See What Ed-Tech Product Ideas Are Being Tested, With Help From the Federal Government

Associate Editor

The Institute of Education Sciences has awarded 23 organizations $10.2 million to develop and test commercially viable education technology products, the federal agency announced recently.

The funding is provided through the U.S. Department of Education’s Small Business Innovation Research division and is intended to help small enterprises “translate their innovative ideas into commercial products that address education problems,” according to the SBIR.  This year’s awards represent an increase of more than 20 percent from 2018, when $8.4 million was committed to similar grant funding.

For fiscal 2019, the awards will support 15 projects to develop and refine prototypes of products or tools and test their usability and initial feasibility.

Of these, 13 will focus on improving teaching, learning, and school administration in education or special education. The remaining two will develop prototype tools to measure the return on investment of educational and training programs to inform decisionmaking by prospective postsecondary students.

IES also made eight awards to support further prototype development and conduct pilot studies in schools to demonstrate the promise of each product to produce the intended outcomes.

Over the past 15 years, the SBIR program has made more than 200 awards for the development of education technology, including apps, games, programs, dashboards, and assessments. Products developed with these federal funds are being used in thousands of schools across the nation, according to the SBIR. Previous years’ awardees, listed here, include funding for Agile Mind VisualizationsFilament Games, and Teachley.

Phase II Funding Awards Up to $900,000

Eight organizations received a total of nearly $7.2 million in commitments for fiscal 2019 to create, or develop and test, products that have shown promise after Phase I prototype funding. In the Phase II project, the teams will complete the development of the product, and conduct a pilot study in schools to demonstrate the usability and feasibility, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of the product to improve the intended outcomes. Eight Phase II awards were made for amounts up to $900,000 for two years. See the list, and a video from one of the awardees, below.

Project Organization Purpose
Learning to Code with a Pretend Play Storytelling Model CodeSpark To fully develop and test a mobile game app for grade school students to learn foundational coding skills through creative expression.
Modernizing the Reading Roots Intervention Sirius Thinking To create Reading Roots II: Reading “Between the Lions,” a multimedia classroom intervention that uses systematically targeted videos and game-like technology-assisted partner practice activities to personalize literacy education for grade 1 students.
Teacher Dashboard 2.0 for Learning Creative Computer Programming VidCode To fully develop and test a teacher dashboard to support grade school teachers in implementing VidCode, a website where students learn to code.
A More Perfect Union Gigantic Mechanic To fully develop and test A More Perfect Union, a tablet-based role-playing game for classes of middle and high school students covering standards-aligned topics in social studies.
HistoryMaker Schell Games To fully develop and test HistoryMaker VR, a virtual reality content-creation tool for middle school students to create, record, and share unique performances to increase understanding and relevance of historical events.
Innovative IEP Goal Creation: Equipping Special and General Educators Education Modified To fully develop and test EdMod, a web-based platform for special education practitioners and administrators to efficiently and effectively manage data and information to improve academic, functional, and social and emotional outcomes for students with—or at risk for—disabilities.
Graspable Math Activities Graspable To fully develop and test a web-based product that provides real-time feedback as students engage in Algebra I and II exercises. This product will complement an interactive touch-based Algebra application developed with prior IES funding.
Real-Time Formative Assessment of NGSS Mathematics Practices for High School Physical Science Apprendis To fully develop and test Inq-ITS Online Labs for High School Physics and Physical Science. This product automatically scores how students use mathematics when applying science inquiry practices based on actions they take within the labs, not multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank questions. Teachers use an alerting dashboard that notifies them when and exactly how students struggle.

The Phase II awardees created videos outlining how they plan to use their products. Here’s how HistoryMaker VR described the next steps in its project.

The education department’s SBIR created a YouTube playlist for more information about these projects. To learn more about the program and to see abstracts and videos of funded projects, visit the IES SBIR website.

Phase I Awardees Up to $200,000

Phase I projects of up to $200,000 are awarded for 8-month projects. They are designed to allow teams to develop, refine, and test usability and initial feasibility of prototypes of commercially viable education technology products. The 13 projects selected are designed to support student learning, teacher practice, or school administration in education or special education. These awardees will be eligible to apply for Phase II funding in Fiscal Year 2020. The Phase I awardees for 2019 are:

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