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EdTech Titans of Industry: A Reflection

On Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of attending the second annual EdTech Titans of Industry Meetup hosted by Adam Aronson, Tom Krieglstein, and Sharon (no last name provided, perhaps soon to be "The EdTech Enthusiast Formerly Known As Sharon"). While the EdTech meetups put on by this trio in New York City happen with some regularity, this particular event brings some of the most influential individuals within the education venture community to the forefront.

Last year, the event featured a panel of such luminaries as Jose Ferreira (CEO of Knewton), Greg Gunn (Co-founder of Wireless Generation), Harold Levy (Managing Director of Palm Ventures), and Laurie Racein (Founder of Startl). This time around, we were treated to the musings of Diana Rhoten (Chief Strategy Officer of Amplify), Gates Bryant (Partner at Education Growth Advisors), George Cigale (Founder and Chairman of Tutor.com), and of course the incomparable Jonathan Harber (CEO of K-12 Technology for Pearson, Founder of Schoolnet).

While much of the Q&A was the standard chatter one might find at the typical education technology summit, conference, or meetup (MOOCs, Adaptive Learning, and the excruciating bang-your-head-against-a-wall headache known as K-12 sales), I always find it a valuable exercise to gauge the thought process and insights of those at the helm of some of the most powerful organizations in education. With that said, the following are some quotations of note that I hastily scribbled down (or whatever the equivalent of "scribbling" is for typing on an iPad, an art form of which I am still more a novice than professional). To those who I am admittedly misquoting, please forgive me. I tried my darnedest to at least capture the sentiment of the thought, if not the exact verbiage. You can catch the entire presentation here if you care to see just how poorly I executed on this note-taking.

Tidbits from Diane Rhoten:

"As we move to common core, some of the challenges to technology and software implementation will reduce."

Regarding the implementation of new technologies in the classroom: "This is a hard thing: you are asking people to change what their practices have been for years... You need to spend a lot of time on the ground."

"If technology does not make life easier for teachers and learning better for students, then you are just causing headaches."

Tidbits from Jon Harber:

"There's a large difference between K and 12." While seemingly a simple statement, I think this particular idea is incredibly powerful with regard to the start-up community. K and 12 are typically tied together with that pesky dash, as well as the district leadership, but there is a significant different across this spectrum when it comes to implementations, competencies, data ownership, budgets, decision-making, outcomes, goals, and more.

"I think there will be a large opportunity for private schooling globally outside the US, especially as more populations move out of poverty and into the middle class."

"When people talk about disruption in K-12, they usually refer to disruptive technology. In reality the real disruption in K-12 is often innovative business models."

"I think there will be increased service opportunities with common core. In particular, there will be huge opportunities for professional development."

Tidbits from George Cigale:

"It's a false dichotomy to talk about online vs. in-person learning. We do middle school really horribly in the United States. The teachers suck. The question is not blended or online or offline, it's a question of talent. All of these media for learning can be implemented poorly or implemented effectively."

"If you are depending on selling to a school, a great market, a great need, and a great product does not necessarily mean you can break through the sales cycle."

Tidbits from Gates Bryant:

"We get confused about what the point of online education is... I think in online learning, we have this confusing question of: is it the spoke or the hub? We need to evaluate online learning based on its various purposes, all demand different propositions."

"Special Ed has some of the highest barriers to entry due to research and regulatory requirements... But this creates nice market opportunities for companies to fill in."

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