LearnLaunch, a nonprofit, hosted a two-day education conference, “Across Boundaries: Innovation & The Future of Education.’’ LearnLaunch was founded to provide support to entrepreneurs through classes, peer group learning, conferences and networking opportunities.
The sold-out conference was held on Feb. 1 and Feb. 2 at the MIT Tang Center, and was focused on the potential of technology to improve learning and educational access, as well as to explore market and investment opportunities. The LearnLaunch conference kicked off with a keynote address, given by edX President Anant Agarwal on Feb. 1. Other keynote speakers included Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Gregory Bialecki; John Katzman, founder and CEO of Noodle and founder of The Princeton Review; Anthony Kim, founder and CEO of Education Elements; Seth Reynolds, partner at The Parthenon Group; and Luis Rodriguez, director of the Office of Digital Learning for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“We started LearnLaunch with Jean Hammond and Eileen Rudden basically to increase and expand Ed Tech in Boston. We found that there are so many people who are interested in this space, but not really connecting to one another, and we wanted to bring them all together,’’ said Marissa Lowman (pictured), the executive director and co-founder of LearnLaunch.
Anthony Kim (pictured), the founder and CEO of Education Elements, a blended learning technology company, was a keynote speaker at the conference.
Education Elements is working with about 60 schools around the country, and helps schools to redesign their instructional models to incorporate blended learning, which means that they facilitate multiple learning modalities in the classroom and augment that with technology. “The company provides the design services, the implementation services, and the platform that helps schools to operate these environments,’’ explained Kim.
“I think what’s really great about this conference is that it is a blend of different types of people. Everybody contributes and connects in a different way,’’ said Eric Braun (pictured), the CEO and co-founder of 30hands Learning.
30hands Learning is a collaborative learning platform, a set of tools that helps teachers put together digital classrooms. The company is a big component of blended learning, and it is changing the way projects and learning happen in the classroom. They built a technology platform that makes it easier for teachers to work on blended learning.
“Within the classroom, if we can help provide innovation and make teachers more like entrepreneurs then that’s going to help kids to get more engaged, help them learn more and learn better,’’ he explained.
Marie Schwartz (pictured), the founder and president of TeenLife Media, was one of the participants at the conference. TeenLife Media is a resource for information about experiential and educational opportunities for parents, educators, and teenagers. “A lot of high schools in the United States require community service, but they don’t support it. Working parents need help finding ways for their students to be engaged in a meaningful way and get some supervision,’’ she said.
The company started four years ago, and has built a large database, now having about 15,000 listings of everything from overnight summer programs to local nonprofits who want to engage teens to volunteer. Students, parents, and teachers can visit the website and find all this information for free without joining.
Navah Fuchs (pictured), Angel Ed co-founder, took the opportunity to showcase the company at the conference.
The company is enabling students to finance their education debt free through crowd funding by connecting individuals regardless of age and field of study with individuals and corporate donorsto who want to mentor or hire students. “We are enabling companies to groom their potential superstars without any contract; they are not selling their life away. But students are able to be free from this trillion-dollar debt problem,’’ she explained.
iCreate to Educate
iCreate to Educate is a company that enables K-12 classrooms to access tools that would engage students’ creativity. “We believe that kids have a lot of creative ideas, and they need simple tools to express them. We created an application that allows kids to tell their own story through making an animated video,’’ said Melissa Pickering (pictured), former Walt Disney engineer, who founded iCreate to Educate in 2010.
iCreate’s current portfolio of products include stop-motion movies and a myCreate iPad app that lets students and teachers capture still images from a webcam that can then be played back in movie form like a digital flip book. The company just announced strategic funding from Kaplan Early Learning Group at the conference.
Miro Kazakoff (pictured) is the CEO and co-founder of Testive, a company that focuses on adaptive technologies and personalized learning. “Study less, but study better,’’ said Kazakoff. The company’s test prep tool, SAT Habit, generates customized student plans that help students improve their SAT scores faster. The tool can predict with accuracy what they will get for SAT scores, and identifies what they need to learn and improve on.
LearnLaunchX, a startup accelerator, focuses on enabling education technology entrepreneurs to build and grow their startups into companies. LearnLaunchX will invest in an estimated 40 companies across five cohorts in the first three years of its accelerator program.
Pictured: Vinit Nijhawan (left) and Jean Hammond, co-founders of LearnLaunchX.
“We have investors here from California, New York, and we have entrepreneurs. The conference has been incredibly successful,’’ said Nijhawan.
“Tiggly makes playing with the iPad more physical,’’ said Phyl Georgiou, the founder and CEO of Tiggly.
Tiggly focuses on bringing real toys to the iPad for toddlers. The system includes three little shapes and a set of apps that allow kids to interact with shapes, colors, and animals on the screen. These help toddlers develop motor skills and learn about the world around them.
Valmeeke is the new Netflix for kids under the age of 14. Jacob Varghese, the founder of Valmeeke, got his inspiration from his own kids. “Our mission is to enable parents and teachers to partner and collaborate and to safely discover, build, assign, and monitor media consumed by their children,’’ said Varghese.
School Yourself is a start-up that reinvents the idea of the traditional textbook. The company created electronic textbooks for math and science that are fully interactive. “Our textbooks allow users to manipulate problems within the text, view video demonstrations of problems, and test their knowledge through the touch screen enabled lessons,’’ said Zach Wissner, the CEO of School Yourself.
The textbooks are available for sale in the Apple iBookstore.
Learner First provides education solutions, such as school improvement and data management, online and blended learning solutions, professional development, and education management solutions for small businesses.
“Learner First provides students with the tools that they need in order to succeed by giving them access to learning and assessment modules and real-time tutoring with certified teachers,’’ explained Andrew Taylor, the CEO of Learner First.
Empow offers creative technology after-school programs, Summer and school vacation workshops, even birthday parties. “We run technology workshops for kids in elementary and middle school, even kids as young as 4 years old. We teach classes on how to design video games, how to build robotics, digital design,’’ said the founder and CEO Leonid Tunik (pictured).
Playrific is an online community for parents who want to learn how to educate and entertain their children by using the Internet. Playrific has just raised $1.7 million led by Golden Seeds.
Pictured:Beth Marcus (left), CEO of Playrific, and Jean Hammond, co-founder of LearnLaunch.