Last week, the Education Industry Association hosted its 14th Annual Education Industry Days Summit at the Liaison Hotel in Washington, D.C. The second evening of the event featured an ed tech demo fair, during which a number of ed tech startups were on hand to show off their latest innovations. From platforms that take professional development into the social space to those that help get students up to speed when it comes to math and literacy under the Common Core, there was a little something for everyone.
Here are 15 cool ed tech tools that stood out to us:
1. Common Curriculum
Common Curriculum provides an easy way for schools and teachers to collaboratively plan lessons and curriculum in the cloud. The idea is that, by eliminating the need to store tons of files on individual computers and e-mail them back and forth, educators can use the cloud to make sharing plans and working together as fluid and easy as possible. The platform is free for individual teachers (though that plan allows only one collaborator per class) or $99 per teacher per year for schools.
2. Carney Labs
On display at the Carney Labs booth was the Mari platform, named after the deepest location on Earth, the Mariana Trench. Still in beta and operating on a "freemium" model, Mari helps educators map student's learning progress against standards like the Common Core and SOL, thus allowing them to personalize instruction based on where a student is at versus where they want to go. A student's progress toward building the level of mastery required for admission to various colleges can also be mapped. Additionally, the platform integrates with other tools like Khan Academy and collects data from all of those sources in one place.
3. Classroom Inc.
A nonprofit organization, Classroom Inc. tasks itself with re-engaging struggling learners in grades 6 through 12 with gamification. Its blended learning games are aligned with the Common Core State Standards, and the primary focus is on literacy and math. Among its supporters are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Hearst Foundations, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
4. Carver Learning Systems
Carver Learning Systems offers a number of products aimed at improving students' reading and vocabulary skills. The company has products available for readers at all levels. One of its offerings, CaRT (The Carver Reading Tutor), is a computer program that teaches over 10,000 words, periodically returning to those misspelled, to help improve reading and vocabulary. Its uses range from helping poor readers, like those learning English or suffering from dyslexia, to helping prep those taking the ACT or SAT.
Nutmeg is a free platform that lets teachers build Common Core tests and quizzes from a shared question bank. The assessments can be sent digitally and immediately provide educators with insights and data upon completion, including full reports and analytics for student and standards performance. Students are also given instant feedback, as well as recommendations for free tutorials in formats like games or videos are also recommended to students based on their needs.
6. An Estuary
Focused on taking professional development into the social space, An Estuary has two primary products: Sanderling and Hedgehog. With Sanderling, educators can curate and share their learning and professional development projects. These include anything from pre-service learning and certification-prep to opportunities for informal professional growth. Hedgehog takes that idea one step further by tying Sanderling to blended professional development and certification courses.
Started by a former principal and a former teacher, LearnZillion provides teachers in grades 2 through 12 with over 3,600 math and English language arts lessons, aligned to the Common Core and designed by real teachers. A premium curriculum platform is also available and aims to make implementing the Common Core quicker and easier by identifying needs for differentiated learning, helping teachers improve their knowledge and skills, facilitating parent-teacher collaboration, and further developing leadership qualities. LearnZillion has seen 75% growth in 5 months and has state contracts for Delaware and Connecticut.
8. Jump Rope
A growing number of K-12 schools are doing away with traditional letter grades in favor of a standards-based grade system. Looking to capitalize on that, Jump Rope offers a standards-based grade book that also allows attendance and behavior tracking. It also integrates with platforms like Engrade and PowerSchool, and has its own curriculum design tool and administrative dashboard.
9. Dub Labs
With 1:1 device deployments on the rise in K-12, one of the first apps schools want to add on a tablet is a no-brainer: a school-branded app. If you're at one of these schools or districts, Dub Labs can build an app for you. The company has designed these apps for 170 schools, plus the entire NYC school district. The apps typically have back-end LMS integration, as well as access to class information and an array of other features. And if you're at a higher ed institution, don't fret: Dub Labs can help with your campus app, too.
10. Pear Deck
Pear Deck is a newly launched startup offering an interactive lesson builder for classrooms with 1:1 deployments. The platform is built on top of Google Drive's API, pulling content and formative assignments from Drive and pushing it to student's devices. Teachers can design content in Pear Deck or import it from PowerPoint. The platform also allows formative assessment questions to be included in the lesson.
PassTheNotes is a cloud-based CMS described to Education Dive as "Dropbox meets Facebook." The platform aims to digitize publications while increasing engagement and interaction, and the company works with publishers and enterprise clients to provide modernize resources in an affordable manner. Ideally, PassTheNotes becomes "home base" for a school or district, centralizing its single sign-on choices with SIS integration, attendance applications, third party apps, and content syncing and storage.
12. Triumph Learning
Triumph Learning offers a number of education products aimed at improving and supplementing teaching and learning. Among the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant winner's tools, which can be customized by state, are Coach, a platform for instruction and lesson practice; Buckle Down, which demonstrates key concepts in a step-by-step manner; Options, which supplements intervention efforts throughout a school's curriculum; assessment tools like Readiness for Common Core and Mastering the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) Online. The company's new online learning system, Get Waggle, also features adaptive tools from Knewton, SIS integration from Clever, taxonomy from Access Innovations, and gamification from Smashing Ideas.
A digital literacy toolkit, Qlovi provides e-books, assessments, and data for some 200,000 students nationwide. A winner of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Literacy Courseware Challenge, Qlovi's catalog includes 4,000 books from 16 publishers. Reading assignments can be personalized to students, and the platform allows educators to track progress along the Common Core Reading and Writing Standards. Access is currently free, but a per-student subscription will eventually be required.
14. Upraised Math & eMath.com
So maybe we're cheating by including two different companies in this entry, but both offer products focused solely on math for two different age groups. For grades K-8, Upraised Math gives educators a way to empower parents to assist their students in succeeding under Common Core math standards. For many parents, it's been a while since they took a math class, so Upraised presents what children are learning in an accessible way that makes it easier for them to help.
For students in grades 9-12, and even higher ed, there's eMath.com. This site provides a fully customizable adaptive learning experience aligned with the Common Core. A large algorithmic question bank makes creating assignments and assessments easy, and they can be delivered to entire classes, groups, or individual students. The platform also includes a grade book, analytical reports, and remediation help and personalized intervention.
Like many other companies and platforms on this list, ThinkCERCA aims to improve students' literacy skills. But it also goes a few steps further than that by providing personalized instruction on critical-thinking and expressing qualified argumentation for grades 4 through 12. The platform offers comprehension checks aligned to the Common Core and the ACT, and its flexible design and interactive argument builder lets teachers turn any text into a debate. ThinkCERCA also makes it possible for students to work together and build better arguments. Paperless grading and data dashboard also make it easier for teachers to grade and evaluate results and progress.