Google acquires Baltimore-based educational technology firm Workbench

Workbench founder Chris Sleat, left, speaks during the Baltimore firm's Project Based Learning Summit, a two-day education and technology symposium.

Workbench, a Baltimore-based education technology firm, has been acquired by Google, the companies announced.

“Our core mission has always been to engage learners and educators through shared, meaningful lessons and tools that they can make their own,” Workbench founder and CEO Chris Sleat said in a company blog post. “As part of Google, we will be better positioned to achieve this mission.”


Google did not disclose acquisition price or other details, a Google spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Interactive learning technology from Workbench, founded in 2013 as cwist and later rebranded, was being used in 10,000 schools around the world as of October 2017, when the company raised $1.7 million to expand sales and marketing outreach. That investment was part of a $2 million funding round led by Brown Advisory.


Sleat told The Baltimore Sun at the time that the idea for the company came from observing the type of lessons his own children, then ages 11 and 14, were receiving at school.

On the blog post, Sleat said Google shared the firm’s vision for helping educators find and rework lessons for use in their classrooms. The technology allows teachers to create hands-on, interactive lessons in math, science, language arts, social studies and art or by grade.

Workbench already is integrated with Google Classroom and works with content channels such as sphero, little bits and Makey Makey.

One project directs students to create stop-motion animation films using bags of popcorn, offering hands-on lessons in division of fractions. In a lesson on conservation, students identify the species of a tree, measure its diameter and height and calculate carbon offset. A math program predicts the spread of infection through averages, rate of change, data and modeling.

“Workbench allows us to take the content and lessons our teachers are already using and put those in one place, making them accessible for other teachers to search,” said Ryan Johnson, director of information technology for the Lompoc Unified School District in Lompoc, Calif., in Google’s announcement.

The company has been based at City Garage in the Port Covington area.