opinion

What EdSurge Has Learned

By
Tony Wan

Today marks the 300th consecutive edition of EdSurge’s original newsletter. We planned something chipper and cheerful—a celebration of the work of the team, of the ideas that we’ve been sharing for more than five and a half years.

Instead, we’re doubling down. And we hope you will double down with us.

We’re doubling down on our commitment to learning. Our commitment to supporting students and teachers—all throughout the country. Our commitment to listening, to everyone—yes, especially those who don’t look, talk or think alike.

EdSurge got started because we wanted to bridge conversations—to connect the people building technology with educators, administrators and ultimately students. We aimed to cut the hyperbole and empty rhetoric, and have an elbows-on-the-table discussion about when and how technology could help learners.

And clearly there has never been a moment in our brief history when Americans so need to listen to each other, closely and with heartfelt intent.

That means our energy, and our intentions remain fixed on a single mission: To give every student in America an opportunity to build a great life by learning to learn.

All of us at EdSurge will do this in all the ways we know how: Through writing, through bringing people together, through quietly seeking facts and through energetically building solutions. We will succeed—but only together.

Thank you for coming along with us on some part of this 300 issue journey. And let’s forge ahead together.

—Betsy Corcoran, Co-Founder & CEO, EdSurge


From the very first 50-or so friends and family who received Issue 001 in February 2011, to the many tens of thousands today; from the indefatigable teachers and entrepreneurs to school and district leaders; from former governors, current CEOs to our tireless volunteers—we express our deepest gratitude. We owe this to you.

Readers chimed in, responding to three questions that we posed last week. (Look for tee-shirts soon!) Here’s a snapshot of what they shared:

How did you discover EdSurge?

Jessica Valera, education technology specialist and science teacher: In 2010 I met with my good friend Betsy and she told me about her vision to create a space for teachers and technology...Being a spectator and a participant (as a writer and teacher) on the EdSurge journey from its humble beginnings has been incredible! From a discussion at Peet’s Coffee on Burlingame Ave. to a world renowned hub for education innovation in just a few short years.

Andy Calkins, Deputy Director, Next Generation Learning Challenges: How did I discover EdSurge? On a day when I clearly should have bought a lottery ticket.

Our first office, not much bigger than what you see here. (Thanks George!)

Barbara “Bobbi” Kurshan, Executive Director of Academic Innovation, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education: I met Betsy before Edsurge was born. Originally Edsurge was an app for teachers to select the right software for teaching and learning. Sort of consumer guide for edtech for teachers. And as that was evolving, Betsy’s think tank of advisors suggested Betsy stick with her strength— journalism—and thus Edsurge was born!

Joel Rose, CEO, New Classrooms: I gave Betsy the idea. :)

Jenny Pierat, President, CraftED Curriculum: During a casual conversation with a colleague about five years ago I was first introduced to the work of EdSurge...I was reintroduced a few years later during an #edsurgechat and connected with one of the editors at that time who was interested in sharing educators’ voices from the field. I submitted my first blog post at that time and also enrolled in the weekly newsletter...I continue to engage with other connected EdSurge educators through Twitter, additional blog post submissions and Edsurge Summits. I have found Edsurge provides wonderful tools and opportunities to help me stay progressive in my thinking and practice!

Jennifer Pierat, President, CraftED Curriculum

What do you hope we’ll get done by Innovate 400?

Mandela Schumacher-Hodge, Portfolio Services Director, Kapor Capital: I hope EdSurge makes “equity” just as popular a term as “edtech,” and helps people understand the difference between gap-closing and gap-widening education solutions. Gap-widening solutions refer to products, services one programs that only certain groups can afford; thus, enhancing the gap between the “haves” and “have nots.”

Over half of the U.S. public school population are now students of color. In order to ensure their needs are being served and their best interests are being looked after, I hope EdSurge educates their entrepreneurial readership about the importance of building diverse teams that are inclusive of their end-users (e.g. students of color). Lastly, I hope that by Innovate 400, every EdSurge publication will be comprised of different voices, perspectives, and lived experiences that truly showcase the diversity of education enthusiasts around the country.

Michael Carter, Principal, Twin Learning LLC: I want EdSurge Instruct [the Thursday newsletter aimed at educators] to find even more ways to get teachers to chime in. That will help EdSurge Innovate know how better to report on the industry so as to get more folks to support them and provide them with things they really need.

Robert Provonost, Founder, EmpowerMINT: I look forward to the evolution from podcasts to VR immersive news videos by Innovate 400. ;)

Candid students always offer chuckles

Greg Klein, Senior Director of Innovation and Learning, Rogers Family Foundation: Keep up the snark, and the hope, as you all help banish the buzzwords, and increasingly focus on stories highlighting students and teachers truly solving age-old problems.

Tory Patterson, Managing Partner, Owl Ventures: I hope that by issue 400 you have morphed from a source of information to a source of procurement recommendation and evaluation, driving significant value to the ecosystem as it grapples with what promising new technology to incorporate. (Editor’s note: Owl is an investor in EdSurge…so, um, we’ll take note!)

Douglas Tarr, Director, Hackery: Create an EdSurge Slack Community!

Sandy Speicher, Partner and Managing Director, IDEO San Francisco: Maybe you guys could help the mass media to become less sensationalizing, and instead focus on coverage that helps us see how the world is optimistically evolving, and point to solutions that are working while rigorously pursuing the details of those experiences. And to generally bring a joyful tone to our news? You know, like you do for education?

Celebrating our first Summit (Oct. 2013)

What’s our one piece of advice for the next President?

Dean Florez, CEO and President of Balance Public Relations (former California State Senator): Think digital and define education as something to be measured based on an individual level recognizing that all students learn at different paces. Flip our K-12 space, end the credit hour in colleges and choose diverse delivery methods over uniform measurement. Allowing technology to measure learning allows us to dump standardize tests which we all know won't be around in 50 years. In short, push education into “edtech-ation.”

Vibhu Mittal, CEO, Edmodo: Our schools are preparing our children to lead the world of tomorrow: a world full of opportunities, and challenges, unseen and unknown. Let’s teach our kids to learn to learn in this brave new world. Education is the best vaccine against poverty and strife.

Barbara “Bobbi” Kurshan: Work to collaborate! We want our students to know how to communicate, collaborate and think critically to solve “big” problems. Shouldn’t our President do that too?!

Adam Bellow, Co-founder, Breakout EDU: I would simply ask that his or her view on education focus more on individualized (smaller) education plans, with money being made available to teachers and schools who are armed with ideas to think differently. Don’t tie funding to testing and technology to assessment. I think that if the POTUS can focus on a non-numerical success point, being real achievement over standardized achievement, then we will be able to raise a generation of students who know how to question the world and who are both driven and well-equipped with the tools to create meaningful and positive change for the future.

Din Heiman, Chief Operating Officer and General Manager, BrainPOP: Try to avoid the temptation to develop a gloomy stance on current innovation in schools. Look carefully, and s/he will see many, many pockets of innovation within schools and among teachers. It’s worth focusing on how these projects scale.

Jenny Pierat: I feel strongly that those who make education policy decisions have little understanding about ramifications on teacher practice. Standardization and political constraints have almost killed the profession of teaching. The next POTUS must find ways to support innovative structures and quality development for teachers to bring the field of teaching back to its intended craft. S/he must be a leader in reimagining the profession of teaching and encourage the development and the empowerment of teachers as professionals. Only then will we get to the student results we all seek.

Mandela Schumacher-Hodge: Lead with empathy. Listen before you speak. Learn before you act. Enact legislation as if it were your own family being impacted.

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