It seems like large companies everywhere are gobbling up so many smaller companies. We see it in major media mergers where companies like Sinclair have tried to own and control local news across the country. And while examples that or the historic monopolies like Standard Oil point to a dystopian concept of these massive consolidation of power, I ponder if there are benefits to the public in these combinations. I think about the benefit of Disney and Pixar producing a series of amazing Toy Story movies and rides to go with it. Or for the more nerdy, the mash-up of Marvel and DC with Amalgam Comics that let us see what happens when Batman and Wolverine, Superman and Captain America, Spider-Man and Robin, or Wonder Woman and Storm combined into one more powerful being. When EdTech companies come together, is it for the fun and benefit of schools? With so many ed-tech companies coming together recently, it becomes a question worth asking.
Microsoft + Flipgrid + Minecraft + Many More
About five years ago I nearly wanted to write off Microsoft in education since most people using it were still relegated to XP after the failures that were Vista and Windows 8. But a new CEO, a renewed focus, and a commitment to serve the needs of ALL users including those with disabilities made me look again. And while there have been some stumbles from the brief life of Microsoft Classroom to the initial launch of Teams, Microsoft, both in terms of quality hardware and accessible software deserve attention including a mixed reality curriculum and new DataSense tools (another acquisition).
BeA few years ago they purchased Minecraft, perhaps the most popular game of all time, and ultimately created a version for education with a number of new features. And my work has demonstrated that Minecraft is an incredibly effective tool for teaching 21st-century skills, especially for students with autism. And they continue to improve the platform and make it more accessible.
Beyond that Microsoft recently welcomed Flipgrid, a video platform created to inspire and empower student voices. to their family. If you want to be amongst the many educators who’ve caught Flipgrid Fever, now is a perfect time. Joining with Microsoft made Flipgrid suddenly free for all teachers. And beyond that, it has helped infuse them with the ability to add huge improvements like video shorts, collaboration, and augmented reality capabilities.
And on top of all of these Microsoft has infused all of it with their zealousness for accessibility by allowing the Immersive Reader to be used in both of the above platforms. And Immersive Reader seems like it will soon be working across every platform with the capability having come to educator favorites like Buncee, Nearpod, PowerSchool, Wakelet, and more. And, as a special education teacher, I couldn’t be happier about that kind of a move to make accessibility non-proprietary.
Nearpod + FlOCABULARY
I have long used both of these platforms and love the services they offer. Nearpod was beaming digital content to help educators teach, assess, and connect students teacher content and assessments to student devices long before anyone else was doing it. It’s given them the time to improve with a wide array of instructional and assessment tools including virtual reality, 3D manipulatives, digital simulations, collaboration tools., and a new Time to Climb game And the other major benefit of their long tenure have been their ability to create a large quantity of quality lessons that cover a broad range of topics. Those have included partnerships with Common Sense Education, iCivics, Amplify, Lifeliqe, and Flocabulary. So you could find lessons from those partners on Nearpod in the past.
Flocabulary lets you use musical learning to teach students math, science, and life skills. My district has noted the power of music to impact learning for students with autism as anyone who grew up in the era of Schoolhouse Rock! can attest. Studies have shown that music helps children pay attention, retain content, develop language, and enhance learning.Flocabulary lets you use musical learning to teach students math, science, and life skills. My district has noted the power of music to impact learning for students with autism as anyone who grew up in the era of Schoolhouse Rock! can attest. They also have a wide array of videos with accompanying lessons and interactive content. So right now the partnership hasn’t borne much except Flocabulary’s logo now taking on the Nearpod colors and name.
With both already allowing Google and Office365 logins, combining that part is easy. But I can imagine a world with less expensive combined subscriptions and embedding all Flocabulary content into Nearpod and supplementing Flocabulary lessons with Nearpod activities and assessment games. We can only hope.
Sphero + LittleBits
Robots in the classroom are a wonderful hands-on way to learn computer science and address real world problems and Sphero has been one of the most fun ways to do that. With an education app that allows for differentiation, provides lessons and activities, connects to a learning community, and now provides a full computer science curriculum. And with the addition of Specdrums for musical learning and the new RVR programmable and expandable robot, they offer even more ways to learn.
Now they are joining forces with littleBits, the magnetic electronic building blocks. This should increase the ability of Sphero to offer expanded STEAM learning. It combines the pre-made robots from Sphero with the constructive learning enabled through littleBits. It allows students to scaffold up to more DIY hands-on making and learning. And given that both have Star Wars related connections and offerings, together they may be able to make the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs.
iRobot + Root Robotics
Continuing in that robotic vein, iRobot, the Roomba vacuum people purchased Root which looks like a little programmable and expandable classroom Roomba with eyes that moves, draws, and plays games (no vacuuming yet 😀). In some ways it work a bit like Ozobots in that it can scan and follow drawn marker lines while driving horizontally on a a classroom whiteboard. The Root Academy is where you can access the learning resources and printable curriculum cards.
Kahoot! + DragonBox
Kahoot!, a digital assessment tool familiar to many teachers, can make class review a kind of showdown. And their breadth of pre-made quizzes along with the ability for individual review can save teachers a lot of time and effort. They were doing well after some help from Disney and bought DragonBox which probably my favorite example of what a quality educational game can be. DragonBox has an amazing series of games to teach math skills in a manner that only seems like play until you realize you’ve mastered Algebra 1. It’s not clear if there will be any collaboration, but these two playful learning companies based in Oslo seem to be on track to make student learning more fun.
A few other notable ed-tech partnerships include Nickelodeon, the children’s TV network, buying Sparkler, a platform to help monitor early childhood learning and growth. That should team up well with Nickelodeon’s Noggin content. Also Discovery Education, a company that already dipped their toe into the virtual reality education world, acquired Inspyro, a provider of virtual reality and augmented reality content . They can now add that content to their series of digital textbooks for expanded learning opportunities. its math, science and social studies digital textbooks and to its Discovery Education Experience learning platform. Over five million educators and 51 million students worldwide use Discovery services. In addition, Google recently shared that it acquired Socratic, an online assessment and content platform, that as been relaunched as an AI-powered learning app. I’m curious if it will at some point be integrated fully into Google Classroom. As with all of these time will tell on what value may be added in partnering, but, in the world of education, collaborating is usually mutually beneficial.