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New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña oversees not just the largest public school district, but also one of the most diverse in the nation. Speaking at New York University’s Edtech Week, co-hosted by StartEd, Fariña shared her vision for the school district’s tech future.

Looking beyond just purchasing the latest software—which can break budgets—she said technology in the 21st century classroom means using different approaches tailored to how kids learn.

“Most importantly, we want tech-involved students in the classroom who are critical thinkers—not robots who memorize and regurgitate information,” she said.

Teachers, the chancellor emphasized, must become facilitators and not lecturers.

“If we don’t engage middle schoolers with technology, especially the ones who are tech savvy, we’ll lose them,” Fariña warned.

She admitted that there will be a learning curve for many teachers. When it comes to technology, educators may have to switch roles with their students to master some software.

With technology playing an increasingly central role in education, NewsOne attended the annual global entrepreneur event to discover some of the ideas at the leading edge of education technology.

At the gathering, startup companies pitched innovative ideas to a network of venture capital investors who specialize in education. The weeklong event was also the culmination of a three-month intensive mentorship for nine startups in NYU Steinhardt and StartEd’s inaugural accelerator class, which launched in July.

There were the accelerator companies in the P-12 space:

Aug That!: A range of new software engages students in learning adventures through augmented reality technology. Aug That! enters the arena with its three-dimensional models, 360-degree virtual environments, and activity sheets with animated lessons that can all be viewed with a smart device. Aug That! has already raised $1.1 million and seeks to expand.

StepUp: This research-based startup links kinesthetics with increased engagement and learning. StepUp offers software that gets early learners moving physically while improving their engagement, reading, math, and handwriting.

EduKids: EduKids offers innovative tools for managers of Pre-K learning centers. The software enables administrators to multitask efficiently, including tools to share the progress of students with parents.

Trovvit: The company says a high school transcript is no longer enough to gain entrance to the top-rated colleges. Increasingly, admission boards want to see evidence—not just lists—of extracurricular activities. Trovvit curates photos, videos and other materials online that showcase student activities outside the classroom.

The nine startups will receive up to $170,000 in funding for completing the accelerator boot camp. They are perfectly placed to attract much more in venture capital funding.


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