I was teaching a unit that was boring. But it’s in the curriculum so I had no choice. I tried to chug it down and get on to something better. I gave the test. They bombed. I don’t even like tests–In a few years, I bet we won’t even need tests–they’ll wear a Yankee Hat that will suck out their collective knowledge and send me a report. I won’t even have to teach them because there will be an app for that too. Oh, how much money the tax payer will save!
All these apps are very cool–it’s what I’m trying to do–get these things into the classroom. But sometimes looking around at the old and the new in classrooms makes me wonder if I’ll ever get to the Yankee Hat stage.
Yesterday, all that faded into the background. I was in the middle of an event designed to change the world. An event filled with rock stars, creating rock star vision. It was the EdTechRI Shark Tank Smackdown. Actually, I think there was a better name than that, but it was really the culmination of a year or so of work where we sat down and got key players together at the table to discuss the issues faced by educators and entrepreneurs system-wide. The bottom line, educators and entrepreneurs need a constant dialogue. By opening the lines of communication, we solve problems and get those solutions where they need to be most–to the teachers and the students who need them.
Last night’s event was beautiful. It was sponsored by the Highlander Institute, which brings blended learning (teachers using tech and traditional methods) and EdTech accelerator Socratic Labs, (they help ed tech startups develop so they can be successful) and housed at the very classy Rhode Island Foundation, which supports pretty much every good mission in the state.
This event was special for me. When I started my tech journey approximately one year ago, simply by making a few Learnist boards and beginning to use them in my classroom, I never imagined it would end in my involvement with Learnist, EdTechRI, and the EdUnderground–in getting to work with some of the world’s best and brightest in the field of teaching and educational technology–in seeing both sides come together.
It seemed there was a disconnect–education on one side, and entrepreneurs on the other. School systems didn’t always get the best technology, and entrepreneurs certainly wanted to build it, but they sometimes lacked access to the feedback they needed from the classroom end. Teachers would say, “Oh, you’re a vendor.” Vendors sell stuff. Entrepreneurs and visionaries create stuff. Totally different. We don’t have vendors. We have visionaries creating critical solutions with cutting-edge technology.
In getting the sides together, Rhode Island is solving problems in education. Some of the best platforms in the world need one or two simple tweaks to rock the education world. Teachers give that feedback. I’ve seen this first hand. It’s magic. By getting the educators and the entrepreneurs together, we eliminate about seven layers of bureaucracy. We have the tough conversations we need to have about our commitment to engaging students and making education real–and better. By involving visionaries, creating bridges and partnerships with the best and brightest the teaching and technology worlds have to offer, everyone wins.
I looked around the room, and saw the picture. My friend Heather Gilchrist, who mentors startups and has personally yanked me off a cliff on my own entrepreneurial journey. Shawn Rubin, who, though he doesn’t know it yet, is pretty much the face of EdTech in Rhode Island and will be on the forefront of this momentum nationally. My EdUnderground friends and antagonists. A room full of startups and entrepreneurs in various stages of development pitching their creations to smiling teachers and educational leaders, all tweeting feedback on the board. A food spread that reminded me of classy seminars when I was in Corporate America. People laughing and having a good time. Business cards exchanging, entrepreneurs and teachers lighting up when they found the right match to discuss needs and solutions, and in general magic in the air.
And I got to come along for the ride.
To be continued…