Skip to main content

SMALLab receives first funding, customer for classroom learning technology

September 22, 2011

SMALLab Learning, a faculty spin-out company from Arizona State University announced a $500,000 development grant provided by Educause and the Gates Foundation, and their first customer ChicagoQuest.

The startup company is positioned as a leader in embodied learning, with a record of K-12 innovation and impact nationally. The grant is part of $7 million awarded by Next Generation Learning Challenges with Educause and the Gates Foundation for innovative, technology-enabled programs.

Embodied education uses whole body movements and kinesthetic gesture to instruct in content. The company uses whiteboard technology coupled with Microsoft Kinect technology to deliver high impact classroom “learning by playing” programs. SMALLab Learning was developed after over six years of research conducted at the School of Arts, Media and Engineering (AME) at ASU with funding from the National Science Foundation and Intel amongst others.

The first customer for the technology is ChicagoQuest, which is based in Chicago. ChicagoQuest adapts an innovative education model currently being implemented in a New York City public school called “Quest to Learn.” The SMALLab Learning product will feature a new platform that brings 3D motion-capture technology – through the use of the KINECT game system – to interactive whiteboards, which will be rolled out to other classrooms across the U.S.

“We are committed to creating embodied content that uses the whole body to facilitate the learning of foundational knowledge,” said, Mina Johnson-Glenberg, principal investigator and co-founder of SMALLab Learning. “With this grant we will also focus on media-rich student-created content to engage the entire class. We already have a strong base of empirical evidence supporting significant gains in learning when students use more embodied techniques versus regular instruction.”

Educause’s Next Generation Learning Challenges recently announced SMALLab Learning as a recipient of a $500,000 grant that will support continued research and development for embodied learning.  SMALLab Learning was selected from a competitive pool of hundreds of qualified applicants. The initiative started in the summer of 2011, and will directly impact students and teachers in Arizona, New York and California.

David Birchfield, SMALLab Learning CEO and co-founder, said “this funding will allow us to bring an immersive kinesthetic and collaborative experience to any classroom that has an interactive whiteboard.”

A video of embodied learning in action can be viewed at

The SMALLab team is developing a series of learning scenarios focused on the physics of simple machines, a foundational topic for middle school math and science students.  The grant also supports innovative methods for assessing student learning during the act of learning.

The faculty startup company has been supported by ASU Venture Catalyst, which supports faculty, student and external startup companies; and Arizona Technology Enterprises, the intellectual property management and technology transfer organization for ASU.

Media contact:
Gordon McConnell,
ASU Venture Catalyst