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Forbes Column 08: ‘Edutainment’ Needs Entrepreneurs

Posted on Friday, Dec 19th 2008

This week’s Zero In challenges entrepreneurs to create a scalable education methodology that standardizes and makes universally accessible content across disciplines while personalizing lessons to children’s learning needs.

The column suggests that such a system need not depend on widespread access to the latest laptops or broadband technology, or even on initiatives such as Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop per Child. In countries where there is still limited access to connected laptops, almost everyone has a cellphone. Delivery of high-quality educational games on a cellphone platform is a tall order, but that should not deter entrepreneurs.

Read ‘Edutainment’ Needs Entrepreneurs on Forbes.

This segment is a part in the series : Forbes Column 08

. Connecting With Your Intimate Bot
. The Gap in Google's Defenses
. A Recession-Proof Corner of the Tech Sector
. eBay's Bounce-Back Opportunity
. How To Dig Out Yahoo's Treasures
. The Microsoft-Yahoo! Battle Plan
. What Microsoft Should Do While Yahoo! Dithers
. The Next VMWare
. The Smartest Unknown Indian Entrepreneur
. The Coming Death of Indian Outsourcing
. India - Cash Rich, Product Poor
. How to Save the World's Back Office
. Latin America's eCommerce Leader
. The Next Indo-China War
. The Real VCs of Silicon Valley
. Fund Envy
. Bootstrap Yourself
. The Coming Convergence
. Lighting The Way In India
. Hydro-Alchemy
. How Amazon Could Change Publishing
. A Technological Fix For Education
. How Technology Can Save Retailers
. Mobile Microfinance
. How To Heat Up Solar
. How Chip Toolmakers Can Survive
. Kill The Business Trip
. Water Firm Enlivens IPO Market
. Web-Savvy Authors Reap Fame, Fortune
. Peeking Inside the iPhone
. Bootstrapping, Montana Style
. Entrepreneurs Flock To Online Travel
. Silicon Lazarus
. Carts Ahead Of Horses
. Weapon Of Mass Reconstruction
. Barack Obama' s Finance Lesson
. Stimulus Package For Entrepreneurs
. Building A Smarter Corporation
. Deconstructing The Cloud
. 'SaaS-ing' Back At The Economy
. Web 3.0
. My Adventure With Amazon
. An S.O.S. To Silicon Valley
. OLPC’s Last Billion
. Capitalism Revisited
. Bargains For Private Equity
. President Obama
. Perilous Protectionism
. Healing Health Care
. Stop The Fear Epidemic
. Obama
. 'Edutainment' Needs Entrepreneurs

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Hi Sramana Mitra, i am from Brazil.

We have a project named HackerTeen – Edutainment for Internet Generation. We launched a book about our edutainment, named Internet Blackout, as you can see on Amazon.

I agree with you that edutainment is a good way. We are doing that. I agree that mobile phones are easy to achieve. Specially on my country.

To construct solutions for mobile phones from HackerTeen’s content we need investments for those software to be developed. If you know some investors (now with the market so hard will be more difficult), let me know.


marcelo marques

Marcelo Marques Friday, December 19, 2008 at 3:48 AM PT

We are just finishing our eco-friendly edu-ent preschool pilot and have another program that we are developing for an older age group. Reading your Forbes article reinforces some of what we are working on for the next stage in our productions. We are a very small company and we hope to have a positive impact on children. Good article.

Charles Friday, December 19, 2008 at 10:36 AM PT

Hi Sramana,

I work for a digital agency called THINK Interactive and a couple of us have started a blog and petition called five2digital. The goal is to demonstrate to congress that at 5% of the public works campaign funds that will be part of the upcoming public works legislation be directed towards digital innovation and infrastructure.

I read your article on the need for Edutainment entrepreneurism and thought this might be a topic you would be interested in.

Please take a look and let us know what you think.



michael nurse Friday, December 19, 2008 at 11:34 AM PT

Apologies for the double posting but I realized that I left the website out…

michael nurse Friday, December 19, 2008 at 11:36 AM PT

I’m an aspiring education entrepreneur, but I’m a few years away from being able to enter the business sector as I am presently serving out the remainder of my military commitment. I’m curious where to look for successful companies that are pursing your vision. The X-Prize Foundation use to have a very similar vision captured in an upcoming x-prize, but they have recently taken their page down: As a personal plan I look to getting an MBA and going into a related sector such as conventional gamming or for profit education before starting my own firm. Do you have any suggestions for would-be education entrepreneurs.

Tom Friday, December 19, 2008 at 12:10 PM PT

I am interested in presenting hands on construction technology courses online. The subjects would be aimed at those students not planning to go to college. It is difficult to get funding to start up such a project. My coursework has been developed for more than 10 years. I believe that IT cannot replace the leadersip a teacher can provide in the classroom. It is difficult for students to spend 45 minute sessions in front of a computer. What can one reward them with after they have sucessfully completed the daily assignment ? I would be happy to communicate with someone who might like to collaborate on a project.

J Kerr Friday, December 19, 2008 at 1:18 PM PT

Earlier this year I wrote a comment on one of your previous articles about educational technology. At the time, I felt that standardized technology-based education was more appropriate for places like India than first world countries like the US.

Writing that comment and your ideas about education through technology got me thinking about the intersection of education and technology. In the month’s since, I have come to the realization that there is far more opportunity for technology to enhance educational outcomes than I had previously acknowledged. There have been many attempts to bring technology into the classroom over the last 2 decades with less than stellar results. Many had confused the presence of computers with good teaching; that somehow the presence of computers would allow for students to learn through osmosis. I have to admit that my cynical reaction can be attributed to so many lackluster efforts from others in the past.

The one area where technology in the classroom has been a clear and widespread success is in the elaboration of student-created content. Students are not only able to do research on topics (both those assigned and also others of interest), but are also able create multimedia presentations of the materiel that they have learned.

Further, I have long since believed that all textbooks need to be digitized and available to students in a personal learning device, not unlike your cellphone idea. As cell phones become more powerful over the next decade, they will naturally become a tempting platform for such educational innovation. It is not a stretch, to make that textbook knowledge base interactive in pedagogically effective manner.

I had the opportunity to meet with the teachers of two young students, one elementary/middle school, and the other high school. Both are siblings who have moved to the States from South America 2 1/2 years ago. It is not a stretch to say that both of the aforementioned schools are in the Top 1% nationally. Not surprisingly, both students are struggling, having spent 2 years in another state in a typical upper middle class school district. Although their dad is a successful businessman, they have struggled adapting to a rigorous educational environment. They have clearly not been challenged sufficiently academically; neither out-of-state nor in their country of origin. Their language skills have not yet been brought up to speed fast enough and it is causing learning difficulties in other subjects.

I mention these two only as a springboard to say that each student is at a distinct level of educational subject mastery. Having only been learning English for just over 2 years emphasizes the differences that exist between all students. Technology allows students to learn at the point in the knowledge continuum that is most appropriate for the student and at a pace that is most conducive for learning for that student.

At the other extreme, many educators and researchers are concerned that the most academically gifted students are not getting sufficiently challenging educational environment. In this era of No Child Left Behind, teachers and school districts are encouraged and rewarded to attend to the needs of those students who are not demonstrating proficiency. Technology will allow all gifted students to learn advanced subject matter even if their teachers and/or their school districts are not adequately prepared to provide them the means for advanced learning.

Not only can technology help the most struggling and the most gifted, but also every student in between, if done right.

Education is one of my passionate concerns. It is one of the most important public policy issues of our day, and of any society at any time. I always figured that i would be involved philanthropically, assisting an educational reform organization or journalistically but writing about the important issues.

Damn you Sramana. I now have yet another 3.0 company to create. There are not enough hours in the day to do all the valuable things that are still left to be done in the world. The next 10-20 years are going to be very busy years for me.

I look forward to talking to you often and anytime going forward on this topic or any other. Let me thank you again for your blog. I don’t think it is possible to show enough appreciation for valuable service that you are providing to the world and to our 3.0 future.

Realtosh Saturday, December 20, 2008 at 1:31 AM PT


On a related note, I have just posted a petition on that calls for the U.S. federal government to use part of its upcoming economic stimulus package to create and fund a venture capital firm that is similar in form to In-Q-Tel, the government’s venture capital firm for companies that “support the missions of the C.I.A. and the broader U.S. intelligence community”.

The new firm will invest in companies that introduce:

* online markets that provide people with new and improved ways to develop, showcase and earn money from expertise
* complements to the markets (e.g., software, media)

This firm can be expected to earn profits when companies that it supports are acquired by American media conglomerates that own a broadcast television network.

The firm’s investment thesis is detailed at the site. It derives from a business plan for a provider of said markets. Previous versions of the plan were praised by executives at Microsoft and, and by analysts at top-tier venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. (Why am I not founding a markets-maker? Because I’m not a technology entrepreneur; my pursuit of a writing sale led me to develop the plan.)

The business case for one of the markets — for customized education — is made also in a 2008 book titled Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. As you know, one of the book’s co-authors is Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor who developed the must-know theory of disruptive innovation.

Please contact me with any questions, etc.

And, of course, feel free to spread the word.


Frank Ruscica Wednesday, December 24, 2008 at 10:45 PM PT

Very insightful; thank you. You rightly make the point that ” . . . now, add personalization to ‘edutainment’ software and you’re on your way to developing a new teaching methodology that is significantly more powerful and high-impact.’ We at DreamBox Learning whole heartedly agree! Furthermore, it’s this personalization piece that we believe warrants a new category of effective + engaging web-based software: “Individualized eLearning.” Put another way, it may just be that Edutainment is dead and Individualized eLearning will rise it in its wake.

For more on this, please see


Lou Gray
CEO, DreamBox Learning

Lou Gray Monday, December 29, 2008 at 3:40 PM PT