Collaboration is key when it comes to making education technology readily available. Two recent initiatives in New England bring home this point.
The first is LearnLaunch, a nonprofit formed December 4, 2012, with the goal of supporting education technology startups throughout New England. The organization will hold its first conference, Across Boundaries: Innovation and the Future of Education, at the MIT Tang Center in Cambridge, Mass., February 1 to February 2, 2013. The conference will include presentations by teachers, as well as showcasing instructional technology in use in classrooms nationwide, according to a statement from LearnLaunch.
The second is an initiative in Maine, in which the state's Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) is forming an alliance with other states for cooperative purchasing of educational technology. They're doing so through the National Association of State Procurement Officials. According to apost in E2's sister site, Educational IT:
MLTI has published a request for proposal (RFP) accepting bids for 'equipment and services to empower a wireless, student-centered, digital learning environment that provides students with learning technology on a 1:1 (one machine per student/teacher) basis.'
LearnLaunch, meanwhile, describes its goals in a prepared statement:
LearnLaunch brings together innovators, K-12 and higher ed educators, investors, students, school leaders, buyers and distribution channels, and provides structured services such as classes, forums, conferences and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs. It also streamlines and enriches communication between investors and entrepreneurs, and incorporates two established Boston organizations, EdTechup and Kids Club, each of which was founded by LearnLaunch principals.
Seems it takes a village to get the education technology ecosystem sorted out. Yet, these initiatives, and others like them, are certainly a step in the right direction. Sharing knowledge, resources, and power in the form of negotiating good pricing for bulk purchases makes a lot of sense. The more that education IT executives can streamline and standardize the process the better, given the limited time and resources available.
Collaborative education technology initiatives such as these also open the door for unique ideas and solutions that may not otherwise have seen the light of day. The technology in use at schools is not just shaping the kids of today, it's shaping the workforce of tomorrow.
On the downside, the more players involved in any initiative, the more slowly things sometimes move. While it's important to have all voices heard, it's certain that skirmishes will arise between school districts and between states when it comes to which technologies are preferred. There's plenty of politics to account for in the education environment. Education IT professionals will have to be adept at diplomacy if they have any hope of benefiting from these collaborative initiatives.