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Team Beta Classroom

October 8, 2011


Day 1

Dear Team Beta Classroom:

Every single one of you is a hero. Why? Because you filled out a form during “back-to-school” time-a time many teachers find themselves between a state of sleeplessness and shock.

In my first email to each of you I asked about the technology you currently have, and the technology that you dreamed of. I do not have the words to fully express how incredible it was to read each of your responses. While we are a surprisingly diverse team. Thus far, we’ve recruited team members from Canada, Honduras, and Malaysia. Our team has teaches everything from computer science to foreign language to history. We come from a wide range of schools, including:  public, private, religious, charter, elementary, secondary, urban, rural, and specialized. In spite of these differences, our needs, passions, actions and insights are strikingly similar. These similarities were in the forefront of my mind today, and remained so when I had the pleasure of speaking with Brandon W. of Edmodo. Today’s conversation with Brandon was an absolute pleasure because he shared some incredible ideas about how Edmodo could be used to build the creative space our team needs to express, support and act on your ideas and insights.

Now, its up to each member of Beta Classroom to determine the type of platform needed to empower our interests and incredible energy.  I need to know which elements you are most excited about having, using and contributing to. Its not the same as the first one-but you should still expect a genuinely heartfelt response from me. The options included on this form represent those that were most popularly expressed in your emails. There is an additional space at the end for you to use to offer any additional suggestions or insights.

Teacher Approved Technologies: Dedicated to using “beta” ed. tech. and providing the highest quality user feedback based on its ability to optimize our practice and our student’s outcomes. 

Tech. Savvy: Dedicated to showcasing lesson plans that introduce and integrate technology into their lesson plans. Additionally this page could include assessments for determining students current tech. literacy and lessons used to teach these 21st century skills.

Realizing Our Dreams: Dedicated to expressing the things we wish ed. tech. entepreneurs would make for us. Potentially, these ideas could be ranked by popularity and feature a “poly-vore” type tool that allows team members to grab images from around the web and save them to a personal “dream technology” folder.
Discuss Amongst Yourselves: Somewhere between Department Meeting and Camp David, these regular and thematically focused discussions will start within the team but ultimately involve taking positive and transformational action.
Celebration: Dedicated to celebrating the achievements made along the journey to access technology; achievements may be breakthrough, award winning, hard fought, paper-work nightmare or otherwise.
Guest Spotlight: All the glory of publication without the responsibility of doing so regularly! That’s the beauty of the spotlight, you choose when you want to step in and step out of it! Regular rotating blog topics could include: The Solution!, The Matrix: dedicated to the intersection of Technology and ,  Rural Tech., The Adventures of Technology in the Classroom (check out Honduras based Team Member Jose Popoff’s adventures here: )
Learning Center: This is where our failed attempts to innovate classrooms will be shared, improved upon, picked up by others and eventually carried out. Your emails expressed the tremendous energy that has been spent and your efforts should be remembered, recorded and learned from.

After posting twice on Edmodo, and making 2 Tweets, I received a tremendous outpouring of teachers interested in joining Team Beta Classroom! Their thoughts and ideas resonate deeply with those that I have had throughout this summer. This has been an extraordinary journey, and now I know that I will no longer be the only teacher on it. I am so thankful for their support and show of interest in working with Beta Classroom. As I’ve already told them in my email, this last week of vacation is dedicated to visiting the Palo Alto area. At the start of the summer, I was focused on making Silicon Valley understand the importance of connecting with teachers in ALL types of schools, and particularly those where students are the most underserved. Over these few months, I learned that there is nothing more that they would like to do. I’ve also learned that it is notoriously difficult for ed. tech. entrepreneurs to reach teachers. In order to reach a teacher, its best to already BE a teacher; the best way to create a new pathway for technology to reach the inside of the classroom is to build it from the inside -> out. 

So, rather than heading West to demand that they create a new pathway for technology to reach our classrooms, I’m going out there to share the pathway I’ve already created with them, and to learn what they think about it. I’ll be trying to post each day I’m out there.  I’ve managed to get a flight reservation just one day after a very large tropical storm took out all the power in my neighborhood. Hopefully this is just the first of many good things to come. 

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