Cantina is thrilled to announce the addition of Amy Baron to lead the company’s expanding Education and EdTech Practice, helping institutions and companies across the education ecosystem to identify and realize opportunities for innovation and growth.
Baron is a veteran educator with 20+ years of experience developing market-leading solutions for the K-12 and Higher Education markets. She has led product development, product management, and acquisitions teams at companies such as Pearson Education, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Vista Higher Learning, and has served as a business advisor for education technology start-ups. In recent years, Baron worked with the Massachusetts Personalized Learning EdTech (MAPLE) Consortium at Boston’s LearnLaunch accelerator and institute, where she co-authored a report on innovation in the Andover, MA Public School District.
“We are thrilled that Amy has joined Cantina to lead the development of our Education & EdTech Practice. As we continue to evolve our capabilities in innovation, design and tech, we are also building focused vertical Practice Areas to deepen the strategic insight and value that we bring to our clients in specific industry areas. Amy has extensive domain expertise in Education & EdTech, and she is an innovative and highly collaborative thought partner to clients. We are excited to have her on-board at Cantina!” - Joe Walsmith, Chief Commercial Officer at Cantina
Baron developed a passion for education during her early career in New York City, where she taught high school Spanish and ESL to adult learners. While pursuing a Master’s degree and a Doctoral degree in Spanish & Latin American Studies from New York University and Duke University, respectively, she became interested in learning theory, and how students absorb, process, and retain knowledge. Her specific area of interest was foreign-language learning and literacy. Baron went on to develop educational materials, applying her pedagogical expertise and classroom experience to produce innovative content in a range of disciplines. An integral player in the industry’s transition from print to digital materials, Baron sees the current moment as a tipping point. “The opportunity for transformational change in the education sector is huge right now. The convergence of new technologies, the focus on competency and 21st-century skills, and increased societal expectations for equity and access make the education environment ripe for progress,” observes Baron.
“Today’s education sector is undergoing transformational change at every level.”
“New technologies are disrupting every aspect of the educational experience,” explains Baron, “and online learning is just the tip of the iceberg.” In schools and universities across the country, educators and technologists are experimenting with mixed reality (AR and VR), 3D modeling, maker spaces, conversational chatbots, adaptive learning, synchronous video collaboration tools and more. These applications provide greater opportunities for experiential learning and the ability to reach learners of all backgrounds and abilities. Educational institutions as well have adapted their systems, materials and learning methodologies to leverage the digital tools that are now available.
Baron’s experience developing products for the K-12 and Higher Education markets gives her unique insights into institutional decision-making, adoption and purchasing trends, and the evolving landscape of content and service providers. “In Higher Ed, demographic and economic forces have pressured institutions to prove their graduates are job-ready, and to find new ways of delivering education. Emerging trends include an increase in credentialing and diverse new degree programs, a move toward competency-based curriculum and assessment, and the emergence of online program managers (OPMs), private companies that typically take a cut of tuition revenue to deliver degree and other learning programs,” explains Baron.
“New technologies are disrupting every aspect of the educational experience, and online learning is just the tip of the iceberg.”
“In K-12, personalization and data are the mega-trends. The concept of differentiated instruction has been around for a while, but new technological tools are revolutionizing how it’s implemented,” Baron says. “For teachers to succeed in educating increasingly diverse classrooms with learners of all backgrounds and abilities, having the tools to give one set of students one assignment while another gets another, and being able to monitor all of them simultaneously, is huge. Adaptive technology helps meet students where they are, while the immediate availability of data informs instruction,” says Baron.
Education institutions are also increasingly focused on students’ Social Emotional Learning (SEL), the “soft skills” that lead to success in the real world, such as empathy, collaboration, problem-solving, decision-making, critical thinking, and creativity. Many school districts are establishing standards and instituting requirements for proficiency in these skill areas. Universities, too, are adding programming to cultivate these competencies, and there is a belief across the education sector that the smart application of design and technology can help to augment and scale programming in these areas.
In both K-12 and Higher Ed, the proliferation of specialized content and service providers poses a threat to big publishers, who are being forced to innovate in order to compete. At Cantina, Baron hopes to inspire and nurture this innovation in large organizations, while also working with emerging companies to take their innovative products and experiences to the next level.
Cantina was founded in 2007, and learning and creativity are a core part of its DNA. By bringing Amy Baron on-board, Cantina is poised to differentiate itself in Education & EdTech by adding subject matter expertise to its already world-class design, software engineering, and innovation capabilities.