The challenges facing schools have never been greater – but it also presents an exciting opportunity. In the premiere episode of Edtech Today, host Kevin Hogan discusses a variety of issues with remote learning legend Sal Kahn and Anne Wintroub, Director of Social Innovation for the AT&T Foundation.

In December, AT&T marked its third-annual Pitches with Purpose Event, celebrating the innovation and growth of eight ed-tech startups, receiving mentoring, resources and development through its Aspire Accelerator program to create solutions for the diverse needs of today’s students.

As the solutions from this minority and women-led cohort shows, the future of education, in the wake of COVID-19, demands more diverse perspectives than ever to develop more inclusive solutions for every student – regardless of backgrounds, needs and experiences.

Eight education technology companies graduated from the Aspire Accelerator and competed in an all-virtual “Shark Tank” style “Pitches with Purpose” for two $25,000 prizes – one awarded by a panel of AT&T executive judges and another voted on by AT&T employees and for the first time, the general public.

In the end, Social Cipher won the general public and employee vote with their captivating, fast-paced 3-minute pitch. They create video games that give players who are autistic a safe space to practice social situations and build social-emotional skills through play. “It feels amazing to win Pitches with Purpose, and it’s so wonderful to see that there’s so much support for our mission out there,” said Vanessa Castañeda Gill, founder of Social Cipher. “We’ve been through so many challenges this year–we’ve come out so much stronger with the help of the AT&T Aspire Accelerator and the incredible founders in this cohort. We’re beyond excited to take on what’s next with this funding!”

The Aspire Accelerator was created in 2015 as part AT&T Aspire, a $600 million commitment since 2008 that leverages technology, relationships and innovation to improve education and prepare students for career success. Program participants have included 70% women-led companies and 51% minority-led companies.

The 2020 Accelerator class shows how women and minority-led startups are transforming education, offering virtual solutions to the toughest issues facing students today: educational equity, disengagement in learning and lack of support for students with disabilities. And as educators look towards 2021, lessons from COVID-19 and distance learning will also drive the future of education. Key among these lessons is the need for diverse perspective to fuel innovation for more inclusive solutions regardless of backgrounds, needs and experiences.

Learn more about the 2020 Accelerator class and why diverse perspectives are so important to the future of education in Charlene Lake’s LinkedIn post here.