Since SXSWedu, a number of bloggers have raised questions about
why there aren’t more educators at ed-tech conferences. I met teachers
and school leaders at SXSWedu, but this was mostly before and after
sessions with pretty low attendance compared with some of the “hot
issue” panels populated and attended by the same entrepreneurs,
investors, and bloggers who talk at each other at all the conferences.
I’m thinking about it this week because I’m at the
GSV/ASU Education Innovation Summit. More on that later in the blog.
A couple of weeks ago Shawn Rubin wrote an interesting piece on edsurge. Like
me, he saw more educators at SXSW than some of the critics claim. But
he points out that teachers who do attend often feel out of step with
the content and structure of the gatherings. He says that because
teachers aren’t usually the buyers of ed-tech stuff, companies don’t pay
serious attention to them. He argues that if teachers were buyers, they
would get more attention from suppliers and topics at ed tech
conferences would reflect their influence.
My team and I are thinking a lot about this issue. I agree with
Shawn’s insight about teachers as buyers and think it is part of a way
forward to an ed-tech market that creates more and better options for
teachers and students. A number of teacher-focused shifts could
contribute to this, here’s a draft list:
I’m not the only one highlighting these issues, obviously. It’s great
that they are getting more visibility. I’ll write more about them over
the next few months as we work with partners on understanding and
As I said earlier, I’m at Education Innovation Summit in AZ this
week. We’re a sponsor again this year. Last year, there was a huge hole
in the conference roster and agenda — unlike the SXSWedu myth, I
honestly could not find one current teacher or school employee of any
type. Companies, investors, foundation people and think tankers, but no
educators. It was unnerving.
I raised it immediately following the event with one of the
organizers who completely agreed and asked for help making it better in
the future. One year later, we’re here in the desert again, and teachers
and school leaders are in attendance and spread throughout panels and
round tables. Over the next couple of days, I’ll write about how we made
it happen, what they are up to, and what still needs work.
In the meantime, what do you think about the draft list of 4
teacher-focused shifts that could strengthen innovation and performance
in ed-tech, particularly in digital content and tools for use in
Stacey Childress is Deputy Director, Innovation, on the Next Generations
Models team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
This post originally appeared on Stacey's blog, Thinking Out Loud.