Educators, Mentors, and Startups Collaborate on Emerging EdTech Processes at SlowPitch

Feb. 6, 2020
Photo of Joan Hughes
Joan E. Hughes

Many educational innovations being developed in the PK-12 educational ecosphere build upon technological advances.

These original ideas to transform learning and teaching with technology often come from many sources, including educators who have taught in the classroom. Building these innovative ideas into edtech products and sharing them with schools involves finding interested partners to help get them to market.

Understanding this concept and furthering the process of connecting them is addressed by Associate Professor Joan E. Hughes, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, in her research paper recently published in the CITE Journal,Learning Across Boundaries: Educator and Startup Involvement in the Educational Technology Innovation Ecosystem.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s Future Ready Learning’s call for educational stakeholders to work together to develop technology to advance education prompted Hughes to create and study SlowPitch, a think tank event where stakeholders come together to lean and learn across their professional boundaries and share perspectives that could hone EdTech resources.

While a range of programs or singular events provide those boundary-crossing opportunities, few empirical research studies examine their outcomes. Further literature review identified that past interventions aimed to bring startup founders in closer proximity to educators, but little research had been conducted on such interventions.

“Startups develop new ideas for education, but their product development can benefit from input from students, educators, parents, and researchers, and they also need assistance from business experts and investors to identify a scalable pathway into markets,” Hughes says. “But bridges between stakeholders need to be created to connect them and our siloed work environments need to be removed. An enterprising way to do that is an event I created called ‘SlowPitch’ that slows down typical ‘pitch’ events to create dialogue and learning across the constituents of the PK-12 EdTech ecosystem,” she says.

Educators’ and Startups’ Learning at SlowPitch

In Hughes’ past research, she found that participating educators described four areas of learning:

  • new EdTech innovations
  • integration practices involving the EdTech innovations
  • the voices and influencers within the EdTech ecosystem
  • the EdTech startup development process

Further, Hughes identified that participating startups discovered:

  • how their EdTech products will work (or not) in teachers’ classrooms
  • how to penetrate the PK-12 market
  • ways to gain interest of potential users.

Hughes’ study shows there is tremendous value in involving educators in EdTech innovation and startup processes. There were benefits for both the educators and the startup innovators.

Propelling Ideas Into Action

SlowPitch events continue to bring educators and startups together for learning and progress. On February 6 in Austin, SlowPitch will again facilitate boundary-crossing conversations and activities among PK-12 educators, school leaders, researchers, developers, investors, and students. The upcoming SlowPitch event will host six emerging EdTech startup founders, 12 mentors, and more than 60 stakeholder participants. The agenda includes EdTech startup demos, mentor-facilitated roundtable conversations, and startup pitches and Q & A.

For more information, contact Joan E. Hughes, associate professor of Learning Technologies and founder of SlowPitch.