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Twelve new ed-tech companies to watch

"The Social Express," from Language Express, is an animated program that uses video modeling to help students with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, or ADHD learn the first steps to social interaction.

Game-based learning and mobile apps are beginning to catch on in schools—and these also were key characteristics that defined several of the dozen emerging ed-tech companies recognized for their potential by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) last month.

During SIIA’s Innovation Incubator program, held in connection with the organization’s Ed-Tech Industry Summit in San Francisco May 6-8, two new educational technology companies in particular—Language Express and Filament Games—were voted by the 350 conference attendees as being the “Most Likely to Succeed” (first place and runner-up, respectively). Filament Games and Language Express also were voted as the “Most Innovative,” in that order.

Language Express plans to build interactive, multimedia products to teach social and life skills to three- to 21-year-olds. Its first product, The Social Express, is a high-quality animated interactive program featuring original characters. It uses a unique video modeling concept to help students with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, or ADHD learn the basic first steps to social interaction.

Filament Games has developed a suite of digital games (Crazy Plant Shop, You Make Me Sick, and Cell Command) designed to promote scientific literacy and increase students’ interest in pursuing careers in the sciences. The games are intended to be used in inclusive science classrooms with a diverse range of students using the Universal Design for Learning framework.

The Innovation Incubator program supports innovation in the educational technology industry by raising the profile of promising new technologies for schools, while connecting these innovators with industry leaders for mentorship, expert advice, investment opportunities, and partnerships to support growth.

Overall, 73 applicants were assessed for the Innovation Incubator program on a broad range of criteria, including their education focus, end-user impact, market need for their product or service, and level of innovation. Ten finalists and two alternates were chosen for the program, and their participation was subsidized by program co-sponsors Blackboard Partnerships and Texthelp Systems.

Here are the other eight finalists:

3D GameLab, developed by Boise State University, is a Software as a Service (SaaS)-based personal learning platform. It uses game mechanics (such as experience points, badges, awards, and rankings) and a quest-based learning approach involving user choice to promote ongoing engagement and improved learning outcomes for students of all ages.

GuideK12 is a powerful, web-based “geovisual analytics” tool that helps school districts solve critical challenges. It links student data to household information (where students live) via “geocoding” in order to improve forecasting, capacity planning, and optimizing district resources. Administrators can filter the data by many factors and can run queries or scenarios to help them with decision making, such as exploring how many students live within walking distance of certain resources. Providing insight traditionally reserved for demographers, GuideK12 aims to simplify complex, three-dimensional information by visually displaying the results with a few clicks.

Prelude, developed by a Canadian startup called Heliotrope, is a group learning game for young and older students alike. It fosters 21st-century skills like empathy, creativity, collaboration, and diversity appreciation, and it reduces conditions for bullying and disengagement. Its current version is offered as a blended learning model, and an all-digital version is planned for virtual teams, distance education, and home schooling. Prelude integrates character assessment, EQ training, team building, and diversity training.

Pocket Literacy Coach helps parents be more involved in their children’s learning by delivering mobile content to parents’ cell phones. It provides an SMS-based parent curriculum for parents to build developmentally appropriate skills with their children at home. Its mobile video platform allows teachers to send secure, private mobile text or video memos to parents, and allows parents to be peer mentors by demonstrating positive parenting to help child development.

PossibilityU is a platform for democratizing college admissions using 21st-century technology. It helps students get into the right college using innovative technology, data matching, personalized curriculum, and one-to-one coaching. Its goals are to improve admission outcomes for individuals, families, and schools, and to increase the amount of college admission and financial aid support for students in under-resourced schools.

Smart Science Education provides what it calls the only real online science labs that achieve the National Research Council’s goals and definitions of science labs, with interactive data collection and an inquiry-based approach. Using the online labs, students develop both the hands-on and thinking skills required for advanced science courses; teachers save preparation and cleanup time while improving lab experiences; administrators retain a permanent record of student work; and schools reduce lab costs substantially, the company says. The solution is embedded in a full learning scaffold with online lab reports, assessments, and supporting materials.

TeachMe, from Operant Systems, allows special-education teachers and clinical professionals to record skills acquisition and behavior management student data during or after a session using any smart phone or Wi-Fi enabled device. TeachMe contains a class of Common Core State Standard curriculum templates and provides a behavior tracking program that meets a state’s QA requirements. It records data both in a one-on-one and group setting for multiple programs for each student, enabling administrators to receive timely, reliable data and avoid audit risks.

Twisted Physics, from Twist Education, is an adventure game that teaches physics. Students find themselves trapped in a desolate, perilous land, with only their knowledge of physics to protect them. Play develops and applies core physics analysis skills in the main content areas of forces and motion, conservation of energy, and structure of matter. Suitable for any student who knows Algebra 1, Twisted Physics brings students to the AP Physics B level by seamlessly integrating learning into the game.

In addition, the following two companies were alternates for SIIA’s Innovation Incubator program:

Educurious develops high school blended learning and project-based core curriculum that connects students to real issues they care about, keeping them in school and equipping them with lifelong learning skills for success. Its social media web platform fosters collaboration among students, teachers, and a global network of real-world experts through standards-aligned lessons, multimedia elements, gaming, badges, and technology-rich assessments to support trajectories toward mastery and personalized learning pathways.

In their efforts to teach curriculum and achieve measurable results, teachers often face student disengagement and disruptive behavior. Keen 5x aims to turn this negative classroom energy into positive productivity. Rooted in neuroscience, Keen5x is a series five of cognitive-kinesthetic teaching strategies that are easy to learn, effective immediately, and require no other materials or planning, the company says. They create full and positive student participation in any subject and in any grade.

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