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Jul. 14, 2014 3:26 pm

Alchemy expands online learning portal: your org can ‘gain a global presence’

The Maryland Historical Society is one of several organizations signed up to use the tool, introduced last year for K-12 schools. "We're talking about these organizations not only staying relevant, but gaining global presence," said one founder.

Win Smith, left, and Henry Blue, cofounders of Alchemy, outside their former Hampden offices.

Imagine learning about marine life using lessons from the National Aquarium or  about Maryland history directly from state historians.

That’s the dream of Win Smith and Henry Blue, founders of Alchemy The Carroll-Camden Industrial Area edtech startup is expanding its SmartBinder tool, originally crafted for schools, to organizations and institutions.

Smith said it’s a natural evolution for the project, and for these groups.

“We’re talking about these organizations not only staying relevant, but gaining global presence,” said Smith. “There’s a great opportunity for local organizations to get in the game and distribute their information to classrooms in a way that was just difficult before.”

SmartBinder works like this: Teachers—or, in this case, organizational education staff—port materials into a lesson website. They can also include things like quizzes and open-ended questions. Students can “like” a lesson (ala Facebook) or tell the instructor that they’re confused by pressing another button. Students don’t have to be signed up with Alchemy to access the online course content.

Alchemy was founded in 2012. The pair left their full time jobs to focus on SmartBinder last year.

In talking about SmartBinder’s expansion to organizations, Smith and Blue brought up the expanding use of devices in classrooms, including Baltimore County Public Schools’ One-to-One Initiative, which aims to have one computer for every county student.

Physically bringing organization representatives into classrooms “is very limited by general and practical limitations,” said Blue, a former Boys’ Latin teacher. “The state historical society should have a big say in how our state’s history is taught.”

Indeed, the Maryland Historical Society is one of several organizations already at work on its SmartBinder, along with a handful of other local, mostly environmental groups.

“It gives us a lot of flexibility. We’ll still send people out to Cumberland or the Eastern Shore,” said Kristen Schenning, the society’s director of education. “Being able to add this digital piece to the arsenal that we have, that opens the door to great exposure and great connetions with people.”

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Tyler Waldman

Tyler Waldman is lead reporter for Technical.ly Baltimore. A Towson University graduate and former local editor for Patch.com, Tyler has also written and photographed for publications including the Baltimore Brew, Howard County Times and Towson Times. He lives in Charles Village.

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