Category Archives: Education

Irresistible startups, immovable education

There is a lot of tech startup activity in education technology and digital learning — the most I can recall in a decade. There are new incubators, new newsletters and new events.

The latest, just in time for back-to-school (ah, that charming agrarian K-12 calendar), is Startup Weekend Seattle EDU. As the second education-focused Startup Weekend — and the first in Seattle — it gave me a lens through which to view the current education startup emphasis. It’s taking place at all levels of education, including higher education, continuing education and lifelong learning.

But to me, the most interesting is in the also-included, and difficult-to-address, K-12 market. As the Cooney Center’s Carly Shuler recently blogged in her post about education incubator Imagine K12, “Education is often the last to benefit from innovation because it is so hard to sell to.”

Read my resulting Practical Nerd column at GeekWire, “Irresistible startups, immovable education.”

Digital edtech for the non-edu

SNSlogoWhen I penned “Three Drivers of the Digital Classroom,” I did so to give those outside of education visibility into trends changing K-12 education. More specifically, I did so at the invitation of Mark Anderson, publisher of the long-running Strategic News Service newsletter, which provides primarily Mark’s keen and thoughtful insights for executives and financial analysts in the computing and communications industries. (I’m a long-time subscriber.)

But the in-depth essay also serves a second purpose: to highlight developments in digital learning and education technology at three recent, key industry conferences. For those outside of edtech, they are the Software and Information Industry Association’s Ed Tech Industry Summit, the Association of Educational Publishers’ Content in Context Conference and the International Society for Technology in Education’s ISTE 2011 conference and exposition.

So I’ve made the essay easier to keep as a reference by making it available as a PDF which you can download here. It now also includes Mark’s kind introduction and close from the Strategic News Service newsletter in which it originally appeared. Feel free to share (but please don’t re-publish or re-post without permission). And check out Mark’s SNS site as well.

Three drivers of the digital classroom

Digital K-12 education is finally coming into its own.

This simple statement may evoke disbelieving cries of “What – again?” Those of us who have been around the Lego block a few times recall similar statements during the boom-bust cycles of packaged personal-computer software, multimedia CD-ROM, and dot-com, bringing to mind pioneering names like Oregon Trail, Number Munchers, and Knowledge Adventure.

NIE_1905_Slide_ruleThe assumption during each cycle was that consumer trends in personal computing were so compelling that they would force their way into K-12 classrooms. The reality was that consumer tech was a much less irresistible force than the classroom was an immovable object – immovable, in that it had been largely unchanged since the ’50s. And I don’t mean the 1950s.

Two developments may make this decade the charm: consumer-level expectations about technology among educators and their influencers, which set the stage; and three rapidly evolving digital trends that are unique to education. Continue reading Three drivers of the digital classroom

Tech ideal vs. the real classroom

There’s a lot written about how educators have made great strides with digital resources and technology in their classrooms. But where generalizations paint a positive picture, reality shows there’s little consistency across classrooms or schools.

Over at EdNET Insight, I’ve detailed a lively session I moderated at the Association of Educational Publishers’ 2011 Content in Context Conference, “What Schools Want and Where You Fit In.” Videos, combined with a panel of administrative and policy leaders, clearly demonstrated that even high-profile tech implementations are all over the place: “one-to-one” now raises questions of “one-to-one what?” and teachers are cobbling together whatever digital tech fits their needs and budgets.

Read “Tech Ideal vs. the Real Classroom” at EdNET Insight.

SIIA 2011 Ed Tech Industry Summit notes

It appears to be a banner year for interest in educational technology and digital learning. Close to 400 education and technology execs attended the Software and Information Industry Association’s 2011 Ed Tech Industry Summit in San Francisco in late May.

As one of several people live-tweeting Summit sessions, I developed a set of notes covering highlights of the Innovation Incubator Program, three keynote talks and five panels. In addition, I offer brief thoughts on why there’s increased interest in the field, industry concerns about Open Educational Resources and the influence of consumer digital preferences on education.

Download the SIIA 2011 Ed Tech Industry Summit notes in PDF, or visit the complete Intrinsic Strategy Conference Notes archive.

Three ‘secrets’ of the digital classroom

Call it the digital classroom nobody (or few outside the industry) knows. In my latest GeekWire column, I take my vocation — consulting largely to companies in digital learning and education tech — and identify three important trends that were woven into the annual Software and Information Industry Association Ed Tech Industry Summit in San Francisco. And make them understandable to, uh, mere geeks.

Because these three trends differ from what is happening in digital consumer and business markets. Yet they can be very important, due to the number of people K-12 education touches.

As someone who’s on the Education Division Board of the SIIA, it’s easy for me (and others in the industry) to assume a level of understanding about digital changes and drivers in schools among the general public that doesn’t necessarily exist, unless, of course, that member of the public also happens to work in an education institution or company. This essay attempts to bridge that gap.

Read “Three ‘secrets’ of the digital classroom” at Geekwire.

Update 8/5/11: The three trends have been expanded upon, with newer information from the Association of Educational Publishers’ Content in Context Conference and ISTE 2011, in the in-depth essay “Three drivers of the digital classroom” published in the Strategic News Service newsletter and archived here.

The very preliminary agenda for EdNET 2020

Over at EdNET News Alert, I’ve had some fun (thanks to the calendar) with what the program for an education or ed tech industry conference might look like at the start of the next decade in “The Very Preliminary Agenda for EdNET 2020.

There was a lot more I could have included — for example, internationalization of education was suggested by one reader, and you can probably think of your own additions — but in any essay like this, it’s important not to go on too long.

Still, occasionally some truth resides in humor. You can decide for yourself at the EdNET News Alert site.

Science destroying my childhood: the video

Remember Pluto? The brontosaurus? Starfish? If so, the accuracy of your childhood science memories are now, well, wrong. According to science itself.

O’Reilly has kindly posted my Ignite talk on the subject from Ignite Seattle 11. For those unfamiliar with the Ignite format, each speaker gets five minutes and 20 slides – the slides auto-advance every 15 seconds, and the speaker is not allowed notes on stage. It’s a wonderful, terrifying event.

Here’s the talk, How Science Is Destroying My Childhood. Judge for yourself:

And if you’re tempted to try your own Ignite talk, read my tips for success. Or, at least, not abject failure.

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.