I've been meaning to get to this post for a while. Way back in July, I had the privilege to be a judge in Desire2Learn's Edge Challenge. Basically, they offered cash prizes for groups building compelling mobile applications for education. One of the nice aspects of the contest was that the apps didn't have to have anything to do with D2L's technologies (although use of those technologies was, of course, encouraged). Basically, if it was new and innovative and good for students and teachers, then it didn't matter what technology was used. As a judge, I both evaluated the entrants and then---the fun part---got to participate in a coaching session with the winners.
The two companies that made it to the coaching session were both really interesting. The first, mPrep, delivers lessons and quizzes to K12 students in Kenya via text messages on mobile phones (whether they are smartphones or not). There is also an analytics portal for teachers. The company has aspirations to expand its reach across Africa and, eventually, to the rest of the developing world. Here's their video entry:
The second was a company called Primal. They have a semantic search technology that helps you zero in on what you were actually looking for by understanding your interests. They built an app on top of their core technology called Learning Sherpa. Basically, the tool combines the class context of what is being taught (e.g., anatomy and physiology) with the student's interests (e.g., baseball and statistics) to find articles that cover both areas. In other words, it helps students find their zone of proximal curiosity in the context of the class. Here's their video entry:
Great stuff. Both of these start-ups impressed me a great deal. I think D2L's contest was outstanding and I hope they do it again.