Guest Blog: "Innovation from the Rear-View Mirror Helps Guide RE@L" - by Susan Schilling
We at REAL are very pleased to welcome our Executive VP Susan Schilling to our RE@L Blog Page.
Susan Schilling is responsible for managing RE@L’s Basics and Practical Life Skills teams. Susan brings RE@L a stellar resume of success in the educational technology industry. Prior to RE@L, Susan was the CEO of the New Technology Foundation and founder of the New Tech Network.
She and her New Tech team were responsible for securing a $4.9 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to replicate the successful Napa New Tech High School to other sites. Earlier in her career, she was in charge of product development at the Minnesota Educational Computer Corporation (or MECC). Susan later was chosen to head Lucas Learning Ltd., a division of filmmaker George Lucas’ Lucas Entertainment. Mr. Lucas is also involved in his highly popular nonprofit “Edutopia.”We welcome the return of her leadership here at RE@L.
Ms. Schilling’s organizational development expertise is internationally recognized and accounts for a large portion of her success in developing hundreds of leading-edge software products.
Over her 30 year career, Susan has infused the successful teams of creative people she has directed with thoughtfulness, creativity and Innovation. A Legacy Award was created in her name by the by New Tech Foundation to honor annually educators who best exemplify the focus and dedication brought forward by Ms. Schilling.
Thanks to Susan for being our latest in a longer line of RE@L Bloggers. More is soon to come!
“Back when MECC began making educational software for K12 classrooms nearly 40 years ago, the idea of designing something to broaden the appeal of technology beyond games and boys was not really front and center. The initial idea was to bring technology into the classroom to help teachers use MECC student learning materials and suggested teacher lesson plans.
MECC stressed more individualized instruction and personalized delivery. Textbooks were unable to meet that important need because of their static nature – so, MECC made learning materials more interactive and responsive to users’ experiences.
Initially MECC designed supplemental educational software that provided teachers with ways to make learning more effective and fun, more inter-active, more engaging and more targeted to specific learning needs. Solid educational products were made for all kids at all K12 levels– both boys and girls.
MECC’s mission was to bring the very best educational experience to all students regardless of gender or socio-economic background. Development teams were directed to keep the software simple and fun to use. Products were titled to match the tasks addressed: for example, Fractions, Decimals, Word Munchers, Storybook-Weaver. MECC made sure teachers didn’t have to learn a new way of accessing each new product; the resources did it. A rich array of student performance data was captured for teachers to print and use. Most importantly, no one had to be a computer nerd to use a MECC product!
The genius of MECC’s approach didn’t stop with focusing on the teaching learning process. MECC’s mission was hampered by the nationwide funding inequities. Some schools could afford technology; some could not. MECC’s Membership Plan made moving schools into using education technology easy. MECC’s pioneering site-licensing program broadened the integration of educational software by making it affordable and simple to use. School districts everywhere bought in and bought MECC products.
As the technology hardware grew smaller and more powerful, so did MECC’s approach to design. Student focus groups and teacher product-advisory teams provided invaluable insight into how to make each product richer, more integrated, more useful to both the student and the teacher.
MECC successfully avoided the siren call of attacking the maze of full grade-level curricula. Instead the software products supplementing the curriculum with technology-based products related to the useful topics teachers wanted. Meanwhile, gaming technology was growing by leaps and bounds and expectations grew for more ways to integrate learning and gaming into the rote rhythms of education.”
All the while computer technology was rapidly changing: - New microcomputers were released monthly by a host of new hardware vendors; - New operating systems for existing hardware resulted in even more to be learned; - New systems were created to deliver programs to schools. The software at MECC was changing too!
It was “All in a Day’s Work” for those at MECC. The mission was to build a new world for kids and teachers using technology!
Those early pioneers, many of whom are now at RE@L, have never lost MECC’s mission.
Susan’s subsequent posts will follow soon in another RE@L BLOG.
Click on the globe below to leave a comment or a question for Susan.