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.


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!

Are We Doing Enough In-House Training?

“You spend an incredible amount on people’s salary, then don’t teach them how to do the job – that’s just bad design. I do think the trend is going the other way in Silicon Valley, where companies like Facebook and Twitter now have very extensive training programs. I like to think I’ve had some contribution. You can hire people who are talented and very unproductive. That happens all the time.”
Ben Horowitz, author of The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, in a Q&A with The Washington Post’s Jena McGregor

There’s a reason baseball has spring training for a month before they start playing for real and charging more-than-real prices. It allows time for players to hone their craft. Does our business allow that time and offer enough in-house training? Horowitz—who is highly regarded by many of the young entrepreneurs including Mark Zuckerberg—doesn’t think so. He calls training one of a manager’s most important activities.

There are two sides to this. The SIPA 2014 Conference here in Washington, D.C., June 4-6 will feature a session on increasing your revenues in training and professional education. Given the comeback training is making, this will be a very important session. SIPA members such as Melcrum in London (on internal communication) and Spidell in California (on tax law) thrive on offering professional development, both in-person and through webinars, e-learning and self-study.

The other side is training in your own shop. Lower- and mid-level people—in addition to higher-ups—would benefit tremendously from attending SIPA 2014. But Horowitz would say they also need that training and education in their workplace—especially with all the technology beckoning today. Back in 2010 he wrote a blog post on the importance of in-house training. He listed four core reasons:

1. Productivity. If four hour-long training sessions could produce even a 1% performance improvement, Horowitz wrote, “your company will gain the equivalent of 200 hours of work.”

2. Performance management. “If you don’t train your people, you establish no basis for performance management. As a result, performance management in your company will be sloppy and inconsistent.”

3. Product quality. “As success drives the need to hire new engineers [or fill in the blank for your company] at a rapid rate, companies neglect to train the new engineers properly,” Horowitz wrote. “As the engineers are assigned tasks, they figure out how to complete them as best they can. Often this means replicating existing facilities in the architecture, which lead to inconsistencies in the user experience, performance problems, and a general mess.”

4. Employee retention. This is also sure to be discussed at SIPA 2014. Recently, I’ve seen two very accomplished, young women in this industry switch jobs to non-member companies (that will hopefully soon be members!). I don’t know why they left, but I miss their input. Horowitz wrote that during a period of high attrition in his time at Netscape, he read the exit interviews and found two primary reasons for the departures (aside from dollars): 1) They were not getting enough guidance, career development and feedback; and 2) They weren’t learning anything – the company wasn’t investing in the employees.

Times have changed, of course. Budgets and time are very tight. I asked Nancy Brand, SIPA member Chartwell’s young and talented director of operations, what she thought about in-house training. “It’s amazing to me when I hear managers say, ‘I don’t have time to train employees,’ and then they wonder why performance is mediocre and the learning curve is so long,” she texted me this morning. Nancy will be leading a session on membership retention at SIPA 2014—it was standing room only last year—and I’m sure there are commonalities with employee retention.

Horowitz went on to talk about the keys for implementing a training program in that blog post. It’s written for high-tech companies but makes sense for others as well. He also touched on employee retention in that Post interview. Asked what gives employees meaning and purpose today, he dismissed the I work for “the good for mankind” thing and said, “To me, the more sustainable thing is that when you go to work, you enjoy the work you do—the craftsmanship of it, the contribution you can make, that you’re being part of something bigger than yourself.”

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 as managing editor. Follow Ronn on Twitter at @SIPAOnline


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.

NYC Roundtable on Student Data Privacy and Security

SIIA and NYC-area members are proud to announce a “NYC Education Roundtable”, where participants will have:

1. Topic related to a key issue among education companies
2. Invited guests with expertise and experience with that issue and will start the discussion
3. An opportunity for all participants to ask questions and add to the discussion
4. Refreshments (drink and food) and networking time before and after each discussion

The Education Roundtable on March 26 will discuss student data privacy and security. As schools increasingly turn to cloud services for applications, content, and data analytics, keeping student data private becomes more difficult and complex. In addition, mobile computing that relies on mobile apps and app stores designed primarily for private consumers have their own set of challenges. Add the well-known FERPA and COPPA regulations, and you have added significant challenges for schools’ digital learning environments.

How are districts/schools meeting these challenges? What types of resources would be most helpful in navigating the increasingly complex privacy landscape, ensuring compliance with applicable Federal laws and policies, and implementing sound practices when it comes to student data privacy? And … how will these very timely and challenging issues affect YOUR business?

This Roundtable will be held on March 26 from 5:00-7:00pm. This is an in-person event only and will be held at Dorsey & Whitney, LLP, 51 W 52nd Street, (near 6th Avenue), New York, NY (CBS Building). SIIA members and non-members are welcome to join for no charge. Registration is required.

SIIA thanks to our hosts for providing the drinks, food, and the programming:

  • Dorsey and Whitney, LLP
  • DeSilva & Phillips LLC 
  • Academic Business Advisors, LLC

We look forward to seeing you there!

Four Days @SXSWedu 2014

Here’s what I noticed first during my four days at SxSWedu in Austin:

-    Attendees this year referred to it as ‘south by’

-    It was again a very mixed crowd of young entrepreneurs, educators, and company execs who wore very skinny jeans and tee shirts, or informal slack and tops, or casual business attire

-    Everyone complained about the very cold weather, except the Canadians and attendees from Wisconsin.

-    The organizers did a better job of mixing events and sessions so that there was more movement between the Hilton and Convention center by both educators and industry folk.

-    There was a huge number of sessions and events so I constantly prioritized meetings with members or potential members over sessions that sounded interesting.

Speaking of interesting sessions:

-    Diane Ravitch, in the opening keynote on the Dangers of Privatizing Schools , was very direct in her criticism of the role of for-profit companies in education. Thanks to SIIA member Idit Harel Caperton, who spoke up eloquently about the reason her company focuses on education and the work they do in that space.

-    I learned the most in an interesting session called Hardwiring the Brain.  Anna Kamenetz, a blogger at the Hechinger Report, chaired a panel of researchers and entrepreneurs looking at how the brain functions and how it can become more focused to learn more efficiently and effectively.  New learning systems will not just measure outcomes and what a student knows, but the effort and processes involved.

-    I enjoyed listening to Deborah Quazzo, Jessie Woolley-Wilson, and Lynda Weinman, who spoke about the challenges they faced as leaders in a session called: Women: Disrupters of Education. It brought back my own memories of being the lone female in mathematics and computer science classes, of 10 years later teaching those same classes, still with a equally-low female/male ratio, and 20 years later being in the minority at investment-focused  conferences.

I moderated a session for SIIA’s Mark Schneiderman about Building a Personalized Learning Engine. Panelists were from Rocketship Education, Michigan Education Achievement Authority, and  Itslearning  and they described their work in dynamically aligning students with resources from multiple providers based on timely and robust student data. We also highlighted findings from two personalized learning summits where SIIA was instrumental in driving a national conversation on the topic. This session was extremely well attended by both educators and industry reps, including SIIA education members.

I did listen to the Launchedu where education early-stage companies presented their innovations. The judging panels selected three start-ups as finalists:  admittedly,, and RobotsLAB. I invited them, of course, to apply to SIIA’s Education Division Innovation Incubator Program that closes on March 14.

Like last year, there were a lot of parties, a technology playground, a film series, and sponsored events.  The lounges, where attendees could get refreshments, were very popular. I found a surprising number of key execs, as opposed to regional sales reps in the rooms I visited, which were hosted by SIIA members: McGraw-Hill Education, Google, and Pearson.  There were meet-ups sponsored by Cengage Learning, and Adobe, and parties sponsored by Amplify, Pearson, and College Board.

I didn’t get to all of the sessions or parties I wanted to attend, especially those that started at 10 pm! But it was a productive and great four days in Austin.

Hats off to Ron Reed and his staff for another great event!

Note:  SIIA’s Education Division  is hosting a short conference call on Thursday, March 13. Members who attended will discuss their experiences at SxSWedu and others can listen and ask questions!

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

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.