SIIA Ed Tech Business Forum

This week I covered the SIIA Ed Tech Business Forum for EdSurge. The theme of the conference was “Doing Business During Seismic Change.” While the attendee list was lengthy (and impressive), the conference felt intimate and I made a ton of new EdGeek-y friends!

Those of you who know me know that contributing to EdSurge has been a dream of mine for awhile now, so you can imagine my smile being a first time EdSurgent! Click here for my recap of the conference.

To show your love for EdSurge, nominate them for the Crunchies 2012 award for “Best Content Discovery Application” by clicking here. It will take you less than a minute, just click nominate!

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EdCamp in NYC

It has been an extraordinarily challenging week in New York. Before sharing thoughts about education, I wanted to take a moment to send my love out to all of the families who were affected by Hurricane Sandy and to give thanks for all of the volunteers who have been supporting them. With a little bit of hope and a lot of hard work our community will begin to rebuild.

Just a few days before all of the chaos in New York, I attended my first EdCamp and it was definitely worth sharing about…and no, not just because I got to see two 3-D printers in real life (though that was pretty ridiculous!) It took place at The School at Columbia, which is right in my neighborhood. Families always ask me about this school and I must say after visiting, that it seems like a place where innovation and great teaching happens everyday.

As for EdCamp…I’ve been reading about EdCamp for awhile now, but I still wasn’t sure exactly how it would work. The first hour was what truly made EdCamp so unique. During that time the sessions for the day were created. There was a large board at the front of the room and teachers were crowding around it. Some were stepping up to facilitate a session, while others seemed to be asking questions that would call for a session. By the end of the hour the session board had something for everyone.

Three out of four of the sessions I attended taught me something new, which is a pretty good stat for an ed conference. Don Buckley, director of technology and innovation at The School at Columbia blew my mind speaking about the design thinking project he worked on with his students last year. He collaborated with Tools at Schools to bring design thinking into the classroom. He also shared a video that got my head spinning – it’s definitely worth a view. You can find it on his posterous site.

Click this screenshot to view the video.

Mary Beth Hertz, Kim Sivick and Deven Black led a hands-on session where we got to learn about and try out the Makey Makey. If you can get your hands on one of these, do it! I haven’t had that much fun in awhile. Here is a teacher introducing Makey Makey to a few Kindergarteners for the first time so you can get a visual. If this doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will!

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#flipcon12 Wrapup: Two of Everything

Two Big Takeaways:

  1. The purpose of Flipped Learning is to reach more learners, promote maximal independence and encourage students to take ownership over their learning.
  2. Flipped Learning is NOT about the video. In fact, the strongest speakers I saw at FlipCon12 said you don’t need a video for everything, but that it’s about choosing when a video can help you free up time to support more learners.

Two Quotable moments:

  1. “What we call cheating, I call collaborating.” –Brian Bennett on working together in the classroom
  2. “I don’t want to walk you through this. This is a flipped presentation. You can go learn it at home.” –Jac de Haan during his session on engaging students through video
Two Inspirations:
  1. Talking, listening and thinking about Flipped Learning all week really made me rethink my own learning process, especially in relation to professional development. I am inspired to take more action to self-assess my own development in my teaching practice.
  2. I am completely inspired by the innovative ways that teachers are using technology to differentiate instruction and reach more learners and will definitely watch some videos on creating videos so that I can become stronger at it.

Two Concerns:

1. The title of Bergmann and Sams’ new book is “Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day,” but throughout the conference and my reading about Flipped Learning I’m hearing and seeing quotes like this:

  • “Sams, the Colorado chemistry teacher known as one of the fathers of flipping, acknowledged that about 9 percent of his students have received Fs every year he has taught—both before and after he started delivering lectures through video in his school district.” -Sarah Butrymowicz, Promise of the ‘flipped classroom’ eludes poorer school districts, Hechinger Report
  • “‘Some students, they choose not to learn, not to participate,’ he said. ‘A lot of people ask, ‘What do you do with the unmotivated kid?’ I wish I had a good answer to that.” -Sarah Butrymowicz, Promise of the ‘flipped classroom’ eludes poorer school districts, Hechinger Report
  • “They have a list of things they’re supposed to do – some do, some don’t and if they don’t they’re wasting their time.” –This was one speaker’s response to the question “What are your other students doing while your giving the quiz?” from a session at the Flipped Class Conference
  • During the student panel an audience member asked, “Were there any students in your class who hated the flipped model and why?” The two students began discussing how their peers who didn’t like flipped learning were the ones who didn’t do their homework or care anyway.

I guess the concern I have here is that there are struggling learners who need a lot of structure and we must remember that often times motivation is connected to struggle. Sometimes all it takes to motivate the student who “doesn’t care” is a great teacher. I worry that the students who need the extra push may not get it with flipped instruction the same way I worry that they may not get it once the Common Core State Standards have made their way into the classroom. At one point Brian Bennett said, “You still need to DO your job,” to the audience and that struck me as the most salient piece. Videos do not replace teaching.

2. Access is still an issue that warrants concern. It does not need to be a definitive barrier but it is undoubtedly a huge challenge for some teachers and learners.

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Flipped Learning Sure Sounds a Lot Like Special Education

I’m here at the Flipped Class Conference in Chicago learning more about what Flipped Learning is all about. There are some great ideas and tools being shared and some intriguing questions being asked.

This may sound odd but listening to various speakers, watching videos and reading more about the concept of Flipped Learning, I’m beginning to draw major parallels between Flipped Learning and special education. Many of the ideas being put forth mimic the daily life of a special education teacher.

The Hechinger Report recently put out this article on Flipped Learning. Check out these snippets:

“She uses class time to tailor instruction to students who started the school year behind their classmates in reading and math, and she has seen rapid improvement.” -Sarah Butrymowicz, Promise of the ‘flipped classroom’ eludes poorer school districts, Hechinger Report

“Praised by advocates for letting students work at their own pace, flipped classrooms also allow teachers to tailor their instruction to individual students.” -Sarah Butrymowicz, Promise of the ‘flipped classroom’ eludes poorer school districts, Hechinger Report

Doesn’t this sound an awful lot like differentiated instruction? Yesterday, I attended a session called Alternative Assessments during which Dalia Zygas shared multiple styles of assessment including. Judging from facial expressions, many teachers in the room seemed to think these ideas were innovative, but almost all of them were taught in courses during my Master’s Degree in Learning Disabilities. (I want to be clear that the point I’m illustrating bears no reflection on Dalia as a speaker. In fact I thought she did a great job of sharing helpful information and I am impressed with her for pioneering new ideas in her classroom. Her school is lucky to have her.) 

During the Flipped Class Conference I heard a lot of people talking about:

  • Reaching all learners (AKA Differentiation)
  • Individualized feedback
  • High engagement
  • Inclusive settings that foster acceptance of all learning styles
  • Rethinking the physical space of a classroom to maximize student independence
  • Teaching using multiple modalities
  • Offering choice
  • Using multiple (and non-traditional) forms of assessment
I am not saying that Flipped Learning is synonymous with special education by any means but I do see clear parallels. A great special education teacher is already thinking of all the bullet points mentioned above on a daily basis. Let’s be honest, if differentiation was quick and simple, everyone would do it! Differentiating instruction is a a true art. The best lessons I learned here at the conference were the ones that would support general education teachers in thinking more like special education teachers, allowing them to reach a broader spectrum of learners.
I still have some questions about Flipped Learning and I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation with the wonderful people I met at the conference. I am definitely sold on the idea that using video and other technologies can maximize student independence and make differentiation more efficient. I guess what I’m wondering is, why don’t we just move past the idea of  “special education” and require all teachers to know how to teach all students?

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I’ve been in Chicago for a few days now and sadly have not had a ton of time to write. I came out here to hang out with the Mentormob crew and to learn more about the Flipped Learning movement at the Flipped Class Conference. The conference is at the Flashpoint Academy, which is a sweet space with a ton of outlets in nifty places but very spotty wifi. The only good thing about not writing is that there is more time to think. After absorbing quite a bit over the past few days, I’ll do my best to share some thoughts.
Let’s start with Brian Bennett’s opening keynote, which rocked. I was completely captivated from the start – Jon and Aaron made a great call having him kick off the event. Here are a few of his most quotable moments:
  • “I never want to see a bell curve again – I don’t want to fail kids anymore.”
  • “What we call cheating, I call collaborating.”
  • “Why do we hang onto things that don’t work? (Then he went on to give the example of the Scantron, asking if anyone had ever tried using a #3 Pencil.)
  • “What’s your rubric? When do you want it to be due?” (Some questions he asks students)

What I loved most about Brian is that he sounded like a special education teacher. He really spoke my language. When discussing the concept of Flipped Learning he talked about changes in both physical space and in mindset. He illuminated the fact that all individuals learn differently and make different choices, sharing about how flipping his classroom has allowed him to reach more learners.

At some point during the day I stumbled across this article: Can the Flipped Classroom Benefit Low-Income Students? The title alone caught my attention as this had been one of my pressing and unanswered questions about flipped learning. All day I wondered if someone from the conference would respond to the article and after a long day of thinking and learning, I read this response on none other than Brian Bennett’s blog.

I appreciate his response and agree that the title of the piece is a bit misleading but I definitely hear the concern regarding funding in low income communities. Getting funding is not impossible by any means, but it is a challenge without a doubt. Teachers are often exhausted…anything that is time consuming is often a drag for even the most dedicated teachers. Brian is right when he says “A defeatist attitude will not help anyone move forward,” and in all honesty, I wish all teachers had a little bit more Brian Bennett in them. However, I fear that when faced with choosing between spending their limited free time on applying for grants that may get denied or planning for tomorrow’s lesson, many teachers will choose the latter.

The stronger point that he makes in his post (and in his keynote) is that Flipped Learning is not about watching videos at home. He writes, “If the responsibility is put back on the students, whether its in class or out of class, the class has been effectively flipped.”

In education there is no black or white, only gray. And as with all educational movements, philosophies and products, I’m always looking to take what I can and use it in a balanced way. I am so excited to be amongst the pioneers of Flipped Learning and look forward to learning more tomorrow.

As for B. Bennett, I’m hooked. Definitely check out his website – he is one smart dude.

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X-Men, Challenge Based Learning and the NMC Community

Working with children for a long period of time can do wonders for your immune system. Sadly this week mine failed me, causing me to end my NMC Summer Conference experience early! I haven’t been this disappointed in a long time.

The first day of the conference was unreal. The speakers were fantastic and the entire NMC community was so friendly. Joichi Ito was the perfect opener. You know someone is an amazing speaker when they have the ability to reach those in the audience who are not particularly knowledgeable on their topic of discussion. I am no expert on venture capitalism or the development of the Internet, but I was completely captivated by Joi Ito the entire time.

I was particularly moved by his 6-minute post-speech interview during which he says, “It feels like I have found my tribe,” in reference to the MIT Media Lab. In his interview, he draws a comparison between the MIT Media Lab and the first scene in X-Men, explaining how the MIT Media Lab allows all of those who “don’t belong” to have a home.

“All of these kids with superpowers feel like misfits everywhere they are, and then they show up to this school and they realize the things that used to be problems are actually features.” -Joichi Ito

As a special education teacher and supporter of Inclusion, something about this video really touched me. Thanks Joi, for helping to make misfits shine.

Challenge Based Learning:

Strong teachers know that presenting a problem and asking students to work on finding a solution can yield extremely high engagement for students. Creating units that offer these experiences for our students is extraordinarily time consuming…when making up the problems. In today’s session: Challenge Based Learning: Take Action and Make a Difference we pondered why teachers create problems that don’t exist? Aren’t there enough real problems in our homes and schools that we can begin to try to solve together?

Challenge based learning is a framework that can be adapted or differentiated to work in  the K-12 space, Higher Education, or even a business setting. Challenge Based Learning (CBL) is engaging for students because during a CBL unit they are treated like adults (which they love!) When presented with a challenge and asked to take action to impact others, our youth will rise to the occasion. CBL taps into our youth’s innate desire to help others and make change.

Want to learn more about CBL? Here is a great place to get started!

Leaving the party early was a great disappointment, but being present – even for just Day 1 was a huge opportunity. Many thanks to Larry Johnson, Samantha Adams and the rest of the NMC Community for being so welcoming!

Also, if you haven’t checked this out yet, you need to. The NMC Horizon Report > 2012 K-12 Edition

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NMC Summer Conference Day 1 Highlights

Day 1: Highlights

Opening Keynote: Innovation in Open Networks

What a great first day at the NMC Summer Conference! The Opening Keynote: Innovation in Open Networks by Joichi Ito was an inspiring way to kick off the day! Here are my major takeaways from Joichi Ito:

  • Taking risks and asking questions are imperative to discovering new things.
  • Peripheral vision is key to serendipity. Serendipity can lead us to opportunity and luck, to which Ito attributes much of his success.
  • Focus on agility over strategy because by the time you figure out the strategy, the world has changed.

Check out my first Posters, Interactives, and Art Show

One of the highlights for me was getting to experience the “Interactives.” Many educational conferences have “Expos” or “Poster Galleries,” but I often find myself wondering how a 2-D poster can best describe a hands-on tech project. What I liked about the NMC’s Posters, Interactives and Art Show exhibit was actually interactive. Individuals and groups set up projects that were connected to projectors, laptops, ipads, mobile devices, etc. The guests were able to learn about each project by trying it out, and isn’t Learning by Doing what we’re all about?

As for the projects, I was most moved by: “Theatre of the Digital Classroom: Multi-modal Performance for Stage and Screen,” a project by Marlon Kuzmick and Elise Morrison of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University. This project prepares graduate students and faculty members to teach in flipped classrooms.















Challenge Based Learning:

Strong teachers know that presenting a problem and asking students to work on finding a solution can yield extremely high engagement for students. Creating units that offer these experiences for our students is extraordinarily time consuming…when making up the problems. In today’s session: Challenge Based Learning: Take Action and Make a Difference we pondered why teachers create problems that don’t exist? Aren’t there enough real problems in our homes and schools that we can begin to try to solve together?

Challenge based learning is a framework that can be adapted or differentiated to work in  the K-12 space, Higher Education, or even a business setting. Challenge Based Learning (CBL) is engaging for students because during a CBL unit they are treated like adults (which they love!) When presented with a challenge and asked to take action to impact others, our youth will rise to the occasion. CBL taps into our youth’s innate desire to help others and make change.

Want to learn more about CBL? Here is a great place to get started!


Emerging Leaders

Today’s closing session featured six young individuals from around the world identified by the NMC as Emerging Leaders to watch. Too often, we look at who is changing our world today, but this last session encouraged us to take a look at the individuals who will change our world over the next five or ten years.

With only 6 minutes, each individual had an opportunity to share about their project. Each speaker was unique and special, but something about Ignacio Rodriguez really struck me. Perhaps it was his dedication to supporting students who live in environments that don’t allow for learning. His project to help public school students build math skills is geared specifically toward students living in communities where violence, crime and poor teaching conditions are dominant. Somehow, these students are missing from so many of our conversations, so it was refreshing to hear about a project built upon this missing community. He began his talk with the word “vulnerability” and he captivated me from the start.

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Off we go…

After walking a mile in the rain, I finally got to the NMC Summer Conference! Looking forward to hearing Joichi Ito (Director of MIT Media Lab) speak in a few minutes. Stay tuned for more throughout the day. Earlier in the year I was inspired by Jac de Haan of Techwithintent at SXSWedu. He used Storify and today I’m planning on trying it out for the first time. I’ll let you know how it goes…and off we go.


Ok…here’s my first story on Storify: 

NMC Summer Conference 2012 Opening Keynote” target=”_blank”>View the story “Innovation in Open Networks -Joichi Ito” on Storify</a>]

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NY EdTech Mashup

We all know that it has been a booming year for NYC and EdTech. At around 7PM on Monday night, I turned around in my seat to view the back of Projective Space and realized exactly how much progress we’ve made. The NYEdTech Mashup was packed. Over 200 people came out to show their interest and support for educational technology and innovation. We still have a lot of work to do, but I just have to take a moment and point out the great growth we have seen.

Education is becoming everyone’s burden to bear, and nothing makes me happier. Finding solutions should be a shared responsibility. Education is no longer a problem for teachers, parents or policy makers alone. Now there are so many individuals coming from a variety of fields saying, “Wait…we think we can help find a solution to a problem.” The energy surrounding entrepreneurs in education innovation never ceases to amaze me. It is almost natural for us to get lost in our problems, but not entrepreneurs! Entrepreneurs have this amazing proactive vibe that we really need right now in education. Sadly, teachers used to share that proactive attitude, but over the past few years many of the teachers I know have become saddened by the system and the methods for measuring success. It felt wonderful to be in a room full of like-minded individuals who want to support children and teachers in reinventing what learning looks like inside and out of the classroom.

3 Things that Made the Night Special:

  1. There were teachers on the panels – how revolutionary! Many EdTech events pay little or no attention to teacher voice. Jim Shelton made a great point when he encouraged entrepreneurs need to reach out to teachers like Rhena Jasey, who admitted that she felt a major discomfort with technology. How true Jim! Almost all of the teachers I meet at these events are tech gurus – we need to captivate the ones who aren’t.
  2. The audience was large and important, yet friendly and approachable. While I wish I had a better idea of the mixture of the audience, I was really excited to be surrounded by innovative minds in the industry.
  3. The questions asked during the first panel pushed buttons. Questions like, “What should we be funding?” and “Why is technology failing?” These are the questions that are challenging to answer, yet crucial to ask. Well done Doug!

3 Things I Hope to See Next Time:

  1. More teachers! One definite takeaway from last night is the importance of teacher voice in the conversation. In order to do that, we need to have more teachers present. I for one, will be reaching out to my teacher friends to get them engaged in the discussion on edtech and innovation and I hope you will too. Dare I say it, it might be fun to have teachers lead a portion of the discussion – classroom style…high engagement???
  2. Stronger EdTech Demos – Having sat on the second panel during the EdTech demos, I definitely felt there was something missing. As a teacher, I find pitches to be tricky. I would prefer to see how a product was actually used in a classroom, or hear a teacher’s experience using the product.
  3. Small group work and/or opportunities for networking. I wanted to know more about the makeup of the audience. Perhaps a quick hand raising warmup could do the trick. While I love listening to and participating in panels, I would like to see a balance of panels and smaller group discussions.

Perhaps the most important moment for me was when Rhena Jasey (teacher) spoke out about her discomfort with technology and the intimidation she felt being in a room filled with techies. This is crucial for EdTech Entrepreneurs to understand – just because you think your idea/product is simple, a teacher may not. There is a great divide and it grows every time EdTech entrepreneurs build products without teacher feedback. We need to work on finding ways to support teachers who feel intimidated in this space, and it needs to be during a time that is built into their profession. While there is a hilarious rumor that teachers get out of work at 3:30PM, the truth is that teachers take home tons of work with them. The technology needs to be simple and take time off of teachers’ day rather than add to it.

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EducationOnAir – A free and simple way to learn and share about EdTech

I just stumbled across this Google event, EducationOnAir (also referred to as EduOnAir) and I felt I had to share.

Lately, I’ve been quite intrigued by the idea of the “EdTech/Ed Innovation Conference.” I love to see how different organizations structure conferences, and to reflect on how and why various EdTech events attract different audiences. In the past few months I’ve been able to check out these 4 events focused on educational innovation :

  • StartupWeekendEdu
  • SxSWedu
  • The Penny Conference
  • NYEdTech Meetup

I am really looking forward to tuning into EducationOnAir because from the looks of it, it is focused on teachers who are actually using technology in their classrooms. Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that sadly, the voice of the teacher is often missing in conversations about education. It is difficult to tell whether it is due to their own exhaustion, complacence (I doubt it), lack of resources or whether conference organizers are just having a difficult time reaching the audience. Whatever the cause may be, we need to do what we can to get more teachers involved – I appreciate Google’s efforts to make learning and sharing simple for those who dedicate their time to the classroom.

Getting into the hangout is a strange (yet simple!) process. You need to:

  1. Visit the conference schedule page to see which sessions interest you
  2. Visit the presenter’s Google+ page and leave a comment on their post about the session
  3. Add the presenter to your Google+ circles

I am hoping to get into either of these sessions: YouTube in the Classroom or Managing Digital Portfolios. Hope to see you there:)

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