5 EdTech Startups We Think are Pretty Cool

When you live in Vermont, there’s a lot of allure of big city like Boston. There are more people, more companies, awesome eats (shout-out to Union Square Donuts) and well, an enormous public transportation system. Boston is the closest tech-hub to Vermont. It’s fun for all of us to head down once-in-a-while to meet other edtech entrepreneurs, go to a conference, or just spend the weekend.

Last weekend, I headed to Boston for the day with my family. I was down there simply to eat. But, ended up coming across a terrific company, Sprout, looking to blend the environment with a writing utensil used by K-12 students across the country — the pencil.

When I returned, I thought I’d write up some of the other edtech (and some not-so-tech) companies I’ve seen over the past few months. Here we go:

1. Sprout

Sprout - a pencil with a seed

Sprout is a company producing pencils with seed capsules on the end of them. Just plant, water, and watch it grow.

You know when you’d try to erase your pencil marks and the eraser would make a nasty gray-meets-graphite smear on your notebook paper? Yeah – it was the worst.  Well, forget about that pesky eraser and add a capsule. What? Yes – that’s right. A capsule. The team at Sprout has attached a biodegradable capsule that, when planted, results in a beautiful plant. So, when you’re finished using the pencil, simply plant the capsule end in a pot, water it, and wait. Yep – awesome. Pencil to plant can’t be any easier.

Find out more at http://www.democratech.us/sprout/

2. Codecademy

CodeAcademy - learn to code for free

Learn to code for free at CodeAcademy

We’re a bunch of tech-obsessed programmers, marketers, and product managers. Some of us code in our sleep, others have a basic knowledge of HTML & CSS, and we’re still trying to convince the rest of the team to get on board. How do you get the basics down pat? Use Codecademy! In a full-day, I had basic HTML & CSS under my belt (Granted it was last Christmas so I devoted my full attention). If you’re looking to learn, Codecademy has much more than just front-end tutorials. You can explore JS, Python, Ruby, and even work with a couple APIs.

Learn to code at http://www.codecademy.com

3. Listen Edition

Listen Edition

Listen Edition helps teachers incorporate public radio into common-core aligned lesson plans.

I always wrote off NPR until it was used by a lot of professors as a multimedia tool where I went to college. I learned a ton – just from listening. And now Listen Edition wants to bring public radio to classrooms across the nation to help build listening skills – and then some. From their website: Listen Edition curates public radio stories and builds custom lesson plans around them that are written to the Common Core and aligned with state standards. Talk about increased engagement!

Help your students listen and learn at http://www.listenedition.com/

4. Year E-Book (pronounced year-y book)

This company hasn’t launched yet, but I’m excited to see it exists. They’re hoping to take antiquated hard-bound year books and turn them into digital versions for the ipad. And they’ll help students connect with each other, write messages, sign names, and post videos that can be approved by the student. The best part? The take the same file you send to the printer and convert it to be useable on an ipad. No extra work for you.

Make your year book different this year with Year E-Book at https://angel.co/year-ebook

5. DropIn

DropIn - the real college experience

DropIn connects prospective college students with current college students to immerse them in the real college experience

Remember going on a college tour and getting the “pre-packaged” chatter from the tour guide? DropIn is attempting to eliminate the college tour in exchange for being hosted by a real student — it’s basically the AirBnB of college tours. Drop In connects those students interested in a college visit with current students who want to host them. I believe this fundamentally changes the college research process. No more scripted tour guide. It’s the real college experience.

Find out more about DropIn at http://thedropin.co/

Have you found any cool education start-ups? Let us know about them in the comments.