Q&A with Ellen Siminoff, President & CEO of Shmoop
Shmoop is a company whose mission is, according to its website, “to make learning and writing more fun and relevant for students in the digital age.” Shmoop’s website features learning guides, teacher resources, test prep and more. Recently, Ellen Siminoff, President & CEO of Shmoop took the time to share with us some of her insights on education technology.
What is the biggest trend in education technology that we should be watching?
Teachers are learning to use it. There is this myth that somehow technology is going to replace teachers. There isn’t a single technology out there that I’d bet on being around in 20 years; but I’ll bet you the ranch that teachers will be around. For some reason, technology used to be perceived as the enemy of “traditional” education. But I see that changing – teachers, principals, and districts collectively have begun to leverage the offerings that new technologies bring. Bottom line: Long tech; short chalk dust cleansers.
If you could provide students nationwide with one education technology product, what would it be?
A loaded iPad.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles in adopting technology in the education space?
Culture. And that’s about it. It’s not cost – price points have been brought so low that in just about any arena, “new” technology competes favorably against whatever we used to use. It’s also not difficulty-of-use. The early ed-tech items required a full time service agent “live” on campus because they broke down so often; and the teacher needed a PhD in electrical engineering or computer science to use the product. But those issues for the most part have now been dealt with. At Shmoop, we see technology as a projectile of our own curiosity – that is, it’s more or less a fancy pencil. We use technology to take students (and teachers) in directions we find interesting – the reticence in making that extra click to explore a foreboding link is the element that has most recently started to evaporate.
Name three companies to watch in 2012.
Any of the biggest traditional education companies. I think they are going to start to feel margin compression from the various competitors out there who, because they have little to lose, can take a lot more risk than the behemoth publishers. I think about the newspaper industry in 2004…and of course, on the positive side, Shmoop!
Where do you see education technology going in the next 5 years?
Thanks to Ellen for her contribution!