CSLA Keynote: Ellen Siminoff


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Ellen Siminoff, CEO of Shmoop, presented the Keynote address at the 2009 California School Librarian Association annual conference.

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  • The conference organizers asked me to talk about “SERENDIPITY”
    In life
    In career and business
    In learning and teaching
  • Man plans and God laughs. One of my favorite quotes because I’d spent my whole life planning to go to medical school
    – my dad is a cardiologist; my mom a nurse – but then came chemistry 302 – orbitals – and my interest in committing to medicine for the rest of my life evaporated.
  • I wanted more excitement, I guess.
    And for some strange reason, I got a thrill out of being a 5 foot tall sprout, negotiating with tough wisened business men.
    I joined business today which is the princeton magazine for…
  • I didn’t know we’d get married until the 3rd pitcher of margaritas
    but after knowing me 3 days, he asked me to come with him to Zagreb and Bosnia during the war to help build this wild global media barter service he’d created.
  • I was fortunate to have been born at the right time - graduated Stanford Business School in 1993.
    Luck and timing really can be your best friends. I ended up at the LA Times working in ‘strategic planning’ which, back then, was really mostly about figuring out this new thing called ‘the internet’ and what it meant to the newspaper industry.
    My most valuable intellectual/ business nugget from that experience was that large corporations don’t reinvent– that their weakest component is that they have something to lose.
  • You could fit all of the employees in a small room
  • Yahoo’s first big move = Netscape deal (remember Netscape?)
    - Lesson: you have to move really fast if you want to become a leader in a quickly changing environment
  • - watch popular categories in the Directory  we would grow into those categories
  • in yahoo’s evolution it felt like we stepped over countless bodies of companies who didn’t adapt to the very fast changing environment – Netscape, AOL, Excite and others
    and then we got caught napping. In 1998, search was an annoyance. Something you just had to have. It was the parsley on the plate. We had no idea it would eventually come to dominate internet navigation and the Yahoo Directory we’d so painstakingly developed fast became irrelevant.
    We couldn’t believe our own evaporation. So we ignored it a while, we didn’t buy Google and the sad state of affairs of Yahoo today is in part an outgrowth of those omissions.
  • Companies like profits, reducing risk
    Innovative work = risky
    Innovative products often undermine Cash Cows
    By protecting the Cash Cow, companies miss the promising new venture
    ex. (Detroit hung on to its SUVs while Toyota built for fuel efficiency)
  • Jay Gatsby, (The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald)
    Ophelia (Hamlet, Shakespeare)
    Miss Havisham (Great Expectations, Charles Dickens)
    Dorian Gray (The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscare Wilde) – this is from the 2009 film production, released in UK
  • CSLA Keynote: Ellen Siminoff

    1. 1. The Great Online, Where Young Minds Roam Freely Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential “Best of the Internet” Ellen Siminoff President & CEO, Shmoop Nov. 20, 2009
    2. 2. Serendipity Rule #1: Follow Your Heart
    3. 3. Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 3 ‘Man plans and God laughs.’ Very often, in life and business, you won’t end up doing what you think you’re going to do. ‘Man plans and God laughs.’ Very often, in life and business, you won’t end up doing what you think you’re going to do.
    4. 4. I Fell in Love with Business and Media (Dad Forgave Me... Eventually.) Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 4
    5. 5. My First (and Only) Study Partner at Stanford Business School… Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 5 …Became my husband
    6. 6. Serendipity Rule #2: Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Luck and Timing
    7. 7. Media Was About to Change Drastically. But Nobody Really Knew “How” Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 7 LATimes.com Dec 21, 1996
    8. 8. I Joined Yahoo! in 1995 Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 88
    9. 9. Serendipity Rule #3: Luck Favors those Who Pay Attention and Adapt Quickly
    10. 10. 1996: Move Fast or Get Eaten
    11. 11. 1997: We Evolved Constantly, Relentlessly Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 11
    12. 12. 1999: Email, Sports, Entertainment, Local, … Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 12
    13. 13. 2000: Shopping, IM, … Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 13
    14. 14. 2001: Finance, Kids, Jobs, Music, Movies, etc. Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 14
    15. 15. Serendipity Rule #4: Reinvent Yourself (or Somebody Else Will)
    16. 16. Along Came Google Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 16Google in 2000
    17. 17. GMGM Great Companies Often Fail to Adapt Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 17 Chevy Truck Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School
    18. 18. But We’d Never Make that Mistake in Our Own Intellectual and Personal Lives, Right? • Literature teaches us that complacency is a fatal flaw • On a happier note… Free Shmoop T-Shirts! – Name the character – Name the novel/play – Name the author Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 18
    19. 19. We Have Something for Everyone • Email us if you’d like bookmarks support@shmoop.com Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 19
    20. 20. Serendipity Rule #5: Behind Every Brave First Leap…
    21. 21. … Is a Strong Nudge in the Right Direction Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 21
    22. 22. “Shmoop” (v., Yiddish slang): To give a nudge in the right direction
    23. 23. Teacher Librarians are the Ultimate Shmoopers!
    24. 24. You Shmoop Students • Rules of the road & online ethics • How to be savvy online researchers, consumers, and publishers • Proper citation & avoiding plagiarism • Online safety and etiquette Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 24
    25. 25. You Shmoop Parents • Reinforce good student habits at home – Tips on how to monitor usage – What sites are ok to use – Avoiding plagiarism • Access options for all homes • Checking up on assignments, grades, and teacher communications through your school’s website Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 25
    26. 26. You Shmoop Fellow Teachers • Get over the technology inferiority complex – Some teachers feel overmatched by their students, or think their students already know everything cool about the Internet • Play the role of – Scout & Filter – Promoter & Trainer – Cheerleader & Supporter • And, occasionally, you might need to help students in spite of their teachers – My daughter’s Ethiopia research project Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 26
    27. 27. Now… In this Fast-Changing World, How to Shmoop Oneself?
    28. 28. Teacher Librarians are Already on the Cutting Edge • We know this well. You were the first and most vocal supporters (and constructive critics) of Shmoop • But… we’re facing a lot of uncertainty – Shrinking budgets, especially for Libraries – Technological change is hard to keep pace with Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 28
    29. 29. Your Role is More Critical than Ever • Libraries are the Facebook of the School – A social hub & discovery point with free- flowing information • This is the Wild West – Boston-area Prep School going all-Kindle; removing all print books from its library • The Wild West Needs Sheriffs – Be mentors, researchers, guidance counselors, police officers of the digital revolution inside your school Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 29
    30. 30. Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 30 www.shmoop.com "The language is totally student- friendly... ...a very cool site." "The language is totally student- friendly... ...a very cool site." “A website you can trust” “A website you can trust”
    31. 31. How We Started Shmoop • A Moment of Serendipity • Most online homework resources left something to be desired • We wanted a pro-learning resource for our kids Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 31
    32. 32. Students & Teachers Say… “Shmoop has enriched my teaching and made literature accessible to ALL my students!” - Martha, HS teacher “Shmoop has enriched my teaching and made literature accessible to ALL my students!” - Martha, HS teacher “Shmoop makes me actually want to work.” - Stephanie, 19 “Shmoop makes me actually want to work.” - Stephanie, 19 “Shmoop is intentionally about the joy of learning.” - Paul, HS teacher “Shmoop is intentionally about the joy of learning.” - Paul, HS teacher Quotes from Shmoop focus groups of HS and College students, April 2008Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 32 “This website is my dream come true” - Noel, 20 “This website is my dream come true” - Noel, 20
    33. 33. What is Shmoop? • Digital learning guides that make learning fun and relevant for students – Deep analysis, questions, quotes, trivia, multimedia, loads of links • Written by educators and experts – primarily Ph.D. students from Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley – >90% of Shmoop writers have taught at the high school or college level Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 33
    34. 34. Things You’ll Learn on Shmoop Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 34 The Portrait of a Lady (written in 1880) shares a lot in common with TV’s “Gossip Girl” The Portrait of a Lady (written in 1880) shares a lot in common with TV’s “Gossip Girl” Emily Dickinson was a packrat Emily Dickinson was a packrat Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce picked bar fights together in Paris Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce picked bar fights together in Paris Albert Einstein's 7th-grade teacher told him he "would never get anywhere in life." True story. Albert Einstein's 7th-grade teacher told him he "would never get anywhere in life." True story.
    35. 35. Shmoop Literature • Help make literature fun and relevant for your students • “Why Should I Care?” • Themes • Quote analysis • Plot analysis • Character analysis • Literary devices • Study questions • Trivia • Best of the Web Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 35
    36. 36. Shmoop US History • Analysis from multiple points of view • Events, People, Quotes • Trivia, Glossaries • Links to multimedia, primary sources, and more Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 36
    37. 37. Shmoop Poetry Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 37 Demystify poetry • Close Reading (line-by-line) • Deep analysis of Symbolism, Themes, Meter, Sound, Setting… • Trivia • Study Questions • Best of the Web (primary sources, photos, audio, video, etc.) • Now the largest poetry analysis site on the Web “Smart and consistently humorous” - Academy of American Poets (poets.org) “Smart and consistently humorous” - Academy of American Poets (poets.org)
    38. 38. Shmoop’s “Best of the Web” • Links are carefully selected by Shmoop’s writers • Audio, video, photos, art, primary sources, historical documents • TV and Movies • Books • Websites Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 38
    39. 39. NEW Shmoop Civics Because Civics Shouldn’t be Boring • Government, politics, law • Heated issues that students care about • A line-by-line analysis of the Constitution Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 39
    40. 40. NEW Shmoop Bestsellers Let Your Inner Fan Feast • Use “Pop Lit” to teach literary analysis • Twilight • New Moon • Eclipse • Harry Potter… • Many more coming soon Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 40
    41. 41. NEW Shmoop Biography Get to Know the Big Cheeses • 31 bios and counting • Authors, poets, political leaders, inventors, … • Back-stories, fun anecdotes, multimedia, personal letters Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 41
    42. 42. NEW Shmoop Music Listen and Learn • Analyze lyrics like poetry – Lyrics are often a less intimidating intro to poetry • Historical context • “Behind the music” stories • Technical analysis of rhythm, songwriting, instrumentation Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 42
    43. 43. NUEVO Shmoop Literatura • Spanish translations of our most popular literature summaries • A “bridge” for ESL students • Or great practice for students learning Spanish Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 43
    44. 44. NEW: Shmoop on iPhone, Kindle, Nook Put a Ph.D. in Your Pocket • Shmoop is a top educational publisher on many devices • 400 guides on the Web • 300+ eBooks on Kindle • 250 iPhone/iPod Apps • 200 eBooks on B&N Nook Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 44
    45. 45. How to Cite Shmoop • Shmoop automatically generates citations for students in MLA, APA, or Chicago formats • Our About Us section includes our background and academic credentials to help establish authority • Shmoop teaches students about the perils of plagiarism and encourages original thought Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 45
    46. 46. Shmoop for Educators Shmoop University, Inc. Confidential 46 • A tour of Shmoop designed for educators • Ideas and examples from teachers who use Shmoop in the classroom • Much more coming soon www.shmoop.com/teachers/
    47. 47. Link to Us: http://www.shmoop.com Follow Us on Twitter: @helloshmoop Ellen Siminoff – ellen at shmoop . com We’ll Stick Around for a Bit (Look for Brady in the Shmoop Shirt) © 2009, Shmoop University, Inc. http://www.shmoop.com