Recently, I attended the SIIA Ed Tech Industry Summit in San Francisco, CA, the nation’s leading education technology conference. Leaders of edtech companies came from around the country – and the world – to network, attend keynote speeches, participate in panel discussions and focus groups, and enjoy the annual CODIE Awards. The theme of this year’s conference was Bridging K-12 and Postsecondary, so the agenda addressed transitioning and leveraging edtech businesses from one marketplace to another.
One particular panel discussion that caught my attention was entitled, Adapting to the Seismic Change in Education Culture. The write up in the SIIA program read:
It’s not just about digital transformation. From teacher accountability and superintendent turnover to funding and standards — all areas across both K-12 and Higher Ed education are experiencing transformational changes in the culture of education. This is beyond a trend. Tweaking our business models and product offerings won’t be good enough to survive. How should businesses adapt to the huge shifts in education culture? Listen to a panel of industry gurus on how successful businesses recreate themselves in times of great change.
Randy Wilhelm, Chief Executive Officer, Knovation (formerly netTrekker)
Farb Nivi, Founder, Grockit
Justin Serrano, President, Kaplan K12 and College Prep, Kaplan K12 Learning Services
David Straus, Vice President Product, Kno, Inc.
The panel discussion was a guided Q & A session, and below you’ll find a summary of some of the most salient points that were made during the one-hour discussion:
What’s the key to adapting to seismic change?
Straus: Two important elements to successful adaption are: 1) Evolution, not revolution; and 2) To think international, not just domestically.
Which education trend will have the greatest impact on K-20 education in the next three years?
Straus: Mobile, because of its portability, intimate user experience, and the increased touch environment.
Serrano: As things get cheaper, that will determine which trend is most impactful. I agree with Straus – mobile will have a huge impact due to its portability.
Nivi: Social learning – peers teaching peers – will have a huge impact. For example, real-time chat rooms are changing the way test prep is done. However, I also think that a variety of trends will be impactful, including mobile, print to digital, etc. It’s important to give people options, because determining which tool is the right one, depends on the particular person, school, etc. In general, we should be trying to find ways to amplify the ways people can connect with each other. In a world where the rate of technological change is affecting our lives more than anything else, if we don’t embed technology in education, then we’re not preparing children for the world.
Which one group/thing will be most responsible for transforming K-20 education?
Serrano: The government. The government is not going to inspire transformation, but it’s the group that has to give it permission to happen. But it’s also important to remember that technology is not necessary to fix education; many charter schools are successful without using technology. But like it or not, the government is going to play a huge role.
Straus: Companies and systems need to provide a compelling argument to help students engage. However, it’s the government that will be most responsible for transforming K-20 education.
Nivi: I think students should be the answer. When I was growing up, the best technology was at school. Today, schools are technology prisons where you’re not allowed to bring anything in. Until schools are technology meccas and not technology prisons, we’re not going to get change.
Which organizations/conferences do you believe will help shape or address K-20 trends?
Nivi: ASU SkySong, because moving big things in a short amount of time will most likely occur here.
Who will benefit the most from the changes taking place in education?
Serrano: This question assumes that the changes are positive. But to answer it, I think the students will benefit most.
Straus: Teachers. The role of the teacher is going to improve and transform into that of a facilitator.
Where will the fastest evolution in education occur?
Seranno: This question is asking about speed, and to address that point, the evolution of education will happen fastest wherever you have a more focused and centralized vision.
Nivi: The fastest growth will occur in other countries, because the stakes are higher. Internationally, there is more competition. Other countries leapfrogged the table phone and went straight to the cell phone. They leapfrogged the desktop and laptop and went straight to the tablet. When it comes to technology and education, other countries have the incentives and are not tied to any existing models. Because of this, they will be able to take advantage of new technology.
When they took the movie “High School Musical” to China and wanted to remake the movie for a Chinese audience, they encountered a major problem in the storyline. In the Chinese culture, the athletes are the losers and the smart students are the cool kids, so they had to flip the story line. The reason I share this story is because we need to change the culture of the U.S. As adults and leaders, we need to be examples of lifelong learners.
It was a great discussion, wouldn’t you say? And one we need to be having more often – not just at edtech conferences, but at the federal and state levels of government, lecture halls of universities, local school board meetings, teacher gatherings, classrooms, and homes. There’s no denying that technology is changing, and will continue to change, the way we think about education – both in regards to the content and the delivery of information. However, in order to successfully adapt to these changes, we need to make it a priority to reflect on our current state of education and think about how what we’re doing now, both individually and collectively, will impact the future.
Beyond that, we should continue having open discussions, such as this one undertaken by Nivi, Serrano, and Straus at the SIIA EdTech Summit, addressing the current state of education and looking ahead to what’s to come. These conversations need to occur at all levels of society and involve a variety of key players, including the government, education companies, universities, employers, school leaders, teachers, students, and parents. In this manner, we can be assured that the future roadmap of education will be the result of a collective effort and represent a shared decision for how we should adapt and move forward with education in America.
Mandela Schumacher-Hodge is a former middle school teacher and doctoral student at UCLA. She is currently the co-founder & chief operation officer of DemoLesson, an innovative online hiring platform for teachers. In her spare time, Mandela loves to exercise, spend quality time with family and friends, and search for new adventures and experiences.