CET to open incubator in the Negev

$10 million educational center will fund innovators, funnel hi-tech into classrooms.

Incubator site in Yeroham 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Incubator site in Yeroham 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Center for Educational Technology (CET) is on the cusp of establishing an incubator in the Negev to host startups and innovators involved in developing educational technologies, for the purpose of ensuring that Israel’s entrepreneurial inventions are making their way to the country’s classrooms.
The organization will be investing a total of $10 million, mostly from private donors, over the next five years to launch and operate an incubation center out of Yeroham that is set to open this June.
By bringing in local startup companies and entrepreneurs, CET hopes to develop technological models that meld well with the educational system, and “leverage hi-tech know-how and capabilities for the development of innovative educational technologies.”
“While Israel has acquired a reputation as a global hi-tech superpower, it is necessary to invest in education to close the gap between our technological capabilities and their implementation in the education [system],” said Gila Ben- Har, CEO of CET, in a statement released by her office.
“The establishment of the first technological-educational incubator in Israel seeks to create an optimal affinity between creative and entrepreneurial startups and the educational system, so as to position Israel in the forefront of innovative technological education.”
To Ben-Har, it was a natural decision to build the incubator in Yeroham – to spur settlement and job creation in the Negev.
“The opening of the CET incubator in Yeroham is wonderful news for the city and a major advance for the citizens,” agreed Michael Biton, mayor of Yeroham. “The opening relies on Yeroham having the human capital necessary to run the center, and the conviction to start Zionist momentum in the Negev. The hi-tech industry has shown it is capable of overcoming borders and physical distance.”
The incubator will contain three components – the Garage, where developers can explore solutions to educational challenges; the Aquarium, which will be the first research center on education and technology; and the Lab, which will serve as a liaison between the incubator and classrooms at selected schools.
At the head of the incubator will be Avi Warshavsky, head of humanities and social studies at CET and one of the entrepreneurs behind the KOTAR digital book platform.
“Part of our mission is bringing ideas, tools and ways of learning from other disciplines in cultural and social fields,” Warshavsky told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
By offering innovators access to advice, financing and a network of educators and researchers, Warshavsy hopes to attract local entrepreneurs.
Already, he has about 12 applications for five spots in the first-year program, and hopes that the preliminary set will begin working on their projects at the Garage in November.
The laboratory is essentially a network of about 10 schools – middle and high schools – around the country that will serve as “beta sites for testing ideas” as well as a “source of ideas for the entrepreneurs,” who will have the opportunity to visit the schools and gain firsthand knowledge of the technological problems and challenges they face, according to Warshavsky.
“We see educators as very important players in this role – in the same way as developers,” he said.
An example of a potential project that one entrepreneur has suggested is creating a learning management system that is intertwined with social media – a tool that would help determine what elements teachers measure to assess student progress, and with what components.
“This kind of project has big potential because one thing that happens when we use technology in education is that we are becoming too accurate in the way we are measuring, and sometimes we are measuring the wrong thing,” Warshavsky said.
Establishing such an incubator will allow educational methods to escape archaic patterns and create new pathways in teaching, he explained.
“Technology as we see it is some kind of amplifier of the old ways,” he said, noting that blackboards have simply become smart-boards and textbooks have become e-textbooks.
“But if you compare this to other fields, for example to a graphic designer, his entire profession has been changed crucially in the past 20 years.”
Figuring out ways to better employ innovation in classrooms will enable educators and innovators to work together, to reduce the rift in technology that currently exists between home and school, according to Warshavsky.
“We should do something to narrow this huge gap,” he said.