That's a Wrap! Photos from DILAs Gala and Silicon Valley Summit
Here at EdSurge, we run pretty lean when it comes to decor. We eschew fancy picture frames for blue masking tape. We assemble our own whiteboards and desks; one is made from cardboard. We entertain ourselves with a soccer ball.
So it was not without some trepidation that EdSurge dialed up the swank meter a couple notches and put on the fancy pants and heels on Friday, Nov. 21 for our inaugural Digital Innovation in Learning Awards Gala, co-hosted with Digital Promise at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.
Joined by over 200 amazing teachers, entrepreneurs, investors and others in the education community, we celebrated the 17 educators, administrators and organizations that demonstrate exemplary practices in building and applying technology to support learning.
Astrophysicist Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi, the host of Science Channel’s Outrageous Acts of Science and newly-minted professor at MIT, delivered a rousing keynote about those who helped him win first place in the physics division at the Mississippi state science fair--and propelled him on the path toward becoming an educator.
“It’s not about me, it’s about those guys who showed up. It’s about the companies that donated the computers. [And] the teachers who said ‘Hey, we see something in you, go ahead and take it home.’ That kind of giving is what led to this,” said Oluseyi.
Every Batman Needs a Robin
Before the DILAs, we ran another show that’s now become a staple of our Tech for Schools Summits. The Friday workshop, dubbed “Ed Leaders Day,” challenged superintendents and other administrators to re-imagine their roles as superheroes. The exercise acknowledged the compounding, sometimes conflicting, priorities of superintendents who often find themselves operating in silos, and encouraged these overworked individuals to go from a “Just Us League” to a “Justice League.”
They shared with each other their superhero powers and “kryptonite,” and identified how to work together to solve common issues. And yes--we encouraged them to come up with goofy names like “Groovy Pioneer of Digital Instruction,” which was how Martin Cisneros, an academic technology specialist at Santa Clara County Office of Education, anointed himself. His mission: to “tackle device-agnostic blended learning nationwide.”
Arch-nemeses that these superheroes battle on a daily basis include getting buy-in from others in the district, effectively evaluating the impact of a technology initiative, and translating and communicating ideas from workshops to the classroom. Jay Chalfant, director of technology at Mission College Prep High School in San Luis Obispo, sums up the challenges best: “You’ve gotta rebuild the plane while you’re flying it, and I’m already very busy with the plane I’ve got.”
Silicon Valley Homecoming
On Saturday, we returned to the museum to kick off Educator Day--where just over a year ago we held the first of what have now become the edtech rodeos we call "EdSurge Summits". And what a homecoming it was, with faces familiar and new among the 550-plus educators who came to explore what 40 companies--handpicked by judges from local Bay Area districts--had to offer.
First, we began with some dancing, courtesy of stage emcee Mary Jo Madda and 2Pac...
— Tom Murray (@thomascmurray) November 22, 2014
...and we continued at the Edtech Playground.
Attendees came in the doors already knowing what to expect from the event, and for company representatives like Jayme Hines, business development at 21 Teach, that was a blessing. He remarked on the “informed parents who understand what’s going on in their children’s classroom,” side by side with “informed teachers who have a grasp of implementation challenges.”
“Even the Internet is good,” Hines added.
We received over 2,000 product feedback surveys, which we’ll be sharing in our Edtech Index. Some entrepreneurs kept their own records, like Quill CEO, Peter Gault, who dedicated a blog post to the “massive list of feedback” he received throughout the day.
Dorothy Lau, a first-year teacher at River Glen Elementary in San Jose, California, enjoyed seeing students share their candid thoughts on technology during the lunchtime panel. “We all have a sense of what they think,” she says, “but to hear straight from their mouths about what they want, like wanting to be in control [of their learning],” was refreshing for the audience. One rousing comment from a student came when asked what he would do if he were a teacher and all the technology stopped working: "I'd take my students outside."
Tommy Hoang, science teacher at Burton High School in San Francisco, was inspired by the number of edtech companies founded by former teachers. “Apparently we don’t have to a be a teacher...so many of them go on to become entrepreneurs,” he exclaimed, adding that the entrepreneurial path could be a possibility.
It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a little over a year since our Summits first began. Who knew at that time that we’d be capable of organizing dressy gatherings (and dressing respectably ourselves) and touring around the country?
Tweeps! If you are not here today #edsurge, get your ___ outta bed next year and bring your friend. Not naming names ;-)
— Steven McGriff (@stevemcgriff) November 22, 2014
Technology and education can sometimes get mired in divisive politics and squabbling. But even just the few cities we’ve had the opportunity to visit show what can happen when educators and entrepreneurs sit together for genuine dialogue and create steps to move forward.
Thank you to all of our partners, sponsors, volunteers and educators in Baltimore, Nashville, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Seattle! There will be surely be more Summits to come in 2015. (Psst! We’ve already got one date and location locked down...stay tuned!)