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K-12 Dealmaking: GoGuardian Receives Infusion of $200 Million; Lightspeed Ventures Funds Gaming Startup

k 12 dealmaking goguardian receives infusion of 200 million lightspeed ventures funds gaming startup
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Classroom management and ed-tech product provider GoGuardian recently raised $200 million from Tiger Global Management, putting GoGuardian’s value at over $1 billion, according to an announcement.

“We are excited to partner with GoGuardian, with its industry-leading product offering and best-in-class growth at scale, margins and retention characteristics, as the company cements its position as a true end-to-end SaaS platform for K-12 schools,” Tiger Global partner John Curtis said in a statement.

Based in Los Angeles, GoGuardian provides a product suite that seeks to allow districts to unify their filtering, classroom management, device management, and school mental health tools into a single point of contact.

Over the past year, GoGuardian says its customer base grew by 60 percent to include more than 10,000 schools, including 23 of the top 25 largest U.S. districts.

The Tiger Global investment is intended to support GoGuardian’s growing suite of products, as the company plans to use the money for product innovation, hiring, and business development, according to the announcement.

Class Technologies Scores $100 Million Investment from SoftBank. Washington, D.C.-based Class Technologies, which develops digital teaching and learning tools that integrate with Zoom, has received a $100 million investment from SoftBank to help the company’s global expansion efforts, co-founder Michael Chasen wrote in a July 28 blog post.

The company, which made headlines earlier this year with high-profile investments from famous NFL quarterback Tom Brady among other contributors, is “committed to delivering Class to some of the most disadvantaged and hard to reach populations in the world,” Chasen wrote.

Class has already expanded to several countries outside the U.S., and has been fielding inquiries from schools, universities and companies “all over the world” who want to add educational tools to Zoom, Chasen said.

Past investors include Salesforce Ventures, Sound Ventures, and veteran talent executive Guy Oseary.

Class has raised over $160 million since it launched in September, according to an announcement.

Children’s Gaming Startup Raises Pre-Seed Funding from Lightspeed and Y Combinator. Wilmington, Del.-based live game streaming platform Kalam Labs on Aug. 13 announced a pre-seed funding round from Lightspeed and Y Combinator.

Kalam Labs plans to use the money to develop fun and immersive virtual missions for kids ages 6-14 to learn STEM topics, according to an announcement.

“The 2020s kids have been born directly into the age of iPhones, Netflix and Google. It is impractical to make them sit in front of a blackboard or a Zoom Class expecting them to remember irrelevant information,” Kalam Labs co-founder Ahmad Faraaz said in a statement. “Education is undergoing a generational change and we plan to be at the forefront of building products that will accelerate this shift.”

Kalam Labs launched in June, has drawn thousands of paying students, and is growing its user base 50 percent weekly, the company claims.

The firm said its games’ live video and chat functions make them games suitable for the education sphere. A typical Kalam Labs session involves a live instructor taking a group of students through a virtual world while explaining STEM topics via game-based exercises and providing the “right nudges” along the way, the announcement says.

“Having seen hundreds of pitches in education over the years, we thought the approach Kalam Labs had for K-12 was one of the most interesting and fresh,” Lightspeed partner Hemand Mohapatra said in a statement. “We are excited to back the Kalam team as they take on this ambitious challenge.”

Higher-Ed Accessibility Platform Raises $650 Million. Singapore-based Emeritus recently received $650 million in Series E funding.

U.S. venture capital firm Accel and SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the investment, which brings Emeritus’ valuation to $3.2 billion, four times higher than the company’s Series D valuation reached in August 2020, according to an announcement.

Emeritus collaborates with over 50 universities across the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia, India, and China, to make higher education accessible to consumers, companies, and governments. The company offers short courses, degree programs, professional certificates, and senior executive programs, and claims to have educated over 250,000 people across 80 countries.

The latest investment round follows Emeritus’ recent $200 million acquisition of global K-12 STEM education company iD Tech, which expanded Emeritus into the K-12 space.

“The unbundling of higher education and continued learning has only just started,” Accel partner Anand Daniel said in a statement. “We believe that the platform and deep partnerships with the world’s best universities puts Emeritus and its partner universities at the forefront of this revolution in higher education.”

Emeritus will channel the investment into working with university partners to develop new courses, create new products and industry education content, expand its offerings for governments and companies, and close more acquisitions, the announcement says.

The investment also saw participation from the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, Leeds Illuminate, Prosus, Sequoia Capital India, and Bertelsmann.

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New Institute Backed by National Science Foundation to Explore AI’s Role in Education

new institute backed by national science foundation to explore ais role in education
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A ed-tech nonprofit will join four universities in launching a new institute dedicated to creating artificial intelligence tools that can be applied to human learning and education.

The effort is meant to encourage the development of products for use in K-12, influence future AI products made for K-12, and is intended to improve upon past AI technologies that were difficult for teachers to use, said Jeremy Roschelle, executive director of learning sciences research for Digital Promise, the education nonprofit involved in the initiative.

“There’s an emphasis here on what people are calling classroom orchestration – how to help teachers organize for longer-term, more complex, collaborative, problem-solving things,” Roschelle said. “I think the classroom orchestration part, in particular, could be part of a big change in what products people emphasize in the market, and how they support teachers.”

A 5-year, $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation will support the AI Institute for Engaged Learning, Digital Promise said. Analysts, policymakers, and product developers from Digital Promise will join researchers from North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina, Indiana University, and Vanderbilt University, for the initiative.

The work of the institute will have three main goals:

  1. Created platforms will incorporate story-based problem scenarios fostering communication, teamwork, and creativity.
  2. Platforms will generate AI characters capable of communicating with students through speech, facial expression, gesture, gaze, and posture.
  3. The institute will build a framework that will customize educational scenarios and processes to help students learn, based on information collected from conversations, gaze, facial expressions, gestures, and postures of students as they interact with one another, teachers, and the technology itself.

Schools, museums, and outside nonprofits will work with the institute to ensure created tools are ethically designed and advance diversity, equity and inclusion, according to the announcement.

District officials, and advocates for the ethical use of technology, have raised repeated concerns about potential pitfalls in applying AI-powered technology in schools. One fear is that because AI systems are dependent on collecting large amounts of data and using algorithms to guide policy and classroom practice, they will end up reinforcing racial, gender or other stereotypes.

For example, could an AI-powered curriculum platform, or one that recommends academic interventions for students, end up directing more students of color into remedial coursework, because of biased algorithmic assumptions?  (See Education Week’s recent special report breaking down concerns about AI’s role in classrooms.)

Data Privacy in Focus

A November report by the Center for Integrative Research in Computing and Learning Sciences cites several concerns and considerations come into play when it comes to how AI technologies safeguard student privacy.

How will AI-recorded student conversations and emotional data be used? How long will information be saved? Will it be part of a student’s record? These are all questions that come into play when AI and children interact, the report notes.

AI detection of emotions, through facial expressions, is well-developed, though challenging from a privacy and ethical standpoint, and appropriate policies must still be determined to address these challenges, the report says.

“A very strong focus of this institute … is coming together to really think about how do we tackle some of these issues of privacy, security?” Roschelle said. “None of this is going to fly if people are terrified.”

If AI can be applied creatively and responsibly, it has the power to enrich lessons across subjects, Roschelle said.

He offered an example detailing how forthcoming AI tools might generate story-based situations that promote collaboration and creativity.

Imagine a science class planning a trip to Mars over a three-week period, he said. For the purposes of that trip, they would need to measure gravity, the strength of the Sun’s energy, and air moisture. They would have to plot out measurement devices that they need, the composition of student teams to observe measurements, and what vehicles to bring.

In this case, an effective AI system could “help them along the way whenever they get stuck,” Roschelle said, and “tune the story to the choices they make.”

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The Science Products That Districts Need During COVID and Beyond

the science products that districts need during covid and beyond
Analysts View Science March10 2021 GettyImages 1288232603

The future of the science education is likely to be blend of hands-on and digital components, predicts Christine Anne Royce, the past president of the National Science Teaching Association.

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