by Kevin J. Gray, Managing Director, Westchester K-12 Publishing Services
In early June, I attended the SIIA Annual Conference & CODiE awards, held each year in San Francisco. Unlike a lot of the subject-matter conferences, the SIIA conference is a B2B event, bringing publishers, ed tech companies, and vendors together in the same space to share ideas via the hours of programming and to network during the curated events throughout the conference. At about 200 attendees, the event is small enough to have in-depth conversations with key partners, but not so small that one feels like one has exhausted the conference in a day.
One of the key topics this year was increasing diversity in ed tech and publishing so that the make-up of the companies serving the education space looks more like the students served. Ashley Andersen Zantop of Pinpoint Learning provided powerful resources like this interactive graphic from Information Is Beautiful to demonstrate how top tech companies compare against the makeup of the US population in terms of gender and ethnic diversity. Her panelists, Alice Steinglass (Code.org President), Chuin Phang (Pearson, Manager Global Diversity & Inclusion), and David Egts (Red Hat Chief Technologist, Public Sector), made the case that diversity not only makes sense from a cultural standpoint but also from a financial one. SIIA members can access a full suite of resources on diversity in the workplace that Zantop and her panelists shared via the SIIA site.
Though the conference is relatively small in size, there are always new people attending, making the one-to-one networking sessions hosted by Educational Systemics invaluable for fostering new connections. These sessions were my one of my favorite parts of both this conference and the one last December because they connect members with potential partners in brief conversations specifically designed to uncover the intersection between the two companies. I find the one-to-one sessions valuable because they both provide an opportunity to network as well as an opportunity to broaden my understanding of players and trends in the market.
The next SIIA ETIN conference will take place this November on the East Coast. I’m looking forward to attending, and hope to see you there.
Later in June, my colleague David Bailis, STEM Content Director, attended the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference, which took place this year in Chicago. Here, he shares some of his thoughts about the event:
ISTE is an amazing (if a little bit overwhelming) conference. This event draws as many as 20,000 people, including teachers, publishers, and authors, so it was really buzzing with excitement. To draw attendees in, there were many, many booths throughout McCormick Place that were really quite clever and eye-catching in their setup. Two that drew my attention in particular, were the Lego and Google booths, where you were able to “play” with their wares.
I attended the ETIN/CoSN (Education Technology Industry Network, and Consortium for School Networking) breakfast on Monday morning along with my colleague Tim Cross. There was a panel comprising Chief Technology Officers from several school districts who discussed a number of topics expected to have an impact on their districts and students in the coming year, including innovations, addressing new challenges, and mitigating cybersecurity issues. I also listened to the conference keynote at Tuesday morning’s ISTE session given by Andy Weir, the writer of the novel “The Martian” that was later adapted into the popular movie. I found him to be a very enjoyable, and VERY funny speaker. He had great stories to share with the audience and was a great interviewee.
Several of the other sessions I attended during my time at ISTE had a focus on technology in the classroom, which as a former teacher I found were informative, and thought-provoking. In one session, Engaging STEM Education with Minecraft – Neal Manegold from Microsoft spoke about all of the ways that teachers could teach STEM topics (specifically Chemistry and Math) through Minecraft. He showed videos of students really excited about what they were learning, and I was amazed at how useful it could be in teaching these difficult topics to students all across the curriculum from K-12. In another session, Promoting Inventiveness in the Classroom – Kathy Schrock (Director of Technology at a school district) talked about helping students be more inventive in their problem-solving. Being a math person, obviously, the process of problem-solving is very important to me, and it was extremely interesting to hear Kathy talk about ways that teachers can help their students LEARN how to be better problem solvers, which at first glance, may seem like an inherent skill only.
ISTE is a great conference to meet up with companies involved in the edtech sector since ANYONE who’s ANYONE was there. For more coverage about significant announcements made during the conference, you may want to read this article, published on EdScoop.
Next year’s conference is taking place in Philadelphia, and I’m looking forward to being there!
If you were at the SIIA or ISTE conferences but didn’t have an opportunity to speak with us, contact us today!