Innovation Award 2019

Call to all Columbia University Students

Let's bridge the gap between EdTech and learning research.
We'll help you design and build innovative learning technologies.

This year's focus:
Play as a pathway for all to flourish in STEAM


Problem & Challenge

Diversity in STEAM

Skills and interest in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) subjects are urgently needed for tomorrow’s workforce -- yet women and other minorities are significantly underrepresented in STEAM fields. Black and Hispanic professionals, for instance, represent only 9% and 7% of STEAM workforce, respectively (Pew, 2018). Even worse, women and minorities appear to lose interest in STEAM subjects as they reach adolescence; for instance, less than 30% of science and technology researchers are women (UNESCO), while the percentage of women who graduate with a computer science degree dropped from 37% in 1985 to 14% nationwide (, 2019). The problem calls for innovative and research-based EdTech solution.

There is a need to design technology-based solutions that are culturally sensitive, debunking stereotypes and myths that women and minorities do not like STEAM. Further, research has shown that play and culturally relevant pedagogy can be effective in promoting interest, learning, and new identities in STEAM fields.

Reference: Pew Social Trends


TC EdTech INA 2019 calls for proposal to solve the problem of lack of diversity in STEAM fields, by designing innovative Educational Technology integrating culturally relevant play pedagogy.

  • Culturally Relevant Play Pedagogy
    Play is the oldest form of learning and has benefits for all types of learning and learners. We believe play can be used as an effective framework to support all learners enter and thrive in STEAM fields. However, play has not been sufficiently and effectively integrated to support learning in consideration of different ways people play and learn.
  • Innovative Educational Technology
    Innovation is defined as a research-based creative solution to address an authentic problem.


What is the Innovation Award?

TC EdTech INA's mission is to provide a pathway to innovative, research-based EdTech, bridging the gap between practice and research in the EdTech field. The 2019 TC EdTech INA calls on students to solve the problem of lack of diversity in STEAM fields through the design of an EdTech solution, backed by research, and fueled by innovative, culturally relevant play pedagogy.

How does this work?

The Innovation Award is actually more than a single event. This year we will host the following:

  • Two-day Hackathon — March 29 - 30, Friday - Saturday
  • Award and Project Showcase — April 13, Saturday

The hackathon is a two day intensive program for teams with high-potential talent and ideas. This program is selective and designed to guide teams through the process of refining concepts and product prototypes.

In this program your team will:

  • Learn how to design, develop, and test your ideas
  • Work with experienced researchers and mentors to critically examine your process and work
  • Learn new skills through interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Create a substantive body of work as a stage for future opportunities

At the end of the program, final product prototypes will be judged by a panel of experts in a culminating competition and showcase event.


What is innovation in Educational Technology (EdTech)?

Innovation is broadly defined as an original idea, product, method, process, or model that can make a positive impact. The TC EdTech Initiative understands that education and technology innovation comes in many forms. The following table demonstrates the possible range of submissions:

Types Examples
Formats Digital, Non-digital, Hybrid
Technologies Web-apps, games and toys, virtual reality, software, hardware, etc.
Products Physical artifacts, designed experiences, models and processes, etc.
Perspectives Cognitive, classroom culture, research, data analytics, social justice, etc.
Audiences K-12, Higher Ed, Distance, Teachers, Parents, Administrators etc.

This list above is far from exhaustive, but the takeaway is that students from all subject matters and different technology and technical expertise are encouraged to participate.

Open to all Columbia University students.

Innovation in EdTech is interdisciplinary and collaborative by nature. It takes both technology and domain expertise to do it with depth, and to do it right. As such, the Innovation Award is open to all Columbia University students. Opportunities will be provided to help you find the right team.

See Students for details.


How are teams and ideas evaluated?

Problems and projects will be wide-ranging. The following are five areas that will be considered.

Category Description
Innovation Innovative quality of the problem, approach, and solution
Process Evolution of the project based on feedback, documentation, and communication over the course of the program
Relevance Significance of the addressed topic and problem
Research Rationale based upon literature review and supporting research
Value Potential impact and effectiveness of a solution

These categories are not intended to be a definitive measure. Rather, they will be used as a guide to allow fairness and equity in the proceedings.

Projects will be evaluated by a panel of judges comprised of a range of disciplines and perspectives (e.g. TC and Columbia faculty members, Edtech entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, teachers, school administrators, members of the student senate.)

TC and EdTech

There's a problem with EdTech...

In a recent Education Week article, Susan Fuhrman described how educational technology startups and companies are worryingly disconnected from researchers and academics (Fuhrman, 2017).

Millions of dollars are spent on educational technology products that are ineffective and unproven. These products are often designed without collaboration with researchers and are not aligned with current learning sciences research.

What we're doing about it.

Innovation Award was established through the collaborative efforts of the TC EdTech Initiative and the Communication, Media, Learning Technologies Design Program (CMLTD) as one of TC's first public steps forward in addressing the issue of disparity between EdTech practice and research.

With continued support from the Office of Digital Learning and the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology, INA strives to:

  1. Connect creators to researchers
  2. Build interdisciplinary capacity
  3. Bridge industry to academia

By connecting students from different disciplines and research within the TC community, and bridging the gaps between institution and industry, it’s our goal to inspire innovation in the field of applied learning.

TC’s commitment to the future of EdTech

TC is committed to the future of educational technology with a special emphasis on sound practices grounded in research. We are proud to be hosting this event with the generous support by the Office of Alumni Relations, the Smith Learning Theater, and many others who have helped INA gain traction and contributed to the spirit of this undertaking.

If you would like to join the growing support for this commitment by becoming a sponsor, please visit our support page and donate to the future of TC Students in EdTech.