SIIA Supports FY15 Funding for ConnectEDucators

Our K-12 education system continues its embrace of technology and digital learning to improve school operations and student learning. According to SIIA’s Vision K-20 educator survey, 81% of responding K-12 educators report technology integration as highly important to them. While educator support is strong, teacher knowledge and skills continue to slow progress. The same SIIA survey found that only 20% say their institution currently has a high level of technology integration. To that end, SIIA supports President Obama’s 2015 budget proposal for ConnectEDucators, which would provide $200-$500 million in funding “to help educators leverage technology and data to provide high-quality college- and career-ready instruction that meets the needs of all students.”

Support for teachers, principals and other educators is critical to the effective use of technology in education, which in turn is necessary to ensure student success in the digital age and global economy. Educators need support not only in how to use the technology, but as importantly, in how to redesign their curriculum and instruction to a more engaging, student-centered model. This means using data systems to better understand the performance and needs of each student on a regular basis, and using the Internet, creativity and communication tools, and digital learning repositories to mix and match resources that best meet each student’s unique needs.

The budget proposal is one element of President Obama’s ConnectEd initiative announced last year, which centers around ensuring student highspeed broadband connectivity. The proposed ConnectEDucators program, would provide: (1) formula-based State Leadership Grants to help enhance state and local capacity to support the transition to digital learning; and (2) competitive, 3-year grants to school districts to support the implementation of comprehensive plans to ensure that educators have the skills and supports needed to dramatically improve student access to high-quality instruction through technology and digital learning.  Among the envisioned uses of funds are support for educators to: deliver high-quality digital learning resources and content, use a wide range of devices and digital tools, use real-time data to personalize learning, use technology to increase engagement with families and other teachers, and access online professional learning.

SIIA calls on the U.S. Congress to respond to the needs of our teachers and students and appropriate at least $200 million in FY15 funding for the ConnectEDucators program.

Mark SchneidermanMark Schneiderman is Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA.


SIIA Says New York State Budget will Help Promote Digital Learning

SIIA today issued a statement on the 2014-2015 New York State budget. The New York State legislature approved, and Governor Cuomo signed, the 2014-2015 state budget last night, which includes school funding and makes a number of related policy requirements. The budget includes a $2 billion general obligation bond to fund enhanced education technology in schools, including broadband infrastructure and student devices. The bill also places new regulations on schools and their contractors with regard to student data privacy.

SIIA congratulates Governor Cuomo and the New York state legislature for passage of a historic $2 billion school technology bond initiative that will help ensure all students have access to digital learning necessary for their educational success. Included in the 2014-2015 budget, these funds will support the broadband infrastructure and computer devices needed for students to access rich content, online learning and creativity tools.

Importantly for the advancement of education technology in New York, the bill’s new student privacy requirements are improved from earlier versions. SIIA calls on New York State education officials to work with schools and service providers to put in place the clarifications and transition period needed to implement the many new student data requirements.  Doing so will help avoid unintended consequences that may limit student learning opportunities, and will give schools and their contractors sufficient time to understand the new regulations, as well as to update policies, practices and technologies accordingly.

Mark SchneidermanMark Schneiderman is Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA.

10 Reasons Not to Miss Ed Industry Summit May 12-14 in San Francisco

The SIIA Ed Industry Summit will be here before you know it! May 12-14 sounds far away, but if you register now, you can really leverage your time in San Francisco. Here are the top ten reasons for attending this year:

10. May and San Francisco. After the rough winters we’ve all had these past months, we deserve the nice weather that usually greets us on the West Coast at this time of year. You can spend free time during or after the conference enjoying the beautiful city!

9. Location. You know how many major high tech companies there are in San Francisco, let alone the Bay Area. To do business with them, you could come in early or stay another day to meet them. But….see them AT the Summit, saving you time and resources. We know how important networking is for our conference attendees. That’s why at the Education Industry Summit, you’ll find several key networking opportunities.

8. Innovation. Ed tech start-ups abound in the Bay Area, but our Innovation Incubator competition routinely brings the ‘best of the best’ to the Summit with our industry’s most innovative products and companies. Develop relationships with them before your competitors do!

7. Business Connections. Have SIIA schedule two hours of your time during the One-to-One Business Connections on Tuesday afternoon. With our partner Educational Systemics, we’ll help you meet the companies that can help you meet strategic and business objectives. These fast-paced exchanges will help pave the way for increased capital, revenue, and strategic alliances between participants. Meet the right people, for the right reasons!

6. Competitors. They may not be registered yet, but the Summit always draws the leading players in the industry. We already have many of your partners, peers, and competitors registered. Don’t be obvious by your absence! Look who’s coming.

5. Market Intelligence. Learn what’s coming in ‘the cutting edge’ of education and technology and how to transition your business to effectively reach decision-makers in K-20 institutions. Conference sessions will review what’s coming next in the teaching and learning process in a post-PC world, and will prepare you and your company to build the infrastructure, products, and services to support the changes that schools want or need.

4. Sales. Contact your best prospects for partnerships BEFORE the Summit by getting our pre-registration list of attendees. Names and their contact details too. But, to get the list, you need to register first.

3. Support. Be in the audience when your CEO, business partner, or customer is speaking or to help recognize the people who make this industry great. Show your support for speakers and the recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Ed Tech Impact Award.

2. The CODiE Awards. Accept your CODiE Award–or see who wins–at our 29th annual CODiE Awards Reception & Dinner. The SIIA CODiE Awards have been the premier award for the software and information industries, recognizing excellence for 29 years. If you are unable to attend the Education Industry Summit, you can still purchase tickets for the CODiE Award Ceremony reception and dinner.

1. Huge Savings. Save $300 with our early-bird registration rate. Leverage your budget dollars and go back to the office with actionable items you can implement. Can’t beat that ROI. In order to receive the early-bird rate, be sure to register by April 7th!

Innovative Policies, Developer Content and Data Tools are Key, According to Education Officials at SIIA Mobile Learning Forum

SIIA this week hosted a successful meeting with education policy makers to enhance dialogue with developers of moble learning and other educational technologies. Discussions helped SIIA members better understand how public policies, funding and regulations are impacting their K-20 education customers, and provided education and government officials with an better understanding of the industry’s role, questions and concerns. Among the clear conclusions from SIIA’s Education Government Forum on Mobile Learning: Educators and students are looking increasingly to deveopers and service providers for adaptive, mobile content as well as data analytics as the engines of instruction and the platform for student learning.

The conference agenda included:

  • Keynote presentations from Rich Crandall (Chief, Wyoming Department of Education), Robbie Melton (Tennessee Board of Regents) and Kathleen Styles (CPO, U.S. Department of Education);
  • Review of federal and state K-20 policy trends from both analysts and officials;
  • Discussions about the migration to mobile learning; and
  • Updates on pending regulations and funding shaping the market, includingthe E-rate, student privacy and Common Core State Standards and assessments.

Among the takeaways:

  • Leading educators are turning increasingly to mobile devices to personalize learning and meet student needs anytime/everywere — They are looking to developers for interoperable, adapative and aligned content and tools; and they are looking for flexible public policies to support that innovation including the E-rate.
  • Safeguarding student data privacy and data security are critical — A regulatory framework is now in place, and policy must not get too far ahead of the problem and unintentionally restrict data-driven learning.
  • Common Core State Standards and assessments are moving forward — Implementation is hard work, but educator and public support remains strong as does their need for aligned instructional resources, assssments and data-driven professional development.
  • Costs and quality remain primary concerns in higher education — Public policies are pushing toward an outcomes-based model built around transparency and flexibility, while entrenched interests and undefined competency metrics stand as barriers to reform.


Mark SchneidermanMark Schneiderman is Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA.

Georgia Student Privacy Act Would be a Barrier to Student Learning

Senate Bill 167 is receiving much debate in Georgia, centered largely on its primary task of pulling the state back off  of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). But also included in the controversial bill is a Part II, the so-called “Student Right to Privacy Act.” The Georgia House Education Committee met yesterday to consider SB167, and heard from more than 60 passionate educators, parents and business leaders. While the focus was on the CCSS provisions, SIIA (see 2:16:50 of the March 5 video) and a chorus of eduction (e.g., at 1:27:25), social welfare and business leaders spoke up against the privacy regulations. None cited a problem that needed fixing, while all raised concern with the unintended consequences of restrictive regulations that undermine necessary decision making by local administrators and school boards.

SIIA agrees with the need to safeguard student privacy and data security. A strong network of laws and business practices now does so. SIIA agrees with those concerned that Senate Bill 167 may inappropriately and unnecessarily inhibit core educational functions necessary to serve Georgia’s students.

Schools and service providers have policies and procedures in place to limit the use student personal information to legitimate educational purposes, and safeguard student privacy. For example, the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires that: (1) personal student information shared with service providers be limited to uses otherwise performed by the school’s own employees; (2) the provider be under direct control of the school; and (3) the information can only be used for educational purposes. And FERPA and COPPA require parental consent if the service provider wants to use or disclose the information for its own commercial purposes. Responding to the calls for additional industry self-regulation, SIIA has released Industry Best Practices as another step to ensure safeguarding of student information.  This network of laws and practices is safeguarding student privacy and data security.

With regard to Senate Bill 167, the scope, scale, complexity and lack of clarity of the bill’s procedural and technical requirements are significant and challenging to address. The bill creates barriers and disincentives to local school systems to enhance their use of modern technologies and data systems for educational innovation and improvement, just at a time when the state is making continued investments in technology infrastructure and digital learning access.  The bill will have a chilling effect.

  1. While providers are working with schools to help them support the personalization of learning, the very broad restrictions on use of all student information for so-called commercial purposes may interfere with desired educational activities. SIIA does not defend the sale of personal student data, and such sale is already prohibited by federal law. But the bill would inhibit the use of student data to improve product efficacy, and to support recommendation engines and other analytics aimed at addressing the unique needs of each student.
  2. The bill is inconsistent in the types of student information regulated and includes narrow, one-size-fits all restrictions on the educational use and sharing of student information, whether personally identifiable or not, including duplicative requirements around testing and cloud computing. This will create barriers to use of information appropriate and necessary for educational purposes, including with subcontractors and school directed partners.
  3. Many breach notification requirements are inconsistent with standard best practices. For example, required notification of all ‘suspected’ breaches could create false-positive user fatigue, diminishing attention to actual breaches. The bill also excludes standard criteria around actual harm such as in the case of encrypted data or inadvertent exposure by educators. And, ironically, the bill would inappropriately require third parties to notify parents of a breach, thus giving them access to personal parental information to which they would/should not otherwise have access.
  4. The bill puts in place a series of escalating and potentially very large financial penalties for violations of sometimes vague requirements, not distinguishing based upon harm, negligence or intent. There appears no opportunity to first correct the violation, or for appeal. This all will provide a disincentive for outside parties to conduct business in Georgia.
  5. The prohibition on student biometric data will restrict appropriate and important educational activities, including for: (1) student identity verification for online learning or device security, and (2) embedded voice and visual diagnostics for language learning and reading comprehension. Some of these require personally identifiable information, while many do not. In all cases, broader practices and laws already ensure student privacy and data security.
  6. Lastly, while these concerns have focused on those directly impacting school service providers, SIIA notes that there are many burdensome requirements on local school systems and institutions.

In short, SIIA is concerned that SB167, while well-intentioned, is overly inclusive and restrictive. Transparency is critical, but one-size-fits-all requirements will detrimentally limit innovation, appropriate local school decisions, and appropriate educational services that benefit Georgia students. For service providers, there are significant risks and costs that may discourage doing business in Georgia.

While many of these issues are now best handled by existing federal law, state agency guidance, and local school boards, SIIA will continue to work with policy makers in Georgia and across the country on any identified needs to further ensure privacy protections for all Georgia students.

Meet @ the Cutting Edge

This year’s Education Industry Summit is taking shape!  The Steering Committee has developed great topics and some new formats that are truly exciting! Click HERE to find out what’s planned thus far.

As usual, the Summit will be back at The Palace in San Francisco, May 12-14.  You can still participate in the familiar and successful conference components of past 10 Summits: great programming during plenaries and break-out sessions, Innovation Incubator Program, One-to-One Business Connections, and of course, the prestigious CODiE Awards.

What’s new this year?

  • the Timing. This year, we’re starting on Monday and ending on Wednesday, giving you time with family on Mother’s Day on Sunday.
  • the Content. We’re exploring new developments in technologies (think robots and 3-D printers), research (from cognitive development to learning spaces), and innovations in product and business development practices and in K-20 classrooms.
  • the Format. Join us in Interactive Labs where you can find out how 3-D printers really work and are being used in the classroom; or in Lightning Rounds for fast-paced information sharing; or in Pitch Fests to find new companies with successful business plans.

And we’re doing more to leverage the San Francisco area by setting up executive briefings at nearby companies or bringing them in to the conference to present.

We’ve kept our popular very special Early Bird rate for registration, so don’t pay more than you need to, if you register today. Click here to register now and save!

Karen BillingsKaren Billings is Vice President for the Education Division at SIIA. Follow the SIIA Education Team on Twitter at @SIIAEducation

My Three Days at BETT 2014

BETT is the annual trade show, held in London every January and hosted by BESA, the British Education Suppliers Association. This was the 30th anniversary of the show and has grown dramatically each year.  While they won’t have final figures for 2014, for a while, it certainly looked to me like it was at least as many as the 35,000 attendees they had last year – also in the ExCEL Center in East London.

This was my fifth year attending BETT and each year I have similar experiences. Walking through a very large exhibit hall for miles (or should I say kilometers), seeing product launches from global companies, meeting attendees from all over the world, and talking with SIIA members who either have a stand (British term for an exhibit) or have made the trip for in-person meetings. While it is a full four-day trade show, most people like myself, lasted for three of them!

We had our fifth SIIA education member breakfast on Thursday morning, the second day of BETT.  There were 26 members including two from the UK who now run Atomic Learning’s new UK office. Representatives from SIIA partners such as ISTE, SxSWedu, and COSN attended, as well as our current ed board (and Global committee) members from Promethean, TextHelp, FLVS, Scholastic, and Global committee members from Vernier and Pasco


The Executive Director of BESA, Dominic Savage, and Director, Caroline Wright, spoke about the changes up to BETT’s 30th year, including steady improvements in showing the professionalism of the industry.  He stressed that BETT attendees were truly international as 30% came from 90 countries outside the UK.


We had lots of networking which everyone loved – and of course, the hearty Full English Breakfast (with the requisite scrambled eggs, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, and mushrooms).

Thursday afternoon, we held our first LIVE from BETT Webinar.  Members from Intel, PASCO, FL Virtual School, Promethean, Paula Maylahn Consulting, and A Pass Education Group met me in an Intel meeting room off the show floor and we logged onto our conference system for the slides and audio call. They talked about why they had come to BETT: for its global audience and raising awareness among new customers, as well as meeting with current and potential partners, and talking to potential customers in the ministries of education from many countries.  You can listen to the audio with our slides on our Web Site.

They all agreed that BETT is unlike the ed tech conferences in the US, such as ISTE.  It has a larger and more global attendance but it’s a trade show – hosted by BESA, an industry association – not a conference. The floor is always busy because most people come to see what products the companies have – not to learn from speakers or workshop presenters, as they do conferences hosted by their professional association. BETT does have presenters in session rooms throughout the day, but they are within the trade show area, and they don’t seem to decrease the numbers walking the isles, which can happen at an FETC or TCEA. And as I mentioned, it’s a full four days of exhibits – including all day Saturday. I can’t remember a US conference doing that!



Karen BillingsKaren Billings is Vice President for the Education Division at SIIA. Follow the SIIA Education Team on Twitter at @SIIAEducation