A Crossroads in the Ed Tech Industry

5/15/2007 By: Susan McLester

from Technology & Learning

An unmistakably chill wind blew through a room where digital curriculum publishers were lunching during a keynote at the Software and Information Industry Association conference in San Francisco this April.

The featured speaker was Barbara Kurshan, executive director of Curriki, the new open source Web learning community where educators can both post and download free multimedia school resources from around the globe. More than remaining simply an elephant in the room, the question was asked directly: "If you're giving away content for free, where does that leave us?" Kurshan, who thanked the group for "not throwing tomatoes at me," outlined the vision of the Web 2.0 resource as an "imprint" that would work in tandem with the publishers' proprietary content. Though the presentation ended on a note of low-key skepticism, it was hard to shake the feeling of having witnessed a crossroads moment in the history of the ed tech industry. I guess we'll stay tuned to see how things unfold.

Also on the SIIA agenda were discussions of the Institute of Education Sciences' report to Congress ("Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products") which found classroom software did not impact achievement. I had the opportunity to continue the discussion on an April 17th WAMU NPR radio show, with a county technology director and a representative from the IES. Although the latter conceded her organization was definitely not trying to say software was not valuable in schools, it will be the headlines the public remembers—dealing yet another blow to federal technology funding for American schools.

And so on to the issue. This month you'll find T&L chock-full of practical information on a range of subjects from vendor negotiations to "Professors Who Blog" (our new Higher Ed department), to integration tips and much more. In our cover feature, "Vital Signs," Judy Salpeter takes a comprehensive look at best practices for using data to differentiate instruction. We'd also be interested in hearing your expert thoughts on this topic. Please e-mail me at smclester@nbmedia with opinions.

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