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FIELD REPORT: The SIIA EdTech Business Conference

By Marisa Kaplan     Nov 28, 2012

FIELD REPORT: The SIIA EdTech Business Conference

Overthe past eight years I've walked into a hundred classrooms. I've even marchedboldly into my share of meetups and conferences like South by Southwest and theNMC Conference. But I will confess that venturing into New York City's McGraw-HillConference Center this week, did give me a few flashbacks to "Stranger ina Strange Land," which is odd considering I’m an educator and it was aconference about education. 

Thisyear was the largest SIIA Ed Tech Business Forum ever,bringing together 340 innovators, entrepreneurs, thinkers, leaders andinvestors in the education technology space. I was there to learn about thelatest innovations--including, I hope, some that will help the schools that Iwork with. Plenty of entrepreneurs, on the other hand, came looking for fundingand plenty of investors came scouting out potential partnerships.

Mondaykicked off with a speed-networking extravaganza, one of the most popularfunctions at the conference. This was our first glance into the scope of theattendee list. While the background beat of the "Macarena" was a bitdistracting and three minutes never seemed long enough, it provided the perfectexperience for company representatives to refine their elevator pitches anddish out those Moo Cards

Accordingto veteran SIIA member Frank Catalano, the number of startups at the conferencehas noticeably increased. This is a step in the right direction and fits innicely with the conference theme of seismic change.   

Mondayclimaxed with the Innovation Incubator: 13 innovators competing in threeseparate locations, aiming to share their vision, their accomplishments andtheir potential. I spent some time researching the 13 teams prior to thecompetition and I had hoped to feel a direct connection to many of them –particularly those focused on K-12 since that is where I spend my days. (Here's a list and descriptions of them all.) Iwanted their presentations to bring back personal moments from my classrooms and make my internalteacher voice shout, “This tool would have solved my problem that day!”

Some of them did just that. I find, though, that sometimes it takes a pronounced effort todistinguish a great speaker from a strong idea from skilled implementation. Theability and responsibility to distinguish is crucial when participating in acompetition like the SIIA Innovation Incubator.

Thethree-way split was challenging, especially when multiple companies presentedsimultaneously on similar products in separate locations. Perhaps next year theIncubator should consider taking on more of a “Battle of the Bands” vibe, andencourage companies building multiple solutions to one problem to talk to eachother...or at the very least, to listen.

Of thefour presentations in room 207, Clever was the one that racked up the mostvotes for "Most Innovative" and "Most Likely To Succeed."(Here's some background on Clever.) By chance, I sat next to the evereloquent Michael Cohn, VP of GSV Advisors:“The SIIA Ed Tech Business Forum provides a much needed showcase for companies like Clever and LearnSprout thatare solving real pain points for students, teachers, and administrators to getin front of their broader industry constituents.” Agreed! As a teacher andinstructional coach, I see the challenges that Clever and LearnSprout areaddressing directly impact 80% of the classrooms I visit each week. On Tuesday,Clever snagged the top title in both the "innovative" and "mostlikely to succeed" categories.  

Still,I couldn't help but have my heart stolen by Mathalicious.Founder Karim Kai Ani's passion for bringing highly engaging materials to asubject that too many teachers struggle with was awe-inspiring. Not to mentionthe quotable nature of his words: 

@Mathalicious RT @NextThoughter: Mathaliciouson Khan: "you have to have a good product before you wrap technologyaround it" #etbf12 

Chatterabout Mathalicious and Karim’s captivating presentation was abundant during thereception on Monday evening and on Tuesday--so much so, that Catalano dubbedMathalicious the winner of “The Bridesmaid Award.” (It officially took runnerup in both categories.) 

WhatI--and perhaps the judges-found particular compelling about both Clever COO DanCarroll and Mathalicious' Karim is that both have spent quite a bit of time inthe classroom. Andseeing teachers become greater stakeholders in the education technology arenais exactly the kind of truly seismic change I and many others are hoping towitness.

Marisa Kaplan is the founder of the education blog, EdGeeks. She is also a literacy and special education instructional coach for K-12 teachers, a private tutor and an educational writer. In addition, she is the Head of Curriculum Development at PenPal News, Community Ambassador at Citelighter and a Mentormob Innovator, and on the advisory board for SxSWedu.

 

Community

FIELD REPORT: The SIIA EdTech Business Conference

By Marisa Kaplan     Nov 28, 2012

FIELD REPORT: The SIIA EdTech Business Conference

Overthe past eight years I've walked into a hundred classrooms. I've even marchedboldly into my share of meetups and conferences like South by Southwest and theNMC Conference. But I will confess that venturing into New York City's McGraw-HillConference Center this week, did give me a few flashbacks to "Stranger ina Strange Land," which is odd considering I’m an educator and it was aconference about education. 

Thisyear was the largest SIIA Ed Tech Business Forum ever,bringing together 340 innovators, entrepreneurs, thinkers, leaders andinvestors in the education technology space. I was there to learn about thelatest innovations--including, I hope, some that will help the schools that Iwork with. Plenty of entrepreneurs, on the other hand, came looking for fundingand plenty of investors came scouting out potential partnerships.

Mondaykicked off with a speed-networking extravaganza, one of the most popularfunctions at the conference. This was our first glance into the scope of theattendee list. While the background beat of the "Macarena" was a bitdistracting and three minutes never seemed long enough, it provided the perfectexperience for company representatives to refine their elevator pitches anddish out those Moo Cards

Accordingto veteran SIIA member Frank Catalano, the number of startups at the conferencehas noticeably increased. This is a step in the right direction and fits innicely with the conference theme of seismic change.   

Mondayclimaxed with the Innovation Incubator: 13 innovators competing in threeseparate locations, aiming to share their vision, their accomplishments andtheir potential. I spent some time researching the 13 teams prior to thecompetition and I had hoped to feel a direct connection to many of them –particularly those focused on K-12 since that is where I spend my days. (Here's a list and descriptions of them all.) Iwanted their presentations to bring back personal moments from my classrooms and make my internalteacher voice shout, “This tool would have solved my problem that day!”

Some of them did just that. I find, though, that sometimes it takes a pronounced effort todistinguish a great speaker from a strong idea from skilled implementation. Theability and responsibility to distinguish is crucial when participating in acompetition like the SIIA Innovation Incubator.

Thethree-way split was challenging, especially when multiple companies presentedsimultaneously on similar products in separate locations. Perhaps next year theIncubator should consider taking on more of a “Battle of the Bands” vibe, andencourage companies building multiple solutions to one problem to talk to eachother...or at the very least, to listen.

Of thefour presentations in room 207, Clever was the one that racked up the mostvotes for "Most Innovative" and "Most Likely To Succeed."(Here's some background on Clever.) By chance, I sat next to the evereloquent Michael Cohn, VP of GSV Advisors:“The SIIA Ed Tech Business Forum provides a much needed showcase for companies like Clever and LearnSprout thatare solving real pain points for students, teachers, and administrators to getin front of their broader industry constituents.” Agreed! As a teacher andinstructional coach, I see the challenges that Clever and LearnSprout areaddressing directly impact 80% of the classrooms I visit each week. On Tuesday,Clever snagged the top title in both the "innovative" and "mostlikely to succeed" categories.  

Still,I couldn't help but have my heart stolen by Mathalicious.Founder Karim Kai Ani's passion for bringing highly engaging materials to asubject that too many teachers struggle with was awe-inspiring. Not to mentionthe quotable nature of his words: 

@Mathalicious RT @NextThoughter: Mathaliciouson Khan: "you have to have a good product before you wrap technologyaround it" #etbf12 

Chatterabout Mathalicious and Karim’s captivating presentation was abundant during thereception on Monday evening and on Tuesday--so much so, that Catalano dubbedMathalicious the winner of “The Bridesmaid Award.” (It officially took runnerup in both categories.) 

WhatI--and perhaps the judges-found particular compelling about both Clever COO DanCarroll and Mathalicious' Karim is that both have spent quite a bit of time inthe classroom. Andseeing teachers become greater stakeholders in the education technology arenais exactly the kind of truly seismic change I and many others are hoping towitness.

Marisa Kaplan is the founder of the education blog, EdGeeks. She is also a literacy and special education instructional coach for K-12 teachers, a private tutor and an educational writer. In addition, she is the Head of Curriculum Development at PenPal News, Community Ambassador at Citelighter and a Mentormob Innovator, and on the advisory board for SxSWedu.

 

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