Category Archives: Education

Seattle’s invisible tech industry

Over at TechFlash, I opine on a topic I usually reserve for other venues — education technology,  specifically edtech companies’ oddly low profile in Seattle. Odd in that you’d think their presence on the Gates Foundation’s home turf would lead to the opposite result.

I suggest three reasons. Plus a potential fix or two. (And yes, I know I left out several Seattle-area edtech firms, such as SchoolKiT and TeachStreet, and local operations of Apperson Education and Promethean’s ActivProgress division. It wasn’t a lack of love, just space.)

Read the full commentary, “Seattle’s Invisible Tech Industry,” at TechFlash.

Fall 2010 conference notes

The dreary gray depths of winter are a good time to reflect on the internal state of the education technology industry. (Not for navel gazing over a hot adult beverage. To plan for the rest of 2011.)

Having attended MDR’s EdNET 2010 in late September and the Software and Information Industry Association’s 2010 Ed Tech Business Forum in late November, live-tweeting both conferences as @FrankCatalano, I thought it could be useful to create a combined set of notes. They chronicle commonalities in three industry areas: policy and funding issues, customer needs, and product and company trends. Plus the ever-popular overheard off-hand quotes.

You can download the combined EdNET 2010/SIIA 2010 Ed Tech Business Forum notes here. And visit Intrinsic Strategy’s Conference Notes page for an archive of all 2010 conference notes: SIIA Ed Tech Industry Summit, Association of Educational Publishers Content in Context Conference, and ISTE 2010. They’re free and fully available to share. Beverage not included.

If I (only) had 100 marketing dollars

Fair warning: This advice is going to piss off a lot of advertising sales reps.

A question I get fairly often is, “Where should I spend my marketing budget?” The hidden question in the question is Blasieholmen_1930that there are magical tactics, unknown to mere mortals, that will propel market awareness and sales to Olympian heights.

There aren’t, of course. But there are tactics for any new tech-related product in the new decade which are definite musts. And a lot more are “it depends.” Or even “hell no.”

Now for the Olympus-sized caveat. This advice works best for a digital product or service launched by a start-up with a limited budget. It was originally developed for education technology products, a market which has characteristics of both business-to-business/government sales (administrators) and business-to-consumer sales (teachers). I originally delivered it at the 2010 Software and Information Industry Association Ed Tech Business Forum in New York City. But there are nuggets in here for everyone, especially in the “musts.” Continue reading If I (only) had 100 marketing dollars

How science is destroying my childhood

If there is a defining interest throughout my career, it’s science and technology. I’ve written science fiction for magazines, reported on new science and tech developments for radio, television and newspapers, and consulted education and consumer technology companies.

So it may come as no surprise that I cherish my childhood memories of science — even as science itself is wiping them out, one by one.

Over at TechFlash, I’ve written a guest essay, “How Science is Destroying My Childhood.” It’s based on my Ignite Seattle 11 talk on the same topic but with a few facts I didn’t have time to slip into the five-minute Ignite presentation. No planets, dinosaurs or sea creatures were harmed in the writing of the essay.

Teachers, tech & entreaties

Over at EdNET News Alert, I’ve summed up a fascinating conference session designed to get teachers to tell educational publishing execs exactly what they want from digital technology in the classroom. EdNET logoSome 300 execs at the Association of Educational Publishers’ Content in Context Conference heard 20 educators tell them directly, in videos they’d submitted, their successes, obstacles and desires for effective digital classrooms. Even if it’s anecdotal, it’s instructive.

Pulling this session together was a group effort: the teacher social network promoted and discussed the video submissions in their Classrooms in the Digital Age community; AEP managed the YouTube video uploads from the teachers in the Teacher Video Challenge playlist; and I had fun selecting the videos to be shown and weaving them together with a 90-minute panel and audience discussion at the conference itself.

You can read the five common themes that came out of the videos on the EdNET News Alert site.

Spring 2010 conference notes

Spring is the longest (conference) season.

That’s the reason I have for not posting for most of the vernal equinox quarter. Spring is rife with industry trade shows and conferences, as it is in pretty much any industry. I’ve been to several.

However, to share what I’ve learned, I’ve live tweeted several events as @FrankCatalano and taken detailed notes, based in part on those tweets, for two conferences at the nexus of education technology: the Ed Tech Industry Summit from the Software and Information Industry Association, and the Content in Context Conference from the Association of Educational Publishers.

You can find my SIIA Ed Tech Industry Summit notes here, and my AEP Content in Context Conference notes here as PDF files. For future reference, all notes will be archived on the Conference Notes page.

Now on to summer.

Update 7/8/10: I’ve added exhibit notes from ISTE 2010, in previous years known as the National Educational Computing Conference and now sporting the name of its sponsoring organization, the International Society for Technology in Education.

While the conference sessions at this ed tech event are generally well-documented by others, these ISTE 2010 notes focus on trends and observations about ed tech products and technologies shown in the exhibit hall.

AEP future learning platforms podcast

Interested in what, Google and Rochester Institute of Technology’s Open Publishing Lab think about the future of learning platforms for students and teachers? The Association of Educational Publishers has posted a podcast (or an “audiocast,” since there’s no subscription) to the AEP Summit general session I moderated in June, “Learning Platforms for the 21st Century and Beyond.”

In it, Jeff Keltner of Google (responsible for Google Apps in the education market), Laura Porco of (director of Kindle Books), and Michael Riordin of the Rochester Institute of Technology (co-director of the Open Publishing Lab) discuss and debate what technologies and platforms education companies need to consider now.

After all, anyone who is 32 years old or younger — student, teacher, or administrator — has never known life without the relatively inexpensive, mass-produced personal computer.  The Apple II was released in 1977, and the original IBM PC in 1981. Even the Web browser is Sweet Sixteen.

This panel was PowerPoint-free, so it’s 1:16 of pure discussion. Download the audiocast as an MP3 file, and check out a session description and bios of the panelists. An official summary was added later at the AEP blog. You’ll also find audiocasts and presentation files for other sessions of interest at what was, overall, a great AEP Summit. A once-live Twitter stream @FrankCatalano (#AEP09 or #AEP) is here. (Note: As of January 2018, all links to the AEP materials unfortunately no longer work and have been removed.)

SIIA digital assessment session notes

The Software and Information Industry Association has posted a summary of the Ed Tech Industry Summit session on embedded assessment in digital learning products. You can find it, as a PDF, here.

The panelists kindly put up with my PowerPoint-free moderating approach and turned in a lively and frequently illuminating discussion. Thanks to Bob Ginn, Century Consultants; Sue Koch, AutoSkill; and Mike Patterson, Curriculum Advantage.

Those interested in notes from other ETIS sessions can find them posted on the SIIA ETIS Web site. A Twitter stream @FrankCatalano (#ETIS or #SIIA) is here.

Moderating AEP’s future learning platforms

Pop quiz: Blogs. Kindles. Smartphones. Hardbound paper textbooks. Pick the one traditional educational publishers fear the least.

At next month’s Association of Educational Publishers Summit in Washington, D.C., I’ll be calling on my tech background to moderate the closing keynote session, “Learning Platforms for the 21st Century and Beyond.” This PowerPoint-free 90 minutes will include Laura Porco of Amazon’s Kindle book division, Jeff Keltner of Google’s application division and Michael Riordan of the Open Publishing Lab at Rochester Institute of Technology.

The panelists will address, at the outset, why learners need new platforms, and there will likely also be brief demos. The objective? Helping education publishers understand the landscape of technology-based learning platforms and how to successfully make the transition in terms of tools, content, business models and even the approach to how what they create is used.

Should be a fun June 12th, town-hall style discussion. I plan a no-nonsense, no-more-tears approach.

Moderating SIIA digital assessment panel

It’s a curious side effect of the combination of digital learning products and No Child Left Behind accountability demands: It seems nearly every new or revised digital K-12 education product has embedded assessment.

Whether that’s a good thing — for students, teachers, parents or the industry — is the subject of a panel session I’m moderating next week at the Software and Information Industry Ed Tech Industry Summit in San Francisco. Panelists Bob Ginn of Century Consultants/ASM Research, Sue Koch of AutoSkill International and Mike Patterson of Curriculum Advantage will tackle the issue in a PowerPoint-free zone. And we’ll start right off focusing on the benefits and risks of an “assessment everywhere” approach.siia_logo2

If you’ve never been, SIIA’s Ed Tech Industry Summit is the primary annual event for companies and executives who work in education technology. This year’s theme is “Building Toward the Vision K-20.” Perhaps the most fun? The CODiE Awards bash Tuesday night, when the ed tech professionals mix with their peers in the software and digital content industries. Look for the tall guy with dark hair, glasses, and tux.