Essay Contest Winners Announced!

It’s with great pleasure that we announce the winners of the Future of Technology Summit Essay Competition.  Over 2000 essays from more than 800 schools were submitted by students in grades 5 – 12.  Separate awards were given for winners in both the US and Israel.

We encourage you to read the winning essays. They are truly impressive and a credit to the young authors, their parents and teachers.  As in all contests, unfortunately only one winner could be chosen from each category.  As encouragement, we are happy to list students as “honorable mentions” whose essays made it to final consideration.

The winners were selected solely on quality of writing and how well they addressed the topic.  Many fine essays were written on more specific technologies rather issues focused on its future.

Beyond the obvious goal of celebrating student writing and fostering deeper thought about technology, part of Literatu’s goal was to test and develop our engine for machine reading of student texts.  We are creating a very interesting set of metrics and algorithms that we hope will make teachers’ lives much easier while nurturing students’ desire and ability to write with clarity and effect.  We used the machine learning to gain insights about the essays before the human panel chose the winners.  This is the combined approach that we believe is best and has become our mantra:

“Let the software do what software can,
so teachers do what only teachers can!”


Insight Reflector Scaffold

Sometimes a blank page is confronting for writers of all ages.  Research shows that scaffolding writing tasks into meaningful “chunks” helps.  With this in mind, we’ve created a scaffolded structure for the Future of Technology Summit Essay Contest.

See if this “Insight Reflector” is helpful.  It prompts students to focus on certain aspects of the topic, provides links as inspiration and then merges the text passages into one draft essay. Students can then copy and paste the draft into their word processors and make the essay their own!

Here’s an animated intro:

The Future of Technology according to New Yorker Cartoons

Thinking Routines

Editorial cartoons can be a good stimulus for thinking.  Here’s a collection of them re-blogged from The New Yorker (on Tumblr – thus keeping withinThe New Yorker’s copyright policies).  The cartoons poke a little fun at where technology may be taking us.  See what students think!  Remember the power of Project Zero’s Thinking Routines

Look to Learn Thinking Routines:

Please Join the Future of Technology Summit Essay Contest.

AI, Automation and Robots

Video from McKinsey’s Michael Chui

From Science Fiction to Science Fact

Claim • Support • Question

1. Make a claim about the topic

2. Identify support for your claim

3. Ask a question related to your claim


Invitation to Contribute – Essay Samples

Literatu is a software platform that helps schools “transform data chaos into student success.” We do this in a few key ways:

  • loading and analysing the diagnostic tests schools already use,
  • giving teachers analytical insights into patterns and details of students’ learning gaps
  • facilitating online assessments For, As and Of learning
  • applying algorithms to make predictions and prescribe adaptive learning activities

We are currently sponsoring an essay contest for the Future of Technology Summit featuring speakers such as Steve Wozniak and Ray Kurzweil who will also help choose the winning essays.

Our goal for running the essay contest is to apply advanced analysis and analytics to the students’ essays in an effort to improve their success and enjoyment of writing.

Here’s where YOU come in!  We need a sample of student essays to train and tweak our analysis engines.

We need a common collection of + 100 essays on the same topic from a year group (9-12).  Because our timeline is VERY tight (the contest closes in less than a month), this would only work if the essays were already completed and archived – perhaps a common task that’s already in a shared folder or online system. Obviously, the essays need to be digital (docs, PDFs, online links).  We need them ASAP – hours and days, not weeks!

In return for your and the students’ participation, we will provide very interesting feedback related to basic textual analysis, but also sentiment, tone, wordcloud, etc.  We do not need any information on the students, just an identifier so the feedback goes to the right student.

If you are interested, we would be happy to publicize your school or group’s participation in press releases and posts.

Your students are also welcome to join in the Essay Competition which asks students about their vision for the future of technology with this prompt:

 Reflect on how technology touches your life and how rapid advancements might change the way we live, learn, work or connect with others in the future. 

Thanks for considering this!

Future of Technology Essay Contest

How Will Technology Impact Our Future?

Prompt: Reflect on how technology touches your life and how rapid advancements might change the way we live, learn, work or connect with others in the future.

Teachers can Register here

Here’s an animation of possible topics to get you thinking!





The Future of Technology Summit

Literatu is happy to be a premier sponsor of this year’s Future of Technology Summit.  Held on November 2nd in Washington DC, the Summit boasts top names in technology’s past, present and future like technology legends Ray Kurzweil and Steve Wozniak (and many others) who will inspires us to consider where innovation is going and how it will touch our lives.

We’re awed by all these leaders, but know that those who will have the biggest impact on the future of technology are probably sitting in today’s classrooms! That’s why Literatu is holding a special Essay Competition for young people in the US and Australia.  In 600 words or less, we want them to:

Reflect on how technology touches your life and how rapid advancements might change the way we live, learn, work or connect with others in the future.

Stay tuned to learn more!

What’s all this about AI?

AI – huh?

Seems like everyone’s talking about AI these days – Tesla cars, Amazon assistants and Apple Homes are just a few – oops duck – here comes another drone delivering pizzas.  Who knew the Jetson’s future would be like this?

Ok – so the reason I’m being a little silly about what is and will become an issue with serious consequences for many people and their livelihoods is because it’s easy to think Artificial Intelligence is just for the big tech companies who seem to run everything and get to do what they want.

But we in education don’t have to be afraid and, I think, we need to flex our muscles and let it been know that instead of making education and schools more “alien,” we want AI that humanizes what can sometimes be an educational system that’s a little mechanical.

The animation above is meant to highlight this. Don’t let people – especially software companies – tell you that every classroom teacher now needs to put on a beanie and become a data geek.  The beauty of rich data, well-plumbed, is that it stops being “information” and becomes… “actionable intentions” and “awesome insights.”

Data and analytics isn’t about scary maths, it’s about people and making learning more effective, engaging and fun.

NAPLAN and Career Aspirations


A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Year 5 NAPLAN scores could shape career goals: study, by Pallavi Singhal shares research from Professor Jenny Gore of the University of Newcastle.  The main focus of the study seems to be the correlation found between Year 5 NAPLAN results and student aspirations.  Clearly “typecasting” students and their ability and potential is never helpful, but the last line of the article particularly resonated with the work we do at Literatu.  Out purpose is to create clever algorithms that spin analytical insights making it easy for teachers to see the real gaps in student skills – completely moving away from those unhelpful blanket statements about being “good” or “bad” in maths or English.  We need to move far deeper into NAPLAN than the band scores if we hope to help lift the very typical “flat line” we see quite often.

So what was the last line?:

“It’s a messy, complex world we work in, in teaching.”

True enough, but I thought this should not be a lament, but a starting point given our promise to schools:

“Transform data chaos into student success.”

And this is the current reality!