If there’s a place for conspicuous tech consumption in education, it’s ISTE. The annual event– named for the association that runs it, the International Society for Technology in Education — is the world’s second-largest edtech conference and trade show, behind Bett in London.
This year’s ISTE was in Philadelphia, drawing more than 20,000 participants. If you’re in or interested in K-12 edtech and didn’t get a chance to walk the ISTE exhibit hall, here are five easily digestible observations. In, of course, tweet form.
I’d hoped to write this as an essay, but time likely won’t permit. So here’s a Twitter thread you might call ‘5 Exhibit Hall Trends You May Have Missed at #ISTE19.’ From which #edtech vendors didn’t show up on the exhibit floor, to the delay of the STEMpocalypse. Illustrated. pic.twitter.com/DDbofMCPQj
1: Size, or showing up, no longer matters. McGraw-Hill, Blackboard and others did not exhibit. Renaissance and still more reduced their booth size. Companies seem to finally realize that with lots of teachers looking for free stuff, this is an awareness show, not a lead gen show. pic.twitter.com/1k7kGP1mMW
2: Crowds indicate nothing, unless it’s not free. Packed booths for free tools are easy. Want to know what’s really trending? Looked for packed booths for fully paid products. (@LEGO_Education was one.) Side note: there were also fewer nice, free promotional items this year. pic.twitter.com/MADwYjhtyT
No, these are not scattered arrangements of alphabet blocks from an especially precocious early learning classroom. They’re abbreviations for major conferences for companies in the education industry.
I’ve been attending, and occasionally speaking at, these events and their predecessors for more than two decades. What sets them apart from purely teacher-focused conferences is that industry players aren’t viewed mainly as vendors who pony up for a sponsorship or exhibit booth. Instead, in nearly every case, they’re primary conference attendees.
The last time I took a detailed look at the industry conference landscape for EdSurge was in 2014. That was early in the days of low-cost cloud computing enabling a multitude of new edtech startups, really fast internet beginning its spread to schools, and Chromebooks starting their climb to ascendance in U.S. K-12 classrooms as a 1:1 mobile device.
Five years later, these developments didn’t just upend the classroom. They have upended the industry and how it’s reflected in the events that cater to industry companies, investors, and executives at every level from preschool to workforce learning.
If you work inside, or are deeply interested in, the industry, here’s a new assessment of a handful of the most prominent U.S. events. Yes, ISTE, EDUCAUSE, CoSN and other educator-focused conferences remain vitally important to the industry, too, and have gone through some of their own changes (for example, the “F” in FETC no longer means “Florida” but “Future of” Education Technology Conference). There are also other highly specialized and invitation-only industry conferences. But the general, high-profile events that follow are where more industry deals are done and difficult business decisions are discussed.
Here’s how the alphabet blocks are currently stacked: who’s on top, who’s fallen off the pile, and why you might want to play. Or at least go to watch the players.
ASU GSV Summit
If there was any doubt, this year’s event put it to rest: ASU GSV Summit is the must-attend conference for education technology investment, with business deals and policy issues buttressing the financial focus. Held in early April, ASU GSV’s 10th annual event in 2019 drew an estimated 4,900 people to San Diego with celebrity and political headliners providing a star-studded umbrella under which rainmakers prospered.
Its growth has been stunning. From 240 attendees a decade ago when first held by Arizona State University and the investment firm GSV (Global Silicon Valley) Advisors, ASU GSV Summit blew past the 2,000 attendees figure in 2014, outgrew its Scottsdale home, and now is bursting at the seams in San Diego. The event tweeted that it was “sold out” a week before it began this year and started a waiting list. And it’s not exactly the lowest-priced conference option: Last-minute walk up registration was a few bucks under $3,200.
Even if you didn’t attend keynotes featuring Tony Blair, Common, and—yes—Sesame Street, the programming provided measured insights on the state of the industry, ranging from “preK to Gray.” Everyone from large company CEOs and major investors to startups and nonprofit institutions attend. I found that if you simply stood in a hallway, it was virtually impossible to not see someone you knew (or wanted to know) pass by within five minutes. It’s sessile serendipity.
Deborah Quazzo, co-founder and managing partner of the Summit and managing partner of the GSV AcceleraTE Fund, credits much of the event’s popularity to how it covers learning at every level, from early childhood up. “I do think the overall market has moved to a position of seeing the critical integration of education and talent/workforce innovation,” Quazzo said. “I believe ASU GSV was ahead of the curve on that position and we are thrilled with its embrace.”
Draw: Raw financial horsepower and speaker star power.
Difference: GSV’s deep understanding of the financial end of “preK-Gray” learning.
Go: If you want to do a deal, raise money, or simply understand the current investment-and-education landscape, this is the one conference to attend.
Next: ASU GSV Summit, San Diego, March 30 – April 1, 2020.
As part of a 30 year history of SXSW conferences, SXSW EDU is one of the younger siblings in the South by Southwest family. But it’s grown from its birth in 2011, and gotten a little, well, more festive, as befits its family ties.
Like longer-running SXSW conferences and festivals, SXSW EDU’s home is Austin, Texas and it’s held in March. It precedes the more famous interactive and music events and is a bit more sane, at least in terms of size and late-night public behavior. (In the past, the city didn’t start shrink-wrapping parking meters and telephone poles to protect them until EDU was well underway.)
Yet SXSW EDU has tilted more toward a global teaching and learning festival as it has grown, even though it still attracts a healthy number of industry and government attendees from K-12 up through higher ed: about half educators, based on a breakdown of 2018 stats, and a third business and industry. In 2019, there were 8,300 registered for the conference, slightly up from 2018 but significantly up from the 6,000 who attended in 2014.
As EDU has aligned itself more closely with other South-by events over the past few years, conference keynotes, panels and workshops have been joined by new programming such as a hands-on Playground, and a free one-day education expo that’s open to the public and adds thousands more beyond the conference total.
For the industry, it’s less a setting for business and more to see what educators are excited about without the us-them distinctions of an exhibit hall, mingling in an atmosphere that encourages different types of attendees to mix. Much networking gets done at the many meetups, receptions, and parties.
“SXSW EDU’s mission is to advance teaching and learning and we work to assemble as broad an array of stakeholders as possible, believing the more diverse the community the more impactful the conversations,” said Ron Reed, SXSW EDU’s founder and executive producer, and director of emerging events for South by Southwest. When EDU was launched, Reed told me, it was one of the few education events not tied to a specific association or membership group. He sees the event landscape continuing to evolve. “We believe it is a reflection of education becoming an increasingly interdisciplinary conversation,” he said.
Draw: Festival! And the SXSW reputation for informative and interesting events.
Difference: Educators, industry, entrepreneurs, nonprofits and wonks attend as equals in large number.
Go: To see what’s exciting educators without the restrictions of an exhibit hall, or feeling as though industry types are intruding into a sacred educator-reserved space.
Next: SXSW EDU, Austin, March 9-12, 2020.
SIIA Ed Tech Industry Conference
If anyone is playing the long game in edtech industry conferences, it’s the Software and Information Industry Association. The SIIA Ed Tech Industry Conference may be part of a larger “code and content” trade association, but it’s an organization in which the education division—technically, its Education Technology Industry Network—has traditionally been very strong.
SIIA’s long-running annual conference was once the only industry education conference with a technology emphasis. It’s undergone a few modest identity changes. The last time I wrote about it, the name had changed to “Education Industry Summit” from “Ed Tech Industry Summit.” But it’s generally been held in San Francisco, most recently every June. Attendance numbers more in the hundreds than the thousands, owing to SIIA’s tight focus on edtech industry companies.
What’s remained consistent—and is being emphasized even more this year—is that SIIA is a place where the industry, from K-12 through higher education, discusses the hard issues of building and maintaining an education technology business. It also has an established innovation showcase for startups, popular one-to-one business connection meetings, and the annual education CODiE Awards which are now in their 34th year.
Jill Abbott, the new senior vice president and managing director for SIIA’s ETIN, says she’s seen “a larger focus on start-ups in the event landscape” over the past five years, as well as a more thoughtful approach to programming. “Questions such as, ‘What are the educational trends?’ (and) ‘How can we help companies evolve their business model?’ are now being addressed,” she said.
As to where SIIA fits in, Abbott said: “SIIA views its role to focus on essential problems or questions that we need to address as an industry.” That includes making sure there’s a “call to action” in its conference programming, beyond exchanging ideas and networking. “Providing a call to action—whether it’s for diversity, equity, and inclusion, new marketing approaches, or how AI is impacting your business—brings the conversation outside of the event and into the organization,” she said.
Draw: Peer-to-peer conversations about the business of edtech, plus the CODiE Awards celebration marking the edtech industry’s highest honors.
Difference: Long-standing association event with a tight focus on industry and company needs.
Go: To discuss hard business issues, learn from what other companies have done, and connect.
Next: SIIA Ed Tech Industry Conference and CODiE Awards, San Francisco, June 10-12, 2019.
[UPDATE 6/17/19: The dates for the 2020 SIIA Ed Tech Industry Conference have been set, May 18-20, 2020, in San Francisco.]
EdNET, Content in Context and others
No industry-focused conference I highlighted five years ago survived completely unchanged. Some didn’t survive at all.
In 2014, Content in Context was a thriving conference for educational content publishers going digital, drawing hundreds to D.C. each June. Formerly called the Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) Summit, the event name changed to CiC and AEP was acquired by the Association of American Publishers. But its 2017 event, after a move to Philadelphia, was CiC’s last gasp.
I reached out to an AAP spokesperson who said the organization had recently hired a new leader for education, and anticipates future events that might be open to members and nonmembers alike.
Aging was somewhat kinder to EdNET: at least the event name survived. But both emphasis and length morphed. What had been the longest-running and broadest-based standalone K-12 industry conference—a fixture for three days each September that drew hundreds—also wrapped up in 2017. MDR, the marketing data and services company which ran it, moved to a new format in 2018. EdNET now is a set of three, smaller one-day regional events across the country, with a more narrow education marketing focus and fewer than 100 attendees each.
That cellular division and regeneration appears to have worked for MDR. Kristina James, who’s responsible for the EdNET events, said two of its three 2018 events had waitlists. Part of that success, she said, was in “minimizing the time and financial commitment necessary to attend and presenting content that was localized for attendees.” This year, EdNET plans to host similar one-day events in Boston, New York City and San Diego.
Industry reflected in a not-so-funhouse mirror
So you may now be thinking: What was it about 2017?
Here’s where it becomes clearer that the traditional edtech industry reached a Titanic tipping point of sorts: maybe not exactly in 2017 when certain high-profile events ended, but during the past five years. The conferences reflect that upending in three different ways (and it’s not simply that ASU GSV has sucked all the money people out of the industry conference room).
Consolidation. Not only is “edtech” no longer separate from “education,” but K-12, higher education, and workforce learning are less distinct and moving to more of a seamless continuum. (I keep returning to Deborah Quazzo’s delightful term “preK-Gray.”) Some individual industry-focused conferences may no longer make sense when companies are trying to cross boundaries and business models.
Delivery. The double-edged sword of better internet bandwidth enabling more education technology uptake is that people can now get the equivalent of live conference panels and keynotes in high-def, streamed remotely and sometimes in real time. As MDR’s Kristina James noted, “The education industry event landscape has really evolved over the past few years with more people connecting via webinars.” So the better conferences are evolving: fewer rote presentations and more face-to-face time, rapid-fire discussions, and unique experiences.
Generations. As an Exec of a Certain Age, this might ring more true to me than to others. But many startups that have flooded the industry over the past few years may prefer real-time remote over in-person interaction. That means attending fewer events, while making sure the ones they do attend have the most bang for the buck. In addition, the driving forces behind the longest-running edtech industry events are getting older; the analysts and organizers that put on the original-format EdNET for many years, for example, have retired. Newer blood has new approaches.
When you make plans to attend education technology industry events, remember that the conferences themselves can change as much as the industry does. As they say in the finance world—and perhaps more frequently at ASU GSV—past performance is no guarantee of future results. Or of edtech success.
Three years from now, 15-year-old high school sophomores are going to be college freshmen. And their expectations about the tech that surrounds them in 2022 will have been shaped by both what they experienced in school as K-12 students and outside of school as teenaged consumers.
At CAMEX 2019 in San Antonio, held by the National Association of College Stores, I explored what that combined expectation of edtech and consumer tech exposure might mean. While the slides of my thought leadership session by themselves aren’t that useful without narration or detailed notes (I favor lots of images with any vivid words coming from me, not crowded bullet points), I did summarize my trends take in a series of a dozen tweets. Of course.
I gave an hour-long original talk at #CAMEXshow on what 15-yr-old high school students today are going to expect of tech as incoming college freshmen in 2022, based on their teen #edtech & consumer tech experience. I’m going to try and summarize in a tweetstorm with images. 1/12 pic.twitter.com/xXhWcqPZuO
First, teen tech landscape. It’s a cloudscape. Since iPads & Chromebooks and more pervasive campus broadband, the decade-long lag from consumer tech to #edtech adoption has compressed to 2-3 years. That means a more seamless tech life, but also more danger of schools buying fads. pic.twitter.com/AuGPxPmW3z
Teens also are more savvy of how tech is affecting their behavior this decade. @CommonSense found 89% of teens have a smartphone. But @PewResearch found 54% of teens also think they spend too much time on smartphones. And nearly a third say it distracts them in class. pic.twitter.com/qX1LhUiAYE
So what K12 tech trends now will persist in 3 years, to 2022, setting teen expectations? Early school experiences with AR/MR/VR (extended reality), mostly in computer labs. Coding leading to a fascination with robots. Dominance of cheap Chromebooks and Windows devices in school. pic.twitter.com/fAmnhVm96e
Now to teen consumer tech expectations. Big story here (or hear) is #smartspeakers. Adoption is huge, rapidly leading to virtual assistants with screens. Some hotels and higher ed dorms are already making smart speakers standard. This is a key 3-year teen expectation trend. pic.twitter.com/YdWWXN0nGx
Other key consumer tech trends teens will internalize: Smart homes. Internet of things devices (standalone). More advanced wearables like smartwatches and fitness trackers, and wireless headphones (Apple shines in both, and revenue is increasing faster than unit sales). pic.twitter.com/nnXWSBJeMV
Final top teen consumer tech trend is being social through deeply engaging tech. Extended reality through group AR/VR experiences and arcades, and eSports as competitors or audience. Both are together-yet-isolated teen tech trends that will see strong growth by 2022. pic.twitter.com/R1oXom7KEH
Teens, as consumers coming into college, will expect tech everywhere in 2022, but will want it to integrate well with physical life and (my take, based on some of the behavioral research) not simply a case of losing themselves in screens. pic.twitter.com/VHDDTVbATx
Combining K-12 #edtech trends with consumer tech trends affecting today’s 15-yr-old,: In 2022 smart speakers will turn out to be transitional, XR will be common for group/social interaction until hurdles are overcome, and Apple may be hurt by the lack of edu exposure it once had. pic.twitter.com/WTjSk28lAO
Key issues for teens over the next three years in tech products? Expectations of “free” software, potential for a major privacy breach and attendant backlash, and increasing concerns by teens themselves of having too much screen time. pic.twitter.com/qweeXpD6qk
I’ve done my best to summarize an hour of @CAMEXshow detail. But it may give you something to think about as you consider how today’s in-school K-12 #edtech trends and out-of-school consumer tech trends are shaping the expectations of a 15-year-old between now and 2022.
For those wondering: No, I haven’t completely abandoned working in education technology. But I have decided to jettison one kind of work I once was known for. I will no longer do edtech tactical marketing work without a strategy or business component.
So I said a fond (truly) farewell to my last client that was solely for tactical marketing at the end of October, by mutual agreement. I won’t take any new clients for which all I’m being asked to do is advise on tactical marketing in isolation. Whether a consulting, interim or potentially full-time role, what I do needs to be broader.
Hey. I've decided to end my #edtech marketing consulting work at the end of 2018. Time for fresh intensity and challenge, not repeats of past experiences.
So 2019? It'll be a different combination, or situation. Or something entirely new.
Because marketing itself doesn’t operate in isolation. And, honestly, being a consultant telling people what they usually don’t want to hear — that they have to change what they’re doing to improve their outcomes, rather than just do more of it, or tweak it — is like rechewing decades-old bubble gum. I’ve lost my taste for that.
I’ve said as much about marketing’s need to connect more broadly, beyond sales, to a number of my clients. I said it to colleagues in my most recent executive position as vice president of marketing strategy for West’s SchoolMessenger business, a role that ended after a reorg a year ago this November.
I’ve said it so often, that I fully expect my epitaph to be, “He was candid.”
I've not made a big deal of this. But for the remainder of 2018, I'm helping out as an editor and writer on the @GeekWire newsdesk. I can be reached for #edtech stories with a Pacific NW hook at the bottom of this page, underneath the scary photo of … me https://t.co/j9aO3zam9Z
So, in early September, I began a brief period of fill-in work at the newsdesk of GeekWire, my long-time column and podcast home. I’m providing overall coverage and editing support until the end of 2018.
It’s allowed me to research topics I don’t normally get to dig into, providing a greater perspective on both edtech and the rest of the technology sector. I’m able to draw on decades of journalism and tech industry experience. And I get to work with very smart reporters of different ages from a variety of backgrounds.
When 2019 rolls out, I may remain a consultant. I may find a more substantial full-time role. It may be in education, edtech, or a related industry. Or it may be something completely different.
It’s been a busy summer full of science fiction, digital media, and edtech trends. So busy, that I didn’t take a vacation. But I did manage a quick weekend trip to Disneyland for some tech ‘research.’ Really.
What did I learn over the last three months, and was fascinated enough to write about?
Seattle remains a quiet hotbed of science-fiction activity.
From the Clarion West Writers Workshop, which has graduated some of the best-known speculative fiction talents over more than three decades, to the new science-fiction and predictive analysis membership website Scout, Seattle remains at the top of its science-fiction game.
Seattle also mourns. Harlan Ellison, one great of the field who never lived here, but was inducted in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame at MoPOP, died over the summer.
Cultural institutions are broadly trying tech that highlights the arts.
Our consumption of media keeps changing as more of it goes digital.
The fastest growing publishing format? It’s now digital audiobooks. The biggest uses of smart speakers? As they go mainstream, it’s clustering around music, news, traffic, and reminders.
But there’s a dark side, too. Ebook ‘book stuffing.’ And really stupid self-inflicted wounds that can give a stranger control of your social media account.
Tech giants are coming for education technology.
Yes, there have been companies that have specialized in edtech for decades, and many startups and their investors discovered the market this decade. But Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are now battling, with varying amounts of success, for the hearts and minds of classroom teachers. Microsoft, for example, is taking Minecraft: Education Edition to the iPad, and purchased the startup Flipgrid to give away its classroom video discussion product for free.
The discussion continues, though, on tech’s place in schools. Elementary students literally debated ‘tablets vs. textbooks’ in Seattle. Whatever digital media wins in classrooms remains a toss-up, due to obstacles to implementation.
You can ride 17 attractions at Disneyland in one day with time to spare.
Perhaps the happiest discovery of the summer came at the Happiest Place on Earth, where I found apps made it possible to fully experience Disneyland and Disney California Adventure with minimal lines and stress for maximum rides and fun. Plus, have time to spare to ponder how the parks have quietly updated classic attractions with digital ‘new magic’ over the years.
I don’t do tweet storms much. But recently, I got riled up about the state of K-12 edtech industry news coverage. Ten tweets resulted.
I find it troubling that the amount of regular reporting of what’s happening inside the K-12 #edtech industry appears to have fallen off. This is important not just so those in the industry know what’s going on, but those in the public (including educators) understand movitators.
Yes, there are the big (and often good) feature stories in the @NYTimes and other media outlets. But the routine business of #edtech – who owns what, which execs are switching jobs – illuminates the day-to-day that can help many people understand decisions. It provides context.
As many observers (including @audreywatters) have pointed out, modern #edtech hype frequently ignores history. Electronic edtech goes back one hundred years, to radio and then TV (including Mr. Rogers). Digital edtech goes back nearly 60 years, to the PLATO instructional system.
But that perspective is frequently ignored, and often consciously so, by #edtech startups and promoters who want everyone (notably investors and customers) to believe everything they come up with is brand new and has never been thought of before. And it’s perfect if it’s digital.
Better coverage of the industry itself could help counter hype. And for a while, at the peak of the K-12 #edtech venture boom this decade, we had signs of that. @Marketplace had an edtech reporter. @EdSurge began, covering K-12 as an industry. @EdNETbiz tracked comings & goings.
Yet over the past couple of years, it seems coverage has moved more to tips for teachers in some outlets, and to higher ed and corporate #edtech startups in others. I get it. Teachers are a bigger audience than industry. Investors are touting other segments. We all need to eat.
And it’s not that K-12 #edtech industry coverage has disappeared. But so, so much of it now is all about funding and the bright shiny. Uncritically reproduced (not even rewritten) news releases should not be how the general public finds out about industry inner workings.
Personally, I do write about #edtech when I can. It’s a sideline, and there are some topics I can’t tackle well because I have a long history of working inside the industry, and consciously avoiding conflicts of interest (real and perceived) is important and limits what I write.
More is needed. Coverage doesn’t have to be uniformly critical. It also can’t be universally fawning. No one is well-served by either extreme as a regular diet. We’re also not served by less independent editorial coverage of the K-12 #edtech industry. I hope some step up, again.
For those who prefer it when I just tweet #edtech and tech news, I apologize. I rarely kick up a tweet-storm. But this issue about editorial coverage of the K-12 education technology industry has me musing a bit more than usual. Now back to your regular, predictable Frank feed.
I don’t regret any of what I wrote rapidly that morning. Except maybe misspelling “motivators” in the very first tweet, a typo I introduced as I tried to make “motivations” fit into Twitter’s 280-character limit and had to come up with another word.
I’ll also point out that EdSurge is doing some good reporting in the K-12 edtech area. What EdSurge writes can be selective and uneven as the edtech news and resource site has expanded its coverage into higher education and adjacent markets. Yet some of EdSurge’s best work has come from Managing Editor Tony Wan, who provides context and background, and not just the latest press release.
I also didn’t mention Education Week’s EdWeek Market Brief, which arose as the funding boom did (and seems to be tinged with the patina of a subscription market research service, but isn’t quite that). Still, it’s not edtech-specific, and appears to be a bit of a side project to Education Week’s mainstay good work in covering education as a whole.
That leads to one final postscript observation: Perhaps there just isn’t enough, in these days of click-bait and cut-back journalism, of what science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon once simply called, “Ask the next question.” He was describing it in terms of good speculation and debate. It’s also a hallmark of good journalism.
February is coming to an end. And with it, a rather unique initiative of GeekWire’s.
Back when Amazon announced it was accepting proposals from cities to be the location of that company’s “HQ2,” GeekWire’s founders were inspired (admittedly, during a happy hour).
If Amazon can solicit bids for an HQ2, they thought, why not GeekWire? And thus was born the GeekWire HQ2 project.
GeekWire would only locate a co-headquarters in the winning city for a month, and just bring a handful of transplanted jobs (the RFP stated “up to three”).
Yet several cities responded, and Pittsburgh won.
Even though I didn’t travel to Pittsburgh, I did contribute. I happened to know that Pittsburgh is a hub of education technology activity, and developed a detailed round-up of how edtech is in Pittsburgh’s DNA — going back to Fred Rogers, when “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was airing on the edtech of its era (television).
My contributions took a different tack as the month progressed. Turns out Pittsburgh also is a hub for science-fiction activity — at least in 2017 and 2018. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is presenting its Nebula Awards in Pittsburgh again this May, as the Nebula Conference completes a two-year location rotation.
Plus, this year’s SFWA Grand Master, being honored for a lifetime of achievement, has roots in both Pittsburgh and Seattle. So I highlighted the career of author Peter S. Beagle (best known for the novel The Last Unicorn, but writer of so much more, including a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, film adaptations, and many other books) in the context of SFWA and the two cities.
Catch up on all of GeekWire HQ2 special coverage here. And, if you’re wondering what else I’ve been writing lately, my GeekWire author archive is here. (Spoiler alert: there’s edtech, science fiction, pop culture and a fascinating podcast with author and futurist Ramez Naam.)
The many ways technology is used to communicate with parents (yet no one way is the best). Online education industry expected to grow 8x in India. And “clickers” may not help concepts mentally click. All this week in edtech reports.
These summaries of new studies, surveys, and research (plus the occasional commentary and analysis) are based on snippets from Twitter shared by @FrankCatalano. Feel free to follow.
West Corporation has released the results of a national survey of school districts detailing how they’re using communications technology to engage parents and families. West, provider of SchoolMessenger solutions, has some expertise in this area as its communications products are used by tens of thousands of schools across North America.
(For full disclosure, I was the primary author of this study, as West is where I spend my days. So I could probably write this summary in my sleep. And just may have, since it’s at home where I spend my nights. Of course, I only speak for myself in this post and these summaries.)
Mobile apps are on the rise. Projecting from today’s use to their planned investment of time and resources over the next 1-3 years, districts expect a 44% increase in their emphasis on mobile apps to engage parents. Overall, mobile apps were predicted to be the “most effective and used” communications technology in 1-3 years by 53% of those surveyed, coming in right behind social media (76%) and text messaging (69%). Despite this increase and optimism, district leaders are concerned about the proliferation of communications apps that parents are asked to download.
Social media is a dominant force. Across all questions and time frames, social media was seen as a significant communications tool for schools to engage parents. Some 85% of districts use it today, 61% of district leaders find it effective today, and 76% expect it to be the most effective tool in 1-3 years. But it’s not without pitfalls, due to negative posts and constant monitoring.
Multiple channels are key to maximum parent engagement. Of districts surveyed, 65% already use five or more communications channels to engage with parents. And even though some may perceive it as an “old” technology, broadcast voice notification remains important — 65% find it effective today, and a stunning 96% use it today, making broadcast voice notification the most commonly used communications technology by respondents.
But all is not sparkling unicorns and fluffy happy bunnies. Districts report several significant obstacles to using communications tech to engage parents — and parent internet access tops the list, at 45%.
Rounding out the top five challenges: staff training and time, at 41% and 38%, respectively, then mobile app proliferation at 33%, and finally automatic language translation, cited by 26% of respondents. Interestingly, parent mobile device ownership, at 17%, was not seen as as much of an obstacle.
The report concludes the future of parent communications for better engagement is, “multi-channel, asynchronous, and parent-selectable.”
KPMG and Google have sponsored a study of online education in India that shows remarkable potential growth. The report, “Online Education in India: 2021,” appears to look at online instruction, and not edtech in general (despite a misleading news story headline).
It notes re-skilling and online certification — two adult/lifelong learning segments — are the biggest segments now, followed by primary and secondary education. But primary and secondary education are expected to surpass all other segments in size by 2021.
A research study out of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth indicates that “clickers” — those little handheld devices that students use to respond to quizzes in class — are complicated. Complicated in that while they appear to help students learn facts, their use when the facts are disassociated from the bigger picture may get in the way of understanding the overall concept taught.
It’s worth reading the nuanced article in EdSurge. And it again shows that the “edtech good/bad” dichotomy is too simplistic. It’s not just the tool. It’s the context in which the tool is used, and how it’s used.
I sat in to co-host a GeekWire podcast on one of my favorite topics: tech in libraries. Seattle City Librarian Marcellus Turner was wonderfully open in our interview, from his take on Maker spaces and libraries (in Seattle, they’ll give instruction into how to use them, but won’t dedicate space to them due to the number of other options in the community), to his wish list for Seattle’s libraries (a library-employed “journalist,” and experimenting with 365/7/24 opening hours).
Libraries are a vital part of community education and have their own kind of edtech. I encourage you to read the article, and listen to the podcast, with the head of one of the nation’s top libraries for tech.
(Note: Yes, it’s an outdated practice as we are no longer primarily an agrarian economy. But after 16 installments, education report sources are starting to slow for the summer. So like many schools, TWIEtR too will take a summer break & reappear as reports warrant. Or when the leaves start to fall.)
Education Week continues to slice and dice the information in its fascinating survey of school administrators and teachers that pits four major tech companies (Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft) against four major education companies (Scholastic, Pearson, McGraw-Hill Education, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
The latest? Google Chromebooks are used “more frequently in day-to-day instruction than all PC and Apple desktop and laptop computers combined.”
It’s that last phrase that is telling, that Chromebooks are used more frequently than all others combined.
Another interesting, but not surprising, tidbit: going forward, district staff plan to invest more in tablets and laptops than in desktop computers for classrooms.
Quick diversion to my day job: West Corporation (which provides SchoolMessenger communications solutions to districts) is starting to release results of a national survey that will be officially issued in a webinar and white paper on June 1.
The survey examines what communications technologies districts use to engage parents, which channels they find the most effective, and where they plan to invest their time and resources in the next one-to-three years.
Key findings are that, “school districts increasingly rely on social media, turn more to mobile apps, and, ultimately, recognize that they must use multiple communications channels. ”
Tech & Learning had a nice summary of three of the initial data points, summed up as:
86% of district leaders surveyed use social media to communicate with parents today.
65% of district leaders surveyed already use 5 or more channels to communicate with parents.
33% of district leaders surveyed plan to focus on district mobile apps in the next 1-3 years (an increase of 44% from today’s use).
A fourth initial data point — that 45% of district leaders cite parent internet access as a significant obstacle to engaging parents with communications technology.
I’ll be joined on the June 1 webinar by Elisabeth O’Bryon, PhD., co-founder and head of research of the non-profit Family Engagement Lab, which itself has done some interesting research on what families want to hear from schools, and how they hear about it.
Webinar registration is open now. And I’ll likely summarize more results here after the white paper is released.
I was reminded on May 18, 2017, where I was and what I was doing on May 18, 1980. I was interviewing for a broadcast news position in the Seattle market. I’d flown out for the weekend from my current station, WNFL Green Bay, where I was news director.
That Sunday morning, as the person interviewing me and I headed out for brunch, we heard — and felt — a muffled “boom.” We drove straight to the station, where it was confirmed that nearby Mt. St. Helens had erupted.
I immediately went to work filing reports for the local station as well as the network with which WNFL was affiliated.
Much later, after catching a red eye flight home, I walked into the newsroom and was greeting by the Green Bay station manager. “Great reports about Mt. St. Helens on the network,” he said. “What the hell were you doing in Seattle?”
Fortunately, I was offered the Seattle job. And remained on good terms with WNFL and its management. But it just goes to show that when an opportunity presents itself, it’s important to act. Even if there is both the potential of reward and risk.
Oh, and the 1980s-era photo I posted with the 140 characters on Twitter? It’s now out there, for good or ill. You can’t un-chirp a tweet.
(Note: This Week in Edtech Reports will take a Memorial Day weekend break and return, refreshed and re-snarked, in early June.)
Surveys showing that, despite all the edtech hype, classroom edtech use and tech access is showing only “incremental advances,” and how Google is crushing traditional education companies in educators’ edtech perceptions. Both this week in edtech reports.
This Week in Edtech Reports (TWIEtR) is collected from the public tweets of @FrankCatalano and succinctly expanded upon.
Project Tomorrow released another batch of results from its annual (and huge) Speak Up survey of school administrators, teachers, parents, and students. While survey respondents are self-selecting — that is, this isn’t a scientifically random or representative survey — the sheer volume of responses and how the data is weighed and sliced makes for an interesting snapshot into the state of education technology.
The latest isn’t exactly good news for those who thought more technology in the classroom would transform education practice.
Taking 38,000 teachers who responded to one Speak Up effort through January 2017, Project Tomorrow tallies how they and their students access or use technology in the classroom, and concludes the data, “indicate the lack of real systematic changes in activities, attitudes or aspirations of teachers … These are activities teachers have always done and they are very important, but they would do these regardless of technology.”
Additional good analysis is provided by Anne Wujcik, senior analyst for MDR’s EdNET Insight, who has noted these “incremental advances” over many years: “Too many teachers are using technology to do things they have always done, without rethinking the expanded possibilities technology brings to the table.”
Normally, I’d cite some of the actual data from the surveys, but the clear conclusions are more compelling, and I encourage you to review the data in both Project Tomorrow’s post and Anne’s additional analysis. There is also interesting info from administrators and students.
But let me leave you with one device-centric data point, courtesy of Project Tomorrow. “When we look at impact of technology,” the post notes, “75 percent of teachers say mobile devices increase student engagement, but only 35 percent say mobile devices improve the quality of student work.”
In a new survey released with great fanfare by EdWeek Market Brief (it’s free, but you have to fill out a form to download it), Education Week pitted four major tech companies against four major education companies. This nationally representative sample of teachers and administrators was surveyed in April.
My old stomping ground GeekWire sums up the results. Of Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft (the four tech), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Scholastic (the four education), educators were asked which one company they’d hire to improve student achievement in their district. Google ran away with the results, at 52%. Apple was a distinct second, at 13%. Then, in third, came the first education company to rank — Scholastic — at 9%.
There is, of course, much more, including how Chromebooks and G Suite dominate classrooms. Also, of course, by Google.
Some of the most interesting analysis outside of the report itself came in my Twitter feed by those knowledgeable about edtech: