Community

FIELD REPORT: NYC's EdGrowth Conference

By Marisa Kaplan     Jan 24, 2013

FIELD REPORT: NYC's EdGrowth Conference

We asked Marisa Kaplan to attend NY's EdGrowth conference on behalf of EdSurge readers this week and share what she saw and heard. (It had been postponed because of the havoc caused by Hurricane Sandy.) Here's her report:

"Pick a mission that getsyou jazzed," Jonathan Harber advised budding entrepreneurs on the first day of the EdGrowth Summit.The idea of mission, passion and social purpose is why many of us teachers went into education in the first place so as I sat amongst entrepreneurs, investors, media leaders and policy folks, I felt a sense of comfort as words like these filled the room. Later, however, as important conversations began to unfold, I felt a sense of loneliness and wondered: How we can incentivize teachers to engage in conversations about education outside the classroom?

EdGrowth Entrepreneur Open

Edtech entrepreneurship competitions are always interesting, mainly because of the range of lensesaudience members peer through at any given time. There is the investor’slens, the competitor’s lens, the media’s lens and of course the educator’slens. As an educator and instructional coach, I consistently ask myselfquestions like: "How would this look in my classroom?" and "Which of myteacher-friends might use this?" I imagine myself implementing the tool in theclassroom and think about which of my students would experience a change intheir learning by using a particular tool.

Here were some tools that caught my eye.

RecoVend is a tool that aims to help administrators make choices about educational purchasing at the higher edlevel. It took first place at the EdGrowth Entrepreneur Open. Congrats to KyleJudah and I hope he delves into the K-12 space shortly.

Of the 13 finalists at the EdGrowth Entrepreneur Open, Iwas most taken with myEDGPS.As I've worked as a special education teacher, myEDGPS stood out to me because it supportswhat I know to be a major component in student progress, the family. The toolhelps families of learners with exceptional needs navigate through thedaunting system. Founder Adam Goldberg described a variety of features including a calendar function that helps families stay on top of important dates and deadlines as well asletter generators, which assist families in communicating their needseffectively and to the appropriate individuals. Having coached families andteachers through the processes of referring students for evaluation, amendingIEP (Individualized Education Plan) documentsand advocating for appropriate services, I have seen this system first hand. It is ugly. Each process can take months and can quickly get messy. Familiesneed support and myEDGPS is a step in the right direction. And a partnership that would be like a dream for special educations teachers: seeing  myEDGPS collaborate with Goalbook, whichprovides direction on designing goals and IEP.

Clarity of pitch is socritical during these competitions. While I couldn’t pinpoint exactly how Educurious looks in action, I can say that MichaelGolden caught my attention and createdquite a buzz in the audience. Educurious is tackling large issues. Atmoments, it almost seemed too big,though I couldn’t help but feel intrigued anyway. The organization aims tosupport teachers become facilitators that tap into students’ imaginationsthrough a highly engaging, 21st Century appropriate curriculum,which incorporates technology on a daily basis. Sounds like a mouthful, but theaudience seemed to want to know more and so do I. In the age of accountabilityand standardized testing, it feels refreshing to hear about an organizationthat holds imagination and curiosity at the core of its mission.

A Plea for Early Childhood Solutions

Recently it seems that an endless slew of companies are buildingsolutions to support teachers and students in the K-8 and higher education spaces.SesameWorkshop’s Tom Ascheim pleadedwith entrepreneurs and innovators in the audience to tackle early childhood, too.He reminded us that there is a window of opportunity to close the achievement gap with young learners--a point that  resonated with me. The Age of Accountability, the adoption of Common Core State Standards,and high stakes standardized testing can fog up our lenses and push our focustowards interventions in high stakes testing grades. Ascheim reminded me of thepower of prevention and early intervention and support for the youngestlearners so that they do not begin their first days of Kindergarten asstruggling students. I’m not sure that I would predict a vast increase in theamount of early childhood solutions in the next year but I will certainly hope for it.

Innovation or Special Education?

I usually expect to hearirritating buzzwords like "disrupt" or "blended" or "big data" at EdTechconferences. This time around it was words like "differentiation," "individualization,""adaptive learning," "personalization" and "learning styles," that got under myskin. Entrepreneurs, technologists and investors are using these words as ifthey are new, when in fact they were already buzzwords in special educationyears ago. Great special education teachers differentiate, modify and adapttheir teaching to meet the needs of their students, who most likely have avariety of learning styles. While the technology to make these means moreefficient may be new, the pedagogical ideas behind them are not. I completelyappreciate the need for building efficiency in personalized learning andmodifying instruction to meet student need, but I implore people building thesetools to remember that humans did it first.

John Bailey won my admiration when he said; "They’d only be great innovations in the hands of great teachers."

On a level of personal interest, I wonder if this rejuvenated excitement around personalization of instruction is a predictor of the future annihilation of the general educator, the rise of the special educator and IEPs for all students rather than the stigmatization of learners with "special needs." Perhaps this a bit utopian of me, but hey, one can dream.

The more important question that our industry should be asking regarding differentiation is, "How can we differentiate the way we train teachers on technology?"

Team NYU Pulls on the Boxing Gloves

I have to take a moment toapplaud Team NYU. Former NYU dean Catharine Stimpson and commentator Diane Ravitch held their own during anew addition to the agenda for the EdGrowth Summit called "3 Rounds With…" Thisadded an element of debate to the event and encouraged us to celebratecontroversy. These women demonstrated strength and poise in a room full ofattendees that were focused on markets, value and data. Stimpson questioned therise of MOOCs and spoke about the need for restoration of dignity to thefaculty, while Ravitch questioned the way we measure progress, assuringaudience members that there is more to progress than high stakes standardizedtest scores…for example poverty rates. The "3 Rounds With…" sessions wereprovoking and I hope EdGrowth Summit will keep them as part of next year's agenda.

What Is Our Industry Doing for Mr. and Ms. Smith?

During a panel gracefullymoderated by JillBarshay of the Hechinger Report,Rob Dickson, CIO for Andover Public Schools talked about teachers who aren’ttech savvy. He refers to these teachers as "Ms. Smiths." So many entrepreneursrely on teachers who already use technology to become early adopters of theirproducts. This leaves me wondering: What is our industry doing for the Mr. andMs. Smith’s of our schools?

Looking Ahead

In reflection, my mostthought-provoking conversations were with people who have at one point oranother worked in classrooms. I firmly believe until we find a wayto bring teachers from the trenches into the auditorium to participate in theseconversations, we will be at a standstill. More people like Karim Kai Ani ofMathalicious, Jen Medbery of Kickboard and Seth Andrew of Democracy Prep needto be prevalent at these kinds of education events. They’re the ones whocan carry conversations based on experiences with students and teachers. Theyare the ones who understand the impact of data, high engagement and schoolculture on student learning.

I asked many attendees howto engage more educators in these conversations and Diane Ravitch was the onlyone who proposed an actionable item. She recommended going to the conferenceorganizers and asking them to organize their events on PD days so thatprincipals could send teachers to participate. Imagine how much richerconversations about the landscape of education could be if the people who hadtheir feet on the ground in the classroom were present.

Lingering Questions

What I'm still asking:

  • How can we incentivize teachers to engage in education conversations outside the classroom?

  • What is our industry doing to support the Mr. and Mrs. Smiths of our classrooms?

  • Can our country change societal views of "The Educator" enough to restore dignity to the field of teaching?

  • What changes can we make at the pre-service training level to provide new educators with the tools they need to bring technology into their classrooms?

Marisa Kaplan is the founder of the education blog, EdGeeks. She is also a literacy and special education instructional coach forK-12 teachers, a private tutor and an educational writer. In addition, she is the Head of Curriculum Development at PenPal News, Community Ambassador at Citelighter and a Mentormob Innovator, and on the advisory board for SxSWedu.

Community

FIELD REPORT: NYC's EdGrowth Conference

By Marisa Kaplan     Jan 24, 2013

FIELD REPORT: NYC's EdGrowth Conference

We asked Marisa Kaplan to attend NY's EdGrowth conference on behalf of EdSurge readers this week and share what she saw and heard. (It had been postponed because of the havoc caused by Hurricane Sandy.) Here's her report:

"Pick a mission that getsyou jazzed," Jonathan Harber advised budding entrepreneurs on the first day of the EdGrowth Summit.The idea of mission, passion and social purpose is why many of us teachers went into education in the first place so as I sat amongst entrepreneurs, investors, media leaders and policy folks, I felt a sense of comfort as words like these filled the room. Later, however, as important conversations began to unfold, I felt a sense of loneliness and wondered: How we can incentivize teachers to engage in conversations about education outside the classroom?

EdGrowth Entrepreneur Open

Edtech entrepreneurship competitions are always interesting, mainly because of the range of lensesaudience members peer through at any given time. There is the investor’slens, the competitor’s lens, the media’s lens and of course the educator’slens. As an educator and instructional coach, I consistently ask myselfquestions like: "How would this look in my classroom?" and "Which of myteacher-friends might use this?" I imagine myself implementing the tool in theclassroom and think about which of my students would experience a change intheir learning by using a particular tool.

Here were some tools that caught my eye.

RecoVend is a tool that aims to help administrators make choices about educational purchasing at the higher edlevel. It took first place at the EdGrowth Entrepreneur Open. Congrats to KyleJudah and I hope he delves into the K-12 space shortly.

Of the 13 finalists at the EdGrowth Entrepreneur Open, Iwas most taken with myEDGPS.As I've worked as a special education teacher, myEDGPS stood out to me because it supportswhat I know to be a major component in student progress, the family. The toolhelps families of learners with exceptional needs navigate through thedaunting system. Founder Adam Goldberg described a variety of features including a calendar function that helps families stay on top of important dates and deadlines as well asletter generators, which assist families in communicating their needseffectively and to the appropriate individuals. Having coached families andteachers through the processes of referring students for evaluation, amendingIEP (Individualized Education Plan) documentsand advocating for appropriate services, I have seen this system first hand. It is ugly. Each process can take months and can quickly get messy. Familiesneed support and myEDGPS is a step in the right direction. And a partnership that would be like a dream for special educations teachers: seeing  myEDGPS collaborate with Goalbook, whichprovides direction on designing goals and IEP.

Clarity of pitch is socritical during these competitions. While I couldn’t pinpoint exactly how Educurious looks in action, I can say that MichaelGolden caught my attention and createdquite a buzz in the audience. Educurious is tackling large issues. Atmoments, it almost seemed too big,though I couldn’t help but feel intrigued anyway. The organization aims tosupport teachers become facilitators that tap into students’ imaginationsthrough a highly engaging, 21st Century appropriate curriculum,which incorporates technology on a daily basis. Sounds like a mouthful, but theaudience seemed to want to know more and so do I. In the age of accountabilityand standardized testing, it feels refreshing to hear about an organizationthat holds imagination and curiosity at the core of its mission.

A Plea for Early Childhood Solutions

Recently it seems that an endless slew of companies are buildingsolutions to support teachers and students in the K-8 and higher education spaces.SesameWorkshop’s Tom Ascheim pleadedwith entrepreneurs and innovators in the audience to tackle early childhood, too.He reminded us that there is a window of opportunity to close the achievement gap with young learners--a point that  resonated with me. The Age of Accountability, the adoption of Common Core State Standards,and high stakes standardized testing can fog up our lenses and push our focustowards interventions in high stakes testing grades. Ascheim reminded me of thepower of prevention and early intervention and support for the youngestlearners so that they do not begin their first days of Kindergarten asstruggling students. I’m not sure that I would predict a vast increase in theamount of early childhood solutions in the next year but I will certainly hope for it.

Innovation or Special Education?

I usually expect to hearirritating buzzwords like "disrupt" or "blended" or "big data" at EdTechconferences. This time around it was words like "differentiation," "individualization,""adaptive learning," "personalization" and "learning styles," that got under myskin. Entrepreneurs, technologists and investors are using these words as ifthey are new, when in fact they were already buzzwords in special educationyears ago. Great special education teachers differentiate, modify and adapttheir teaching to meet the needs of their students, who most likely have avariety of learning styles. While the technology to make these means moreefficient may be new, the pedagogical ideas behind them are not. I completelyappreciate the need for building efficiency in personalized learning andmodifying instruction to meet student need, but I implore people building thesetools to remember that humans did it first.

John Bailey won my admiration when he said; "They’d only be great innovations in the hands of great teachers."

On a level of personal interest, I wonder if this rejuvenated excitement around personalization of instruction is a predictor of the future annihilation of the general educator, the rise of the special educator and IEPs for all students rather than the stigmatization of learners with "special needs." Perhaps this a bit utopian of me, but hey, one can dream.

The more important question that our industry should be asking regarding differentiation is, "How can we differentiate the way we train teachers on technology?"

Team NYU Pulls on the Boxing Gloves

I have to take a moment toapplaud Team NYU. Former NYU dean Catharine Stimpson and commentator Diane Ravitch held their own during anew addition to the agenda for the EdGrowth Summit called "3 Rounds With…" Thisadded an element of debate to the event and encouraged us to celebratecontroversy. These women demonstrated strength and poise in a room full ofattendees that were focused on markets, value and data. Stimpson questioned therise of MOOCs and spoke about the need for restoration of dignity to thefaculty, while Ravitch questioned the way we measure progress, assuringaudience members that there is more to progress than high stakes standardizedtest scores…for example poverty rates. The "3 Rounds With…" sessions wereprovoking and I hope EdGrowth Summit will keep them as part of next year's agenda.

What Is Our Industry Doing for Mr. and Ms. Smith?

During a panel gracefullymoderated by JillBarshay of the Hechinger Report,Rob Dickson, CIO for Andover Public Schools talked about teachers who aren’ttech savvy. He refers to these teachers as "Ms. Smiths." So many entrepreneursrely on teachers who already use technology to become early adopters of theirproducts. This leaves me wondering: What is our industry doing for the Mr. andMs. Smith’s of our schools?

Looking Ahead

In reflection, my mostthought-provoking conversations were with people who have at one point oranother worked in classrooms. I firmly believe until we find a wayto bring teachers from the trenches into the auditorium to participate in theseconversations, we will be at a standstill. More people like Karim Kai Ani ofMathalicious, Jen Medbery of Kickboard and Seth Andrew of Democracy Prep needto be prevalent at these kinds of education events. They’re the ones whocan carry conversations based on experiences with students and teachers. Theyare the ones who understand the impact of data, high engagement and schoolculture on student learning.

I asked many attendees howto engage more educators in these conversations and Diane Ravitch was the onlyone who proposed an actionable item. She recommended going to the conferenceorganizers and asking them to organize their events on PD days so thatprincipals could send teachers to participate. Imagine how much richerconversations about the landscape of education could be if the people who hadtheir feet on the ground in the classroom were present.

Lingering Questions

What I'm still asking:

  • How can we incentivize teachers to engage in education conversations outside the classroom?

  • What is our industry doing to support the Mr. and Mrs. Smiths of our classrooms?

  • Can our country change societal views of "The Educator" enough to restore dignity to the field of teaching?

  • What changes can we make at the pre-service training level to provide new educators with the tools they need to bring technology into their classrooms?

Marisa Kaplan is the founder of the education blog, EdGeeks. She is also a literacy and special education instructional coach forK-12 teachers, a private tutor and an educational writer. In addition, she is the Head of Curriculum Development at PenPal News, Community Ambassador at Citelighter and a Mentormob Innovator, and on the advisory board for SxSWedu.

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