In the early days of modern computing, Minnesota was the birthplace of educational technology.
The Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC), founded by teachers in ‘73, produced a number of educational games intended to incite a passion for the topics. The MECC’s programs included such games as Number Munchers, Spellevator, Museum Madness, and the still fondly-remembered The Oregon Trail.
For nearly 3 decades, MN was home to MECC and dozens of other educational technology – or ed-tech – companies. These companies pushed Minnesota to be the center of the EdTech industry. But as the industry grew and developed, it fell off from the boom of its conception. many of these companies closed down or moved elsewhere. The MECC was rebranded to The Learning Company and is now headquartered in San Francisco
Today, EdTech in Minnesota is reigniting thanks to the Twin Cities’ healthy startup community and passionate educators. The state is uniquely positioned to regain its status as a hub for the EdTech industry thanks to the healthy startup ecosystem, passionate educators, and the rising need and interest in ed-tech. The educational system may have to completely re-think the approach to technology in – or as – the classroom.
“There are challenges to succeeding as a K12 software company, and you see a lot of carcasses along the way,” said local serial entrepreneur Casey Allen. “[Ed-tech] is an example of how we were a pioneer, but that didn’t manifest to staying power.” In the interest of developing and maintaining the industry in Minnesota, many ed-tech professionals have formed the networking group Educelerate North. This group encompasses more than 50 different companies, a majority of which started within the past decade.
Classroom to Boardroom
Many educators in the Twin Cities have recognized the potential the ed-tech has, and have started to offer their expertise to the industry. Matt Hardy co-founded student publishing site Kidblog while he was a teacher at Cedar Ridge Elementary. Kidblog started as a passion project to help students get excited about writing. Hardy told Americaninno that he felt empowered to approach his project as a business thanks to the enthusiasm of educators and entrepreneurs in the area.
In recent history, accessibility and equity in education have become a priority. Educators have more and more training in ways to reach students with different educational needs, as well as different ways to ensure every student feels included in the experience. Ed-tech has featured prominently in bringing different methods to the classroom. Now, in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak in America, the value of educational technology has never been clearer. Millions of young students have shown the value of educational technology through remote classes, virtual labs, and more. Even the most stubborn of traditional educators have had to come to terms with the fact that not only do these technologies have a place in education – education has a need for these technologies.
The Star of the North
Minnesota was once the center of educational innovation, and it is primed to do so again. Today, we see how essential technology is at keeping students immersed in their education. Today’s educators are more willing and capable than ever to leverage technology into truly revolutionary educational experiences. These are the three reasons why the Twin Cities, and Minnesota at large, is uniquely positioned to bring in and foster a thriving educational technology industry