Top Innovators in Education Technology Recognized by SIIA

Tag: personalized learning

Top Innovators in Education Technology Recognized by SIIA

Last week, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) announced 10 finalists for its Innovation Incubator Program. The Innovation Incubator Program connects developers of promising new technologies with industry leaders, potential investors, and established companies seeking partnerships or acquisition candidates.

In addition, Karen Billings, vice president of the Education Division at SIIA, and Tasiyiwa Mapondera, program manager for the Education Division, joined Larry Jacobs of Education Talk Radio to discuss the history of the Innovation Incubator Program and the decision to focus the 2011 program on personalized learning. The full interview can be found online at:

siia_innovationincubator2This year, innovative K-12 and postsecondary technology-based educational products and services were reviewed and assessed on a broad range of selection criteria, including various characteristics of a personalized learning solution. The selected finalists will present their innovations during the Business Profiles Presentations and the Innovation Showcase & Welcome Reception at the Ed Tech Industry Summit in San Francisco, May 22-24.

Finalists include:

-- Cabanga

-- Coursification

-- Dynamic Whiteboard

-- GiftedSpeech

-- GoKnow

-- McGraw-Hill Spark!

-- myON reader

-- Neurocognitive Training for Reading Comprehension

-- Sokikom

-- Wowzers

(Alternate: Pay-Per-Result at Learn that Word)

The 10 finalists will vie for recognition as "The Most Innovative" and "The Most Likely to Succeed" in the ed tech market.  Additionally, lead Innovation Incubator Sponsor, Blackboard Inc., (Blackboard), will award one finalist with a complementary year-long membership in the company's Partnership Program.

To learn more about the Innovation Incubator Program, or the Ed Tech Industry Summit, visit

Congratulations to all the finalists!

Innovate to Educate: A Symposium on [Re]Design for Personalized Learning

In early August, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), in collaboration with ASCD and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), hosted Innovate to Educate: A Symposium on [Re]Design for Personalized Learning.  Held in Boston, the event aimed to accelerate the evolution of the current, mass production education model to a student-centered, personalized learning model that will engage, motivate and better prepare students for life, meaningful work and citizenship.

Focused on creating common definitions and highlighting best practices, the event brought together more than 150 high-level, visionary K-12 educators, national thought leaders and senior technology executives.  It also served as the catalyst for an ongoing initiative to support policies that will reshape educational practices and curriculum development to support personalized learning.Teacher with Student

Participants, including Sara Brown Wessling, National Teacher of the Year, and Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Education Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, reflected on the evolution of the education industry and discussed how innovative policy and new industry practices can reform the future of education.  As an example, Steve Nordmark, VP of Solutions Management and Development for netTrekker, shared one discussion focused on schools' willingness to incorporate outside or student-owned devices as a way to scale large personalized learning programs within the current economic climate.

Todd Brekhus, President of Capstone Digital and Co-Chair of the SIIA Personalization Working Group, shared that the consensus of the symposium was that personalized learning is more than a software agenda or a brief reform agenda; it is about rethinking curriculum, instruction, technology, and student-centered approaches.  Todd explained, "The symposium was only the beginning of a long-term discussion, and I am hopeful that the next innovations and breakthroughs in education will derive from personalized approaches."

SIIA has posted a Symposium Primer, which will be updated and added to the archive of proceedings (including sessions summaries, speaker videos, and discussion highlights) at

As educators and administrators, how do you feel that personalized learning approaches can benefit student outcomes?  As education technology vendors, what are your organizations doing to support these efforts?

Personalized Learning and the Five Monkeys

BananasWhat a successful ISTE 2010 in Denver! Reflecting on that week, we learned about a number of exciting new initiatives, trends, product launches, and more, emanating from the conference and the trade show floor.

One of the most interesting sessions we attended was a Feedback Forum hosted by the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) on Tuesday morning. The two organizations hold Feedback Forums at several conferences throughout the year, giving vendors the opportunity to hear directly from educators and administrators about various topics.

This forum focused on personalized learning, and it was fascinating to hear the perspectives of the ten panelists. The general consensus was that if we compare our current educational system to the business world, we are using a mass production model to deliver education, and we need to move to a system of mass customization.

Where differentiated learning relies on teachers to be the primary instruction-givers, personalized learning draws the student into the learning process through engagement and interest-focused activities. Panelists agreed a paradigm shift was needed – reforming teacher-led instruction practices to emphasize student-focused learning.

Later that day, we had the opportunity to connect with our good friend, William Zaggle, president of GlobalScholar, who shared a story that reminded us of the earlier forum. Have you ever heard the story of the five monkeys?

Five monkeys were placed in a cage where bananas hung from the ceiling. Bananas being a favorite food, the monkeys clambered up the stairs placed in the center of the cage to reach the bananas. To their chagrin, each time they attempted to grab a banana, they were squirted with water. Over time, the monkeys decided the bananas were not worth the hassle. Then, one monkey was replaced with a new monkey. Realizing this cage showcased a beautiful bunch of bananas, the new monkey attempted to climb the stairs to reach them. Unfortunately, on his ascent, the remaining four monkeys grabbed him and pulled him back to the ground. This new monkey also decided the bananas weren’t worth the trouble. One by one, the original five monkeys were replaced with new monkeys – monkeys who had never been sprayed with water – and none of the new monkeys would risk climbing the stairs to get the coveted bananas.

This interesting anecdote illustrates why our educational system has remained the same for hundreds of years: we believe in what tradition tells us is true. Zaggle’s point echoed a comment from one of the Feedback Forum’s panelists: although we have leveraged the teacher-led instruction model in the past, we need to question its efficacy as times change. Personalized learning may be unchartered territory for many K-12 institutions, but we’ll never know if water will be sprayed unless we are willing to rise to the challenge.