The Knewton Blog

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Personalizing Education for the Planet at the Georgetown h.Innovation Summit

Posted in Knerds on May 7, 2012 by

Knewton COO David Liu and I recently had the privilege of participating in the inaugural Georgetown h.Innovation Summit. The two-day summit on Georgetown’s hilltop campus kicked off with a Day of Ideas, where Knewton and other startup technology companies like Fog Creek and LivingSocial shared their innovative products and ideas with Georgetown students, teachers, and administrators. Best of all for this Georgetown alumnus — the event was held in Riggs Library of Healy Hall, a mostly-forbidden library that looks straight out of Beauty & the Beast, in a building that could be a stand-in for the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Here’s a picture of David’s presentation, titled “Personalizing Education for the Planet.”

And here’s the awesome whiteboard pictorial transcript captured live during his talk:

The second day of the summit, the Day of Action, brought together startups, administrators, teachers, and students into workshops and breakout sessions in order to brainstorm solutions to issues faced by the Georgetown community, like collaborative space availability and barriers to the adoption of classroom technology.

The Georgetown h.Innovation Summit tackled head-on the challenges of innovating within a large bureaucracy like a traditional university. By inviting some of the country’s most forward-thinking companies to share their ideas and solutions, Georgetown solidified its role as a model for innovation within the higher ed arena. We’re looking forward to participating in the next event in the fall!

After the summit, I had the chance to ask some questions to one of its founders, Michael Wang. Michael is a fellow Georgetown alumnus, former investment banker (also former Director of the beloved student-owned and operated Midnight Mug coffee shop inside Georgetown’s main library) and recently the first Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) of Georgetown University.

Here’s a picture of Michael (@zmwang) emceeing the Day of Ideas ahead of the Knewton session:

How does it feel to the be the CINO of your alma mater?

It’s a humbling experience. I’m grateful for the opportunity to collaborate and learn from such inspiring and brilliant people across the Georgetown community from University leaders to students to professors to alumni. It’s a blast. There are people being innovative all across campus — my job is to listen to their ideas and think of ways to 1) support them, 2) share them with others and 3) champion them.

Why did you decide to create the Innovation Summit? What were your goals?

The world has changed. We are more connected, more engaged, more informed, more empowered, more distracted, and more collaborative than ever before. It’s a super exciting time to be in education + technology. The goal of the inaugural Georgetown Innovation Summit was to reimagine the role of technology in higher education and to inject energy into the community by spotlighting ideas and projects being spearheaded by students, faculty, staff and other leading thinkers in the space. We wanted to set a robust foundation for our University community to grapple with the big question: What’s next in higher education?

We heard you have a new Chief Information Officer! Tell us a little about Ms. Lisa Davis?

Our new Vice President and CIO Lisa Davis is awesome. As the University leader driving strategy in technology, Lisa has brought a new energy to campus and sharpened our focus to serving the needs of our stakeholders — only when you understand what kinds of technology your constituents find valuable and relevant, be it old or new, can you effectively support and empower them. Under Lisa’s leadership in just 10 weeks, we have collaborated with various University stakeholders from the Office of Communications to the Office of Mission and Ministry to The Corp to the School of Continuing Studies and launched GU Mobile with ModoLabs, migrated to Google Apps for Faculty/Staff, increased Wi-Fi on campus lawns and partnered with Destiny Solutions— this is just the beginning.

What was your favorite part of the summit (other than the Knewton presentation, obviously)?

The random collisions. Our staff talked to companies about their products and established next steps and action items. Students got internships and jobs with companies. Professors met students who were interested in their work, classes, and projects. Companies learned about cutting edge projects and research from professors.

What are your future goals for the Innovation Summit?

We are appreciative of the support from our Chief Operating Officer Chris Augostini and our senior leadership in launching the first Summit. We are planning to host another event in Fall 2012. With renewed excitement in the community, we will look to build out the Summit to a larger audience and begin to focus on specific areas and challenges, in an effort to create solutions (Don’t worry, there will be more time for “random collisions” as well!). We planned this first Summit in six weeks. Now, with six months, we have… a bit more time to rock out!

What advice do you have for companies, organizations, or schools looking to become more innovative?

1) Understand who you are and what you value. You can’t “innovate” without an understanding of who you are and what you want to become. 2) Champion your innovators. It’s happening in your organization. Let them be the influencers to inspire others. Build ecosystems around them. Empower them.