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Debunking Ed. Tech. Promises at SIIA Conference

Hello from the SIIA Ed Tech Industry Summit here in beautiful San Francisco, where opening keynote speaker Ronald Dunn hit on the conference theme of "Bridging K-12 and Postsecondary" early and often this morning.

Dunn, the president and CEO of educational resource provider Cengage Learning, cast a skeptical eye on the hype surrounding technology in education, pointing to predictions from a century ago that technologies such as the motion picture would overtake printed resources like textbooks in a few mere years. Of course, that didn't quite happen, and students and teachers are still waiting for the technological revolution that will overtake traditional school systems, Dunn said.

"We've been aiming at the wrong targets," such as lightening students' backpacks and reducing the cost of learning, he said. Instead, "our focus needs to be on helping teachers teach and students learn, [and] giving them the tools and skill they need to be more effective."

That includes providing professional development for teachers to help them use the technology effectively, said Dunn, calling the lack of professional support "our greatest failure, collectively, as an industry."

Cengage itself has waded through the shifting landscape from print to digital resources, Dun said, recalling the company's move from print to the e-book platform, and onward to new platforms that allow for personalized learning experiences. The newest Cengage platform is cloud-based, works on any web-enabled device, and provides flexibility for teachers, allowing them to move content around and even modify it for their students.

Expect to hear much more about e-textbooks, which are on the agenda here on the first day of this two-day event. Also, for up-to-the-minute updates, follow us on Twitter (@DigiDirections) where I will be updating the feed with thoughts, quotes, and links to the information here at the conference.

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