared to over 2,000 with over 290 presenting companies and speeches by luminaries including former Governor Jeb Bush, Magic Johnson and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. One of the largest start-ups, a Herndon, Virginia–based company called K12 Inc., a for-profit largely online charter chain, posted nearly $1 billion in annual revenue for its last fiscal year in August.

The tantalizing prospect of tapping into the K-12 market has drummed up new level of zeal from education reformers. Many are attempting to duplicate that success. “There’s a dramatic shift in how investors are thinking about this industry,” Fahad Hassan, an education entrepreneur with his own venture-backed start-up, told a meeting of entrepreneurs earlier this year.

The explosion of investor interest in education raises a number of questions, among them: What kind of influence will the for-profit education sector attempt to exert over education policy? And if school reform is crafted to maximize the potential for investor profit, will students benefit, as boosters claim – or will they suffer?

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Leadership Freak: “Nuke Plan B!” [MEME]


Life is richer when failure matters.

Folklore says Hernán Cortés burned his ships when he arrived in Mexico. There was no turning back. Alexander the Great burned his ships when he arrived in Persia. It was kill or be killed.

The fear of failure makes success necessary. It doesn’t sound noble, but the fear of failure drives people toward goals that seem unreachable. Leaders who create escape hatches use them.

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Employing Empathy To Drive Social Change

Reposted from Forbes:

“While we understand that empathy is the cornerstone of emotional and social intelligence, many people don’t see it as related to their own ability to be effective. To the contrary, the expression of empathy is often thought of as something that primarily benefits others.

What has been less well understood, despite a growing interest in the topic, are the ways in which empathy can be of significant benefit to you and others. This is especially true if you work on any of the many issues related to today’s pressing challenges to our economic, environmental, and societal well being—from unemployment and poor government leadership to rising healthcare costs and global warming.

But for the practice of empathy to be effective – in business, education, or social entrepreneurship – it’s important to conceive of it not as a “soft, flattering, hand-holding” sentiment but, in the words of Ta-Nehisi Coates, as a “muscular empathy rooted in curiosity.”

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Alabama Student’s Online Behavior Elicits NSA Response

Reposted from

HUNTSVILLE: Auseel Yousefi says he did it. He sent the tweets that school officials say led to a warning from the NSA which led Huntsville to begin monitoring student Facebook pages. But he says it was all a joke, a bad one – a stand-up routine that would cost him the first semester of his senior year at Lee High School.

On the day he got in trouble, Yousefi says, he was taken into a room full of administrators and shown emailed photos of a series of jokes on his Twitter feed. He says the administrators alternately referred to reports of threats forwarded by “the NSA” or an “NSA affiliate.”

“It meant absolutely nothing to me at the time,” he said of the National Security Agency, the U.S. government’s global spy network. Instead, Yousefi was focused on defending the humor in those tweets. Then school security searched his car. They found a jeweled dagger from a Renaissance fair in the glove box. Yousefi would be expelled for one semester.

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Automation Can Replace 65% of Workforce


Reposted from McKinsey Quarterly:

“The dirty secret of economics is that it’s possible for technology to make the pie bigger—and that’s exactly what it’s been doing. Record wealth. But at the same time there’s no law that everybody’s going to benefit from technology. Some people, even a majority, may be worse off. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve experienced a rising tide that has helped most people. But in the past 15 or 20 years or so, those trends have diverged. We have what my coauthor, Andy McAfee, and I call the Great Decoupling. Productivity has continued to grow steeply and innovation has been strong, but median income and employment have stagnated.

It is important to think about the policy implications here. Government leaders need to be aware that, right now, computers are as good as or better than humans at most of the tasks people involved in information-processing jobs do. That is 65 percent of the American workforce. So is this wonderful or is this a tragedy? It actually depends entirely on how governments respond.

Scenario number one is a disparity in economic power, in which the folks with the data and the algorithms have—and add all of—the economic value, and the rest of the workforce adds little or none. That scenario could create an awful social disruption. Scenario number two is to accept that in this new world, there’s a large group of people who can’t really add economic value anymore, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get to live a decent human life. So we have to start thinking about the policy implications—like a basic living wage, which Germany will be introducing, or a negative income tax, which has been off the agenda for decades but deserves to be back on it. I think people should start to think about these policy implications because the point at which we need to make decisions will be upon us suddenly.”

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Bonus: Should We Create Livelihood Insurance? [VIDEO 3:27]

New Free Classroom Tool Gauges What Matters in Learning

harvard survey

Reposted from Usable Knowledge:

“Student feedback can be a crucial way to evaluate teaching, assess a new curriculum, and improve classroom achievement. Or it can be next to useless. “You have to ask the right questions in the right way,” says Hunter Gehlbach, a survey methodologist at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. And that’s something most standard questionnaires don’t do.

Gehlbach spent the last year collaborating with Panorama Education to develop an entirely novel approach to student surveys, creating a scientifically rigorous and reliable set of survey questions that will help educators measure perceptions of teaching and learning and assess a dozen hard-to-quantify classroom dynamics like engagement, interest in the subject matter, grit, and relationships between students and teachers. Now the result of that work is ready for schools to use. The Panorama Student Survey is a free, downloadable, open-source tool designed as a series of scales — a series of questions related to each one of the dozen key topics or ideas.

“One of the things I hope these scales will do is begin to help schools build a culture of evaluation for everyone,” says Gehlbach. “It’s not just singling out the teachers and focusing on their performance; it’s looking more broadly at the many factors that influence learning. If you work for a company that does 360 evaluations twice a year, it’s very normal for everyone to be evaluated; people get used to it and their performance improves as a result of it. So I don’t think principals or students should be absolved of being evaluated either.”

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China Tech Bubble Burst Looming


Reposted from Forbes:

“Tech investments in China are dangerously hot. They will cool down soon. Companies should buckle-up for a bumpy downhill ride.” These are the key messages from an internal letter written by veteran Chinese venture capitalist, Matrix Partners China‘s co-founder David Zhang, and sent to dozens of CEOs at Matrix’s portfolio companies two days ago. “Several hours ago, my colleagues just signed papers for our 45th investment deal this year, and we are only at the end of the third quarter! I think it’s time to send you a letter,” writes Zhang, soberly.

The letter, which has been floating around Chinese social networks over the past couple of days, continues: “If you paid any attention during the past nine months, you perhaps have felt the incredible heat of tech venture deals. Financing rounds are breaking records again and again, valuation and IPOs are becoming red hot.” If the current pace continues for another three months, 2014 could break the previous tech venture investment record set in 2011, when 113 deals with total value of $5.05 billion were registered for the year.

Based on daily conversations with the firm’s portfolio companies, Zhang says he is sensitive to market changes. But he can’t say if a downturn will come in the next 12 months, later, or sooner. But one thing he is sure: the Chinese technology market will cool down, eventually. The market is simply too hot right now, Zhang writes. Several major venture firms in China, including Matrix, have so far this year made double the number of investments they made for the whole year of 2013.”

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Additional context from The Economist