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Education Innovators Face Experts and Pitch Sessions at KIvO

The summer session of the Competition for Innovators in Education (KIvO), organized by the Higher School of Economics, was recently held in Moscow. Over a four-day period and under the careful watch of respected experts, KIvO participants worked on and developed projects, which will be presented to potential investors at the International Conference on New Educational Technologies EdCruch, slated for September 12-14, 2016 in Moscow.

This was the third session of KIvO, which was founded by HSE’s Institute of Education (IOE) with the support of such partners as the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, Agency for Strategic Initiatives, Microsoft and others. The competition is open to individual startups and developers in education, as well as teams of up to six persons. Startups may take part at their earliest stages (though participants should prove that their projects consist of more than just an abstract idea).

More than 700 applications were submitted to KIvO this year, out of which respective juries (comprised of around 100 experts in education, business and other fields) selected 30 semifinalists. In particular, the experts paid attention to such factors as novelty of design, feasibility, ability to duplicate, real-life application, etc. A total of 28 semifinalists attended the summer session of KIvO with their travel and living expenses paid. ‘Selecting the semifinalists this year was quite difficult,’ said Alexander Sidorkin, Director of the IOS Department of Educational Programmes, adding that ‘the number of weak projects was a lot less than in previous years.’

Projects summited to KIvO are traditionally divided into two groups – IT and non-IT projects, noted KIvO Director Diana Koroleva. This year, the number of projects involving mobile technologies for students has increased. Another category is projects available for educational professionals (e.g., teachers, instructors at institutions of higher education, directors of educational institutions, etc.) and those who work within the educational system. ‘The development of non-systemic projects is also an important trend,’ Diana Koroleva said, adding: ‘Many ideas do not fit under the “dome” of traditional education and innovators themselves must find those niches where they can bring their ideas to fruition.’

Innovation in education is a specific field, which often has to develop on its own, as such efforts sometimes do not conform to the usual logic of innovative projects

Presenters at this year’s KIvO included well-known educational experts, including HSE Professors Isak Froumin, Sergey Filonovich, and Konstantin Ushakov, as well as Pavel Luksha, Professor of Practice, Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO. Furthermore, representatives of such leading companies as Yandex, Microsoft and Skyeng talked about how to promote innovative projects in education, while previous KIvO winners, Diana Kolesnikova and Airat Bagautdinov, commented on the competition’s role in the development of their own projects.

All KIvO finalists had to face a gauntlet of experts and present their projects to panels specializing in four key areas (business, project management, PR and education), which, in turn, offered advice and some observations. Furthermore, KIvO participants attended pitch sessions where they learned how to present their projects to potential investors in a concise and structured manner.

Once again, this competition has shown that innovation in education does not always hinge on government support and involvement, said Alexander Sidorkin. ‘Innovation in education is a specific field, which often has to develop on its own, as such efforts sometimes do not conform to the usual logic of innovative projects,’ he said, adding: ‘Nonetheless, there are a lot of players in this field, including students, university teachers, private sector employers, representatives of public organizations and parents. Both their talent and initiative have great potential for developing education in Russia.”

Following the results of the semifinal, a list of finalists will be announced, who will present their projects at EdCrunch on September 11 (attendance at the final is free of charge, further information about the place and time of the event will be made available at kivo.hse.ru). The content winner will, as usual, receive a grant to travel to any country and organize meetings with potential investors.

Several of the KIvO-2016 semifinalists shared their impressions with us.

Maksatbek Abdunazar Uulu and Aziza Ashiraliyeva, 'Bilim', Moscow

At the competition, we presented our socio-educational project 'Bilim' (the Kyrgyz word for “knowledge”), which helps the children of migrants adapt to a Russian-speaking environment. This project was launched in September of last year. We are now getting ready to educate kindergarten and school-aged children who cannot speak Russian. The project not only features a language component, but also psychological and socio-cultural elements. For instance, over a five-month period, children will study with teachers, visit museums and play soccer in courtyards with their Russian speaking peers. The teachers in this project are bilingual – they can speak Russian and Kyrgyz (or Russian and Uzbek).

We would like to receive a grant in order to develop a technology for teaching such children and are attending the competition to hear an expert review of our ideas. Furthermore, we need premises for this project. At the moment, we are renting a small office at Polyanka (in Moscow), but we would like to give instruction in various locations. We have been in contact with the directors of various Moscow schools. They are open to our ideas and appreciate the project, since education for migrant children is still a major problem in the Moscow educational system that still has not been properly dealt with. 

 

Vasily Novikov, InstaQuiz, Saint Petersburg

At the competition, our team presented a web service, which allows lecturers to communicate with their audience in real time, take surveys and reach conclusions as long as students absorb the teaching materials. In order for this service to work, students just have to log into its website on their smartphones, where they will get access to tests and surveys, which instructors can distribute during their lectures. After a lesson is complete, the program analyses the data received from the attendees and provides teachers with recommendations for the future, which is quite a rare feature for such services.

This project is also original in that users do not have to download and install anything. Rather, they can use it directly via the internet. Also, you don’t need any controllers or special devices. And, it is an inexpensive and functional service. I myself have used it in my work (I teach at ITMO) and, based on the data received, it is clear which of my students might be experiencing problems.

Now our goal is to develop a workable version of this project for the market. Thus, we need to hear the opinions of its potential users. We are at KIvO to find potential partners, teachers, instructors, directors of schools, etc., in order to find out about their expectations and adapt our service accordingly. 

 

Nadezhda Fedotova and Olga Filippova, EdDesign, Moscow/Saint Petersburg

We both work in a Finnish firm, which does architectural design. It has branches in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Following this experience, we decided to develop a portal for school design and interior solutions.

Through this portal, we would like to collect information and data on school design solutions, including projects both inside and outside of Russia. We would also like to develop a database of designers and architects, as well as share legal documentation and examples of best global practice in architecture. Furthermore, it would be interesting to collect examples of solutions to problems that may arise in regards to the design of schools and strict regulation of such construction projects.

By using this platform, people can connect with one another (e.g., establishing ties between service providers and consumers). For instance, a school might be planning to construct a new building and its founder or future director, by going on the portal, can see who might be able to design the building, what floor types could be chosen, etc.

When meeting with experts during the semifinal it was clear our project is interesting and necessary. We were advised to launch without startup capital. So, if we don’t find investors right away, we will develop a prototype of the site on our own. 

 

Andrey Antonov, 'Robots go to School', Volgograd

Robot technologies are now being developed in schools, and their inclusion in compulsory programmes is now under discussion. Our project is an answer to this process.

Robotics is primarily represented on the market by 'building units', such as 'Lego'. However, they can be expensive and feature lots of parts, which can often get lost. So, working with them requires highly skilled teachers. For robotics circles, there are enough teachers, but what about for regular schools? In this respect, we offer an alternative – miniaturized robots, which are tamper-proof and don’t require assembly. Robotics can be used in informatics courses if the methodology is simple. Teachers won’t have to go through any retraining. Our robots can be used for teaching programming skills and they are fun and interesting to use.

We plan to implement this project, but we need partners with the ability to develop an instructional approach and introduce it to the general school system. We hope that KIvO can help us in this regard.

 

Alena Nikitina and Evgeny Byakin, Teachmehow.com, Ekaterinburg

Teachmehow.com is a portal where people can share their professional and other types of experience, as well as learn about others’ knowledge and skills. For instance, if you are a startup, but don’t know much about innovations, the portal can show who has experience in a given field, as well as who has made mistakes and found solutions, since they will be sharing their know-how with you. If you are a journalist, you might be interested in the experience of people in similar professions in other countries. You will be able to find them on the portal and communicate.

The portal isn’t up and running yet. It’s still only an idea and we are assessing its prospects. Initially, we thought the portal would be focused on business, but now we want to expand its scope to even the rarest of professions. Firstly, we are bringing in subscribers on social networks. In the first two days, around 150 people signed up. We will then develop the site. There’s also the option of monetizing the project. For instance, VIP-mentors could be paid by users for their professional advice.

While being grilled by the experts, we got a lot of useful remarks, which caused no offense and were properly noted. We liked the fact that nobody asked where we would get the money for the project. Professional investors can find financing on their own and they already figure in our plans. 

 

Elena Pukhomelina and Natalia Chernyshova, Mediatrailer, Moscow

We’re studying together in HSE’s ‘Evidence-based Educational Policy’ master’s programme and we presented a project for a portable media school. This is a portable laboratory, which can help children learn about various media professions in just one day (TV reporter, director, etc.). Kids will also get to learn about filmmaking, working with presentations and using any type of media that they might find interesting.

Not all teachers can give this type of instruction, but we can at newer schools. For instance, we’ve already been out to the regions with this project. We can teach teachers, in addition to their students (just in a different place). This is very interesting for them. Also, we don’t demand that schools buy new equipment and, instead, bring it with us, while the kids themselves already have small gadgets. In the future, we would like to develop network resource centres in Russia’s regions.

Petr Safronov, the head of our programme, suggested that we take part in KIvO. We’ve studied many projects and looked at a lot of research, but here we had the chance to present out project to experts and find investors. Representatives of Microsoft and Sberbank expressed interest in the project, as well as directors of schools, from whom we’ve already received invitations. 

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