Posts from hacking education

Quizlet – The World’s Largest User Generated Learning Platform

On the occasion of our portfolio company Quizlet‘s announcement of a new round of funding today, I thought I’d talk about what led us to Quizlet and why it is poised to be a game changer in education.

Quizlet is the world’s largest user generated learning platform. Founded in 2005 in founder Andrew Sutherland’s bedroom (he was 15 at the time), Quizlet has become the wikipedia of the education sector. Over the last twelve and a half years, users have posted over 200 million study sets to Quizlet. A study set is a list of things you want to learn. Think of what happens when flashcards meet the Internet and mobile devices. A study set can be French Adverbs or Heart Muscles or a Pre-Takeoff Flight Safety Checklist. You can study these things anytime and any place that you have a mobile phone on you.

That was all already in place when we invested in Quizlet in the fall of 2015. I wrote this post talking about Quizlet at the time.

What wasn’t there, and is now, is the machine learning team to make sense of all of these study sets. Take 200+ million study sets and 30+ million monthly users and you have a ton of data about what people are learning, how they are learning, and how their learning evolves over time on Quizlet. From that data will come new modes of learning on Quizlet and a lot of help figuring out what study sets are best to learn something.

The other place Quizlet plans to invest in is expanding Quizlet internationally. Over the last year, the Quizlet team has localized into 18 languages. Now, over 90% of the world’s population can use Quizlet. And because Quizlet is free to use for everyone, that means this user powered learning model can be used by students all over the world. Quizlet intends to aggressively expand its content base and user base internationally in the next few years.

Just because Quizlet is free for anyone to use doesn’t mean it is not a good business. Quizlet has two primary revenue streams right now, advertising and subscriptions, both of which are performing very well and there will be more revenue opportunities for Quizlet as they build out their content base and user base around the world. Quizlet was a profitable business when we invested in it back in 2015 and has remained at or near profitability even with the significant investment we have made in the business since then.

Quizlet is a great example of how you can build a very good business while expanding access to knowledge dramatically around the world. One does not have to come at the cost of the other if you architect your product and business model appropriately.

Audio Of The Week: Empowering Women with Tech – Fereshteh Forough

A few weeks ago on the Gotham Gal’s podcast, she had Fereshteh Forough, founder of Code to Inspire, an organization that teaches women in Afghanistan to code.

There is so much to like about what Fereshteh is doing. It’s a great podcast to listen to this weekend:

CS Education Week In NYC

All over the city this week, students in NYC’s public schools have been celebrating CS Education Week by doing events and hackathons to showcase their coding skills.

Through NYC’s CS4All program, over 1000 teachers have been trained to teach CS classes in their schools. That is over 500 schools to date. Over the course of the ten-year CS4All program, over 5,000 teachers will get this training so that all 1700 school buildings in NYC will have at least one CS teacher and many will have two, or three, or even four.

Most of these 500 schools, and many others around NYC, participated in CS Education this week. I was out in the schools along with my colleagues at the Department of Education, CSNYC, and the companies that support us, including Google, Accenture, and Alexandria Real Estate.

I met this eighth grader up in the Bronx at In-Tech Academy, a 6-12th grade school that specializes in STEM education and mostly pulls from the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx. He told me that he wants to be a game designer when he grows up. I told him he was well on his way and that he just needed to keep up his schoolwork and his excitement for coding and making things.

But it wasn’t just me out in the NYC public schools this week.

A bunch of Google engineers went out to the schools and helped with the hour of code. Google has developed a K12 CS Ed curriculum called CS First and Stephen Bloch was helping a student do a lesson from that curriculum.

The thing that most excited me this week was to meet all of the NYC public school teachers who have been trained under the NYC CS4All program to teach CS to their students.

This is a photo of a teacher named Ms Calise from Horace Mann, PS90Q in Queens, where a bunch of teachers have taken advantage of the CS4All program to learn how to teach CS skills to their students.

So, needless to say, this week has been very gratifying for me. CS Education is seeping into hundreds of school buildings in NYC and will continue to do so for the next few years until it is in every school building in NYC.

I am so thankful for the generous support of corporations and non-profits like Google, Accenture, Alexandria Real Estate, Hearst, AOL, Two Sigma, Wachtell Lipton, Math For America, Robin Hood, Hutchins Family Foundation, Paulson Family Foundation, and many many others, without whom this work could not happen.

If your company or non-profit wants to join this group and help bring CS to all students in NYC, please email me or leave a comment in this blog post and I will contact you.

Do An Hour Of Code

It is CS Education Week, which happens at this time every year to celebrate and energize the growing K12 CS Education movement.

The highlight of CS Education Week is the Hour Of Code, in which students, teachers, parents, and community members all do an hour of code during the school week.

I would like to encourage everyone in the technology business to find a school this week, maybe it is your child’s school, maybe it is the school building in your neighborhood, or maybe it is a school where a friend teaches, and volunteer to lead an Hour Of Code.

It is really quite easy to do this.

Here is a guide on how to help a local school

Here are some activities you can do for your hour of code

Here are some ways to volunteer.

I’m on my way now to a school in the Bronx.

AP Computer Science Exams In NYC

The NYC Department Of Education announced yesterday that almost 4,000 high school students took an AP Computer Science exam in the school year that ended in June. This news was part of a larger announcement that total NYC students taking AP exams increased 7.5% last year to almost 50,000.

The NYC public school system is the largest school system in the country with about 1.1mm students, about one third of which are in high school. So moving the needle in a system that big is hard but when you do it, you can really have an impact.

The AP CS news was particularly gratifying to me as I have been working for most of this decade to get computer science broadly offered in the NYC public school system. I see this work as an important investment in the children of NYC and in the NYC economy and business community too.

When I started this work, about 600-700 students from the NYC public school system would take the AP CS exam each year. And most of them were from the top schools in the system (Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech). That number slowly grew, to 926 students in 2015, and to 1,137 in 2016.

So what happened this year to cause an almost 4x expansion in one year?

Well first and foremost, the The College Board added a second AP CS exam, called AP Principles of Computer Science. That opened up the AP CS population to students who are not deeply skilled/schooled in Java (which is a big part of the AP CS exam).

But equally important, the CS4All program in NYC, which is bringing CS to every school and supporting 40 middle schools and 40 high schools to offer full multi year programs in CS, is starting to kick in. Over 90,000 NYC public school students studied CS in their school last year. That is starting to have an impact.

So where do we go from here? Well I expect we will see over 10,000 NYC students take an AP CS exam within another few years and that number will get even larger before the ten year CS4All program is fully deployed in 2025.

We are also seeing the AP CS test taking population starting to more closely mirror the demographics of the NYC public school system. More girls are taking it. More black and hispanic students are taking it.

AP CS exams put students on a path to attend college and study CS. They will do that in NYC where the local colleges, including CUNY, are upping their CS game significantly. And they will do that at leading engineering schools around the country.

And that, in the end, leads to a more diverse set of skilled talent for our economy, both locally in NYC and around the US, in the coming years. And god knows we need that. Badly.

CS4All is a public private partnership between the city government which is putting up half the funds for it and private donors who are putting up the other half in a $40mm capital campaign that I chair. If you know of a person, a foundation, or a company that would like to support this work, please have them contact me or my colleague Jennifer Klopp who is the Director of the CS4all Capital Campaign. We will gladly come talk to them about our work and how they can support it.

The NYU Courant MS-CEI Program

I was on the board of NYU for almost a decade until recently stepping down. I learned a ton about NYU during that time and one of the things I learned was that NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences is one of the most prestigious math schools in the world.

In addition to a world class math program, Courant houses one of NYU’s three computer science programs (the others are at the Tandon School of Engineering and the Stern School of Business), and has a top notch machine learning faculty, including Yann LeCun, who also leads Facebook’s AI Research Team in NYC.

Courant is a special place where math, machine learning, and computer science come together.

And now Courant is offering a new Masters degree in Entrepreneurship in partnership with NYU’s Stern business school. It is called the MS-CEI Program.

The MS-CEI program is a Master’s degree in Computing, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, combining computer science courses from the Courant Institute (Graduate School of Arts and Science) and business courses from the Stern School of Business…. The MS-CEI is designed for computer science students and technology professionals interested in pursuing entrepreneurship or assuming leadership roles in innovative technology based organizations.

Here is a link to the program overview and sample courses.

The initial class will enroll in the Summer of 2018 and applications are due by December 2017.

If you are interested in this program and want to learn more, please share your contact info with NYU here.

Go Back To School With Quizlet

If you or someone in your family is going back to school in the next few weeks, I strongly suggest putting the Quizlet mobile app on your/their phone as part of the back to school preparation process.

Quizlet (a USV portfolio company) has a bunch of new stuff for its existing and new users this back to school season:

  1. Diagramming – an entirely new way to make and use study sets using visuals instead of or in addition to text
  2. Learn Mode – personalized, time based, adaptive study mode with reminders and notifications
  3. Quizlet Go – a new low priced subscription that provides ad free studying and customized themes

Quizlet is the largest user powered study tool in the world with over 185mm study sets created and available for learning pretty much anything.

You really don’t want to go back to school without it.

MBA Mondays

For almost four years, from Jan 2010 to late 2013, I would write a column every Monday called MBA Mondays where I tried to cover the basics of a business education here at AVC.

There are roughly 200 posts in total that I wrote during the time this weekly series was active.

Since many regular readers have shown up since then and may not know about MBA Mondays, I thought I would let all the new readers know about it.

You can see the entire MBA Mondays archive here.

There is a lot of good stuff in there.

Bearing Witness

Yesterday afternoon I spent a couple hours sitting on the stage at the high school graduation ceremony for the Academy For Software Engineering.

This evening I will spend another couple hours sitting on the stage at the high school graduation ceremony for the Bronx Academy For Software Engineering.

Both yesterday and today are busy days with lots of work obligations, board meetings, decisions, and family time.

But these four hours are the most important hours I will spend this week.

About two hundred young adults will graduate from these two NYC public high schools over this two day period.

These are young adults who made the decision four years ago to take a risk on two brand new high schools with no track record and no reputation.

But this week they are walking off the stage with a high school diploma and a set of skills in extremely high demand in today’s economy.

They also know how to talk to machines, tell them what to do, and make them work for them.

I am proud of these roughly two hundred young adults and I am pleased to bear witness to their accomplishments and the very bright futures that they all have in front of them.