SIIA ETIS 2012

SIIA ETIS 2012: The opulent halls of the Palace Hotel in SF witnessed earlier this week the annual mish-mash of tradition (strong representation from the old edtech guard) and a dash of new blood (incubator upstarts and a surprisingly large dose of game-talk) that's come to embody the SIIA EdTech Industry Summit.

Sage advice for companies from prolific tweeter, #edchat founder Tom Whitby, and the wry Frank Catalano: the message between vendors and buyers can no longer be controlled. Teachers fact check instantaneously and engage in all sorts of discussions that fly below most vendors' radars. Tom pointed to the burgeoning homegrown EdCamp movement as a shining example of teachers getting together to chat about (your?) products on their own time. Frank's gutsy advice: thought leaders are useless if they are only experts on their own products; far more respectable are leaders of broader domains. So if you want more credibility, don't shy away from recommending your competitors if you know they're packing things you don't have.

Hints of fatigue over the abuse of generic terms abounded. (Perhaps they're on their way to the buzzword pile?) Virtual Nerd's Josh Salcman asked: What are we talking about when we say "e-book?" Is it just print PDFs transposed onto a tablet? Pictures on a touchable screen? When does a work stop being an e-book and become something else?

Filament Games' Dan White and Matt Haselton prefer the word "play" to "games." It has, after all, a more mischievously cheerful (dare we say playful) meaning. Quit the "content fetish," they say; game mechanics need to be related to learning goals, no matter how narrow or specific. MIND Research Institute's Andrew Coulsen reminds us that it's the intrinsic motivation behind puzzle-solving and meaningful challenges that activates the video-game addiction part of the brain. (And yes, figuring out how to mow down zombie hordes can count.) No awards, stars nor tacky "secret sauce" can substitute for that simple fact.

And some updates on the Shared Learning Collaborative, a joint effort by the Gates Foundation, Carnegie Foundation, and the Council of Chief State School Officers (try repeating that really fast). One district each from five states will be onboard this fall, with an additional four joining in 2013. The project has an insane amount of details, but the main gist is more easily digestible: a channel to connect disjointed silos of student info and content vendor data. A lingua franca for different technologies, SLC hopes, will lower entry barriers for vendors and stimulate a more vibrant marketplace where tools are easily discoverable through the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative. Developers (especially startups, they hope) looking to test the waters are invited to participate in a series of codeathons starting in July--they're looking to show off some cool stuff by the time of the public launch.

Congrats to Filament Games and The Language Express for taking home SIIA's Innovation Incubator Awards for Most Likely to Succeed and Most Innovative. And here's a list of the CODiE winners, where we find veterans Pearson, ePals, and McGraw-Hill (with three awards!) continuing to flex their muscles.

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