Today’s students are more likely to look up definitions on Google than in Webster’s and quicker to check Wikipedia than Encyclopedia Britannica. So what tools do students need to succeed in the future? As co-founder of Arc Capital Development, Rita Ferrandino has helped nurture companies like Blackboard and Rosetta Stone to become giants in the field of education technology, and along the way has ushered any number of providers of specialty education devices into impressive successes. Ferrandino spent 20 years in the traditional textbook industry working for companies like Pearson and Thompson Education before seeing a future that ran off the page. She founded ARC in 2003 with colleague Kevin Custer. “I was convinced the industry was missing a lot of important opportunities,” Ferrandino says. “We saw tech as a game changer then and we saw an opportunity for innovation.” The company has since assisted or partnered with nearly 100 companies in the education field. 

She handles Florida operations for the investment group while Custer works out of Colorado; the company just opened a third office in Silicon Valley. But the company has also plugged into such business incubators as LearnLaunch in Boston. “We are mentors and active participants,” Ferrandino says. “We often work with investors, entrepreneurs, college professors or teachers who invent a product. These early-stage companies know people will pay them money and their product works; they need a way to bridge their organizations into sustainable businesses.” So where should investors—and parents—turn their attention? Ferrandino says smartphones revolutionized education and the mobile metamorphosis shows no sign of slowing. If your middle or high schooler doesn’t have a smartphone, they may be at a disadvantage. And while veteran teachers once seemed wary to incorporate too much technology into class, educators of tomorrow (and really, today) have no such qualms.

“This generation of new teachers entering the field are digital natives, and all the students that are attending school are digital natives. That shift has happened,” Ferrandino says. “We used to worry about one-to-one computing. Now most high schoolers have a phone—and most middle schoolers. We worked on an elementary science curriculum product using a science app—kids will go to a museum or to a park with a smartphone, and they can see a leaf and upload a leaf and be able to create a digital portfolio of what they see. The kinds of things you can do with a smartphone with education purpose is amazing.” 



Best known as the learning management tool helping college students negotiate course catalogs and giving parents a way to know if their children have actually been doing their homework, this company has become a titan in education technology since it was founded in 1997. The software is used locally by the Manatee and Sarasota school districts and by State College of Florida.


A tight but comfortable wearable education tool designed by Emily Carr University industrial design student Lisa Fraser helps autistic children focus on lessons. Fraser developed the inflatable vest after learning about Deep Pressure Therapy. The product was brought to market in 2013, winning a Red Dot Concept Award and endorsements from organizations like Autism Connects.

A social network for finding the perfect one-on-one instruction, this company has set up 11 million online sessions between students, teachers and other professionals since its launch in 1998, garnering national attention from CNN, The New York Times and Microsoft.