Jim Bowler became CEO of Adaptive Curriculum in February 2010. This is our conversation about adaptive learning, conversations on the web and entrepreneur needs in a burgeoning industry.
What do entrepreneurs need right now more than anything? Writing a research paper?
I think they need a very focused vision of the problem they are trying to solve. By that I mean, there are a lot of challenges in education, a lot of issues. But there are a lot of vendors, a lot of solutions, and sometimes I see people create and have good ideas, but they are solutions in search of a problem. I think there are real issues in education with teachers, students, and teams, and an entrepreneur wants to look at those…and if they can really look at the pain points that districts, teachers and students have, they would be much better off.
What makes adaptive learning on the web effective?
For students, I think foremost is how engaging it is and how motivating. A lot of students struggle with international exams in tests for math and science achievement. For some, it is difficult to learn that vertical, for some it’s the fact that maybe the quality of the teaching isn’t that good. What we do is really motivate and engage the students. When they learn about gravity for example, they put the planets in line and they see the vector between gravity and velocity and are able to grasp that in real time. As opposed to reading a paragraph of those factors.
You are looking at a ferris wheel, for example, and looking at the motion there relative to a sin curve. They really enjoy that much more.
Explain your company in three sentences.
Adaptive Curriculum offers interactive, multi-media solutions in math and science in grades 6-12 that engages the students and focuses on key concepts.
What differentiates Adaptive Curriculum is a focus on a core concept as opposed to a survey course, or drill-and-kill. The purpose of the online delivery is to take advantage of engagement activity.
What was the catalyst for the company?
The company was founded in Europe and the founder was someone who had a long-term interest in math and science and who constantly tried to figure out why students were not learning it well or advancing to higher level. For fifteen or twenty years, they were working with universities to solve this. It’s evolved over time and it’s been shaped to take advantage of new technologies to make it more interactive for students.
The key factor for us here in the US is that three years ago we began working with ASU to bring math and science education to a higher level, and working with teachers here to further American education.
Let’s talk about print and web-based learning. Can there be both a print and a web based system for teaching and curriculum delivery? Do you think standard textbook learning works right now, and how can it be improved in conjunction with your product?
I think for an interim period, both will work and they will compliment each other. Over the longer haul, it’s not just in the classroom, the way the world goes will be the way classes will go. Print just has a lot of inefficiencies in cost and distribution. We see that with the comparison between newspaper and e books. Education is just a little slower to follow the trends.
For the next five to ten years, you will see print and electronic versions of print all working in the class together.
The model may be completely different. Things may flip. You may purchase the digital version of the software an the print is given away. That’s completely opposite of the current model. The core concept may be the interactive play…and a complementary print book is wrapped into cost of the software.
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