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SETDA Leadership Summit 2017: Personalized Learning & Other Trends in K12 Education

By Kevin Barrett

Earlier this year, Level Up Village was one of ten young companies selected into the SETDA’s Emerging Partner program for 2017. Being a member of this cohort offers many benefits for new K12 EdTech providers including unique opportunities to be seen and heard by state and national EdTech leaders. Without this affiliation, it would take many months and much effort to have this audience. In addition, the learning opportunities have proven invaluable. For instance, we recently participated in the 2017 SETDA Leadership Summit. This year, the theme of the Summit was Leveraging Technology to Personalize Student Learning, but the conference also provided key insights into several other trends in K12 education.

Spotlight on STEAM

On our first day at the Summit, LUV CEO Amy McCooe and I attended two very informative workshops for SETDA Emerging Partners. We learned that STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) education is expected to remain one of the top priorities for K12 schools across the country for at least the next few years, according to research presented by CDW Business Development Group, a leading provider of technology products to schools. This session served to reinforce the need for EdTech companies to work together with District leaders and education policy makers on helping 21st Century students develop essential STEAM skills so they will be ready for the jobs of tomorrow.

Helping EdTech Companies Scale Up

In the second workshop, Amazon Web Services told us about AWS EdStart for EdTech Startups: a program that helps young EdTech companies build teaching and learning solutions on the AWS Cloud. The program is designed to give companies such as LUV the same levels of access to scalable technology used by established companies.  Amy was all ears. 

Ramping Up Dual Language Immersion

After the workshops, Amy and I had the pleasure of speaking with state EdTech directors from around the country at the Educational Technology Showcase & Reception. The recurring theme from our conversations was the impact that Dual Language Immersion (DLI) on the various states. From North Carolina to Kentucky, to Utah to California and everywhere in between, states are implementing Global Readiness programs through DLI.  The administrators we met with were very interested to hear how LUV programs could be readily implemented in their states’ dual-language programs (more about LUV’s programs for dual-language learners here.)

Coding is Key

At the SETDA  Education Forum, keynote speaker Hadi Partovi, the CEO and Founder of, had the audience’s full attention as he talked about his first time trying his hand at coding on Commodore 63 in Iran as a child. The computer had no programs or apps installed so he and his brother wrote their own. Now, through, kids can write their own code for games or apps and share them – for free. It was inspiring to hear Hadi’s backstory and how he has played an instrumental role in generating interest in coding among K12 schools across the country and around the world.

Open Educational Resources

Later that day, we delved into personalized learning in three different sessions. My favorite session was the Student Voices Plenary Presentation.  Four students from Mountain Heights Academy Charter School educated the audience on what personalized learning means to them as students. The students had developed their own “Open Education Resource” (OER) to educate kids at other schools across Utah on the value of bees and their importance to the ecosystem. Their lively presentation not only underscored the value of OER, but also earned a standing ovation from the audience.

Overall, the SETDA Leadership Summit provided us with an amazing opportunity to communicate with and learn from a dynamic group of state education leaders, policy makers, companies, educators and students that are all gearing up for a period of rapid expansion in EdTech. What was clear throughout the summit is that while everyone’s definition of Personalized Learning is, well, personal, they are all focused on delivering meaningful learning experiences tailored to the needs of 21st Century students. The Summit also underscored the need for all the groups represented to work in concert to better understand current needs, anticipate trends and provide timely and thoughtful solutions.