How High School Might Get Fixed From Both Sides


With high school being in the middle of a student’s educational career, it is surprising that recent education innovation has only been happening around it. We saw massive disruption in the higher education space in the past couple of years, and now there are signs of a new readiness movement that tackles learning issues before students enter high school.

2013 could become an interesting year for this space with innovation trickling down from higher education on one side, and products and services that prepare kids for school on the other.

Personalized Learning and Adaptiveness

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago in my edtech predictions for 2013, adaptiveness is a trend to keep an eye on. And it won’t be limited to the higher education space — the same concepts are now being transferred into the high school space.

Last year, Apple launched their publisher platform with eight high school textbooks. In August 2012, digital textbook platform Kno announced its entrance into the high school market with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, offering digitized versions of their textbooks for $9.99.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Chegg’s CTO Chuck Geiger shared that the company saw their userbase growing among high school students. This inspired their goal of becoming an ecommerce platform for high school and college students over the coming years.

Two years ago, Chegg acquired a number of startups to broaden their footprint in the market besides textbook rentals. I recently interviewed Sean Conway, whose startup Notehall was acquired by Chegg in June 2011. Notehall focuses on services around learning — Chegg’s acquisition suggests that textbooks, as a product, are not in the spotlight anymore.

Readiness for Flipping Parents

If you want to get familiar with early trends in the education space, attending a Startup Weekend Education will give you some good insights on what educators are working on. Last weekend in London, I was surprised that a fair amount of the projects were around readiness.

There is a growing group of parents who want to give their children a head start when it comes to being tech savvy and performing in school. Parents in New York often spend ridiculous amounts of money to train their toddlers for entrance test in the top pre-schools. But less wealthy parents also care about the future of their children in an increasingly competitive and technology driven world.

They don’t necessarily trust the public school system to give their children the best education. In a Gallup poll in June 2012, only 29% of American parents were confident about public schools, while 30% little or no confidence at all.

Thanks to tablet devices, a whole plethora of educational apps for toddlers and preschool kids came on the market. Startups like KinderTown even found a business model in curating and rating all those applications.

In general, we can see that parents are also taking part in the flipped classroom approach. They teach their children the basics through apps and games, getting them ready for school. In the best case scenario, the teacher could then focus on more interesting and engaging topics in school.

And this will still take a while until the majority of children entering school are going to be prepped at home, probably already being able to read, having basic math skills and general knowledge in most of the subject matters. But, the earlier kids learn, the more skills they’ll be able to master, especially if these technologies find a place at the high school level.


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