This past weekend was absolutely beautiful, and so it was a telling sign that only the most passionate, dedicated, (crazy!) educators and entrepreneurs were inside at the Highlander Institute in Providence, Rhode Island on Saturday for the Blended Learning and Technology Conference. When you live in New England and start having these blue-sky days, you really have to value the conversation you’re in to stay indoors!
And many valuable conversations we had. Jennie Dougherty of BetaClassroom (now less commonly known as EdUpgrade) launched the morning with a simple statement: “Teachers are the BIG DOGS of education technology” We all nearly got up and applauded. And she continued to keep us awake as we reached for our smart phones and tablets to participate in the hands-on demos of “teacher-tested and approved” classroom management tools including ClassDojo, Remind101, and Socrative. It’s one thing to sit through a tech demo, but it’s an entirely different experience when we get to actually participate!
Through Jennie’s efforts, early stage educational tools and entrepreneurs themselves are exposed to qualified teacher and student feedback early on in the development process before they hit the market. What more could an edupreneur want? For those of us who have been at this for awhile (and in startup world 2 years is awhile) we know that it doesn’t matter how free or great or snazzy your tool is, if you can’t convince a teacher to want to spend time testing it out, you might as well chalk it up as a fun project and move on. But BetaClassroom (EdUpgrade) is there to help make those connections between the entrepreneur and educator so that both can be successful in the long run.
The morning continued with small demos of other tools, and then I spoke briefly about unleashing the Imagineer in every student – not through technology, but through the connection with the learners themselves, understanding what the broader goal is and the students’ needs/capabilities. A few student-created videos, such as a first grader’s rendition of “Where the Wild Things Are” , and then how the conversations foster – even if they are silent as was illustrated at the St. Francis School for the Deaf footage – were definitely the highlights of my talk. We’re there for the students, right, so who doesn’t want to see students creating, and the creations themselves?
It was an inspiring conference to be able to present at, really because of the conversations happening among educators and founders, which is very similar to what we value in the classroom… the types of ideas and conversations being shared among all learners!