At the nexus of learning and innovation
August 16, 11:30 am

A Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation seminar on 'A professor meets the elevator pitch' with Professor Michael Jacobson

In this talk, Professor Jacobson will discuss his journey from undertaking basic learning-and-cognitive-science research with advanced technology systems to forming a company that uses the “lean start-up methodology” for educational technology (edtech) products that work in real schools to help students better learn science and make teaching easier for teachers. Professor Jacobson says his company, Pallas Advanced Learning Systems, was formed to become a global leader in developing the use of cognitive-learning systems, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality to significantly enhance learning in science and related subjects. A portfolio company of Cicada Innovations, Pallas has been called "one of ‘Ten to Watch’ global edtech companies” by the consulting company Outsell, in its 2016 report: Learning Science: Driving the Next Generation of Educational Solutions. Pallas's virtual-learning kits for science are being used in Australian and Hong Kong schools, and versions are being released in the US that meet the US Next Generation Science Standards. Professor Jacobson will share his experiences and lessons learned since founding Pallas in 2014. These include negotiating an intellectual property licensing agreement; “talking the tech start-up talk” from the elevator pitch to pitching to investors; and using government programs designed to assist start-up companies. He will conclude with reflections on the what he describes as the most difficult part of this journey: translating the language of basic university research to the language “just plain folks” can understand, so they can appreciate the transformative educational experiences for all students that the company's innovations will enable.



Michael J Jacobson is a professor and chair of education in Sydney School of Education and Social Work at The University of Sydney; an honorary associate in the School of Medical Sciences, co-director of the Learning, Cognitive and Brain Sciences Research Group, and an affiliate of the New England Complex Systems Institute. Previously, he was co-director of the Centre for Research on Computer Supported Learning and Cognition (CoCo); an associate professor in the Learning Sciences Laboratory at the National Institute of Education (NIE), Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (which he helped establish); and the senior associate director and an associate professor at the Korea University Center for Teaching and Learning in Seoul, Korea. Professor Jacobson has also held faculty and research positions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Georgia. His research has focused on the design of learning technologies to foster deep conceptual understanding, conceptual change, and knowledge transfer in challenging conceptual domains. Most recently, his work has explored learning with immersive virtual worlds and agent-based modeling and visualisation tools, as well as cognitive and learning issues related to understanding new scientific perspectives emerging from the study of complex systems. Professor Jacobson has published extensively in areas related to the learning sciences and technology, including numerous scientific papers, book chapters, and two books. His 2006 paper in the highly ranked The Journal of the Learning Sciences (with Uri Wilensky) was the most cited paper in the journal between 2006 and 2011. As well, his paper (with co-authors Professor Manu Kapur and Professor Peter Reimann) Conceptualizing Debates in Learning and Educational Research: Toward a Complex Systems Conceptual Framework of Learning received the award for best paper of 2016 from the top-ranked journal Educational Psychologist. He has given talks and invited addresses at national and international conferences and served as an educational and business consultant in the US and internationally. Groups such as the Australian Research Council, Singapore Ministry of Education, Korean Ministry of Information and Communication, and US National Science Foundation have funded his research. He is founder and CEO of Pallas Advanced Learning Systems, which is an educational technology start-up company based in Sydney.