Last week, I was pleased to attend the annual education conference organized by Arizona State University and Global Silicon Valley (ASU-GSV). This is the tenth year I’ve attended, and it was, as always, a fabulous gathering of approximately 3,800 entrepreneurs, investors, thought leaders and celebrities. These attendees are all united by a common belief that the solution to the most important problems facing the world today starts with education—specifically equal access to education for all, unlocking talent and potential regardless of race, geography, gender or income status.
Past speakers at the conference include Presidents Obama and G.W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, Bill Gates, Magic Johnson, Richard Branson, Common and John Legend, and many others (including yours truly😊). This year featured, among other highlights, participation from Jeremy Lin (NBA Champion) and Mindy Kaling (Best-selling author, director, actor and producer).
Of the meetings and sessions I attended, a few themes stuck out for me:
- COVID-19 has, of course, had a tremendous impact on K-12 (like everything else in the world). In particular, I saw much more attention this year being paid to Digital Equity. COVID-19 has raised awareness of issues creating the Digital Divide—access to devices, broadband access and digital literacy to ensure students (and citizens) have the opportunity to take advantage of the connected world.
- Notwithstanding the changes brought by COVID-19, there are a number of other mega-trends that are increasingly important—Online Safety and Cybersecurity, Information Literacy, Coding/Computer Science and Workforce Readiness.
Learning.com is deeply passionate about addressing all of these issues (see below graphic), and it was rewarding to see increased attention being paid to these topics this year.
I had about 25 meetings over 2-1/2 days—the conference is exhausting as well as energizing! I met with several venture capital and private equity firms and as expected, interest in investing in our space is high. In particular, Learning.com is well-positioned to help address many of the challenges mentioned above.
I also met with several current and potential partners for Learning.com:
- Curt Allen, CEO of Agilix—they are doing a number of amazing things including providing an LMS integration service that allows a content provider to “Publish Anywhere”;
- Acky Kamdar, CEO of Magic EdTech – they have done development work for us in the past, and we are looking forward to hearing of the work they are doing in K-12 product strategy and accessibility;
- Accredible – interesting company doing digital certificates and badges;
- Courtney Reilly and Chris Mackey, founders of Skillsline – Skillsline is working to reshape and streamline the way “soft skills” are taught in schools today; and
- Rhianwen Benner, VP of Partnerships for Common Sense Media – Common Sense is a great partner for Learning.com, and Rhianwen is a great advocate for bringing Digital Citizenship and Online Safety to families all over the world.
Finally, I saw something truly amazing at the conference. I had a few minutes between meetings and stopped by an exhibit where two students, both around 12 years old, were playing chess against each other—BLINDFOLDED! They would each call out the moves on the board, and they each kept track of the entire board in their heads. Incredible to see the power of the mind when potential is unlocked.
All in all, as in prior years, this conference was an amazing gathering: lots of opportunities for networking, sharing thought leadership and learning from peers.
This article first published on Keith’s LinkedIn and can be viewed here.