A Guest Post from Doug Casey, Executive Director, Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology
Connecticut is well represented in this industry. Presently, more than 70 EdTech companies are active across the state, developing and marketing solutions that lead to gains in math and writing, provide insights to teachers, and match students to colleges and internships, to name just a few. Some of these companies are sizable and well established, while others are doing things out of their living rooms and just getting started.
While there is a tremendous amount of EdTech activity across the state, resources are just emerging to connect these innovators to the customers that would benefit greatly from their solutions. As a result, it can be challenging for small, early-stage companies to access the insights and connections needed to take their great ideas to the next level and, perhaps most importantly, get their products and services into the hands of teachers to test and provide invaluable, real-world feedback.
The creation of an innovation cluster — a geographically defined network of companies, local schools, researchers and investors — would significantly bolster the EdTech market in Connecticut. The cluster would enable these companies to interact more easily with one another, leverage individual strengths, complement one another’s efforts, collaborate to further product development efforts, and attract funding from investors to grow these companies and put the Connecticut EdTech market firmly on the national map.
We’ve seen innovation clusters take form in other industries in the state. In the insurance sector, accelerators and incubators have helped spawn a number of nascent local startups focused on the burgeoning insurtech space. We’ve also seen the cluster approach work in neighboring geographic areas. For example, in the Boston area, EdTech startups have come together, received training and support, and been connected to potential investors, with promising results. The opportunity exists to do the same for Connecticut’s EdTech industry.
The Commission for Educational Technology last year put in place one of the key elements in establishing an innovation cluster, in the form of our Educational Software Hub. This technology platform helps attract EdTech companies to our state, allowing them to register their products and become more visible to local educators and school boards as well as professors at local universities who specialize in researching effective learning techniques. Within this same platform, teachers can provide product reviews that help companies improve their offerings, schools can publicize their needs and solicit proposals, and EdTech companies can enlist participation from districts in conducting rapid-cycle evaluations of new products. The ultimate goal is to create an online community that benefits EdTech companies and lifts our state’s schools and research institutions.
Supporting the virtual components of the cluster would be real-world, physical events that bring established companies, entrepreneurs, visionaries, educators and investors together to address challenges and opportunities, showcase accomplishments and exchange ideas.
The foundational makings for a vibrant and cohesive EdTech community in Connecticut are in place today. With support from industry partners and our local leaders, the establishment of a consortium of companies, educators, investors and researchers can further establish Connecticut as a national leader in EdTech, benefiting schools and supporting broader economic development initiatives across the state.