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Laying the Groundwork for a Shared Tech. Infrastructure

The 2012 SIIA Ed Tech Industry Summit wrapped up on Tuesday, but I am only just now getting a chance to catch my breath and jot down a quick wrap-up of the two-day conference, which was a whirlwind of speakers, sessions, and awards. A couple of notes:

The CODiEs weren't the only awards bestowed during the event.

Through its Innovation Incubator program, the SIIA awarded its "Most Likely to Succeed" award to Language Express, an initiative to build interactive digital products that teach life skills to 3- to 21-year-olds. The company most recently released The Social Express, a game that uses video modeling to help students learn social skills. Its "Most Innovative" award went to Filament Games, which has produced a series of online games designed to teach students science.

The winners in each category were also the first runners up in the other, and were chosen from a pool of 73 applicants, which was pared down to 10 finalists and two alternates that were subjected to a vote from conference attendees.

In addition, Smart Science Education Inc. won a complimentary year-long membership as a Blackboard Building Blocks partner, which grants the organization access to thousands of clients using the Blackboard Learn software.

• I closed my conference by attending a working group discussion about the Shared Learning Collaborative, an initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers, as well as nine participating states. (The Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York also fund Education Week coverage.)

The SLC aims to create a large datastore where schools and districts could input student, teacher, school, and district information, as well as content and applications, aligned to the Common Core. The SLC will be built on open source technology with an open applications program interface (API), allowing an infrastructure where multiple systems and databases can interact with each other. The hope is that having the technology infrastructure in place will encourage and enable vendors and developers to create products that work with the infrastructure and use the data available to continually improve themselves. The alpha pilot will launch in nine districts in different states on June 16th.

"We aim to create a shared infrastructure that works with existing technology and saves money," said Stephen Coller, a senior program officer of Next Generation Models at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. "This is about community contribution and ownership. We want to foster a broad market with the best technology."

Representatives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation say they have been very clear about defining what their role in the SLC will be.

"We designed services to fill in the gaps," said Sharren Bates, a senior program officer for College Ready - Next Generation Models with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. "We want to build just enough to spark innovation at the product and user experience level."

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