Chicago Teachers Get Hands-On Day With Edtech

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We'll admit we're wildly biased: this is exactly the kind of event that EdSurge loves best!

The Education Technology Start-up Collaborative is a one-day, free event in Chicago that aims to give teachers, principals and district leaders an opportunity to tire-kick edtech tools. (You can register here.)

It has been spearheaded by dynamo Eileen Murphy, who has been a teacher, curriculum developer, and district-level administrator for Chicago Public Schools and is now founder and CEO of literacy-development startup, ThinkCERCA.

Truth in advertising: EdSurge is an official "supporter" of this event: that means that we'll be on hand to help gather up teachers' reactions to the technology they encounter.

Murphy started brainstorming earlier this year about convening a session where educators could try out technology--not just get "pitched" by vendors. She created a team of volunteers--including Sarah Slavin of Teach Plus and CPS teaching and learning teams. The Harold Washington Library Center will open up its space for the day. A handful of other organizations, including Office Depot, MarkitX, Teach Plus and GSV Advisors agreed to cover the external costs.

The Start-up Collaborative team decided to focus on three categories of edtech products: those that support literacy, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and what they call "leadership"-- namely tools that can help teachers and administrators manage and support classroom activities.

To identify the companies that would be shared at the conference, the team queried school leaders in a variety of Chicago-area schools (traditional districts, charters, parochial and private schools) as well as think tanks with a "birds' eye view" of the industry.

What will happen on that Thursday? Mostly five-minute presentations by companies, followed by 30-minutes of hands-on demo opportunities. The Start-up Collaborate team expects that some people will bring tablets and laptops but there will be plenty of devices on hand for people to try the tech. (They've also arranged to have extra bandwidth pumped into the library for the day.) EdSurge and Teach+Plus will work together to poll and query teachers about their impressions and experiences in using the available products. The Hive Learning Network may also run some focal groups with teachers and entrepreneurs about how edtech can better support after-school programs.

There may be a few speakers, too, but the emphasis of the day is "show me, don't tell," Murphy says.

And afterward? Murphy says the group hopes to see similar events happen in other cities, too. (So does EdSurge! Want to help out?)

"We see this day as a call to action to people in other cities," says Murphy. "There's a recognition that this an important part of the innovation movement.

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