Q&A with Michael Silagadze, founder & CEO of Top Hat Monocle
Top Hat Monocle, a mobile-based education platform that enables student engagement, recently announced it has completed a round of Series A financing. The $8 million round was led by Emergence Capital Partners and iNovia Capital, along with SoftTech VC, Version One Ventures (Boris Wertz) and Golden Venture Partners. Top Hat Monocle is also working with professors, textbook publishers and other content providers to build interactive content, which will be delivered through its platform.
CEO Michael Silagadze recently took the time to lend is his insights on trends, obstacles, and the future of edtech. Check it out below.
What is the biggest trend in education technology that we should be watching?
One of the biggest trends going on right now is the gamification of education. I believe this will have a profound impact on how teaching is done and on the overall effectiveness of the education process. Take something like Guitar Hero as an example. The amount of effort required to really master that game is pretty significant and comparable to the effort required to learn any number of useful skills. The only thing driving young people to master Guitar Hero are the intrinsic mechanics built into that game that make it engaging. Although I think it’s probably not realistic that learning math or chemistry will ever be that addictive, I think it can actually get quite close.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles in adopting technology in the education space?
The area in which I’ve done a lot of work is higher education, so I have a good sense about the obstacles there as opposed to something like K-12, which is a completely different universe with its own issues. In universities I would say the primary obstacle is the incentive structure for professors. To put it bluntly there are virtually no incentives in place to encourage great teaching – it’s really left up to the benevolence of the instructor to put in more than the bare minimum. Thankfully most professors do rise to the occasion, but it’s really in-spite of the system rather than because of it. What needs to happen is to have significant tenure track lecturer position and to have significant compensation (and prestige) attached to great teaching. Until that happens it will always be an uphill battle.
Where do you see education technology going in the next 5 years?
It’s almost becoming a cliche now but I think the most exciting thing will be watching the flip-the-classroom movement take over. I think delivering lectures in a passive one-to-many style is going to go away very quickly. The value of speaking a set of information without engaging the students is minimal when you can simply go on YouTube or Udacity and watch a world-class expert deliver the same content on demand. I believe the classroom will become a place where the conceptual learning takes place via problem solving and interaction. To put in a plug for Top Hat Monocle, if I may, I think our kind of classroom interaction technology is precisely what’s going to make this kind of flipping-the-classroom possible within the budget constraints of universities. When you have a 50+ (or 1000+) classroom it becomes pretty close to impossible to engage students in a meaningful way without using some kind of technology to manage the interaction.
Thanks so much to Mr. Silagadze for his contribution. Be sure to check back tomorrow for an EdTech Times startup spotlight on Top Hat Monocle.