EdTech Venture Day in Israel - Meet Lucia Figar

EdTech Venture Day in Israel – Meet Lucia Figar

EdTech Venture Day in Israel - Meet Lucia Figar

The 1st EdTech IE Venture Day takes place in Tel Aviv

A rude, honest retort to “when will you stop looking at your phone and talk to me?” would be “as soon as you’re more interesting than my phone”. This is essentially what the WOW room tells professors giving lectures. WOW, which stands for Window on the World, is a teleteaching classroom at the Instituto de Empresa (IE) business school. Faculty members give live video lectures to students from around the world, with up to 80 of them being simultaneously videocast back to the classroom, their live audiovisual feeds mosaiced on a 45m² curved wall of screens in the classroom. A software does a sentiment analysis of students’ feeds, and can alert the lecturer if any of them are bored, frustrated, etc., allowing the lecturer to address the issue and fine-tune his/her lecture. “The boredom alert is part of the monitoring of the students’ attentiveness and emotional engagement, through face recognition technologies using the cameras on learners’ PCs, tablets or mobile phones”, says Lucia Figar de Lacalle in an interview with MindCET. “For academics, teaching in from of this huge wall is as engaging as addressing a traditional lecture theatre. For students, it yields bigger engagement, it’s a platform that enhances collaboration among students from around the world”.

Figar leads EdTech initiatives as IE Business School’s Chief of Corporate Innovation and Ventures, and several education and technology initiatives as Chairwoman of IE ROCKETS, IE´s EdTech startup accelerator that she helped launch. IE ROCKETS, Figar says, is “part accelerator, part angel investor, part very committed educational client. The program is designed to rapidly build EdTech startups’ capabilities and brand in the higher education sector, helping them penetrate the market quicker and making it easier for them to raise capital. A technology driven revolution in higher education is coming, and we want to lead the way. But, just as you don’t send a rocket to space on your own, you don’t reinvent higher education without the support of others”. Currently, IE ROCKETS has 4 active projects, and Figar lists them: “an online platform which facilitates peer feedback, improving the student’s learning experience and offering a way to dramatically reduce the time spent on grading while increasing the quality of feedback; a 3D 360º virtual reality recording system; a mobile solution that integrates all student services and relevant information in one single app, improving communication and content management; and a mentoring platform that connects IE students with alumni and professionals, advisers and networks needed to realize their full potential. This year, 6 more projects will be added”.

As Minister of Education, Youth and Sports in the Government of the Community of Madrid between 2012-2015, Figar made coding and web programming mandatory in the curriculum. “I introduced this reform in 2014 for students aged 12 years old, with a 4-year curriculum until the age of 16, covering the 4 years of mandatory secondary education (high school), with 1.5 class hours per week”, Figar says. “While students spend A LOT of time using technology, they barely scratch the surface of what technology can do for them”, she explains. “So with the reform our ultimate goal was to get students to help design apps, instead of downloading them; to program their phones and webs, instead of navigating them; to create videos and games, instead of just buying them.”

“If you ask Spanish students that are learning coding in class in Madrid, they will tell you that, at the very least, it has helped them understand basic programming logic, structure and design. Even those who did not go on to become software engineers – which was never the goal – will say that the fundamentals of programming a computer at the coding level has helped them shape how they think logically, has sharpened their common sense, and, in a lot of cases, has helped them apply what they have learned to getting more out of their smartphones, tablets, computers and other devices that populate millennials’ lives. And this will undoubtedly boost their personal and professional opportunities”.

Figar has also helped the Jewish Community in Madrid: “When I was the Minister of Education in Madrid, I signed an agreement to give public funds to cover the tuition for the Jewish School in Madrid, so Jewish families from all income levels could have the choice of sending their children to this school”. She quit the post due to a Operacion Punica scandal, and currently serves as Secretary of Communications in Madrid for the People’s Party.

“Global EdTech Collaboratoon is essential”, Figar emphasizes: “Collaboration across countries can foster EdTech entrepreneurship, bring stronger and scalable EdTech startups and increase adoption of EdTech products and tools. Obviously, the underlying belief is that serious, measured EdTech will transform education, bringing improved outcomes for young people, better school’s systems and more efficient and effective educational institutions

“Universities, centers and institutions with a focus on educational technology are not yet collaborating effectively to support the European EdTech industry due to lack of a common platform to share experiences, concerns, research and best practices. There are different factors that hinder effective communication between various EdTech initiatives and preventing them from collaborating at European level – language, time, regulations and distance barriers. Collaboration between institutions such as IE and MindCET will bring them, and the innovative projects they support, more visibility. Discussion and examples of successful case studies across Europe and abroad are crucial to embed a new mind-set at universities, administrators and teachers, which are direct targets of cutting edge EdTech products and models.

“US, China and other countries have an outstanding world position in EdTech. Europe represents the 2nd largest market for education globally, but in order to prosper it needs to champion growth and collaboration. Trends and successes in one country have been shown to open up opportunities in others, just as failings can be learned from and shared between organizations and larger educational systems. As such, the potential for digital technology to radically transform the European educational sector will require a network of shared learning, collaboration and discussion”.

The IE Venture Day Tel Aviv EdTech will take place on May 30th, the first time an IE Venture Day takes place in Israel, including keynote speakers, panel discussions, networking and a startup pitching competition. In it, Figar will present a joint presentation with MindCET CEO Avi Warshavsky on global EdTech trends. “But the most important participants at the EdTech Venture Day will undoubtedly be the entrepreneurs and startups. Their pitches will be the most interesting”, she says, complimenting the local EdTech marker: “I must say we have received very high quality Israeli startups in the competition”.

How does IE cooperate with Israel?

“IE has relationships with TAU and Technion. We have also signed earlier this year an agreement with IDC to exchange students and collaboration of the law schools of both universities in a Master on Legal Tech. IE has appointed a Regional Director who comes 3-4 times a year to Israel to strengthen relations with Israel enterprises. Regarding EdTech, we are deepening relationships with CET and Mindcet, we have Avi  Warshavsky, (MindCET CEO) on the IE Rockets Advisory Board, we are partnering for this first EdTEch Venture Day in Tel Aviv and we will be having a delegation of them in Spain in October, attending a big 3 day international EdTech conference that we are hosting. They have been pioneers in EdTech for many years, but now there are a few more initiatives at the European level, and we are working to connect them. Here MindCET’s leadership and expertise is important”.


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