Is Customization the Future of Education? Q&A with eduCanon Founder Ben Levy
Ben Levy hopes his company, eduCanon, can fundamentally transform teacher-student interactions in the classroom and beyond by using interactive video lessons.
Like nearly every profession, teaching is evolving rapidly, especially as more and more cutting-edge technologies and research reach classrooms across the United States.
This technological revolution, which is quietly upending the world of education, could have a far-reaching impact on how teachers, well, teach. Given the state of the U.S. education system, it should not come as a surprise that support for next generation education technologies—the majority of which are designed to improve classroom performance and provide teachers with actionable, student-related insights—is rising.
Though still in its relative infancy, the proliferation of these kinds of educational tools is already prompting some teachers to rethink how they approach any number of classroom obstacles. State education funding, for example, fell on a per-student basis in 35 states in the 2013-2014 school year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, with 14 such states reducing education expenditures by more than 10%.
Additionally, more than half of all principals and school teachers said funding had been cut to their schools in the prior 12 months, according to the results of “The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher,” a report released last year. More than three-fourths of all principals and teachers, the study found, ranked “addressing the individual needs of diverse learners” as either very challenging or challenging.
Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of all teachers said that class sizes had increased from the previous year, according to the 2012 iteration of the annual MetLife study. As these studies bear out, in many instances teachers are struggling to manage more students with less classroom help than they had in the past.
With little chance of education funding increasing in the short- and medium-term, more and more educators are betting innovative new products can help reverse the country’s yawning achievement gap. Many teachers are doing so enthusiastically, a Pew Research Center survey found, with slightly less than 80% of Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers saying digital tools “encouraged greater collaboration among students.”
Yet this avalanche of technological advancement within the field has left many teachers struggling to keep up. With those overwhelmed teachers in mind, we’ve identified three education-focused companies—one of which operates outside of the digital landscape—that have quickly become teacher favorites thanks to their pioneering efforts within the space.
Founded by Ben Levy, a former Teach for America corps member, eduCanon creates interactive video lessons that are specifically tailored to address an individual teacher’s unique needs and classroom pain points. Designed using a bottom-up approach, eduCanon gives teachers access to real-time student data, enabling them to see where students are struggling or exceling during any given lesson. Armed with these kinds of insights, eduCanon users are then able to craft targeted lesson plans to help students overcome those education barriers.
Yoobi, which was founded by serial entrepreneur Ido Leffler, designs and sells school products like notebooks, writing utensils, and binders that are intended to enhance student learning in the classroom. Besides its ever-expanding school supply offerings, the company is also committed to tackling education inequality through its philanthropic division: Each time a Yoobi product is sold the company also donates an item to a needy U.S. schools.
Though they might be teaching slightly older students, college professors must still confront many of the same problems as their high school and grade school counterparts. Echo360 was created to help these postsecondary instructors, as its “active learning platform” offers a diverse array of features: The digital tool records and saves lectures, for instance, and it also allows users to post quizzes, polls, and surveys, providing professors with valuable student data and analytics.