Innovation and education have always gone hand-in-hand in Maryland. There are 118 Teach for America Schools, The Center for Talented Youth, the nonprofit Success For All Foundation, the for-profit Laureate Education, the Johns Hopkins University (Maryland’s largest private employer) and a dozen more groups looking to support our teachers and students. These efforts have put Maryland on the map as one of the most educated states in the country—EdTech is an element working to keep it there.
It is this industry (or movement) that attracts tech innovators, from within or outside of Maryland, to Baltimore City. Here, several companies and startups have not only found that their technology is in demand, but that there is a big collection of incubators, innovation centers and funding opportunities to support startups; resources provided by a combination of initiatives from public, private, and university sources.
As an agency with our roots firmly hooked in higher education, technology, and marketing, idfive is experiencing this integration of technology first hand. We got into this business to support missions such as these.
Take a look at just a few of the local companies leading the way:
- CiteLighter started in New York City and has since moved into Baltimore where their tools have been used in the classroom for years. Their software allows students to save and annotate important passages as they do research for writing assignments. Using the data set they’ve gathered on the habits, preferences and behaviors of students as they navigate the academic research and writing process, CiteLighter can also give educators insight into the study habits and cognitive footprints of their students. TedCrunch goes into much greater detail.
- Allovue helps school systems optimize educational finance, making a readable connection between spending and student performance. The company has sealed $1 million in seed funding to build out their software that tracks integrated spending in K-12 education.
- StraighterLine provides online general education courses with credits that transfer to its near 100 partnering schools. It’s a service that is invaluable to not only the working professionals and part time students trying to finish their degree with limited time and budget, but also to those who aren’t sure what they want to get their major in or where they will finish their degree.
- Alchemy Learning is a company creating a range of EdTech software including virtual reality technology for classrooms. Alchemy will be one of the first to integrate inexpensive, consumer-ready virtual reality products into all levels of education.
- Three Ring, another company to have moved from NYC to Baltimore, provides apps that store video and information to answer the question “what did you learn today?” Without jeopardizing student privacy, Three Ring technology works to give parents, teachers, administrators and students a visual track of the lesson experience.
- Ethink Education built the open-source Learning Management System (LMS) Moodle. Products within the Moodle include course evaluations software, institutional assessment tools, a virtual classroom system and much more.
- Unbound Concepts helps students and educators find fiction books that suit their needs. Using the Artifact app, teachers can quickly search for books based on more nuanced and focused learning elements such as plot devices, literary elements and essential questions. Want to find a book that deals with parental death and paranoia, has a nontraditional protagonist and is appropriate for a ninth grade reading level? (that isn’t Hamlet)—use Artifact to cut down to the right choices.
- Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting’s Lesson Builder tool—an idfive creation—lets educators access the Center’s various videos, articles, graphics and other journalistic material to build out custom lessons for students.
- Academbot.com, another idfive creation, helps college bound hopefuls navigate the ins-and-outs of getting ready for college, the application process and how to be successful once at school.
So what’s really new about all this EdTech stuff? After all, computers have been in the classroom for decades now, right? True, but what we’re seeing today goes far beyond Oregon Trail and other “computer assisted learning” efforts of the past. Today’s innovations utilize the entire spectrum of digital technologies, integrating everything from the Internet to virtual reality to Big Data to content in order to provide new experiences, new insights, and new opportunities for students and teachers alike.
We might not be there yet, but it’s pretty clear from the work going on in the companies mentioned here (as well as countless others across the country and the world) that all levels of education – from pre-K to graduate school—are in the process of being transformed. And it’s pretty darn exciting to be here in the epicenter of the EdTech revolution.
Thanks to Technical.ly/Baltimore, The Baltimore Business Journal, City Biz List, BaltimoreTech and TechCrunch for providing analysis and insight on the companies mentioned in this post. We couldn’t have done it without their research.
This is an ongoing effort to recognize the edtech in Baltimore. If you would like to add your organization to this list, give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org!