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Shocking the System with Emerging Technologies

Startl, is a new nonprofit organization promoting the proliferation of new media in education.

A new application for touchscreen devices is intended to give learners a physical sense of fractions and the number line. But how does Motion Math, the startup company that developed this application, polish and perfect its product for its target audience? This, unfortunately, is where many projects fall short.

Innovation needs to be honed and supported to gain clout in the 21st-century education technology market. Startl, a nonprofit organization promoting the proliferation of new media in education, is seeking to fix that missing link. Its November 2010 Mobile Design Boost, held Nov. 11-14 in San Francisco, was a four-day boot camp for Motion Math along with nine other education technology startup companies vying for both professional support and money to successfully launch their products on the learning market.

"This is an environment for them to get their plans refined and get the investment they need," says Diana Rhoten, co-founder and managing director of Startl.

Five major contributors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, provided funding. In addition to Rhoten, the Startl team includes Laurie Racine and Phoenix Wang, also co-founders and managing directors.

According to Rhoten, there has been a disconnect between technology developers and end-users. "The investments that were being made were not scaling," says Rhoten.

At the Mobile Design Boost, teams had an opportunity to pitch their product, speak with learning experts, and gain feedback from students. This is the second such event held by Startl since its inception in January 2010.

"We need to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit to apply those skills to solve the challenge of 21st-century learning," says Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN).

Looking to the future, Startl remains focused on its mission. "How do we help the districts, teachers and students find these products?" says Rhoten. "That's an important piece of the puzzle to solve as we go forward."