Beyond the Textbook: Education and Technology Are Paving the Way for Startups to Educate Our Youth

We've all seen what the invention of the computer has done for education. Now with the emergence of on-the-go apps and other tech tools that are making learning less of a process and more of an activity, learning truly never stops.
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Back to school is just about over (for those of you that love buying new binders, not the Romney kind) but it's never time to stop learning and evolving. If you grew up in the era before iPads, iPods, iPhones, and laptops, you well know it's a completely different ball game now.

We're in an era of distraction, but there's also an upside -- there are tremendous opportunities to educate youth in a way that meets them where they are: in techland. It's no longer about the textbooks and worksheets. More and more mobile companies, schools, and universities are educating their students with innovative tools that make learning fun and accessible. You don't have to be in a classroom anymore to learn. The classroom will come to you.

Kids are more comfortable with technology. Texting, gaming, noses in their smartphones -- it can be difficult for some parents to bear, but the potential for educational components that speak to kids in a language they understand -- via technology, is invaluable.

Who's Using Technology in Education?

Technology innovation in education isn't confined to the classroom and the university. There are other areas, like speech language pathologists, that are able to utilize apps, websites, and programs to maintain their position as primary influencers in a young child's speech in a new way. Parents even can utilize the technological innovations in education -- from websites with their kids to gaming with them via educational games in reading, math, or science, that not only kids like but also helps parents have an active role in their child's growth.

The Startups & Innovators in Educational Technology

There are innovative tech companies tackling education in every area from language education to making sure that underprivileged youth have access to information across the globe.

In particular, three Startup America member startups are innovating in the education sector in unprecedented ways.

19 Pencils

Founded by Jason Fabbri, 19 Pencils aims to make it easy for teachers to share content with their students via other teachers. We all know our nation's teachers are some of the most undervalued heroes we've got. It's easy forget how transformative a teacher's care and guidance can be on a young person.

"The biggest challenge teachers have is becoming familiar with tech and adapting to it within the classroom," remarked Mr. Fabbri. "To simply put the latest computer in front of them, or program, is not a silver bullet. The real issue is: how can they segue from what they did yesterday to what needs to be done tomorrow?"

This startup provides quick and easy access for teachers to find information that will help their students learn. The endless and reliable educational resources make learning easy, but more important, Web-savvy and fun.

Speech With Milo

Speech with Milo, which was created under the umbrella of Doonan Speech Therapy, is an educational platform that provides parents, teachers, and speech language pathologists with engaging, fun, and affordable apps to help children develop basic language building skills. Doonan Speech Therapy offers a range of interactive speech therapy tools that can be used for a broad spectrum of needs for kids of all ages and abilities.

Noted Founder Poorani Doonan, who is also a Licensed Speech Pathologist: "Not only did implementing our iPad apps reduce the amount of materials I carried around, but it had great potential for kids who were hard to engage and for teaching concepts that were difficult to illustrate."

These include iOS apps for storytelling (sequencing and interactive storybook), language development (verbs, adjectives, prepositions), and articulation (board game), which can help any child stay focused, attentive, and entertained while learning and improving language skills. The family of apps have had more than 125,000 downloads.


The current and antiquated standard for grading students is based on a letter. But we all know that there is far more to a child's aptitude than an A or a B. ActiveGrade gives teachers more insight into grading and child development so that he or she can tailor the education based on the needs of the student. This not only helps teachers understand their students more, but it helps the student get the education he or she needs and understands best. Not everyone aced their SATs, but it doesn't mean that he or she didn't go on to excel in college or in post-graduate life.

"What sets ActiveGrade apart is our total focus on the concepts instead of the assignments," explained Michal Eynon-Lynch, Director of Outreach and Meaningful Connections for the startup. "A child may have demonstrated understanding of many of the concepts on a test but is really struggling with one or two of them. That's a different set of information and, frankly, much more important than simply seeing he or she received a 'C'."

What Education Technology and Apps Mean for the Long Term?

We've all seen what the invention of the computer has done for education. Now with the emergence of on-the-go apps and other tech tools that are making learning less of a process and more of an activity, learning truly never stops.