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Education innovation

Israeli innovation is moving rapidly into education with technologies that advance distance learning, mobile games, conflict resolution and more.

By: Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c

In the face of an alarming rise in university dropout rates and attention-deficit diagnoses, thought leaders are bound for Tel Aviv to share and discover educational technology solutions at the Shaping the Future international ed-tech conference on September 3, kicking off Israel Edtech Week through September 6.

This fifth annual conference will focus on how artificial intelligence (AI) can enable a revolution in the understanding of human learning and the transformation of education in the digital age – not only in K-12 and college classrooms but also in vocational and distance-learning settings.

“Educational systems around the world are not speaking the language of today’s learners, let alone meeting their needs,” states Cecilia Waismann, VP R&D of Shaping the Future cosponsor MindCET, the five-year-old ed-tech innovation center of Israel’s nonprofit Center for Educational Technology (CET).

Coinciding with the back-to-school season, the summit is part of the DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival taking place that week. Multinationals such as IBM, Google, Amazon, Intel and Microsoft are sending representatives, and education delegations are coming from as far away as Japan, Hong Kong, Germany and Spain. About 60 percent of some 700 expected participants are foreign.

The event’s global appeal underlines that Israeli ed-tech is gaining traction and funding, says Avi Warshavsky, CEO of MindCET. “In general, the deal flow is improving all the time.”

MindCET recently graduated its sixth cohort of eight companies. Entrepreneurs, educators and researchers brainstorm at MindCET centers in Tel Aviv (center), Yeruham (south) and Haifa (north), and MindCET recently launched HighGrade Ventures with UK-based VC Arie Capital to invest in early-stage ed-tech companies in both countries.

Enhancing Human Capital

According to Jacob (Yaki) Dayan, founder of EdTech Israel, there are about 30,000 ed-tech companies across the globe and 300 to 500 ed-tech companies in Israel, depending on how broadly the term is defined.

“The term ‘educational technology’ describes all possible ways technology can be used to create innovation in learning from cradle to grave,” Dayan tells ISRAEL21c.

“Later this year we will roll out the first searchable index of all companies and startups in this domain. It will mean that every listed company will be immediately discoverable all around the world,” says Dayan, who matches Israeli ed-tech providers with stakeholders in many countries. On a recent trip, he introduced the Argentinean Ministry of Education to several Israeli startups.

Every June, EdTech Israel holds an Israeli EdTech Summit in partnership with Tel Aviv University and New York-based investment banking firm East Wind Advisors to connect the Israeli education innovation ecosystem to global opportunities, investors and business partners.

Dayan notes that top Israeli business accelerators such as MassChallenge and 8200 EISP are nurturing ed-tech startups, which he takes as a sign of market maturity.

“What is driving ed-tech is much more than apps and devices,” he says. “It’s about human capital and how we can enhance it with learning and technology, including informal learning, skill gaps in the workplace and social gaps in society.”

Israel is one of 10 countries whose ed-tech landscape will be mapped in a database for the industry by HolonIQ, a new market intelligence platform for education sponsored by Navitech Ventures of Sydney, Australia. HolonIQ (no relation to the Israeli city) predicts the global education market will reach $10 trillion by 2030, driven by “unprecedented re-skilling and up-skilling in developed economies.”

Interactive Skills and Academic Integrity

Here are seven Israeli ed-tech startups and established companies to watch this school year.

1. Jolt is creating actual “microcampuses” (Jolt Rooms) for small-group interactive skills learning led remotely in real time by experts in anything from storytelling to contract negotiation. You simply download the Jolt app, find classes in your area that interest you and reserve a seat around the table in a meeting room or coworking space near you. The company is based in Tel Aviv and London.

2. TinyTap offers more than 150,000 educational mobile games developed mainly by teachers worldwide and vetted by in-house educational experts. Founded in Tel Aviv in 2012, TinyTap recently hit 1 million registered users. Used by parents and classroom teachers, the app offers a parents’ guide, The Learning Plan, to age-appropriate games in a variety of subjects. This guide is available in Hebrew and English, and soon in Arabic, French and Mandarin. TinyTap recently partnered with Oxford University Press to develop premium games.

3. Copyleaks is a cloud platform using AI to detect plagiarism and copyright infringement — even highly paraphrased and rearranged similar content — in any language. Founded in 2015 by former programmers in the Israel Defense Forces’ 8200 intelligence unit, Copyleaks aims to help educational institutions maintain academic integrity and identify students struggling with writing assignments. Working with universities and companies including Microsoft Education, Copyleaks has its R&D in Kiryat Shmona and a new office in Connecticut.

4. CirQlive makes an integration platform to simplify the coordination of live online courses over universities’ existing web-conferencing services (such as Zoom or WebEx). Current clients include universities in the US, Australia, Europe and South America, but K-12 teachers can use the technology to reach pupils unable to come to school. Started in 2014, with offices in Jerusalem and New Jersey, CirQlive is adaptable to a variety of languages to enable collaborative learning across campuses and continents.

5. Storyball, a MindCET graduate, developed a screen-free smart toy that uses games, stories and challenges to get children playing, learning and moving in a personalized way due to AI and machine learning. Different elastic “skins” wrap around Storyball to change the game – including characters from PAW Patrol, GUNK Aliens and Magic Ballerina, thanks to partnerships with Nickelodeon and HarperCollins. A companion app lets parents track their child’s progress. Following a successful crowdfunding campaign, Storyball is expected to ship in November.

6. Agree Online, another MindCET graduate, teaches members of Gen Z how to achieve peaceful digital conflict resolution using age-appropriate learning technologies in a secure digital environment led by their teacher and guided by their classmates as mentors. Children also learn to distinguish between digital conflicts and cyberbullying. The Ramat Gan-based startup is working with schools in Israel and is in discussions with potential distributors in the US, UK, Argentina and other countries.

7. Edusoft of Rosh HaAyin is a subsidiary of Educational Testing Services (ETS), the world’s largest private educational assessment and research organization. Edusoft develops technology-based English language learning and assessment software solutions serving a range of educational, governmental and corporate clients in more than 30 countries.