When you think about the tech industry, your mind may automatically go to Silicon Valley, where designated techie buses roam to and from San Francisco. Or you may even think of New York City, nicknamed “Silicon Alley,” where hip and industrial chic co-working spaces are abound. From Austin to Las Vegas, there are always new, exciting cities contending for the tech crown. But one state has been quietly growing and thriving as an edtech hub: North Carolina.
If you’re an edtech entrepreneur, we suggest keeping a close eye on North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park (RTP). This thriving tech hub is no flash in the pan — it has a long history of research dedicated to technology. The “Triangle” started in the 1950s and became the United States’s second university research park (Stanford was the first), and its mission was to commercialize technology in hopes of creating more jobs during an economic crisis in North Carolina. It has now become North America’s largest and most successful research park (source).
Taking advantage of the resources of the Triangle, many edtech entrepreneurs and educators have flourished in North Carolina. Here are a few of the many reasons why you should keep an eye on the booming edtech industry in North Carolina:
1. You’ll find the headquarters of many edtech powerhouses.
While we know the big ones like College Board play in the big leagues of San Francisco and Scholastic takes a steady stand in New York City, there are quite a few edtech powerhouses that thrive in North Carolina. SAS Curriculum Pathways was founded to “address the high school dropout rate and expand the pool of qualified 21st century knowledge workers” and has stood by that principle since its inception. Not only does SAS Curriculum Pathways provide learning resources for educators for free, but it also publishes extensive research on how new technologies will affect learners and the future of classrooms. And it’s all free for educators! (Yes, free. Really!)
Other powerhouses include Participate, who has supported visiting international faculty to promote global learning and cultural exchange in the United States since 1987 and has since grown to support all teachers in their online, collaborative professional development platform.
The creator of Lexile, MetaMetrics, also calls North Carolina home, using the resources of the Triangle to back its research into meaningful measurements of test scores. You will also find big names such as Lea(R)n, Measurements Inc., and Carolina Biological (who is technically not in the Triangle, but they’ve been at the forefront of science education since 1927 and even hold the coveted Carolina.com domain!). Plus the national non-profit Center for Teaching Quality is headquartered in the RTP.
And if you’re looking beyond K12, many companies in the triangle support corporate learning. Relias Learning, for example, trains employees in the ever-complicated healthcare industry.
2. It may all be business, but North Carolina remembers to keep it casual with its strong startup community.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to give up the cold brew. Although many of the edtech powerhouses have decades under their belt, a strong startup community also exists in the Triangle. Dubbed the Startup Capital of the South, American Underground houses over 250 startups and gives community to eager tech entrepreneurs. They not only incubate budding businesses, but also host a plethora of events, workshops, and comprehensive initiatives like the upcoming VR Lab. (And since we also love VR’s potential in education, we especially love Lucid Dream’s mission to establish learning gains within the VR space).
3. You can go south for the winter, or you can work from anywhere.
If you scroll through your Instagram feed, we guarantee there will be a post of a laptop facing a sparkling azure ocean with a caption about the wonderful life of a digital nomad. While The Triangle is a bit of a drive from the beach (2 hours), it still embraces the digital nomad and remote lifestyle. Over the years, remote offices from Dreambox and IXL have popped up, along with remote workforces, such as Tracy Weeks (Executive Director of SETDA), Michael Flood (VP of Kajeet), Gary Radburn (director of VR and AR for Dell), Shane Cox (CEO of PEEQ Technologies who brought QBall to Shark Tank), a multitude of workers from Amplify, and even our very own Jenny Herrera.
4. The evidence is right in your backyard.
Like a good student, you’ll need sound research to back up your claims and support the efficacy of your product. North Carolina is not only the home of the Research Triangle Institute (who focus on education and workforce development, among a host of other pressing issues), but it also houses a wealth of knowledge at each of the three corners of the triangle: North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Duke University.
Each university has made incredible strides to improve education and, in particular, the future of education technology. For example, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill launched the country’s first and only educational entrepreneurship Master’s program in Educational Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship (MEITE — aptly pronounced “mighty”) under the leadership of Lisa Dawley. Duke University also uses their research to not only improve their faculties’ teaching but also improve learning within classrooms (led by former Amplify-er Matthew Rascoff). North Carolina State University launched the Friday Institute to focus on innovation in education, teaching, and learning.
5. Teachers are superheroes in each district.
There would be no real innovation in edtech if it weren’t for those on the frontlines: the teachers. Surry County School District offers a gamified professional development program to teachers, and they are even hosting a LevelUp Conference this year with educational influencer @lucasgillispie.
Here are just some of the other school districts and schools in the Triangle that are taking edtech to the next level: Wake County, Orange County, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Durham County, Duke School, and the Hill Center (we recommend following all of these on Twitter. You’d be amazed at what these educators are up to!).
In the most recent edtech conference in North Carolina, NCTIES, all teachers jumped aboard the spirit of collaboration by sharing all of their notes in one massive Google slideshare thanks to teacher-leader Jayme Linton. If that’s not a superpower, we don’t know what is!
6. Bonus: It may be “Prime” time for Amazon.
We’re a fan of two-day shipping and endless school supplies like all educators, and there may be a chance that Amazon’s second HQ will set up shop in the Tar Heel State.
With so many things going on in the Triangle’s booming edtech scene, we’re sure we’ve missed a few. What would you add to this list? What other states do you think are leading the edtech industry? Let us know what you think @_Projected!