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Talking Ed-Tech, Equity, and Elmo at ASU-GSV

What do ACT CEO Marten Roorda, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, and Elmo the Muppet all have in common? They were all speakers at the 10th Annual ASU-GSV Summit, dubbed “the most impactful convening of leaders in education and talent technology.”

The event, held this month, convened discussions on an array of topics facing education and technology today, with equity and access driving much of the conversation.

Netflix and the Art of Letting Go of Control

Reed Hastings, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Netflix, and a Facebook board member, delivered an impactful keynote address. One of the most important things a leader can do, Hastings noted, is to set context for the team and then let go of control. This “leaning into freedom” is one of the key drivers of creativity and long-term success.

Hastings said markets always shift—nothing stays the same forever—and providing teams with the freedom to make mistakes and learn quickly is key.

“Let’s try not to manage but inspire,” he urged. (If you haven’t had an opportunity to check out the infamous Netflix “Culture Deck,” a manifesto for inspired leadership and company culture, you can find it here.)

Reed Hastings keynotes ASU-GSV. Photo courtesy of

Innovation is a Collaborative Journey

Alina von Davier, senior vice president of ACTNext, led an energetic panel discussion about accelerating innovation and transformation through strategic mergers, acquisitions and investments.

Panelists emphasized the importance of thoughtful integration for positive outcomes and shared insights into how ACT has successfully collaborated with other like-minded companies during the course of ACT’s transformation to a learning, measurement, and navigation organization. The ACT collaborations, von Davier said, serve as a model for other companies looking to accelerate their own innovation and transformation.

Alina von Davier leads a panel including, from left to right, Dror Ben Naim, CEO, Smart Sparrow; Jason Palmer, General Partner, New Markets Venture Partners; Mark Leuba, VP of Product Management, IMS Global; Patrick Vogt, CEO of NRCCUA/ACT; Bob Block, VP of Corporate Development, ACT; Randy Wilhelm, VP of Learning Resources, Knovation/ACT. Photo courtesy of Marten Roorda

Human Potential Takes Center Stage

This year’s theme for the summit, “Bending the Arc of Human Potential,” emphasized honoring and cultivating the potential in all individuals. ACT’s Roorda joined fellow panelists to discuss human potential, measurement, and fairness.

Focusing on the panel’s central theme—whether or not assessment can support bending the arc of human potential for all—Marten explained that the marriage of learning and measurement is critical for societal benefit. Assessment and learning can bend the arc, which, in fact, is driving transformation at ACT.

Center Stage panelists discuss assessment and human potential. From left to right, Brandon Busteed, President, University Partners, Kaplan; Marten Roorda, CEO, ACT, Todd Rose, Director of the Mind, Brain, & Education Program Harvard University and President, Populace; Earl Lewis, Director, Center for Social Solutions, University of Michigan; Frida Polli, CEO, Pymetrics; photo courtesy of

“Captain Khan”—Star Trek meets AI

Saad Khan, director of Artificial Intelligence at ACTNext, combined humor and intellectualism in his so-called Star Trek session, a new type of forum at ASU-GSV this year recognizing 10 of the best and brightest innovators in the worlds of education and talent technology.

Saad showcased his work on Elevate, an AI-driven video practice platform designed to help every person develop breakthrough elevator pitch communication skills. After the presentation, Saad shared, “It was inspiring to see fellow Star Trek speakers channeling their life experiences, passions and entrepreneurial talents to address educational needs of underserved students. We have only just started harnessing AI for social good!"

Saad Khan presenting at Star Trek. Photo author's own.

It’s Elmo’s World and We’re Just Living in it

In celebration of Sesame Street’s 50th anniversary, Elmo and Sesame Workshop's President of Media & Education and COO Steve Youngwood, discussed Sesame Street's impact and the importance of early learning opportunities for all children. The Sesame Duo stressed that the letter “R” for early learners means: Relevance, Relationships and Readiness.

As the summit closed, innovators, educators, investors, philanthropists, and ed-tech watchers were encouraged by the Sesame Street mission to “grow smarter, stronger, and kinder” in the brave new world of education and talent technology.

Elmo and Sesame Workshop's President of Media & Education and COO Steve Youngwood. Photo courtesy of

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About ACT

ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Grounded in 60 years of research, ACT is a trusted leader in college and career readiness solutions. Each year, ACT serves millions of students, job seekers, schools, government agencies and employers in the US and around the world with learning resources, assessments, research and credentials designed to help them succeed from elementary school through career.