May 3, 2017

Read Time

This article by Tony Wan originally appeared on EdSurge

Polish the dress shoes. Stiffen those shirt collars. This week, many of the education industry’s bigwigs are planning their annual pilgrimage to the next “ tech mecca” of America. Salt Lake City, recently christened by Forbes with that title, will host the ASU+GSV Summit on May 8-10.

The region boasts an unusual concentration of highly-valued tech startups—Domo, Qualtrics and Inside Sales are among them—along with big education companies, including Instructure, the developer of the Canvas learning management system. There’s also Pluralsight, a provider of tech-training courses that analysts bet will hit the public market soon. Luminaries in the edtech industry, including Richard Culatta (ISTE CEO and former director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education) and David Wiley (the “godfather” of OER and Chief Academic Officer of Lumen Learning), trace their roots here.

What is it about the Utah that makes it a hotbed of education and technology talent? (Is it, perhaps, the state’s lower alcohol limit for beers?)

Religion is certainly a factor, suggests Pluralsight’s CEO and co-founder, Aaron Skonnard. Utah boasts “a melting pot of cultures and perspectives thanks to all the missionaries who have gone out in the world and have experienced different cultures, languages, and have come back to apply those skills in their work life,” he tells EdSurge. “There’s something about that experience that creates an affinity for education.”

Missionaries also hone a valuable skill for any tech company looking to grow: communication. “There’s nothing harder to sell than religion,” Skonnard quips. “They become very strong communicators, and that carries over to education.”

As many as 3,500 attendees from across the world are expected, including a large Chinese contingent whose dollars are supporting U.S. edtech deals. Another big focus of this year’s gathering, says event host Deborah Quazzo, is on workforce talent development and retention. “We’ve really broadened the focus beyond edtech and into enterprise training and talent,” says the co-founder and managing partner at GSV Acceleration. She adds: “If you don’t tie learning to talent, you miss the point of edtech.”

This year’s star-studded keynotes celebrities, from tennis legend Andre Agassi to author Michael Lewis, along with civic leaders Libby Schaaf (mayor of Oakland) and comedian W. Kamau Bell. The conference also welcomes the return of familiar faces in new gigs: former Knewton CEO is now with Bakpax, and Los Angeles Unified’s former superintendent John Deasy will share plans for rebuilding prisons to better serve incarcerated youths.

This is the week when everyone—us included—is finally locking in the calendars. (There’s a reason for the procrastination: FOMO. After all, you don’t want to over-commit early to an engagement for Fear Of Missing Out on an even juicier opportunity that comes by later.)

Keynotes aside, here’s what we’re looking forward to seeing:

Monday (all times Mountain)

10:00AM: Tech Titans Battle for Market Share: How Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft are Reshaping the K-12 Landscape with Kevin Bushweller (Education Week), Chris Curran (Tyton Partners), Holly Yettick (Education Week Research Center), Keith Bockwoldt (Township High School District 214) and Tom Ryan (Sante Fe Public Schools & CoSN)

11:00AM: Change Agents or Kamikaze Pilots? Can Higher Ed innovators survive the ongoing wave of market disruption? with Gordon Jones (Boise State University), Sean Gallagher (Northeastern), Michelle Marks (George Mason University), James DeVaney (University of Michigan), Dr. Ann Kirschner (CUNY)

2:00PM: Women EmpowerED: Strategies to Accelerate Women In Tech, In Classrooms, In Startups, In Senior Management and In Board Rooms with Liza Mundy (New America), Dr. Ann Kirschner (CUNY), Dr. Gilda Barabino (CUNY), Dr. Judy Spitz (Cornell Tech), Dr. Kim Scott (Arizona State University)

3:00PM: The Chalkboard Dilemma: New Research on Teachers’ Readiness and Willingness to Adopt Digital Tools for Learning with Alan Arkatov (USC), Julie Evans (Project Tomorrow), Ann Linson (East Noble School Corporation) and Jessie Woolley-Wilson (DreamBox Learning)


10:00AM: Heads Up Entrepreneurs, Investors & Educators: Candace Thille, Stanford University Professor, explains the missing link in creating a successful EdTech start-up and it has nothing to do with funding.

11:00AM: The Promise of Big Data & Adaptive Learning with Dale Johnson (Arizona State University), Andrew Smith Lewis (Cerego), Dr. Colin Fredericks (HarvardX), Eric Frank (Acrobatiq), James Willey (Ellucian), Jose Ferreira (Bakpax)

2:00PM: TrumpED: How Will #45 Change the Learning and Work Landscape? with John Bailey (Chan Zuckerberg Initiative), Michael Sorrell (Paul Quinn College), Lauren Maddox (Podesta Group), Alison Griffin (Strada Education), Ben Wallerstein (Whiteboard Advisors), Senator Mike Johnston (Colorado)

4:00PM: DistruptED: Who Are the Real Disruptors in Higher Ed and The Future of Work with Louise Rogers (TES Global), Chip Paucek (2U), Dennis Yang (Udemy), Rick Levin (Coursera), Vish Makhijani (Udacity)


10:00AM: Educating Populations in Crisis – Refugees, Undocumented Immigrants, Victims of Urban Violence and People In Poverty: Delivering Great Education in the Most Challenging Circumstances with Katherine Bradley (CityBridge Education), Chris Pirie (Microsoft), Rebecca Tancredi (Upwardly Global), Rolando Posada (Idea Public Schools), Rebecca Taber (Coursera)

11:00AM: Districts and Public Charters: Sharing Secrets and What Workswith Romy Drucker (The74), Alex Shub (School Empowerment Network), D’Andre Weaver (Spring Branch Independent School District), Marcia Aaaron (KIPP LA), Mira Browne (Summit Public Schools)

2:00PM: Mapping EdTech Globally by Navitas Ventures

3:30PM: Driving Changes in Today’s Political Environment with Jeanne Allen (Center For Education Reform)

EdSurge Sessions

EVERYDAY, 1:00-3:00PM: We’ve teamed up with Shindig to host a series of interviews with key thought leaders, which will be streamed live online, and allow the virtual audience to pose questions. Our guests include Candace Thille (assistant professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education), Todd Rose (author of “The End of Average” and director of the Mind, Brain, & Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education) and Matthew Pittinsky (CEO of Parchment and co-founder of Blackboard.)

MONDAY, 10:00AM: EdSurge CEO and co-founder, Betsy Corcoran will dish wisdom about “Solving K-12’s most complex problems across edtech development, funding and procurement.” (Savoy Room)

TUESDAY, 10:00AM: EdSurge Senior Editor, Jeff Young will preside over a series of lightning talks about what’s next in digital learning—and what it means for the “new majority” of first generation, low income and adult learners. Featuring Bridget Burns (University Innovation Alliance), Rufus Glasper (League for Innovation in the Community College), Heather Hiles, Deputy Director (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), David Wiley (Lumen Learning) and Marie Cini (University of Maryland University College). (Envoy Room)