Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has become a digital harbor and top EdTech hub (as recently noted). I made a quick visit Monday and continued to be impressed by the vision; energy and collaboration expressed by a collection of old timers and newcomers.

Just south of the harbor in Federal Hill is a rec center turned tech center and the home of the Digital Harbor Foundation.  Co-founder Andrew Coy Digital showed me around. There are two big spaces–“Nano Lab” for little kids and “Mega Lab” is for big kids. Students from nearby schools get the chance to play maker and coder.  I met two high school students meeting with a mentor advising them on an app they were building.

Less than a year old, the Foundation already had one spinout company, An Estuary, a professional development company founded by Andrew’s thoughtful partner Shelly Blake-Plock.

The Emerging Technology Center, run by Deborah Tillett, is an incubator with 86 companies in its portfolio.  I had lunch with the 7 edtech startups:

  • Alchemy: supports lesson plan sharing,
  • Allovue: finance and data visualization app for school districts,
  • BusyGrad: inspiring science Phd Larry Gray built a social network for grad students,
  • Common Curriculum: organizes a teacher’s lesson–and life,
  • Unbound Concepts: organizes digital content, linking content developers and instructors in a digital dialog,
  • Immersive3D: combines 3D graphics and multiplayer gaming strategies into powerful learning experiences, and
  • Curiosityville: Susan Magsamen and team have built a world of personalized preschool content.
Betamore founder describing knowledge map

The Betamore incubator includes a great co-working space for app developers and well organized learning opportunities based on a knowledge tree developed by Allovue founder Jess Gartner.

At the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore a group of community leaders and investors discussed early observations about a portfolio approach to better educational options and strategies for growing the edtech sector.  Baltimore has the chance to connect its blossoming edtech sector with its struggling city schools in a productive and novel way.  (See 12 recommendations for Las Vegas–most apply to Baltimore).

In Baltimore, Coy senses “an increased sense of cohesion and collaborative momentum.”  Me too.




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Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


  1. […] While the EAGB continues to gain national recognition for local EdTech companies, Baltimore is already making a name for itself as an EdTech hub. This is evident in the two articles written by Tom Vander Ark, former Executive Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a well-known education expert, who examines the facets of educational innovation in the United States and abroad.  In January he wrote Smart Cities: Baltimore’s Digital Harbor, highlighting the deep roots, resources and successes the industry has had in the region.  In May Vander Ark met with the region’s EdTech and business leaders at the EAGB; the results of this meeting can be found in his follow up article, Digital Harbor: Baltimore Rising. […]


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