In Case You Missed It: LearnLaunch 2019 Brings Together Educators, Education Leaders to Discuss the State of EdTech Today

The seventh annual LearnLaunch conference kicked off the 2019 edtech event season at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston this month, complete with an AR/VR playground, single-digit temperatures, and a dash of neuroscience.

LearnLaunch partners and co-founders Jean Hammond and Eileen Rudden kicked off the conference, laying out the state of edtech funding in Massachusetts, to let everyone know that they came to the right place to get involved in conversations around the future of edtech.

With over 1,200 education leaders, educators, and edtech professionals in attendance, the event was its usual reunion of the friendly faces of educational innovation. Here are just a few of the attendees at the opening keynote.

Fortunately, the temperatures were made slightly more bearable for some with the prospect of being in Pats Nation for the Patriots’ 6th Super Bowl win in 17 years. (Though if you’re a Patriots fan, you’re probably already used to the weather. And Super Bowls.)

Yet the edtech crowd present was more interested in solving one of the greatest education problems of our time: connecting students with their future careers. Ryan Craig, co-founder and managing director of University Ventures, discussed different pathways to the workforce, and emphasized the need for last-mile training programs, like coding bootcamps.

Craig also encouraged career exploration in K12, a trending topic that could reshape the structure of K12 education as we know it (and something we have covered extensively.)

The next keynote of the day featured neurologist Melina Uncapher (a.k.a. @Neuromelina), a professor at UC San Francisco and the director of the education program at Neuroscape, “a translational neuroscience center at UCSF engaged in technology creation and scientific research to better assess and optimize brain function of both healthy and impaired individuals.”

Uncapher also happens to be the CEO and research director at the Institute for Applied Neuroscience, because if you’re a top neuroscientist in your field, why settle for one job?

Keynote speaker Mawi Asgedom of Mawi Learning inspired us all with his talk on social and emotional learning in practice, sharing anecdotes of how kids can demonstrate their understanding of SEL concepts through their actions. 

Mawi wasn’t the only keynote speaker to inspire the audience. Dr. Pamela Moran and Ira Socol shared their story of how they worked together to help transform one Virginia school district.

And what would an edtech event be without a few pitches? Also at the conference, the Fall 2018 LearnLaunch Accelerator cohort pitched to the conference crowd for their demo day.

Here are the graduates of the Fall 2018 LearnLaunch Accelerator, featured at Demo Day:
Beagle Learning

Of the many informative sessions at the conference, a few topics covered included personalized learning for teachers, technology for work-based learning, and digital credentialing for the workforce of the future.

At one digital credentialing session, experts on digital credentialing gave their take on the development of these technologies and their impact on the state of higher education. Panelists included Daniel Doktori from Credly, Sean Gallagher from Northeastern University, Bill Triant from Pearson, and Patrick Mullane from Harvard Business School Online (HBX).

One would think that a conference so heavily populated by PhDs and school teachers would be peaceful, but the topic of credentialing did spark a few heated debates in some other sessions.

Some sessions were a little lighter. Take this panel on AR/VR in the classroom, which featured experts on augmented and virtual reality from Immersive VR Education, SRI International, and Fitchburg Public Schools. At this session, Phil Vahey shared the findings of the XR in EDU 2018 report, a joint research project between EdTech Times and SRI International that gathered information from teachers using augmented and virtual reality in the classroom. Then Chris Turner, district data manager for Fitchburg Public Schools, shared a few projects the student in his district were working on.

Not only was Chris Turner present at the conference, but a group of students from Fitchburg Public Schools were demonstrating their AR/VR expertise in the Learning Innovation Showcase hosted by MAPLE. The Massachusetts Commissioner of Education even stopped by to take a Fitchburg virtual reality project for a spin.

Here are a few more examples of project-based learning from the showcase.

The Learning Innovation Showcase wasn’t the only place attendees had a chance to try out some AR/VR technology. The conference also featured an AR/VR lab, hosted by Empow Studios.

All in all, the conference featured the caliber of expertise we’ve come to expect, with a few welcome additions of future-forward technologies. Hopefully the rest of edtech conferences this season will be just as informative. See you there!


Hannah Nyren

Hannah Nyren

Hannah Nyren is the General Manager of EdTech Times. A Texan by birth but a Bostonian at heart, Hannah is an educational writer, AmeriCorps alum, and one-time StartupWeekend EDU (SWEDU) winning team member. She started her career at a Pearson-incubated edtech startup, but has since covered travel, food & culture, and even stonemasonry in addition to education.