Back to School with Technology Tools
Brian is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
It may or may not take an entire village to raise a child, but in today's world it can definitely boost a child's mental development and learning capacity -- and enthusiasm for learning -- to have the latest and greatest educational technology tools available.
A Leap in Sales
Every parent faces the challenge of getting kids engaged in learning early on in their lives. LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: LF) is dedicated to helping kids get excited about learning through harnessing what the company calls the power of play. The company develops educational entertainment products and services to help children of all ages better prepare for achievement in school. Their highly popular products include the LeapPad learning tablet, the bestselling product in its niche in the U.S. As they help kids leap ahead in school, their net sales for the second quarter managed to leap 31 percent to $71 million. The company's full year guidance forecasts net income per diluted share to be above $0.60, doubling over 2011. Results like these can definitely keep investors entertained and delighted, as reflected in the stock price which has risen fairly steadily over the last year from around $3 per share to over $11 now.
Meeting the Need for STEM
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics -- four areas that many education experts believe the United States educational system needs to put more emphasis on.
McGraw-Hill Education is a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHFI) that creates content, software and services -- adaptive technology that, as the company said in a press release, "prepares students of all ages for the world that awaits." The phrase "the world that awaits" sounds a bit ominous to me. Could they clue us in on what they think awaits us in say, 2020? Should we buy, sell, hold, hide or flee?
They recently acquired Key Curriculum, a private company that develops mathematics learning technology for both the K-12 and higher education market segments. An example of their highly innovative products is Sketchpad®, which enables students to learn math more easily by allowing them to actually visualize and experience the abstractions of match, from the very basics all the way to calculus.
Very cool, this technology, like virtual reality math -- you get right in there and mix it up with the numbers and formulas. On the other hand, as I recall from calculus classes, those equations can play rough.
The CEO of McGraw-Hill Education, Lloyd G. "Buzz" Waterhouse, cited the "increased national focus on the teaching of math" as one reason his company saw an opportunity with the acquisition. I was wondering how high up you have to be in the company hierarchy to call him "Buzz." Just guessing, I'd say Senior VP or above.
Helping Kids Light Their Career Path
SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR) has created a Solar Science Academy that it is introducing to six K-12 school districts this summer and fall in California and Arizona. The company produces high efficiency solar panels and systems for the residential, business, government and utility markets. The concept behind their sponsorship of the academy is to increase kids' knowledge of green energy technology with the hope that they may want to pursue technical or engineering careers. The curriculum was developed by twenty-four teachers. It is a blend of lectures, field trips (you can hear the kids cheering when they find out about these), and problem solving discussions (and now the cheering quickly dies down).
I remember from my school days that we really enjoyed having business people stop in and talk about their companies -- we enjoyed giving them a hard time, that is. I can imagine some precocious middle-schoolers asking the SunPower executive things like:
- How are you coping with the intense and probably unfair competition from the Chinese?
- Why are your shares down 30 percent this year?
- Did you get pots and pots of money from the government, too, like Solyndra?
So you have to admire SunPower's courage to step into that lion's den called The Public School Classroom.
De-bugging isn't Just for Software
Sometimes the educational experience can be enhanced through the use of low-tech solutions, like bug spray. According to a press release from the good folks at Orkin, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rollins Inc. (NYSE: ROL), going back to school is fraught with worse perils than inedible cafeteria food, lockers that jam, and being forced to do rope climbing in gym class. Apparently, bugs are everywhere in the educational environment, and there's no escaping them. They can be in the cheap furniture we bought at the garage sale; they can come with us in our suitcases and packing boxes when we move into the dorm. They may already be residents of the dorm before we arrive. We can pick up bugs from a friend's room, or he can bring bugs into ours.
We're talking bed bugs, cockroaches, ants -- and fire ants down South! And don't forget spiders, mosquitoes, scorpions and -- yuck -- lice. Dr. Ron Harrison, Orkin's technical service director, warns that "lice and bed bugs are great hitchhikers," and bed bugs can survive up to a year without a "blood meal." Once again, yuck.
Perhaps it's best to just stay home and take online courses. Mom makes sure the Orkin man comes over on a regular basis and eliminates all the pests.
And there are certainly few cooties in Orkin's parent company's financial performance. In the 2nd quarter net income was up nearly 7 percent to $33.1 million compared to the same period in 2011.
To de-bug your college years, Dr. Harrison recommends being diligent about keeping the dorm room or apartment clean and picked up. I guess this means no more piles of dirty clothes on the floor or colorful displays of take-out food cartons from the last three months strewn about the living room.
Not that I'm specifically referring to the behavior of my college roommates.
PhoenixBrian has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend LeapFrog Enterprises. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.