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Q&A with Sallie Severns, CEO of Q&A based mobile study app Answer Underground

Founded in 2012, Palo Alto based startup Answer Underground is an exclusively mobile app that connects students and teachers with academic groups for question & answer based learning.

CEO Sallie Severns recently took the time to give us some of her insights on the state of the edtech industry. Ms. Severns shared with us her thoughts on trends, edtech products, companies on her watch list and the future of the edtech industry. Check out our Q&A below.

ETT: If you could provide students nationwide with one education technology product, what would it be?

SS: Nationwide, our biggest obstacle when it comes to education technology is that we lack a level playing field. There is inequality between students in our country when it comes to technology. Starting with the basics such as providing every single student with an affordable internet connection at home would provide more opportunity than any single in-school device.

ETT: Name three companies to watch in the next 12 months.
SS:

  • Evernote
  • Edmodo
  • Twitter (in education)

ETT: What is the biggest trend in education technology that we should be watching?

SS: The trend that really has my attention is the mobile revolution. I’m not minimizing MOOCs or flipped teaching or 1:1/BYOD initiatives, but underlying all of these is the idea that we are moving towards a society that feels entitled to an anywhere, anytime, any device Internet connection. Not only that, but we want it to work seamlessly with the rest of our life.

ETT: Where do you see education technology going in the next 5 years?

SS: In the next five years I think we’ll see an increasing shift to egalitarian edtech. We’re moving to platform agnosticism and this debate is far more than just “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC.” We are now talking about Mac, PC, Linux, Chrome, Android, iOS, and any other upstarts that break onto the scene in the next five years. To get a clear picture of where edtech will be in five years, my general rule of thumb is to look at innovative businesses 5-10 years ago. 5-10 years ago, companies started realizing the value in providing Internet-connected devices to their employees. Schools are just now starting down this road, facilitated by falling price points. 5-10 years ago, businesses were digitizing and streamlining as best they could. Schools are just now starting to rethink the ideas of traditional libraries and paper copies of everything.  At the heart of all of these changes are transparent, facilitating technologies. Internet connections, mobile devices, servers, learning management systems, and more, while not very sexy on the front-end, must hit a proliferated critical mass prior to education being able to innovate as an industry.

Thanks to Ms. Severns for her contribution!