We'll Ask You Anything!

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We'll Ask You Anything!

What were you doing two years ago?

By Betsy Corcoran (Columnist)     Feb 13, 2013

We'll Ask You Anything!
In the spirit of "Ask Me Anything" conversations, we asked a few EdSurge friends about what they've been doing recently. How about you? What were you doing two years ago? And a long-time fav: Who was your most memorable teacher? Please weigh in below.

What were you doing in February 2011--education or edtech-wise, of course? What do you hope you'll be doing in February 2015?

Dan Carroll (Clever): In February 2011, I was teaching 8th grade chemistry. No technology to speak of--unless you count bunsen burners and NaOH. In February 2015, I'd love to be spending time observing an entirely different middle school chemistry class, one where students are working in small groups, experimenting in a lab, assessing themselves on a computer, and using digital resources for remediation.

Tom Vander Ark (GettingSmart): In February 2011, my editor threw out my second draft of Getting Smart and asked me to start over and write a third. In February of 2015 I'll be reading and quoting Edsurge in Getting Smart 4.0.

Lucy Gray: (The Global Education Conference): [In February 2011] I was hanging out at hospice, seeing my mother through her final days. Grateful for having time to process all that entails losing a parent and contemplating her impact on me. She was one the most passionate, creative, unique and flawed people I've ever met. In 2015, I hope to be continuing to work with people I admire on projects that I love. I also hope to bear witness on my children developing into future young innovators and agents of change in fields that they are passionate about!

Adam Beller (eduClipper): Two years ago I was working as Director of Educational Technology for the College Board Schools and developing what is (largely) the current incarnation of the eduTecher social community site. It was a busy time personally as well as we welcomed our second son at the end of the month. In 2015 I hope to be continuing my work on eduClipper to make an impact in the lives of teachers and students.

Shawn Rubin (Metryx): In Feb 2011 I was teaching kindergarten and prototyping Metryx with my partner and co-founder Stephanie Castilla. We were looking for a new way to manage formative assessment in my classroom. It was on-site research and development while teaching and playing with 5 year-olds. In February 2015 I hope to be at the crossroads of edtech startups and educators who are interested in testing new edtech products. I want to build Rhode Island into the edtech beta state and I hope that by 2015 we will be well on our way there.

Din Heinman (BrainPOP): Having launched GameUp shortly beforehand, we were getting overwhelmed by pent-up demand from teachers for educational videogames they could utilize in their classrooms. By Feb. 2015 we hope even the most doubtful teacher will have put her toe in these waters. And we expect kids to be giving us "grownups" a run good for our money in terms of designing the educational games and apps to power and empower their own learning paths.

Joel Klein (Amplify): In February 2011 I had just started at News Corp as CEO of their new education technology division. In Feb. 2015 I hope to be helping to change the way we educate our children by providing technological products and services that empower our teachers and engage our kids.

John Danner (Rocketship): Feb 2011: Getting the third school at Rocketship running smoothly; Feb 2015: Making personalized learning 100x easier for teachers and more productive for kids at my newco.

Cathy Davidson: (Duke U/HASTAC): I'm going to change the question: This February, I'm team teaching a class with behavioral economic Dan Ariely and 32 Duke University students called "Surprise Endings: Social Science and Literature," where the students are themselves giving assignments, conducting interviews, and then deconstructing their material and putting it together again into an interactive course that we'll then put out there as a Massive Online Open Course. We call it a meta-MOOC, because it is about what happens when students become the teachers, when learning becomes public. Next year, I plan to teach a MOOC on The History and Future of Higher Education where this meta-MOOC is the "textbook" for the massive public course. In February 2015, I hope I'm sitting back and smiling that edtech hasn't just instrumentalized and massively scaled past practices but has helped inspire us to invent a whole new way of teaching and learning together.

Who was your most memorable teacher of all time?

Jon Deane (Summit Public Schools): Ed Hewitson, AP Lit and Journalism, and Tony Hiller, 8th grade social studies.Two people who fundamentally knew how to teach kids how to think. I can still remember the acronyms Hiller used to reinforce his tenets of social studies, like TINSTAAFL (there is no such thing as a free lunch), and the ways Hewitson pushed me to to write, think, revise, and think some some more. I would take his class again today if he was still teaching, 20+ years later.

Alex Hernandez (Charter School Growth Fund): John K. Roth, Professor of Philosophy, Claremont McKenna College. He taught me how to read, write and think.

Dan Carroll (Clever): Julie Horger, my senior year AP Lit teacher & newspaper advisor. She's an amazing educator and an incredibly cool person, and more than anyone inspired me to become a teacher.

Frank Meehan (Kuato Studios): There were two. Firstly my maths teacher. Unfortunately for the wrong reasons - he was so dull and dry, and just made you do the same stuff over and over again, that most kids totally lost interest in maths. But my Chemistry teacher was amazing--incredibly active, full of energy and always inventive in using different tools and ideas to convey concepts.

Lucy Gray: (The Global Education Conference): One of my English teachers at Lake Forest High School, Brenda Perkins. She introduced me to works that I still love today, Pride and Prejudice and the movie Casablanca that we analyzed in our writing. She also took me under her wing as my parents were divorcing; we went running weekly, and she listened to me with all my teenage angst.

Heather Gilchrist (Socratic Labs): Mr. Littlefield. I had him for literature and math. He grouped our class by skills and gave us work that challenged us long before educational technology was around to make the process of doing so easier. The movie Dead Poet's Society came out right around then, and he was a big fan of Walt Whitman (my favorite poet), much like Robin Williams' character in the film. I can't think of Mr. Littlefield without thinking, "O Captain! My Captain!"

Dan Meyer (dy/dan): I had an incredible set of high school math teachers--just non-stop great public school teachers that made my own career as a math educator kind of inevitable. My most memorable teacher, though, was probably Leonard Firebaugh, an Algebra 1 teacher who spoke to me via VHS tape and drew on a whiteboard. The experience was as boring and frustrating as my later classes were energetic and productive. I never would have guessed in the years following that we'd be talking about replicating and scaling Firebaugh's model nationwide in K-16, but here we are.

Gabriel Adauto (MotionMath): Brother Chris was a Jesuit with 3 PhDs (Chemistry, Physics, and Philosophy) that taught Chemistry at my high school. He was a methodical and interesting teacher that had lost parts of his fingers in a chemical accident. The fact that his grading was tough became apparent when I got a B in my first quarter of the class. I wasn't used to getting B's, so I cranked up my skills the second quarter and pulled an A despite the fact that the material got tougher. You might think I did well, but honors classes allowed students to get E's, a letter that could boost your GPA above a 4.0. I like Science in general, but Chemistry is not my forte, and I worked hard to pull an A in the third quarter as well. Now here's the interesting part: when your final grade is calculated, the second quarter of a semester counts more than the first, and the second semester of the year counts more than the second. I knew this and turned on my afterburners for the final quarter of the year with Brother Chris. At the end of the quarter he pulled me aside:

"Now Gabriel: I really don't agree with our grading system. It counts the second semester more than the first and similarly for the quarters." (I was foolishly hoping that detail would have slipped his notice.) "However, you've worked really hard this year and in this one case, I'm happy to award you the E. Congrats." He didn't reward my smarts, he rewarded my hard work and that's a lesson that has served me well the subsequent 16 years.

What's the best book--yah, the old fashioned kind, on paper--that you've read in the past two years?

Jon Deane (Summit Public Schools): I was a huge fan of Imagine by Jonah Lehrer until it came out that he fabricated Bob Dylan quotes. That doesn't change the points in the book at all and it has some great ideas but it does make me sad. C'mon now, who would think to make up Dylan quotes?

Adam Beller (eduClipper): As a father of two my reading is split between Mo Willems and Peter Reynolds books (which are awesome!) and anything I can read about education and startups. Of the latter category, I would say one of the best books I have read would be Free! The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson. It is engaging, entertaining, and something I have learned a bunch from.

Keith Kruger (CoSN): That Used to be US by Thomas Friedman. Should be a wake up call that we need as a country to think big and innovate. Yes, we have lots of small testbeds and models, but we seem to lack bold leaders who are willing to focus on what learning could/should look like, and how ICT enables that transformation.

Joel Klein (Amplify): Eric Kandel, The Age of Insight (though Stanley McChrystal, My Share of the Task, and Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, are right up there).

Lucy Gray: (The Global Education Conference): The Roundhouse by Louise Erdrich

Alex Hernandez (Charter School Growth Fund): Think Fast, Think Slow by Daniel Kahneman. I may or may not have spent my holiday break reading Game of Thrones (books 1-5).

Franklyn Chien (LearnSprout): I've been reading classics again and I just finished To Kill A Mockingbird.

John Danner (Rocketship): Talent is Overrated [by Geoffrey Colvin]

Heather Gilchrist (Socratic Labs): Paper? What's that?

What's something that schools should change that wouldn't cost any money?

Esther Wojcicki (Palo Alto HS): They could foster an atmosphere in the school and classroom of trust, respect, independence, collaboration and kindness,the acronym is TRICK. It makes a huge difference if kids feel respected and welcome in school and it costs nothing. See my TEDx talk that explains this. That's what private school kids get---trust and respect.

Alex Hernandez (Charter School Growth Fund): Stop organizing schools by age and seat time requirements.

Din Heinman (BrainPOP): Students should have more of a voice in shaping their own learning. It's ok. Really.

How would you change the school day if you could?

Tom Vander Ark (GettingSmart): I wouldn't start with school, I'd start with a child and help them build a playlist of experiences that made sense for them.

Dan Meyer (dy/dan): The school day should start later, end later, and the required curriculum should be narrowed to allow for more elective coursework.

Frank Meehan (Kuato Studios): I would like to see multiple choice/rote learning eliminated. Instead kids should be [doing] collaborative problem solving during school day interactions with teachers. Smart apps/software are helping students learn core concepts outside school, so that the school day is more focused on applying that knowledge.

John Danner (Rocketship): I could, and we did at Rocketship. 8a-4p, personalized instruction for several hours per day and collaborative project-based instruction for several hours per day.

What's something schools should NEVER change?

Lucy Gray: (The Global Education Conference):Schools should never stop offering art and music classes.

John Danner (Rocketship): Creating the social environment to encourage learning, collaboration and character development.

What's the worst thing about being part of an edtech startup? What's the best thing?

Adam Beller (eduClipper): The worst thing is likely something educators and people of all professions will relate to. Time is limited and there aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish all that I want myself and my team to do in a day. The best thing about being in an edtech startup is the ability to really tackle an issue that teachers and students are struggling with and know that we are making things better for people by doing so. As EdSurge readers know by now, it is an exciting time to be in edtech and I am lucky to be a part of the space.

Joel Klein (Amplify): The worst thing is that no matter how fast you’re moving, it’s not fast enough. When you see the great things that can be produced, you want them out there immediately, even though you know it takes time to do it right. The best thing is to be surrounded by people who are committed to changing the educational landscape and work tirelessly to do so.

Manish Kothari (Root-1): Best thing about being in an ed tech startup: excitement in students' eyes when they use your product. Most challenging thing about being in an ed tech startup: parsing the signal from the noise :)

Shawn Rubin (Metryx): The fact that you can't be an edtech advocate for your own product without drawing some degree of mistrust from educators who feel that business and education should have a firewall between them. As a lifelong educator I feel that even when I'm promoting Metryx I'm pushing for better teaching and greater personalization in classrooms, but often times I'm viewed by educators as pushing for my own financial benefit.

John Danner (Rocketship): The worst thing is that you want everyone (parents, teachers, and students) to value whatever can help the student learn the most, but often people value their first impressions and poppy, engaging content more than learning. The best thing is the extreme simplicity of creating a software company compared to a school and the ability that gives you to be more creative, flexible, and help more students.

What’s the most extreme thing you’ve done since February 2011?

John Danner (Rocketship): Quit Rocketship and started a new company.

Dan Carroll (Clever): Deciding overnight to quit a great job, leave a great city, and head to San Francisco to start a company.

Franklyn Chien (LearnSprout): Start LearnSprout and my non-profit the A3 Foundation (a3-foundation.org).

Shawn Rubin (Metryx): Playing basketball three days a week is about as extreme as I take it around here.

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