Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Five Answers: Sandy Fivecoat

Today marks the first day we run one of the features that will be a regular appearance on this blog. In the feature, which will run from now until March 2009, we ask an industry professional who is speaking at the Education Industry Investment Forum 2009 five questions about his or her career and industry views. Then, we sit back and enjoy.

We are pleased to announce that some of our first speakers are coming on board.

Sandy Fivecoat, Founder and Ceo of WeAreTeachers, a web-based "knowledge marketplace" for teachers, joins us to explain her company, its vision and what she sees as factors that will shape the industry momentum in the next five years.

EIIF: What does your company do?

WeAreTeachers is the first teacher-driven knowledge marketplace that provides its users and affiliates with web-based tools and a community platform to support teachers of all types as they endeavor to transfer skills and knowledge to others.

WeAreTeachers is an aggregator of stakeholders in the Knowledge Marketplace – providing an online environment for knowledge-oriented companies, associations, and practitioners, and supporting innovation and positive outcomes for each.

EIIF: Where do you imagine your company will be situated in the industry in the next five years?

I think the more relevant question is: ‘Where will the Knowledge Industry’ be in 5 years?

As the global economy becomes dependent on knowledge transfer for survival and growth, we are just at the edge of a big change in what we have traditionally called ‘learning.’

As the growth of online and alternative schooling indicates, traditional Carnegie-unit driven curriculum is only one way to organize schooling. And given failures of traditional schools in meeting the needs of larger and larger segments of the population (especially in high schools), we must explore options.

Second, the students in today’s world are seeking access to information and learning when they need it, versus when a scope and sequence demands it. This is leading to smaller units of learning, versus big lofty curriculum products. Finally, ‘mere mortals’ --even TEACHERS – can now create learning content and are finding ways to distribute or even sell their expertise online.

EIIF: What has been the impact of your particular mission critical work on the industry, either as a whole, or in areas where you have focused?

We are really getting traction with those companies in the knowledge and education space, as they seek to partner with us to begin to realize the promise of social media marketing and direct connection to teachers. It’s been very satisfying and humbling to aggregate so many companies, place them in a rich community of teachers, and help them engage in peer to peer dialogue with these end users.

EIIF: What has been the most powerful influence on your choice to work in education?

As a former teacher and education administrator, I have spent my entire adult career either working directly in education, or working in the private sector helping education systems improve. At this point in my life, I am committed to focusing on TEACHERS – banking on a grass roots, viral, on-line empowerment effort as our best promise for real reform. I am also motivated by the huge number of non-traditional teachers who add value to our culture.

As our population ages, it is clear that lifelong learning in areas like music, yoga, fitness, the arts – are at least as important areas of study as traditional academics.

Finally, I’m motivated by the number and vision of very small entrepreneurial companies who want to make a difference, and need our help to get the good word out!

EIIF: Who in the education industry do you most admire and why do you admire them?

Two answers:

In the education software industry, John Kernan (Lightspan, Jostens, among lots of other things) clearly taught me the most about this industry.

My 8 children and 11 grandchildren, who inspire me daily to keep my focus on education, teachers, and learning!

Visit the EIIF website to register your interest for the 2009 brochure and to review the 2008 event.

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