6 Great EdTech Startup Ideas in Session Two of PitchFest at #ISTE2014

The startup excitement continues at #ISTE2014 with the next 6 companies in the preliminary round of PitchFest! Here they are.

PlanetLab – “every kid having an innovative, high-quality, hands-on science curriculum”

What is the problem? Over 60% of US teachers say they feel unprepared to teach science. Kids are learning from decade-old textbooks. Only 1 in 5 high school seniors is proficient in science. PlanetLab is building a network. They connect kids to “the spheres of science” as they play a social game. Kids and teachers can search for “missions” based on everything from the season of the year to standards. They get to connect with others. They actually do science, share their ideas, and can even contribute to scientific knowledge. Since there are thousands of great science educators out there, PlanetLab has a vision to connect those educators with students around the world. Did I mention that they have a success portal for teachers, providing rich learning analytics?

Their team includes a physicist, computer programmers, a game designer, and an educator. They’ve already been recognized with several awards. They are launching with Chicago Public Schools this year, which is no small client for a startup, and they plan on a national launch in 2015.

The Open School Project ePortfolio – “help schools come up with holistic ways to look at student achievement”

This ePortfolio solution has an intuitive interface that allows collaboration between parents, teachers, students, and more. Within the software, you can create rubrics and align them to various standards. Next you assign this to individual sections or specific students. Students then have the opportunity to upload evidence tied to the standards and rubrics. Teachers can look at the student work, assign grades and points, and track student progress over time. they have a free teacher account, a $9.99 per school school rate and competitive discounts for the district level. If your school is looking for a promising ePortfolio, this might be work a look.

Million Dollar Scholar

The average cost of a college education has increased by over 1000% since 1980. 3 million high school graduates complete school without adequate knowledge about how to finance their higher education. Million Dollar Scholar is a resource to help students know how to win scholarship. They had over 25,000 unique visitors in the first months.

How did they focus what they offer? They focused on parents, interviewing 100 of them, discovering that affordability was their greatest concern and the overall funding process. MDS will help with essay and resume writing and more. Now they provide on-demand service, targeting both high school and current college students. This is not a service to find scholarships, but one to help you get those scholarships.

Kidnected World – “kids create social good by doing what they love to do”

This nonprofit exists to provide the tools that kids need to change the world. The goal is to connect kids to one another and provide them with tools to be agents of change by using their imagination and playing with others (what they already do well). That is where the “wonderment” comes in. It is a community. Kids enter, pick a path, participate in a challenge, see other kids joining in, the “wonder meter” rises, and they see the impact of a social good project. This is targeting kids who are 7-12 years old. Since these kids don’t have money, resources, or unsupervised time to volunteer; this helps them contribute to something that aspires to have a global impact. This also gives teachers the platform and resources needed to host social good projects with their students. Currently, they are piloting with kids from six countries.

Zu3D “stop motion software animation” 

This seeks to address the founder’s perceived problem of limited high-quality stop-motion software for kids and schools. It was designed specifically for young children. It is a tool that can be used across the curriculum to keep students engaged. It works with any web cam and includes a simple timeline to create your stop motion software. You can add text, import images and sound, and more. This software is currently if 5% of UK schools with a very spresence in the US.

News-O-Matic – “a safe place for kids to read the news and know the world around them”

Now that the Common Core asks for more focus on informational texts, this app provides daily news for kids from 2nd through 4th grade. It offers five interesting news stories daily, and it is age-appropriate, as well as reviewed to ensure that it is appropriate for this audience. These news reports include photos, videos, games, vocabulary, maps, a highlighter, chat, and other features to make the reading engaging and interactive. It is currently offered in English and Spanish, and it includes a “read to me” feature with a real live voice doing the reading. It also has a news room, where kids and write to the editor-in-chief. Not only this, but it includes assessment tools to document student understanding of what they are reading. They get 30,000 weekly kid interactions, a 100% renewal and are in over 1000 schools.

And the winner of this round was…News-O-Matic!