Innovation can and does occur anywhere, but an idea is not a true innovation unless it has a supportive environment to bring it to scale and take it to market, said James Shelton III of the U.S. Department of Education.
Shelton was one of several speakers at "Austin Ed Tech Ecosystem Breakfast," a March 7 breakfast meeting hosted by the Austin Chamber of Commerce and Compass Learning Inc. during the 2013 SXSWedu conference.
The meeting focused on the best ways to develop technology—primarily software, applications and personalized instruction, but also hardware such as tablets—for use in the classroom.
Tad Druart of Compass Learning defined ecosystems, or clusters, as communities that foster innovation. That means researchers and developers are communicating with entrepreneurs, schools, universities and the students themselves to refine and implement the best products possible.
Shelton praised Austin's ecosystem, with its communication between entrepreneurs, universities and other resources.
The discussion touched on local examples of how school districts are trying to integrate technology into the classroom.
Carl Hooker of Eanes ISD said his district has given iPads to its students. He said technology and personalized learning allows teachers to teach to the entire class—not just students in the middle of a bell curve.
The district also chose the iPad, rather than a tool designed specifically for education, because students can use it after they leave school.