The SIIA Ed Tech Business Forum is the leading business and finance conference for the K-12 and postsecondary technology market.
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Technology-Enhanced Instruction and Competition – Two Emerging Trends – Can Help Stem Decline in Foreign Language Instruction
Public school expenditures on world language instruction are on the decline. However, America’s need for a national workforce with foreign language skills is on the increase. “It’s not that kids have to learn a language because the U.S. is losing supremacy,” said Jane Swift, CEO of Middlebury Interactive (a world language instruction provider). “On the contrary, learning a language will help the U.S. sustain its leadership position.”
On the occasion of Swift’s upcoming session, “Emerging Development Trends,” at the SIIA Education Business Forum, we discussed the challenges facing world language instruction and how those challenges can be overcome by trends in the education landscape.
I asked her how well the US is preparing students with the language skills and cultural understanding needed to compete in the global marketplace. “Our intentions are good,” said Swift, “but there is not the needed funding to execute on them. Compare public school expenditures between 1997 and 2008. In 1997, thirty-one percent of elementary schools were offering language courses. Now, only 25 percent do; at middle schools that number has dropped from 75 percent to 58 percent.”
Swift attributes this decline to schools’ need to address Common Core standards as well as widespread budget constraints.
Can technology-enhanced instruction help? According to Swift, “digital content and solutions help schools to be more flexible. Whereas before they struggled to find and afford qualified teachers in languages—both who have the ability to speak fluently and be certified to teach that language, now we’re seeing growth in blended learning—where schools can use their scarce budgets better.” For instance, students can work on a computer several days a week learning the target language, then study with a travelling instructor once a week. “This way,” Swift explains, “school districts can expend the impact of one high-quality teacher across schools and grades. We also see schools that use our virtual teachers, especially in uncommon languages.”
But before technology solutions can live up to this ideal, schools need to address their widespread lack of technology readiness. “Technology readiness has been a naïve approach in some schools—buy a bunch of iPads and we’re ready. The hardware devices and tech support at schools still have a long way to go,” noted Swift. While the focus on Common Core may siphon attention and budget away from foreign language instruction, it is also paving the way for greater technology readiness. As Swift observed, “The trend in schools to require electronic assessment for Common Core is going to make their ecosystem better prepared for embracing more technology solutions.”
Technology solutions also help to create the “immersion experience” that transforms language learning from rote vocabulary acquisition to true understanding of another culture. “Advances in audio and video have allowed language learning to become really engaging and to use authentic materials,” said Swift. Social media also plays a key role. “Research-proven pedagogy shows that you can’t speak language unless you know the culture. Connecting to other speakers and cultures through social media has also led to motivation in both students and teachers. “
Asked what else needs to happen to make globalization at the K-12 level a reality, Swift replied: “There needs to be a lot more public awareness of the opportunities students have when they do gain these cultural and language skills—in terms of wage differential. Just like in STEM where folks have done a great job educating the public around the gains kids will get from STEM—such as career preparedness and for driving economic health here in the U.S.” According to Swift, language education groups are starting to band together to talk about the advantages of language acquisition.
To drive the next revolution in education, not just in foreign language instruction, Swift discussed the need to institutionalize more cooperation between K-12 and Higher Ed, and for Higher Ed institutions to get to know the K-12 experience and provide schools with critical services. Some colleges already do this: Middlebury College formed a joint venture with K-12, Stanford ran a charter school in Palo Alto, and Johns Hopkins’ School of Education conducted research on K-12 providers and provided feedback on the efficacy of their solutions. Colleges can also partner with organizations that service K-12 schools.
What are other ways we can drive positive change for education? I look forward to continuing the discussion at SIIA’s Education Business Forum.
Joana Jebsen is President of O’Donnell Learn, a strategic advisory firm with extensive market and product development capabilities. O’Donnell Learn has helped education companies design, build, and launch successful products for the past 23 years. Prior to O’Donnell, Joana held executive roles at HarperCollins Publishers and Questia and consulting roles at Thomson Learning Labs, now Cengage Learning, and Factiva. She sits on the Post-Secondary Board of the SIIA, and spent her formative years in German-speaking countries, where she developed a passion for languages and other cultures.
The 2012-2013 Ed Tech Market Surveys
The Software and Information Industry Association is pleased to announce the launch of the 2012-2013 Market surveys for both Higher Ed and PK-12! These surveys are open to all companies who sell directly into school markets, and enable SIIA to collect information on the size and shape of the education technology market. All information collected is extremely confidential and used only in aggregate form.
What do we do with all of this data? We create industry reports which are discounted for members and FREE for all who participate in the survey!
SIIA has an archive of past reports in our eStore available for download. All prior PK12 reports are available for download, while the executive summaries are free for all. Members can download our first-ever Higher Ed Report released this fall for FREE, while non-members can purchase it for only $199.
In addition, next week at our Education Business Forum we will be presenting the results of our 2011-2012 school year PK-12 report. Sign up for the forum to talk to the authors and learn more about the results from the latest data.
Lindsay Harman is Market and Policy Analyst for the SIIA Education Division.
Education Technology Pioneers Announced as Finalists for SIIA Innovation Incubator Program
The SIIA Education Division today announced finalists, and an alternate, for its Innovation Incubator Program. The program will be held during the annual Education Business Forum, Dec. 10-11, at the McGraw Hill Conference Center in New York. The finalists will feature their products during the event, and awards will be presented to the Most Innovative and Most Likely to Succeed based on votes of conference attendees. The Educator’s Choice Award will also be presented based on votes from educators and administrators from around the United States. SIIA will also award prizes from program partners.
The SIIA Innovation Incubator Program identifies and supports entrepreneurs in their development and distribution of innovative learning technologies. The program began in 2006 and has provided support for dozens of successful products and companies in their efforts to improve education through the use of software, digital content, and related technologies. The program is open to applicants from academic and non-profit institutions, pre-revenue and early-stage companies, as well as established companies with newly developed technologies.
“This year’s Innovation Incubator participants are promising products with tremendous energy, creativity, and entrepreneurship,” said Karen Billings, vice president for the SIIA Education Division. “Innovative products like these play a pivotal role in keeping our students engaged and enhancing their educational experience.”
Innovation Incubator Program finalists were selected from the applicant pool based on key selection criteria, including:
All Innovation Incubator finalists will present during the Business Profiles Presentations on Dec. 10, which is immediately followed by the Innovation Showcase & Networking Reception where they will be available for one-on-one product demonstrations and in-depth discussions.
Innovation Incubator Program participants are:
eProf is the first e-commerce platform allowing education businesses a turnkey solution for taking their businesses online. With eProf, teaching businesses can effectively deliver live, interactive online learning sessions and manage all of the logistics (payments, scheduling, user tracking) of their business. eProf provides a suite of fully integrated tools for online teaching include multi-stream virtual classrooms, HTML5 whiteboards, webinar environments, and Skype.
InstaEDU combines the high-quality of traditional in-home tutoring with the convenience and affordability of an online service. Students can get connected to a tutor instantly in InstaEDU’s online lesson space, or browse tutor profiles, message tutors and set up a lesson for a future date. The InstaEDU lesson space offers video, audio and text chat, as well as a collaborative whiteboard, text editor and code compiler.
Leading Edge Certification (LEC) is a national certification program in educational technology and curriculum innovation. Created by an Alliance of nonprofits, universities and educational agencies, LEC is the first national certification program of its kind, and is platform and vendor neutral. There are currently 3 LEC programs: Online and Blended Teacher, Administrator, and Digital Educator. Training takes place via a combination of face-to-face and online training, or via online-only training.
LightSail is an adaptive literacy platform for grades K-12. Tablet-based, it combines an interactive e-reader, a personalized library of great fiction and nonfiction texts embedded with objective and Common Core-aligned assessments, tools for collaboration and feedback, and data dashboards into an easy-to-implement application. LightSail’s recent honors include winning the edtech category at SXSW V2V and taking a top prize in the Gates Foundation’s Literacy Courseware Challenge.
Using advanced EEG (brainwave monitoring) technology, NERVANIX determines whether and to what extent a student is paying attention, and then uses that data to inform instruction. Both teachers and online learning systems can use the data in real time to adapt to the attention levels of the learners. Such “attention driven adaptability” underpins the teacher’s ability to personalize the instruction for individual students, quickly and easily.
Net Texts is a flexible system that allows educators to use and customize open educational resources (OER), copyrighted information, and their own material to create virtual courses that can supplement or replace textbooks. The Net Texts system has two parts: (1) a content management website, where teachers select, modify, or create sets of course materials, and (2) a tablet app and website for students to use those materials.
Fifty percent of families never hear from teachers. Portfoliyo wants to solve this problem by using the most effective method for teachers to communicate to parents: texting. While email, blogs, wikis, twitter etc. are all useful, the tool with the highest “open” and “response” rate from parents is texting. Teachers use a web or mobile app to text parents. Parents get the messages on their cell phone via text. Quick question, quick answer, fast and targeted interventions deliver better student performance.
Robots4Autism is a revolutionary humanoid robot that delivers research-based interventions and curriculum; teaches and reinforces social understanding; improves a child’s ability to use social behaviors in natural contexts; and displays unparalleled human like expressions, gestural bodies and eyes, face tracking, and conversational artificial intelligence. The Robot was designed around the strengths of children with autism to provide nonthreatening interaction and consistent lesson delivery.
Shindig allows remote participation for students, professors, parents and administrators with a computer and internet access. On Shindig, a speaker can address an audience of thousands. They can share the stage and take questions from selected audience members, share videos and documents. Meanwhile audience members can themselves network and converse with one another in their own private chats.
TeacherMatch has created a platform that predicts the impact of teacher candidates on student achievement. Our revolutionary, new hiring assessment is designed to identify the top candidates for any teaching position. It also produces a customized professional development report, setting new hires up for success. In concert with prestigious academic institutions, we built EPI on cutting-edge, evidence-based research. What’s more, machine learning makes the platform smarter the longer it is used.
BiblioNasium is a safe social network that promotes literacy & supports the independent reading activities for kids 6-13 yrs old. Kids connect to the 3 constituents that most influence what they read, their teachers, friends and parents to create an online community that shares & exchanges book recommendations and encourages reading progress. Integration with Lexile® aids in book selection and digital reading logs, virtual rewards and reports for educators, help keep kids on task and motivated.
Karen Billings is Vice President for the Education Division at SIIA. Follow the SIIA Education Team on Twitter at @SIIAEducation