On October 17 and 18, EdSurge is bringing its Edtech Summit to St. Louis. Before the tragedy of Michael Brown's death, we were excited about the emerging “culture of Yes” in the St. Louis education community, starting with administrators and extending into the student population. Now, we feel -- even more strongly than before -- that communities such as St. Louis will be the proving grounds for whether technology can play a positive role in helping students and families in all communities.
Several districts in the greater St. Louis area are in the process of redesigning themselves. With the support of St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay’s office, for instance, the St. Louis Public Schools has successfully worked to increase access to quality schools for all students through a balance of supporting existing schools and challenging the city to introduce more innovative models.
Teachers are hungry for opportunities to learn about edtech tools and best practices. The annual EdCamp STL is drawing a growing number of teachers from all over the region, all of whom give up a day of their free time to spend learning from each other. Administrators are embracing informal professional learning opportunities, too. In June ConnectED Learning hosted an edcamp-style event that brought together 80 administrators who spent the day sharing best practices with one another.
What we’re hearing from our partners in St. Louis: It may be the single biggest gathering of superintendents, principals and tech directors that EdSurge has yet convened at a Summit. We’re expecting to top 100 at our Administrator Workshop on October 17 and many at our All Educator day on Saturday as well.
Affton Superintendent Dr. Stephen Brotherton has led his district through adopting a Baldridge continuous improvement model that has resulted in significant student outcome gains in the past two years.
Dr. Robert Dillon, director of technology and innovation at the Affton School district, shared his point of view on how to create a culture of “Yes” in this piece.
He’s putting it into action, as well: Two years ago Affton lagged behind the region in its technology integration. Now the district is beginning to lead the region because the district fully embraced the goal of shifting towards personalized learning in three years. Corporate partnerships, growing connected leaders and learners, and identifying measures for technology integration are all key factors to that ongoing transition.
Similarly Ritenour School District, another one of our local education partners, has partnered with Washington University to incorporate systems thinking into that school system’s daily practice, beginning with administrators and extending through to support staff and students. At a recent joint conference, students walked participants through how they used systems thinking in their classrooms with specific examples in different content areas.
"There is no better place than St. Louis to host EdSurge," shares Mayor Frances Slay. "St. Louis has seen a dramatic growth in technology, innovation and start-ups with the help of T-Rex, Cortex, Arch Grants and LaunchCode. Our teachers, principals and other educators are a great resource for ed-tech start ups." Local leaders are coming together to build an education innovation cluster that includes multiple school districts, charter and independent schools, University of Missouri - St. Louis, Washington University, nonprofit organizations including ConnectED Learning, corporate partnerships and local government.
The newly created University of Missouri - St. Louis’s Ed Collabitat's programs, for example, connect educators to one another, to entrepreneurs, and to thought leaders from a variety of sectors. The goal: gain fresh perspectives on seemingly unsolvable problems in education.
No one underestimates the challenges facing districts such as St. Louis. But the energy and spirit of innovation that we’re hearing from educators will make this one of the most exciting Summits EdSurge has yet convened.