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FROM CHICAGO INNO
Here's A Look At The Edtech Companies That Presented At Leap Innovation's Pitchfest
1871-based edtech hub LEAP Innovations capped off an impressive summer with a pitch competition attended by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Richard Culatta, head of the Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology.
On Thursday, LEAP and Hive Chicago hosted the Edtech Pitchfest, a pitch competition aimed at bringing together members of the Chicago education community. The event showed off several Chicago edtech companies with promise, and presented the beginning stages of what they hope will make Chicago a national leader in blended learning.
Earlier this summer, LEAP won over $5 million in grants from the Gates Foundation and committed $4 million to local schools from other sources to continue their model of testing edtech solutions and outfitting schools with blended learning. The past week, representatives from several major school districts around the country were in town observing LEAP in action, and discussing ways to bring the model elsewhere around the country. This attention caught the eye of the Department of Education: the Chicago stop on their summer-long "Edtech developer tour" coincided with the Pitchfest.
"We are an anchor for the tech community that is focused on education. We have not had that," said Phyllis Lockett, CEO of LEAP, to Chicago Inno. "[Chicago] has been very focused on bio, digital media, manufacturing, green tech--all very important. But education is foundational to our city, foundational to our country. And we have got to focus on that if we are going to advance as a country."
Mayor Emanuel made a quick stop at the event to applaud what he said will help provide more personalized education for students in Chicago schools.
"What you're doing will allow us to provide education to 400,000 kids at 400,000 speeds and capacities to different degrees," he said to the crowd. "I want the city of Chicago, while making progress on education to also be the epicenter of making progress on education technology…get [innovations] integrated into our classrooms."
Six Chicago edtech companies presented to a panel of judges that included Kenyatta Forbes, CPS' tech innovator of the year; Katrina Stevens, senior advisor at the Office of Edtech; and Shoshana Vernick, head of Sterling Partner's $200 million education investment fund.
The companies were selected through open applications and were selected because they "could have the most impact on education, on students, on helping to advance teaching in and out of the classroom," said Lockett.
The pace and quality of innovation in K-12 education may increase and improve, thanks to a significant new initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and led by Chicago’s LEAP Innovations.
Around the nation, organizations aim to transform teaching and learning to better prepare students for the 21st century, often by personalizing learning and leveraging education technology. Edtech helps teachers differentiate instruction more powerfully than ever before. Its promise has spurred an $8.4 billion edtech boom, but little beyond marketing hype is known about how well the products work.
In response, LEAP Innovations helped start a movement to evaluate edtech, piloting products and techniques that personalize instruction to each student’s level, interests, and goals so districts can quickly scale effective innovations. This new grant enables LEAP to drive collaboration among a growing number of edtech evaluators from across the country, creating much needed national industry standards and sharing of best practices.
“In 1987, then Secretary of Education Bill Bennett called Chicago’s public schools the worst in the nation,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Today, I am proud to say we are leading the country in education innovation. Thanks in large part to LEAP Innovations, Chicago is becoming the national hub for education technology and personalized learning. We are leading a national movement to develop and scale education innovations that work.”