June 27th, 2013 BKtech: Education Extravaganza!


On June 27, 2013 at BKtech: Education Extravaganza, an education themed event held at Brooklyn Borough Hall, four amazing startups: Brainscape, Nutmeg, Skillshare, and Code Academy delivered overviews of their companies that are in the education sector. With these startups’ innovative usage of cognitive science, crowdsourcing, and allowing the public to have the perfect learning experience online, these companies are paving the way for the growth of current and future online education.

Using cognitive science and optimizing the brain’s ability to receive and retain information is Brainscape, a web and mobile education platform that enriches the learning experience and helps you learn more efficiently. Its mission: to create a smarter world by simplifying and accelerating the learning process.
It all started several years ago when CEO Andrew Cohen wanted to perfect his own studying while learning a foreign language. After trying to learn from Rosetta Stone and other traditional forms of study aids, Cohen knew there was a better way to drill information into memory. With his Master’s in Education Technology that focuses on cognitive science, Cohen created Brainscape. In just five months, user engagement and sharing has tripled, which really goes to show just how effective Brainscape is in aiding the learning process.
How does Brainscape work? It takes the most important factor to retain information while studying into consideration: the interval of time between which you are studying particular material. As you answer a question based on the chosen material, you rate yourself on a scale of 1-5 on well you know/understand the information. If 1 is chosen, the question will likely appear again, drilling the information into memory until you know the information well enough. If you rate yourself with a score of 5, the question will most likely never be seen again. Brainscape’s use of this algorithm helps to curate one’s own personal learning stream, and has been actually proven to be very efficient.
Columbia’s cognitive science study experimented with groups studying with traditional flash cards and a prototype of Brainscape’s algorithm. The results showed that the Brainscape group performed more than twice as well than the traditional flash card group; the worst score of the Brainscape group also topped the best score of the flash card group.
The results of the study says it all, Brainscape allows people to study with its scientifically optimized learning experience on any device. Its goal is to make anything that is learnable and drillable available to anyone. Brainscape currently makes most of its revenue from foreign language study content. Currently, there are options of free content and premium content. Both teachers and students can create study content and share it with one another. The premium content is created by experts in the field and costs anywhere from 99 cents to hundreds of dollars depending on the content.
Trying to fulfill that New Year’s resolution on learning how to code? Codecademy offers free coding classes on its online interactive platform. There are classes in programming languages like Python, PHP, JavaScript, and Ruby, as well as markup languages including HTML and CSS. As of September 2011, the site had over 550,000 users who had completed over 6 million exercises.
The tutorials that Codecademy offer feedback to motivate users to participate, awarding badges for completing exercises and utilizing an integrated function that keeps track of a user’s total score and displays it alongside scores of other users. Another feature of Codecademy is that it allows anyone to create or publish a new course using a Course Creator.
Currently, the Codecademy community has created tens of thousands of classes and many have taken millions of courses. Founded in 2011, more than a billion lines of code have been submitted to Codecademy since.
Nutmeg Education
Nutmeg Education is an assessment platform to help teachers better understand students’ comprehension in the classroom. It is a K-12 platform that harnesses the power of crowdsourcing to develop and maintain a bank of teacher-created questions where students can also have access to specific data on their performance on assessments.
Jon Modica, former educator and founder of Nutmeg Education had the idea for this assessment platform when he realized the way schools and educators are dealing with the pressures of high stakes testing. This pressure is due to how teachers’ salaries are tied to students’ test scores. Normally, teachers would use formative assessments such as quizzes, homework assignments, tests, and worksheets to gauge students’ understanding of a concept. However, most of that information is never collected or aggregated, and there was no efficient way to leverage that data, but Nutmeg does just that—it allows teachers to better utilize data to assess a student’s performance in class and it’s also a platform to create, build, and share content from one another. Nutmeg works alongside the existing methods an educator uses in the classroom to gauge understanding. Its ultimate goal is to help teachers improve students’ performance in the classroom.
With a team of teachers, school leaders, and sophisticated web developers, Nutmeg Education makes it extremely easy for teachers to build assessments, get the data they need to make instructional decisions, and then give students the resources they need to improve.
Teachers create customizable assessments through standards aligned question banks, students take the assessments on a computer or mobile devices, and Nutmeg allows teachers to take advantage of the instantaneous data collection and make informed decisions about their class sooner. Nutmeg also allows teachers to share common core-aligned games, videos and websites from across the web to help students improve their understanding. This assessment platform gives teachers the best of both worlds: they can find new ways to teach complex ideas, and they can also check if students are meet the learning objectives.
Skillshare is a global online community where you can learn real-world skills from incredible teachers. Founded two years ago in NY, Skillshare is accessible to anyone around the world and appeals to those who want to learn out of passion and curiosity.
This service allows anyone to teach and learn any skills—classes range from learning how to design your own meatballs to learning how to program HTML and CSS. Skillshare believes that learning is lifelong and limitless and that anyone can learn and teach. Students to working professionals are able to take a class online, and Skillshare offers the ease and simplicity of learning at your own pace and on your own schedule, whenever and wherever.
Skillshare operates on the basis that learning is different from education—education is something you are told to learn, and learning is something that you want to do out of passion and curiosity. Those who use Skillshare are able to learn by doing hands-on projects. They start with video lessons that will guide them through the project and allow them to learn anytime, anywhere. Then they learn by doing with step-by-step guides provided by each class to help lead them through. Finally, they can showcase the finished project and their skills and can be proud of the one-a-kind projects that they completed.