A Conference in Arizona Emerges as a Power-Player in Education Technology

Pop quiz: Define equity.

That question, posed to an educator, will probably spark a conversation about the uneven learning outcomes for disadvantaged students. But the word ‘equity’ means something very different to venture capitalists who invest in education technology.

This dynamic was on display last week in the halls and lobby of the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. The ASU+GSV Summit, an annual education technology conference, was the place to be and be seen. Belly-to-belly encounters in the hallways, arranged separately from the official agenda, are the way deals get done.

Landing those private meetings was top of the agenda for many attendees, in contrast to other education conferences. But for some educators, skipping panel discussions to network might feel like cutting class. There were 2,500 people at the conference this year, only about 150 of them educators — and at least one teacher says that is not enough.

And U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who gave a speech there, urged businesses to talk to educators.

“Technology can’t just be a tool for engagement,” Duncan said. “It has to advance equity.”

For more about digital learning, including news of some recent state report cards and a pot of grant money from the Library of Congress, check out my Blended Learning Newsletter.

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[Cross-posted at The Hechinger Report]

Nichole Dobo

Nichole Dobo writes about blended learning. Most of her 10-year career as a reporter has focused on education. She has also covered stories about government, courts, business and religion. She was a staff writer at The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., The York Daily Record/Sunday News in York, Pa., The Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pa. and The Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and has been published in The Atlantic's online edition. She won first prize and best of show for education writing in 2011 from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association. She earned a B.A. in journalism at the Pennsylvania State University.