Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

With $2M From Google Ventures and Others, NoRedInk Tackles Bad Grammar

Though the field of education technology may be booming, it can be surprisingly rare to find a former teacher heading one of the startups — much less a high school English teacher.

Jeff Scheur’s founding story is this: In eight years of teaching English, he estimates he graded 15,000 papers. It was a drag. He thought there could be a better way to teach students basic writing skills.

So Scheur’s NoRedInk teaches grammar through online exercises that use pop culture examples.

NoRedInk is just a website — and not even that pretty of a website, at that — but students learn by dragging and dropping, rather than answering multiple-choice questions. Teachers get tidy reports that show which subjects need more work.

And the startup, which now has a team of five, has raised $2 million in funding from Google Ventures, The Social+Capital Partnership, Learn Capital and Charles River Ventures.

“There’s no replacement for the mentorship and the inspiration and the relationship building that teachers provide,” Scheur said in an interview this week. “That’s essential. What isn’t perhaps the key to being an effective teacher is being up till two in the morning, circling every error you can find in a paper.”

NoRedInk has attracted hundreds of thousands of users in less than a year. Students have solved more than 30 million questions by learning to use apostrophes in sentences about Justin Bieber and to apply subject-verb agreement to “The Hunger Games.”

NoRedInk is a free tool for now, but Scheur said 700 schools have volunteered to participate in a paid pilot program.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus