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Submitted by Kate Meersschaert on Wed, 2013-02-27 11:07

Nara (@xiehan) and I traveled downtown last night for @NYEdTech's newest Meetup event focused on API's at the @Knewton headquarters.

The event was PACKED (approx. 250 ppl?) and we were forced to sit in the back... which thanks to Nara turned-out to be quite META! Check-out the image below of Nara watching the live-streamed event on her smartphone via Knewton's "Knerd Cast".

Overall, the event was interesting and the overall take-away for me was that to play a leading role in the current edtech community you need to integrate or have designs on integrating API's into your platform and development. It was great to see the @SocraticLabs crew! Please visit this blog post to learn more about the Startup Weekend EDU event Sharon and Heather (@heatherg) are hosting at SocraticLabs/Alley NYC this weekend!

NLT gets a NYEdTech Shout-out!
Most of all... a special thank you to the hosts for making a shout-out to NewLearningTimes.com at the end!!! Thank you Adam & Sharon!

But don't take my word for it. Take illustrious EdLab Seminar alum, Alex Sarlin's (read the full EdSurge blog post here:

EdSurge friend Alex Sarlin filed the following report from the NY EdTech meetup.

NYEDTECH MEETUP: Since the Tower of Babel first came a-crumbling down, we humans have been hoping that a common language would allow us to build our dreams together. Educational technologists in particular tend to like our markup languages universal, our webs world wide and our cores common. It's easier to scale and collaborate when everybody can communicate with one another. That's why the February 26 NYEdtech Meetup focused on a new generation of educational APIs, which promise interoperability and seamless integration between LMSs, SISs, vendor applications and content libraries.

Steve Kann of Blackboard gave a history of LTI (Learning Tools Infrastructure) and a preview of LTI 2.0, an update to the most well-trodden, well-proven LMS integration tool on the market, integrating LMS's from Sakai to Canvas and beyond.

Knewton CTO Ryan Prichard hinted that Knewton's upcoming public API (described here) will allow content providers to borrow some of the company's special adaptive sauce for their own users.

Non-profit InBloom (formerly Shared Learning Collaborative) has live APIs on a GitHub portal that will allow seamless access to a huge variety of school data- performance, assessment, demographic, disciplinary, etc.- in nine pilot districts, including New York City. In the right hands, the possibilities are endless.

Anthony Cuellar showed off Pearson's content-based APIs, which encourage a developer community to access and expound upon the publisher's wide set of content libraries in creative new ways.

The TinCan API, presented by Megan Bowe, is the most idealistic, futuristic and flexible of the APIs; its grammar is specifically designed so that developers can collect, move and report types of educational data that haven't even been conceived of yet.

Dan Carroll claims that it was his own frustration as a teacher trying to integrate new technology that led to the founding of Clever, which allows schools to integrate educational vendor products with data systems (SIS's) easily and quickly. Clever's API is being used in over 3,000 schools and by more than 50 edtech vendors in its first year alone. Talk about getting up to speed.

Event photos:

Upon arrival you are greeted by a projected visualization of how many students are currently using their adaptive platform (35 at the time of the pic)... should we implement a similar viz at EdLab?! If so how? Janice... :)

Knewton Viz

Packed house!


Which is why... Nara brilliantly decided to access the "Knerd" live-stream mentioned above (felt a bit like we were looking at a virtual "periscope" - but helpful nonetheless):


"Knerd" tees on display and for sharing with guests... EdLab swag?! Tees?


Nara... live-tweeting!


Speaking of Tweets visit the @CuriousBrooklyn & @xiehan accounts or search #edlabrepresents!

Nara Kasbergen Says:
Wed, 2013-02-27 15:50

Here are my thoughts about the event:

Kate was right that it was definitely packed and as someone who does not like crowds and even less so crowds of strangers, it was my idea to just stick to the back even though we did not really have a good view of the presenters or the projector screen because of a large pillar that was in the way. I assumed that because the presentations were about APIs and focused a lot on abstract concepts, not being able to see the screen would not be such a big deal as long as we could hear the presenters.

However, even though the speakers were mic'ed, the volume in the back was fairly low, and additionally, there were several people in our general area in the back who were basically getting a head start on the networking and completely ignoring the fact that there were presentations going on, that it was frustratingly difficult to focus on what the speakers were saying. This is when I finally came up with the idea of pulling up the livestream on my phone, to at least give me some visual grounding to aid my concentration.

Because of this, I missed out on all but the general gists of the first three presentations; after that, thankfully, Adam Aronson came to the back and asked these intense networkers to at least go out to the hallway. I think for the final presentation they also finally raised the volume of the mic a bit.

Overall, I would have to say that I'm not a huge fan of Knewton's space as a venue for an event like this. Obviously, it's very kind of them to serve as hosts, but it does seem like the event is divided between people who are actually genuinely interested in the presentations and people who just want to network, and I wish the space was better at providing a place for both of those groups to accomplish what they're there for. At the very least, I wish Adam would have come by sooner to direct the intense networkers out into the hall; maybe having one of the co-hosts near the entrance to the space next time to help police (I hate to put it that way, but IMO it's needed) this would help. I also think it would be great if Knewton had some screens in the back broadcasting the live video feed (perhaps one on that pillar that blocked our view of the projector screen!?) if this trend of 150+ people at these meetups continues, so that the people in the back can see something.

In terms of the presentations, they seemed a little unfocused, though I think that might be to be expected with a theme of "Education APIs", which can be interpreted in several different ways. For example, Clever gave a fairly general presentation describing their mission and the problem they're trying to solve, and then tied in some information about the API they've developed at the end; Tin Can was fairly technical to the point of even describing the format of requests and responses; and Pearson made a certain amount of assumptions about what the audience knew about what services and data they provide, and instead talked about a hackathon they held using their API and showcased a product that came out of that. But despite the loose focus, I did enjoy the fact that I thought the presentations had a nice balance of technical and non-technical content, and were relevant and appealing to both founders/outreach-types as well as engineers like me. (I'm curious what any of the educators who frequent these events thought/what they took away from it.)

All in all, I didn't dislike the event, or feel that it was a complete waste of time, and generally feel that it was a lot better than the last one; but, at the same time, I do feel like I might have actually gotten more of what I was hoping to get out of it if I had instead just gone home and tuned into the livestream from my quiet apartment. And maybe that's a sign that I'm just not the right audience for these events, as someone who wants to learn from my peers but has approximately 0 interest in outreach and networking; but I would argue that if you are putting on an event that is more than just a social but the format is alienating some attendees, then there's clearly some room for improvement.

Still, I realize that it takes a great deal of work to put on these meetups, and I am obviously very grateful to Adam and Sharon for continuing to facilitate these opportunities for the NYC edtech community. And thanks again to Adam for his shoutout to NLT at the end!!