For more than a decade, the Department of Education’s Small Business Innovation Research program, operated out of the Institute of Education Sciences, has funded projects to develop education technology designed to support students, teachers, and administrators in general or special education. The program, known as ED/IES SBIR, also focuses on the commercialization after development is complete so that the products can reach schools and be sustained over time. It’s research, with a start-up mentality.
In recent years, millions of students in schools around the country have used technologies developed through ED/IES SBIR funding, such as products by Filament Games, Sokikom, Agile Mind, and Mindset Works, to name a few.
This week, IES announced 18 ED/IES SBIR program awards for 2017. Of these awards, 11 are Phase I awards to develop and test a prototype, and seven are Phase II awards to fully develop and evaluate an education technology product in classrooms and schools. (See a video playlist of Phase II projects below)
The new awards cover topics across math, science, engineering, reading, support social and behavioral development, and several are building platforms to inform decision-making by teachers and administrators. Several projects are pairing software with hardware-based technologies, such as Virtual Reality, 3D-printing, and Wearables.
The new awards also continue to fund projects in two major categories – learning games and dashboards for teachers and administrators.
For the past seven years, about half of ED/IES SBIR awards have focused on the development and evaluation of learning games (click here for a playlist). Continuing that trend, more than half of the 2017 ED/IES SBIR awards are for game-based technologies. Examples include:
Phase II awardee Schell Games and Phase I awardee Electric Funstuff are building games for use with Virtual Reality headsets so that students can engage with academic content in immersive 360-degree environments;
Phase II awardee Parametric Studios is creating a “makerspace” engineering simulated environment with a 3D-printer;
Phase II awardee Fablevision is developing a fractions game with an adaptive component that auto-adjusts in difficulty to meet the competency level of individual students;
Phase II awardee Spry Fox is building in-game supports and using rewards and competition to drive game play in teaching vocabulary to struggling middle school students and English Learners; and
Phase I awardees MidSchoolMath and Happy People Games are using story-based narrative to engage students and apply learning, while Fokus Labs and Safe Toddles are creating prototypes employing wearable devices paired with a game component to improve performance.
Dashboards for Teachers and Administrators
Many of the newly funded projects are developing a dashboard component populated with data and information to generate reports that teachers and administrators can use to guide instruction and decision making. Examples include:
Phase II awardee Analytic Measures is developing an automated speech recognition technology to assess students’ oral fluency in real-time with a dashboard to provide reports to inform teacher instruction;
Phase II awardee Future Engineers is developing an open online platform that generates lists of engineering and maker-based projects for students in K-12 classrooms.
Phase I projects by Story World, Strange Loop Games, TutorGen, Simbulus, and Myriad Sensors are creating prototypes of dashboards to provide teachers formative assessment results on student performance with reports to guide instruction; and
Two projects focus on platforms for schools administrators – a Phase II project by EdSurge to inform the selection process for technology for school improvement and a Phase I project by LiveSchool to generate reports on student behavior across classes and school.
Stay tuned for updates on Twitter and Facebook as IES continues to support innovative forms of technology.
Written by Edward Metz, program manager, ED/IES SBIR