CIC: Creating Context

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Photo by Flickr user eGuide Travel CC BY 2.0

Education technology conferences exist on a spectrum that ranges between those that cater to technologists who happen to be in education and those that address issues facing traditional publishers who fear they are being dragged into a world only Tron would recognize.

Content in Context, the annual (and re-thought-for-digital) conference begun by the Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) and, in its third year, joined by the Association of American Publishers School Division (AAP School), is right in the middle.

This week CIC drew its largest audience ever--520 attendees--to DC, a combination of its traditional audience of learning resource company execs,  a smattering of startups and an increased number of pure technology crossovers.

Among snippets heard and overheard:

Keynote speaker Fernando Reimers of the Harvard Graduate School of Education provided an oft-lacking historical – and global – perspective on progress in education. He noted that for literacy, “the world, in 1970, was where the U.S. was 150 years ago" and the bar has risen continuously since the United Nations declared in 1948 that everyone has a "right to be educated" (see the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Numbers matter: Reimers pointed out there are almost 609 million kids, ages five to nine, worldwide. Although a mere three percent live in the U.S., two-thirds of them are in 20 countries. Market opportunity, anyone?

Claudio Sanchez, NPR national education correspondent, keynoted a lunch honoring winners of the Weekly Reader student publishing competition, and took up the global banner in a different way. When he joined NPR, he recalled, Sanchez asked to cover immigration stories from time to time. But as he reported on the demographic shifts in education, he realized he got  his wish: "Everywhere I went, I did stories on immigrant children and their families."  

As for technology’s real-world impact in education? Sanchez didn’t hesitate: “The real future is one that has little to do with bricks and mortar … It's not Star Trek. It's already here."

The “I” word – innovation – reared its overused head repeatedly, leading BrainPOP’s Din Heiman to point out during a session that the desire to innovate is not what drives his team to do so. "We don't go in thinking we're going in to innovate. It's more the big fear we're going to be left behind."

Frank Catalano, a frequent contributor to EdSurge, moderated panels at CIC. When he’s not on the road, he is a consultant, author and veteran analyst of digital education and consumer technologies. He tweets @FrankCatalano and consults as Intrinsic Strategy.

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