Palo Alto edtech accelerator ImagineK12 held its third demo day on Thursday.  The cohort of 10 startups made competent pitches. Some, like content sharing app Padlet, have good early traction. Accredible addresses the new opportunity of documenting informal learning.  The rest of the new companies attack current K-12 classroom challenges.  Following is a recap:

  • 121writing adds tags and adds verbal feedback to writing and makes comments trackable and personal.
  • Accredible is attempting to create diploma of the future with a focus on MOOC and self-educated students.  Learners can attach a portfolio of knowledge onto the credential itself for all to see.
  • MommaZoo connects busy moms on mobile. Like a Facebook group with classroom features including volunteering, homework, and parent-kid contact information.
  • Padlet lets anyone put stuff online. With over 300,000 monthly active users, there has been active adoption in schools and colleges. (Also YCombinator.)
  • Plickers is a system for real-time assessment. Teachers capture student responses instantly using their own smartphone, and students answer using paper, instead of electronics.
  • ReadSpin personalized reading with a playlists of online content based on students’ interests and reading level.
  • Showbie makes it easy for teachers to assign, collect and review student work on tablets.
  • TinkerTags  is a learning platform that makes coding easy, fun and cool. Kids work in teams to program wearable electronics using a visual programming environment.
  • VideoNotes helps online students take notes from video lectures.

Accelerators provide focus, advice, support, rent, and a little cash.  Have an idea?  An accelerator like ImagineK12 can be a great place to start.  ImagineK12 has kicked out some exciting companies like Bloomboard, ClassDojo, and NoRedInk that Learn Capital has invested in.

The downside to the accelerator model is that it creates a short runway that encourages teams to work on small problems–some of which will soon go away. In other cases, solutions are features that belong on apps or platforms.

ImagineK12 recently announced a fund that will make incubated startups eligible to receive $80,000 in convertible debt seed financing upon commencement of the program. That’s a great step toward providing a longer runway for promising startups.

Perhaps most encouraging is the level of talent and investment flowing into education. A couple of these startups will turn into viable companies. The entrepreneurs that spend a few months at ImagineK12 obviously benefit from good advice.  One way or another most will contribute to a step-function improvement in education.

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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 Learn Capital 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.



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