The event took place on the Stanford Graduate School of Business School, in the expansive Cemex Auditorium. It brought together over 400 educators, entrepreneurs, developers, investors, students, and those simply interested in learning about the topic—and, as you might suspect there was a broad spectrum of familiarity with the topic.
This talk was a perfect opportunity to seek depth by gaining introduction to key concepts, topics, questions, and challenges in the edtech space.
Instead of providing a summary—this post outlines a few recommendations, factoids, and topics imparted.
As explained in the introduction, and in the brochure, “The Common Core Standards, adopted by 45 US states imposes learning and testing which adapts to a student’s ability in real time.”
You can read the full Common Core curriculum requirements here:
Moderator Tina Barseghian outlined a few issues with the adoption of Common Core that have been raised:
- Some schools don’t have the necessary technology to implement it.
- Some teachers don’t want to be held accountable for its implementation.
- Some question its adoption saying that teachers weren’t part of designing it.
- Conservatives say its a liberal conspiracy.
- Some call its adoption a “Trojan horse” introduced in order to let corporations profit
She also articulately noted that the merits of Common Core as a concept were not necessarily the focus of the panel discussion. But hearing them helped add depth and color to the conversation.
One statistic presented estimated that $60B will be spent on edtech by 2015. This slide provided a helpful, visual overview of current players in the edtech space:
This book by Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, was mentioned a few times throughout the evening. It was brought up in the context of Benjamin Bloom (see below for more on Bloom’s Taxonomy) and the effectiveness of “mastery learning”. Washington Times did a review of Khan’s book last year, here.
The panelists easily agreed that trendy buzzword “formative assessment” has multiple definitions. One definition presented seemed to appease and empower, was that formative assessment is “actionable assessment happening in real time.”
The New York City Department of Education dedicates a page of their website to formative assessment strategies, and this is a topic that a number of edtech startups (including panel startups MasteryConnect and Illuminate Education) are focusing on.
- Is the business sound?
- Is the leader stable, driven?
- Has the startup addressed monetization?
For those unfamiliar with the study of education and teaching theory, the work of Benjamin Bloom was referenced. He led groundbreaking work in the field of education and mastery learning over the expanse of five decades up until his death in 1999. One topic that was raised during the panel discussion was “Bloom’s Taxonomy”. Here are brief descriptions and depictions of this concept:
Wikipedia: Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of learning objectives within education.
NWLink.com: Bloom’s Taxonomy was created in 1956 under the leadership of educational psychologist Dr Benjamin Bloom in order to promote higher forms of thinking in education, such as analyzing and evaluating, rather than just remembering facts (rote learning).
|image credit: PSA-NW|
[full disclosure: I serve on the Executive Team of VLAB as the Outreach Chair. Fuller disclosure, I became involved as a VLAB volunteer after covering an event for Innov8Social!]
Virtual currencies (aka math-based or digital currencies or cryptocurrencies) are emerging forms and units of digital transaction, outside the realm of government regulation (so far, anyway). They usually can be transacted with virtual anonymity, and be transacted globally fairly quickly.
Infographic, adapted from Visual Capitalist, on Bitcoin
Bitcoin is the first such digital currency to gain traction. Created by a developer or group of developers named Satoshi Nakamoto (pseudonym) in 2009, today there are 11M bitcoins in circulation and the current market for Bitcoin already tops $1.5B. The currency itself is quite unique. Bitcoin are created (or “mined”) by computers completing complicated algorithms. The first to solve the algorithm and achieve the closest answer effectively claims an allocation of bitcoin. This goes on until the outer limit of 21M bitcoin are mined.
VLAB Executive Chair, Ron Chavez, welcomes the audience
VLAB is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit comprised of volunteers who pitch topic ideas that span innovation and disruptive technology and work in small teams to understand the space, identify controversies, and form an engaging panel.
Featured speaker, economist, and Stanford Business School professor Susan Athey introduces virtual currencies as an economic concept.
Professor Athey focused on four unique uses of virtual currencies as: a way to store value (especially in light of inflationary currencies); as a ledger; as a method of making anonymous transactions, and possibly as a basis for government monetary policy.
Moderator & Forbes Online Sr. Editor Kashmir Hill introduces her unique experience with Bitcoin, sushi, and cupcakes
Hill, whose work has lately focused on digital privacy took on a unique challenge in early May. She lived only on bitcoin for one week. She recapped challenges such as finding retail food locations beyond Cups and Cakes Bakery and Sake Zone sushi in SF. She recalled how things got interesting when her landlord didn’t accept rent in Bitcoin, causing Hill to have to find BTC-friendly housing for a few days.
Founder/CEO Chris Larsen (OpenCoin, Ripple) explains math-based currencies and their potential to disrupt payment processing, exchange, and currencies
Panel discusses various topics related to virtual currencies, with questions posed by Moderator Kashmir Hill
VC’s Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss commented on the scope they see for math-based currencies as a disruptor to industries such as remittance. They own approximately 1% of bitcoin in circulation, and most recently funded a Bitcoin startup called BitInstant.
Wendy Cheung of Silicon Valley Bank spoke about state and federal compliance concerns relevant to bitcoin and math-based currency startups. SV Bank currently works with a number of startup companies in this space.
Fred Ehrsam (second from left) touched on unique challenges as a startup in the space. He co-founded Coinbase after noting efficiencies of current systems as a foreign exchange trader on Wall Street. Coinbase has had to navigate through the compliance and regulatory requirements and is poised to become the leading bitcoin wallet on the market.
Audience members could text in questions that were fed to the moderator’s iPad. Kashmir selected a few to ask to the panel and noted common questions. Of these a few popular questions were—directed to the Winklevoss investors—whether their firm would ever fund a startup using Bitcoin. Other questions asked about how mining for bitcoin actually works, and yet others touched on inherent limitations of a finite curency (i.e. There will be a total of 21M bitcoin available to be mined).
You can view the video of the virtual currencies event when it is posted here.
, and Gamification
|[photo credit J. Fuqua]|
It was a wonderful experience co-chairing the event team for the virtual currencies panel with Frank Martinez (far right). A huge thank you and recognition to event team members including Edward, Jerry, Richard, Jenny, Tony, Lisha, Chethana, Prashant, Geeta, Luca, Jeanne, Michelle, and marketing team Siejen, Chitrak, Tom, Jae and the broader VLAB community.
“One of the very few silver linings about me getting sick is that Reed’s gotten to spend a lot of time studying with some very good doctors…His enthusiasm for it is exactly how I felt about computers when I was his age. I think the biggest innovations of the twenty-first century will be the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning, just like the digital one when I was his age.” – Steve Jobs
These words, captured by Walter Isaacson and said in a moment of reflection, are both profound and prophetic.
So what would Silicon Valley luminary and chief innovator, Steve Jobs, have said about a room full of the sharpest, brightest, most innovative minds in the field of synthetic biology talking about the future of the field?
That is what the scene was this week at the MIT/Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB) event titled, “Programming Nature” held at the Stanford School of Business Knight Center. Hundreds of attendees filled the auditorium to listen in on experts in the field share their insights and predictions.
You can check back on VLAB’s YouTube Channel to watch the entire event once it is posted.
The discussion was moderated by Megan Palmer, Deputy Director of the Practices Thrust at the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC), which is housed within the Stanford University School of Bioengineering. At SynBERC, a multi-university initiative to promote synthetic biology, Megan recently organized the Synthetic Biology Leadership Accelerator Program (LeAP).
Beyond organizing and creating opportunities for others in the field, she is herself a tried and true synthetic biologist. She holds a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from MIT and a B.Sc.E. in Engineering Chemistry from Queen’s College in Canada.
Megan provided an effective guided tour into the field of synthetic biology, highlighting the key features that make it applicable across sectors. She introduced synthetic biology as a disruptive technology—asking the audience about what the potential could be if biology could be programmed just like computer program code.
She posed the advances in synthetic biology as a either an evolution or revolution since the field has been active for some time. And, Megan spoke to her experience of spending 6 years to test one single aspect of a hypothesis as an example of how the lengthy life cycles of bioengineering can impact the time it takes to see results. Synthetic biology seeks to make the design, build, test cycle for bioengineering faster, cheaper, and better.
The panelists provided unique perspectives and infused the discussion with examples of innovation in the field.
Panelist Dan Widmaier, CEO and Founder of Refactored Materials in San Francisco, spoke about his company’s project of simulating spider silk fibers and mass-producing. The fibers, known for their strength, durability, and extensibility, have the potential for building cars and airplanes that are aerodynamic and light, creating durable performance apparel and gear, developing medical devices that the body may be more apt to accept, creating new offerings in cosmetics, and revolutionalizing entire industries.
Other panelists included:
Nathan Hillson, Chief Science Officer and Co-Founder of TeselaGen Biotechnology. While at Berkeley Lab, Nathan was on a team that developed j5 software, which uses advanced sythetic bioogy techniques to support DNA design and efficient assembly instruction generation. TeselaGen has licensed j5, and according to BerkeleyLab News, has over 100 scientists and companies in its beta.
Alexander Kamb, Senior VP of Research at Amgen. Alexander pointed out that DNA sequencing has had the fastest rate of change of output of any bioengineering process. He noted that the first genome sequence cost in the range of $1B, the next iterations were in the range of $100M, and now a complete genome sequencing can be completed within a few thousand dollars. To illustrate the point, DNASequencing.org shows a table of cost per Mb of DNA sequence and cost per genome.
Warren Hogarth, Partner at Sequoia Capital in addition to being a chemical engineer. He brought to light how the long cycle of bioengineering can impact the kind of investment sought. Rather than depending on manufacturing deadlines or coding restraints, bioengineering is based on the lifecycle involving designing, building, and testing.
Interestingly, the requirement that venture capitalists look to the long term is akin to the “patient capital” aspect of social impact investing, which also generally involves longer life cycles for return.
While the panelists displayed genius and creativity in sharing their views on the potential reach of synthetic biology, the night would have been even more meaningful if they also revealed its soul.
Just because we can program nature and synthesize biology, should we? In food nutrition just as there is movement to continue innovating in food synthesis, there is an equally robust movement to avoid genetically modified foods.
If biology can be programmed, so too can viruses, mutations, and destructive traits. Additionally does cloning or creating entire organisms through bioengineering create new life or is it am emulation of life?
The VLAB event, as always, was an amazing meeting of the minds—a braintrust of its own.
During this event, for those of us outside of the field who may conjecture about moral considerations of bioengineering, it would have been insightful to hear about how thought leaders in synthetic biology traverse the murky ethical dilemmas they must face at every turn.
MIT/Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB) hosted its first event for Fall 2012 yesterday, September 18th 2012. The topic on tap was gamification.
The event brought together start-up entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and other tech, media, social/mobile types against the backdrop of a sunset at the Stanford University’s Graduate School of business.
Panelists from successful gamifying endeavors provided their insight, points, and counterpoints on topics ranging from the term ‘gamification’, to its actual meaning, to what makes a game successful.
Though the event was geared to address the general practice of gamification, i.e. applying elements of game design to non-game processes, there were some tactile takeaways for social entrepreneurs.
1. Gamification is a relatively new, debated, and trending term. Considering that Panelist Rajat Paharia spoke about coining the phrase “gamification” in 2009, a few years after founding Bunchball—it may seem like the term is still a toddler. But, as moderator Margaret Wallace of Playmatics pointed out, according to the 2012 Gartner Hype Cycle, the term has nearly reached its peak.
10. There is growth in non zero sum games through social and mobile apps. Panelist Amy Jo Kim discussed the rise of non zero sum games, i.e. refocusing the spotlight from winners v. losers to win-win situations, where users can share their experiences and guide others as they start their experience with a game.Key takeaway: win-win gives you two ways to win
Margaret Wallace (moderator): CEO/Co-Founder of Playmatics | @MargaretWallace
Courtney Guertin: Co-Founder/CTO of Kiip | @courtstarr
Rajat Paharia: Founder/Chief Product Officer of Bunchball | @rajatrocks
Amy Jo Kim: Founder/CEO of ShuffleBrain | @amyjokim
Joshua Williams: Senior Software Design Engineer Microsoft Corporation | @joshuadw
Andrew Trader: Venture Partner, Maveron
Mr. Esposti gave a little background on his experience in crowdfunding, which he began exploring 4 years ago. He entered the field to determine the ‘why’ of why bets are placed on whether companies succeed and to dive deeper into determining if crowdfunding companies would eventually lead to job creation. Since his entry into crowdfunding he noted that crowdfunding has taken on larger platforms and payment systems.
Crowdfunding.org conducted a survey which found a growth in the number of crowdfunding platforms from 450+ as of April 2012 to a projected 500+ by the end of 2012. He noted that the steep expansion of platforms is partially attributable to the ‘low cost of admission’ since there is often not much required in the way of setting up a crowdfunding platform.
He highlighted the U.S. as home to the greatest number of crowdfunding platforms, but noted that Europe is on the heels, and there are increasing efforts in Britain, Brazil, Netherlands, Australia, India, and China.
A key point Mr. Esposti set forth is the impetus behind crowdfunding as a way to support and grow entrepreneurship. He stated that crowdfunding is largely grounded in our desires for social experiences, to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
Ryan Caldbeck recently founded CircleUp as a platform to present investment opportunities to investors. He explained that investors visit the site, read about various new companies, invest in them, wire funds over, and become an owner in the company.
Mr. Caldbeck expressed his skepticism about the new federal crowdfunding legislation which opens investment to non-accredited investors in addition to accredited investors (the current rule). He is concerned that venture capital (VC) firms will just make a decision to pass on companies seeking crowdfunding.
Mr. Zimmerman is a partner at WilmerHale, a corporate law firm with offices in a dozen cities across the globe. His specializes in corporate and transactional law. Regarding the new crowdfunding legislation, he said it would be interesting to see what specifics the SEC arrives at with regards to implementation and compliance.
He provided a background explanation of the crowdfunding legislation stating the JOBS Act laid groundwork for the bill. Mr. Zimmerman mentioned that where existing crowdfunding efforts and platforms are aimed at simplifying the raising of capital through loans and donation, there is a possibility that the new legislation may complicate the process.
Don Ross provided a venture capital perspective to the conversation. In addition to being the Founder and Managing Director of HealthTech Capital, a funding group made of private investors supporting startups at the intersection of healthcare and technology, Mr. Ross is also a Board Director of Sand Hill Angels. Sand Hill Angels is a consortium of successful Silicon Valley tech professionals who are dedicated to supporting formation and growth of startup companies.
Mr. Ross stated that rewards-based crowdfunding has generally been ‘totally embraced’ by the VC community and noted that equity-based crowdfunding models may have hidden ‘landmines’ and issues, especially with regards to the how the new crowdfunding legislation may be implemented. He pointed to messy capital tables, liability issues, and requirements for public disclosure of business plans (eliminating the ‘stealth mode’ advantage most startups aim for) as issues that could become further complicated by legislative requirements.
He also stated that allowing non-acredited investors could raise accountability issues, increase responsibilities of entrepreneurs, and may even create situations ripe for abject fraud.
#getintheknow so you can #goanddo!