What It Means to Have ‘Impact’ in Education

Opinion | Community

What It Means to Have ‘Impact’ in Education

By Betsy Corcoran     Jun 27, 2019

What It Means to Have ‘Impact’ in Education

The wall next to the door in EdSurge’s Burlingame, Calif., office is covered with scraps of paper. Some are printouts of emails; others handwritten notes. A couple are even scrawled in magic marker.

“I feel jazzed after reading the Instruct newsletter!”

“It was through your work that I took my first step into becoming a teacherpreneur.”

“This is the start of my sixth year of teaching and your event was just what I needed to help me keep things fresh in my class and inspire me.”

Our wall is a bit messy. Anyone in the company can tape up a message they’ve received—there’s no master plan. The letters are from people who have read our articles and research, come to our events or have used our jobs board. We cherish these notes. They remind us of why we do our work, of the very real challenges of the people whose lives we touch.

This week, we added an elegant piece to the collection: a plaque recognizing me and the whole EdSurge team for our “impact” in education. It is awarded by ISTE, the global nonprofit association of educators who focus on using technology to solve education challenges.

The honor was one of three Impact awards given this week at ISTE’s 40th annual gathering. The event draws roughly 20,000 educators from its membership of more than 100,000. Richard Culatta, ISTE’s CEO, was on hand to give out a number of awards—to educators who have devoted their time to serving others, to districts that are building thoughtful, smart ways to serve their students and to education leaders who are “Making IT Happen” through their leadership.

Also receiving this year’s “impact” awards were two long-time educators: Sophia Mendoza, director of the Instructional Technology Initiative at Los Angeles Unified School District, and Jennie Magiera, founder of Our Voice Academy and chief program officer of EdTechTeam.

I was a bit star-struck, standing there next to Mendoza and Magiera, both of whom have made huge differences for students and educators. Mendoza has steadily moved the second-largest school district in the country—one that has often been fraught with competing objectives—to build a technology infrastructure that genuinely supports pedagogy. She is making the concept of “personalizing” learning real for LA Unified’s 589,000 K-12 students.

Magiera has spent her career supporting student agency and voice, and in helping educators solve the grinding challenges they too often confront in the classroom. Even better: She does it with such wit, style and joyfulness that she is beloved by many.

From left: ISTE 2019 Impact awardees Jennie Magiera, Sophia Mendoza, Betsy Corcoran,
From left: ISTE 2019 Impact awardees Jennie Magiera, Sophia Mendoza and Betsy Corcoran

So what about us?

We lend a helping hand.

For the past eight years, we have sought to tell the stories of educators and students who are using technology to learn and to change how they learn or teach. Sometimes the tech supports them; sometimes not so much. Sometimes they have felt triumphant and in command; other times, the technology has been a burden.

We’re trying to share it all. Since we began putting up stories on the web, we’ve published more than 10,000 of them—many of which have been written by educators. We offer them a helping hand, sharing ways to polish prose and organize ideas. It’s their work, through and through.

We’ve also brought together thousands of educators and entrepreneurs across the country, hosting events large and small. EdSurge team members have crisscrossed the nation, meeting with people passionate about learning, listening to their concerns, and once again, telling their stories. Some people call this “civil dialogue,” a way of exploring and respecting different perspectives on such issues as what tech and how much tech learners need. We think of it as nudging people to try to see the world through someone else’s eyeglasses.

We’ve tried to tell the stories of people who are not always heard: of educators who have felt forgotten even though they serve some of our most challenged learners; of entrepreneurs who are persevering against the odds. Of students who are trying to make sense of the world that they are growing into.

We try to ask authentic questions—of technology, of industry, and of ourselves. We try to keep learning. And we will absolutely continue to care.

All of these things are done best by a team. Mendoza and Magiera echoed that belief when we spoke later. It’s a lesson that ISTE underscored by identifying three “Distinguished Districts” this year. And it’s a lesson supported by the more than 800 people who have received “Making IT Happen” awards for their work supporting the worldwide community of ISTE (and ISTE affiliates) over the years.

Those letters on our office wall are daily reminders for everyone on our team of why we care. One EdSurgent put it beautifully: The huge problems we face of inequity and discrimination can feel paralyzing. So what we can do is support educators by giving them voice, connecting them with others and boosting their determination to carry on. That's what we've created: “... a place to make some change, a place to have some impact, a place to abandon some of that feeling of paralysis, a place where I can look deeply, where we all can look deeply.”

Everyone at EdSurge will keep working to catalyze great ideas and to spread the word about the millions of educators and learners who are trying every day to build a better country. So congratulations to all the awardees spotlighted by ISTE. And yes, we’re still here to lend a hand.

ISTE’s 2019 Impact Award:

  • Sophia Mendoza, director, Instructional Technology Initiative, Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Jennie Magiera, founder, Our Voice Academy and chief program officer, EdTechTeam, Chicago, Ill.
  • Betsy Corcoran, co-founder, and CEO, EdSurge, Burlingame, Calif.

ISTE’s 2019 Distinguished District Award:

  • St. Vrain Valley School in Longmont, Colo.
  • Flagler County Schools in Palm Coast, Fla.
  • Middletown City School District in Middletown, Oh.

ISTE’s 2019 Making IT Happen Award:

  • Rachelle Dene Poth, foreign language and STEAM teacher, Riverview Junior/Senior High, Oakmont, Penn.
  • Nicol Howard, assistant professor and Master of Arts in Education Learning and Teaching Program coordinator, University of Redlands School of Education, Redlands, Calif.
  • Doug Casey, executive director, Commission for Educational Technology, State of Connecticut

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