Interesting things were happening at CoSN’s annual conference in Atlanta recently. Glen McCandless and I were there working with Enterprise Ireland, a group that helps Irish technology companies expand overseas. We were interested in their Edtech startups, but we weren't the only ones with innovation on the brain.
Donna Teuber gave a great talk on how Richland School District Two in Columbia, SC borrowed from Silicon Valley – not laptops, but problem-solving methods – and created their own educational incubator. These teachers’ PD meant transforming into innovators. From startup gurus, the teachers learned to prototype fast, run tests, and iterate. They adopted the Valley’s yen for scaling up (Think big! Bigger!), and brought their ideas back with them to the classroom.
Chesterfield County Public Schools, having introduced 33,000 Chromebooks to classrooms, gave us an honest look at their problems and progress. They shared hard-won wisdom and insightful advice for other schools and vendors. One piece of advice that stood out was the advantage of bundling software and content into the hardware contract agreement; by putting everything together, the entire process is streamlined.
Houston ISD talked about transforming to a balanced system of measurement. Four takeaways:
Remember to target abandonment, if you’re going to introduce new procedures, you also need to abandon old ones.
It takes three years; change takes time, so don’t expect to see positive results the first year.
Build enthusiasm; take the time to celebrate and honor those who are participating in the changes
Look to measure student achievement through authentic tasks, not just through contrived test-based assessment
Attendees and speakers of the conference were an incredible mix of district technical staff, along with school and district administrators who were attuned to the broad undercurrents of education technology that are transforming education in the US. There were great presentations and conversations about balancing privacy with student personalization, making technology serve learning goals, and readiness for testing, along with many shiny new objects for those of us who like to find out what’s new and innovative.
Among this group, Enterprise Ireland’s Edtech leaders were a natural fit.
Apperbook delivers digital versions of books to K12 students. They add on tailored extras like curriculum maps and apps, all with client’s branding. Wriggle curates and delivers content for schools and districts, while RealizeIT is a research-based adaptive learning platform that already has the largest Higher Education user base in the US.
Komeer (pronounced Come-Here) is a two-way parental notification system. Schools using Komeer will always know whether parents received their messages – no more getting lost at the bottom of a backpack.
Netfort is a network security application that continuously monitors network activity and stores a detailed view for later troubleshooting and forensics.
3-D printing was even represented. There is an incredible change when students can hold a tangible result of their learning: MCOR makes 3-D printers accessible for schools by manufacturing safe, affordable, full-color 3-D printers which use paper, water-based glue and ink.
These companies brought the ideas, the passion, and the work. Glen and I made sure they broke out of the booth. We prepped each company on the US education market and how to talk to US districts, then we worked with CoSN to set up feedback sessions with US district leaders. All the companies did a great job, and found opportunities for pilots and sales, and we look forward to seeing what they do next.
We were tremendously impressed with the opportunities offered by CoSN, and the openness of the attendees to find alternative ways of advancing student learning. This is definitely a conference we will recommend and attend in the future.