digital literacySan Francisco last week offered none of its characteristic weather features — fog, cool air, misty breezes. The skies were clear and the air was warm, providing a mostly sunny backdrop for the annual SIIA Education Industry Summit: Meet @ the Cutting Edge.

Some say San Francisco’s weather is as unpredictable as the seas, but educational technology thought leaders as well as movers and shakers from industry mainstays, such as McGraw-Hill Education and startups, such as PackBack, forecast a sustainable future for the educational technology marketplace.

Here are some top takeaways from #SIIAEd14 based on sessions and conversations with attendees, where folks were talking about what’s next in teaching and learning in a post-PC, mobile, global world.

  • Educators need digital content curation solutions. In 2014, teachers named more than 600 unique digital products that can help students learn, according to a Gates Foundation study. They now need to know what works — what’s “good” content, and products need to make finding and vetting such content easier for educators.
  • Expect more innovative solutions from entrepreneurs in the education space. Launching a startup has become more accessible to entrepreneurs with the help of crowdfunding models. Many of the Innovation Incubator Award nominees and winners were funded — in part — by such seed-funding streams.
  • Data about student habits and learning behavior will play a key role in shaping new educational technology products. For example, PackBack, which provides on-demand e-textbook rentals, was launched by college students who studied their peers’ textbook consumption habits and uncovered an opportunity in the college textbook marketplace.
  • Tiny screens may be the digital content delivery solution of the future. While the U.S. often frames “mobile” learning as learning that takes place on tablets, smartphones, etc., the global market is being driven largely by digital learning content provided via smartphones, which are more accessible to students in developing countries.
  • Cost-saving measures may not be “sexy,” but they may be more practical as schools seek to balance technology upgrades with tighter budgets. Mac to School is a company whose mission it is to offer affordable computers to schools. The refurbished-computer model helped one Los Angeles middle school save $50,000.
  • Higher education is ripe for professional development solutions. Some say companies sometimes underestimate the need for PD and training in higher education, noting that this market could be its own funding stream. Blended and online professional learning solutions may be one solution, but some noted that a key challenge in any blended PD program is how to keep adult learners engaged over time.
  • Student privacy issues around digital learning software and tools will persist as a leading conversation in the field. Some states, including California, are drafting legislation that would give companies clearer guidelines on how they can use student data. Digital software providers increasingly will need to work more closely with schools to explain terms of use agreements to students, educators and parents. Some experts also called for more local conversations about student data and privacy issues.

SIIA also announced winners of the 2014 CODiE™ Awards in education categories during a special awards reception and dinner. Overall, 31 winners were recognized for their products and services deployed specifically for the education market. Read more about this year’s winners.

Melissa Greenwood is SmartBrief’s senior education editor, with responsibility for the content in a variety of SmartBrief’s education e-news briefs. She also manages content for SmartBlog on Education and related social media channels. Prior to joining SmartBrief, Melissa held a variety of positions in the education field, including classroom teacher.

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