Awards Unveiled by I.E.S., NewSchools Venture Fund for Ed-Tech Innovation

Senior Editor

A pair of grant programs for ed-tech providers—one directed by the U.S. Department of Education, the other led by a self-described venture philanthropy—have announced awards for companies designed to produce innovations.

The Small Business Innovation Research program, at the federal Institute of Education Sciences, has chosen 14 projects to fund, out of 246 proposals—the most ever submitted for the program—worth a total of $5.75 million. The SBIR gives money to small businesses trying to develop commercially viable ed-tech products.

In addition, the NewSchools Venture Fund has unveiled the winners of $1.5 million in grants focused on developing ed-tech middle and high school math products. The goal of the awards issued by NewSchools Ignite, which is a part of the fund, is to support math that gets beyond “rote drills” and procedures, and instead builds broader conceptual understanding among students.

The SBIR awards issued by the institute were given in two categories. Phase I awards fund the development of working prototypes of ed-tech products and research on them, and are up to $150,000 apiece for six months. Phase II awards support full-scale development and testing of commercially viable ed-tech products. They’re worth up to $900,000 apiece for two years.

The projects that won funding through the latest round of the SBIR program are focused on a wide span of ed-tech interests, from immersive reality to helping English language learners to engineering to reading assessment.

The winners of the latest round of SBIR awards, with abbreviated descriptions of their work from IES, are:

Phase I
Analytic Measures, Inc.; $149,788.80; automated basic reading assessment;
EdSurge; $149,539; EdSurge Concierge; improving product discovery;
Fablevision; $150,000; cyberchase fractions quest;
Future Engineers; $55,481; development of an online platform to host multiple K-12 engineering design challenge competitions simultaneously;
Early Learning Labs; $149,588.62; engaging Spanish–English preschool teachers to make data-based decisions;
Parametric Studios, Inc.; $149,740; design of environment for educator-student collaboration allowing real-time engineering exploration;
Planet 3; $147,180.39; improving middle school “STEAM” through Citizen Science within a digital learning platform;
Schell Games; $149,911.42; an immersive reality chemistry game; and
Spry Fox; $148,441; AlphaBear, a project focused on a mobile-gaming app where students are challenged to spell words, which are then used to create humorous sentences. New project will be tested for ELLs.

Phase II
BrainQuake; $900,000; game-based learning and assessment computer applications with direct representations of math (see a video from BrainQuake’s Phase I prototype, linked below);
Querium; $900,000; StepWise Virtual Tutor for Algebra 1;
3C Institute; $899,904; A comprehensive tool for supporting social and emotional learning instruction for Students with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder;
Teachley; $900,000; Teachley Connect: a game-based formative assessment platform for K-5 mathematics; and
Apprendis; $899,986; recognizing how teachers identify and support students needing help during inquiry.

 

The NewSchools Ignite awards range between $50,000 and $100,000. At one point, NewSchools officials once said they were not interested in investing in ed-tech math products, saying the market was oversaturated. Since then, they say their research has uncovered a shortage of products that build students’ complex understanding of math, that encourage rich social interactions with peers and make math accessible to students of all abilities.

The $50,000-$150,000 awards announced this week go to some well-known names in the K-12 market, like Carnegie Learning, and others hoping to make a rise from obscurity. The winners:

  • Carnegie Learning
  • CueThink
  • eSpark
  • Learn Fresh
  • LearnZillion
  • Make Music Count
  • Mathalicious
  • Motion Math
  • The Learning Sciences Group
  • ThinkCERCA
  • Tuva Labs
  • Woot Math
  • YouCubed
  • Zeal
  • Zearn

Most of the companies receiving money are “fairly young companies, new to the NewSchools portfolio,” the organization said in a statement.

While some organizations have received backing previously, the venture fund said it was equally enthusiastic about supporting “early and later-stage companies who are new to us and bring fresh perspectives in conceptual math.


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