Alright, alright! We admit it! He’s actually been back for about a month now, but since the press release only came out yesterday we figured it would be best to wait until things were “official” before we posted the good news.
And here it is:
Brian Reese, TestSoup’s founder and an active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force was deployed to Afghanistan early last year — but now he’s home again, safe, sound, and ready to rock on some more TestSoup content.
We’ve made some decent progress in his absence, growing the TestSoup user base substantially and adding a lot of new flashcard sets for our online, Android, and iOS platforms. But now that the man with the plan is back in the saddle, the company is poised to go in some bold new directions and make some key additions to our test prep line-up.
We’ll have more details for you as things develop. For now, though, we’re happy to just welcome Brian home!
I know the title is lame, but it’s also true. Sometimes life is like that. Let me give you a run-down on what the Campus Challenge is and you can decide if you agree with me.
You know all those nifty apps that you use on a daily – even hourly – basis on your smartphone? Well they all have to be developed by somebody. TradeKing is an online broker that is challenging students to become the “somebodies” who develop those apps with a contest called Campus Challenge. They tried this program at Loyola University Maryland during the spring of this year, and now they’ve rolled it out nationwide – this time with $100,000 in prizes available!
The idea is fairly simple: Develop an app that runs on any platform, designed in any language, which utilizes the Tradeking.com application programming interface (API) either alone or in combination with other APIs from Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo Finance, etc. In other words, build a better online or mobile investment “mousetrap.” Oh, and did I mention that the contest is only open to students?
That part alone is already pretty cool. I always love the idea of teams competing to solve a problem in the best way possible. Not only does each team learn a lot in the process, but the awareness that they are competing with other teams drives each group to perform to the best of their abilities. Some really amazing stuff comes from contests like this.
But what makes Campus Challenge “way cool” to me is how my alma mater, Loyola University Maryland is involved. It’s one of only five schools (out of the 30 teams that have entered) that is weaving the contest right into the classroom instead of setting up extra-curricular teams. That mean students are doing this as their class work, not in addition to it.
This, to me, is the future of education. Why should it be that students create nothing of value to the world outside of their university until after they’ve graduated? It’s a totally artificial barrier. In fact, why aren’t we challenging students to contribute to the “real world” right from the beginning?
I see contests and opportunities like this as a great step towards that happening. The face of education is changing, and it is all thanks to schools being willing to step outside of what is considered “normal” and companies like TradeKing who believe that students can make a difference too.
Check out the Campus Challenge website here. If it sounds intriguing to you, see what you can do to get your school to participate in a contest like this one next year!
Ever heard of a hackathon? It’s basically an all-out creative festival where people committed to one particular cause get together for a weekend (sometimes longer) to make awesome stuff. So perhaps you can imagine what an “Education Hack Day” would be like. I picture it being sort of similar to #edchat but in “real life,” with people coming out of the woodwork to contribute their own great ideas to the education and edtech scene.
Over the course of the weekend, teachers and technologists work to create apps to help check some items off the “Educator’s Wish List.” In other words: participants make progress towards solving real problems submitted by real educators, not just crafting apps that they think will have the best chance of making them a million bucks. Then, at the end of it all, each team presents what they’ve created to the public and a team of judges decide which apps have the most potential. Pretty exciting stuff.
It’s even more exciting for us at TestSoup that not only is there an Education Hack Day coming up (November 12th and 13th) in Baltimore, Maryland, but that one of our own will be a judge at the event. That’s right – one of TestSoup’s founding members will be there first-hand for the unveiling of these apps, and to help choose the winners. Moving up in the world, right?
But wait – there’s more! (In the words of all those used car salesmen…)
TestSoup is also donating free study materials to every single teacher who participates. We just can’t help ourselves. We see educators throwing themselves into the mix and we have to join them. After all, why else get involved in the education sector unless you have a real passion for it? Lord knows, the big bucks are much easier to find elsewhere…
And, last but not least, we’ve heard through the grapevine that one of the other major players in the education sphere is giving away free stuff to all participants. PBworks, one of the leading educational workspace providers (and, incidentally another member of the Wasabi Ventures portfolio, along with TestSoup), is throwing their considerable weight behind the event.
We’d like to say that we hope this event will be a great success, but simply hoping is never enough. So please, we implore you: check it out!
And of course, developers and designers of Baltimore who care about Education, please show up and help out – it’s free and for a great cause!
Remember that time we made a big deal about how we had updated our GRE study materials only three weeks after the test itself had been revised? We said that is showed our commitment to always bringing you the best, most up-to-date flashcards and other test prep content that we possibly could.
Well, today, we reaffirm that promise, as we announce a complete revision of our Air Force Professional Development Guide flashcards and apps. What can we say? When the Air Force makes changes to its PDG content, we respond in kind.
It’s probably true that we could have left our flashcards pretty much unchanged. After all, the core content is still pretty much the same. Sure, some chapters were condensed, combined, or deleted entirely. And what’s the harm in knowing more than you have to? But we had to make sure that we had all the new content in there as well. It certainly wouldn’t do to send people into such an important exam unprepared.
The first group to be tested using the content from the revised guide will be in December of 2011, which means there’s still plenty of time to pick up our flashcards (you can get them for free on our website, or for $19.99 in the Android Market or the Apple App Store) and start studying on your computer or on the go with your smartphone!
At last, the time has come to announce the winners of the Back to School Giveaway — those fortunate souls whose classrooms, schools, or districts will be taking home their share of the $150,000 in premium edtech resources offered by VocabSushi, SchoolTube, Sweet Search, Virtual Nerd, Collaborize Classroom, and (of course) TestSoup. This is an exciting moment — for me and (I hope) for all the entrants.
Without further ado, here are the winners!
We’ll be sending out emails to these lucky individuals later today with information on how they can go about claiming their prizes and getting their classrooms, schools, and districts set up with all the best that the BTSG co-sponsors have to offer.
And if you don’t see your name up here, don’t despair! We’re more than willing to work with you on bringing our services to your school in whatever way we can. We saw a lot of passion from the entrants to the BTSG, and we want to reward that. I know that we can find a way to work together to help your students. Just leave a comment on this post and we’ll be in touch in a flash!
We’ve only got a couple more days left to go on the Back to School Giveaway — three, if you want to be exact (and I do). As I write this on Tuesday afternoon, we have well over 200 entrants, which actually still leaves fairly good odds that each entrant will take something home for their school or district, considering we have 20 prizes to give away.
Actually, every entrant can get something out of it if they want, because each of the six companies involved are offering discounts on their products or services to anyone who troubled themselves to leave a reply on the page and enter into the drawing.
Personally, I’ve been blown away by the responses we’re getting to this. 200 entrants may not sound like a lot, and maybe it isn’t. But many of these people are taking the time to emphatically thank us for organizing such a giveaway. Others are tweeting about it (that’s how you score bonus points for your school and increase your odds of winning) and some have even blogged about it.
When I went to ISTE, I left with such a feeling of excitement for the future of education. I had met some of the most enthusiastic and committed educators I could have ever asked to meet. This contest is doing the same thing for me. I see some of the best educators this generation of students could ask for in the spreadsheet that I’ve created to keep track of all the entrants.
These folks have gone out of their way to sign up for something that yes, could benefit them a little, but would mostly benefit their schools or districts at large. The fact that we spent nothing on advertising and tried to spread the word mostly through social networks shows that they have plugged themselves into numerous edtech hubs in order to keep their fingers close to the pulse. And that’s awesome.
I’m looking forward to seeing how many people sign up before Friday at midnight (realistically, I’ll close comments down on Saturday morning to give the last few stragglers a bit of a grace period). But mostly I’m looking forward to seeing how the winners but all these great edtech solutions to use in their classroom.
If you haven’t entered yet, go ahead and do it! You just might get something great for your students out of it.
You probably don’t know this unless you keep a pretty sharp eye on our library page, but TestSoup comes out with new flashcard content every single week. Sometimes we’ll revise or update an existing set (like we did just recently with the GRE), but often that means churning out brand-spanking-new flashcard sets available online, in the iOS App Store, and the Android Market.
Usually we send out an email to everyone on our mailing list announcing all the new content, but that really only helps people on our mailing list, now doesn’t it? So I thought that it might be nice to write a short post about the three new flashcard sets we put out just last week.
That’s it for this week. Hopefully you saw something you liked. And if not, just remember that we’re cranking out new content all the time. Who knows — next Monday you might see something that really grabs you by the horns.
Oh, and one final thing: if you’re a teacher and you’re in the market for $150,000 of free edtech resources for your classroom and your students, head on over to the Back to School Giveaway. It’s a (free) contest that we’re co-sponsoring with some other great edtech companies. We would love for you to win.
Not a teacher? That’s okay. Feel free to spread the word!
by John J. Walters
This one goes out to all the teachers, professors, and other educators who scour the internet on a regular basis, looking for ways to make their classes more engaging and their students more successful. I’m going to keep this one brief, since you’ll have a little bit of extra reading to do at the end. You’ll see what I mean.
It is with great pleasure (and at least a small measure of personal pride) that I announce the creation on one way for educators to bring quality edtech resources into their classroom at little or no cost whatsoever — the Back to School Giveaway! Go ahead and click the link. I’ll wait here. And pretty much everything I could possibly tell you about the #BTSG (that’s our very official hash-tag) is there already.
But I know some people need a little convincing before they go clicking links and entering massive giveaways with $150,000 worth of edtech resources at stake. I can understand that. So allow me to explain things a bit.
If you have a Facebook account, chances are you saw this status on your newsfeed at least once in the past month or two:
Tonight a teacher somewhere in your neighborhood is getting ready for your child’s new school year, writing lesson plans or writing your child’s name in their grade book, while you are watching television. In the minute it takes you to read this, teachers all over the world are using their “free time,” and often investing their own time & money for your child’s literacy, prosperity, and future. Re-post if you are a teacher, love a teacher, or appreciate a teacher.
As the son of two educators, I can assure you that I did, indeed, re-post. Aside from my parents, I’ve seen committed teachers go far out of their way to help me (and other students) time and time again. In fact, I even wrote this guest blog post for Quincy Tutoring about it. But just writing about it didn’t seem like enough.
So the TestSoup team started brainstorming. How can we give something back to teachers for all that they’ve given? And that’s when it hit us: why not create a giveaway? So I got on the phone and started talking to our friends from the EdTech Karaoke event we co-hosted at ISTE 2011.
Before I knew it, we had a team of six companies who were working on coming up with prizes (and lots of ‘em!) and a site layout for the BTSG. Over the course of the month of August — while most teachers were actively engaged in preparing lesson plans and making sure they had all their ducks in a row for the coming semester — we pulled it all together.
Today marks the start of the contest. I strongly encourage you, if you are an educator, to sign up. And if you’re not? Pass the word along to someone who is. We all have friends in the education world, and they could all use some free resources for their students, I’m sure.
by John J. Walters
Writing news update posts is always a little bit of a challenge. Actually, writing a post for the TestSoup blog at all is a bit of a challenge for me this time around. I’m a bit rusty, if you must know. Our guest posts have been so successful that I haven’t written a single post for our blog since we got back from co-hosting EdTech Karaoke at ISTE 11, and that feels like it was ages ago. But every once in a while, I need to poke my head in the door and make sure everything is humming along as it should.
Here’s the real challenge, though. How do you make the fact that we’ve updated our GRE flashcard content to be in sync with the August 1, 2011 General Test revisions into a fun and interesting blog post? How do you make people care about the fact that we completely revamped our materials in under three weeks time? Is there a way to dress that up and make it appeal to the masses?
I don’t know. I just… Don’t. Know.
What I do know is this: they’ve been talking about updating the GRE — the standardized exam that all applicants to grad schools must take — since 2006. But they didn’t do anything about it until this year. They say that now the test is more in line with the skill sets that are important for success in modern graduate programs. And I’m sure it is.
Changes to a test like this cannot be made lightly. Maybe that’s why they spent so long talking about it before they made their move. Fortunately, TestSoup isn’t constrained by multiple layers of bureaucracy. When we see a test that needs quality, up-to-date study content, we move. It’s what we do, and we make no apologies for it. Should we?
It all goes back to the vision of our founder, Brian Reese. You see, back in the day (and by that, we mean almost two whole years ago), Brian was studying for the GMAT, and he was spending a lot of money on test prep materials. Some were worth the cash, but the vast majority of them weren’t. So he started making his own flashcards, and after a very short while he saw the scores on his practice tests going up.
Fast forward to last year and Brian had assembled test prep experts to help him produce flashcards for several other standardized tests. Of course, creating relevant content was important then, and we’re not going to stop now. What kind of players would we be if we bailed on the game as soon as things got interesting? I mean — could we still call ourselves “players?”
You may not care about the GRE. I understand that. But if test prep is in your future (and I would love to see a future that doesn’t involve some amount of studying) then you should know that TestSoup plans to continue staying relevant and up-to-date. That’s a promise that extends to every one of our tests.
It seems like only yesterday that I was writing a blog post announcing the swingin’ party that TestSoup will be co-hosting at the ISTE 2011 conference in Philadelphia at the end of this month. But that impression is entirely mistaken. In fact, I wrote that post over a month ago now — back when our free karaoke tweetup only had something like a hundred pre-registered attendees. Last I heard, which was over a week ago, we have around 400. So if you haven’t done so already, I strongly encourage you to head on over to our Eventbrite page and reserve yourself a spot.
“But what if I’ve already registered?” you might ask. A very good question, to which I have two answers.
First of all, don’t forget that you need to find one of us during the ISTE conference to claim your free VIP badge, which you will need to turn your attendance from pipe-dream to actual, factual reality. We shouldn’t be that hard to find, really. I mean, there are six of us co-hosts, and each of us will have multiple people on the ground, mingling with the crowd and attending various events for our own edification.
If you want to reach any of us during ISTE 2011, probably the best way to do that would be to @reply us on Twitter and establish a meeting place so that you can claim your pass to what promises to be one of the highlights of this year’s conference. In case you need a refresher on who we are, our handles are as follows: @Collaborize, @SchoolTube, @Edutopia, @symbalooEDU, @findingDulcinea, and (of course) @TestSoup.
“But what else can I do?” In my own humble opinion, I would suggest that you start getting excited for ISTE right now, and don’t stop until you are there, reveling in the magic of so much Ed Tech so close together. This is TestSoup’s first conference ever, and from what we hear this one is absolutely a blast. I’m sure our massive karaoke blowout on Tuesday night (the 28th) won’t hurt.
Speaking of which, are you aware that SchoolTube has created a custom channel on their site for people to upload their own videos of past karaoke exploits? Well they have, and although so far there haven’t been any takers, I’m optimistic that we’ll see something before the conference starts. You can’t tell me that out of all those people who will be attending our tweetup that none of them have ever sang karaoke, or that no one has ever been filmed doing karaoke before. Preposterous!
So unleash your wild side. Get excited. But above all, start planning your trip to ISTE 2011. We’re getting closer every moment.