January 13, 2013
See life’s a beautiful struggle, I record it / Hope it helps you maneuvering through yours
Last summer, the voices of teachers kicked down doors. From now on, you’ll need a teacher on board if you want to be taken seriously in the education innovation industry. This is an accomplishment, but not the ultimate victory for teachers who are on a mission to bridge the digital divide. Our accomplishments thus far are a fantastic starting point, and we should be proud of how far we’ve come.
Now, this is my job, I will not quit it / Pulled me out the depths when I thought that I was finished / Yeah I questioned if I could go the distance…
By the end of the summer, I seriously considered taking a sabbatical from teaching. But in the final round of interviews at an educational technology company, a maverick CEO inspired me to take the time I needed to figure out what I really wanted. Here’s the note I sent myself after that meeting:
In September, I moved out to the bay area where I’d have the best opportunity to teach and build the fellowship at the same time. I had no job waiting for me, no apartment to live in, and no family. But a teacher on a mission won’t be satisfied, so I guess that’s the sacrifice…
I was meant to be a warrior / Fight something amongst me, leave here victorious…
Despite having no job, apartment or family out here, I moved to the bay area because of an idea that I could create a fellowship. This fellowship would enable educators to be involved in high level decision making and as leaders in shaping innovation and relevant policy. I am here because I want to transform the “teacher approved technology” credential from a stamp of approval into a powerful and permanent platform from which the collective voice of a movement will be heard and headed. So, I’d start by making a plan and an MVP.
Speaking with leaders in education field helped me flesh out a first draft vision of the fellowship, but I was paralyzed whenever I attempted to create a business model for it. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to identifying potential revenue streams, I can make it rain. In this case, my paralysis came from wanting to teach and develop an MVP at the same time. Luckily, this powerhouse network of teachers helped me find the teaching position in which I’ve had the opportunity to teach, beta test, and create a working MVP model of the fellowship over the past two months.
Make the money, don’t let the money make you / Change the game, don’t let the game change you / I’ll forever remain faithful…
So the journey continues. Inspired and informed by the past, I look towards everyday between now and next summer’s first iteration of the fellowship. I look forward to first period with my students tomorrow and the “office hours” I’ll be holding with entrepreneurs on the Caltrain as I make my way to and from school. Lastly, I look forward to having the time to write down the thanks that I owe to each and every person who’ve helped me get this far.
New Opportunity & New Office Hours;
An incubator for best practices;
I-Ready and Rosetta Stone, Meet me at camera 3!
August 22, 2012
While some think that my role as Teacher in Residence is to keep these companies “inline”, this is far from the truth. As a Title 1 Teacher, my objective is to celebrate their rock star moves and inform them of the opportunities they have to be heroes. I keep them informed of the hard challenges that John F. Kennedy spoke of fifty years ago. I am the one who will consistently tell them to go beyond the bubble and do what is necessary to make their solution shine brightly in even the most underserved classroom. While this doesn’t explain everything I do when I’m working with the teams, it does give you a metaphoric insight into my favorite part of this experience.
Lab Report: Teacher in Residence Shapes Development of CodeHS:
The boyz behind CodeHS are awesome enough to make unicorns swoon!
I met Jeremy Keeshin and Zach Galant the day before he gave his first practice pitch in preparation for imagine K12’s educator demo. day. When I first saw their tag line, “The best way to learn computer science online”, I figured there was little input I could offer to help their program get any better than it already was.
Like any first draft, the first version of their presentation was missing some key elements. I was focused on the fact that they weren’t offering obvious reasons and ways to incorporate the program into the k-12 classroom, the entrepreneurs figured interested educators and administrators would find their own way to bring it into their classrooms and schools. If they didn’t, then they assumed that students who wished to use the program would access it at home. Until the point when every child has access to high speed internet at home, this assumption actually poses a threat of widening the digital divide
After their presentation, I cautiously approached the team to tell them:
“You have built an extraordinary program, but my kids won’t get this if you don’t get it integrated into the school day. You are already rock star entrepreneurs, but my students need you to be heroes. If they don’t have internet access at home, than school is going to be the only place they can access CodeHS. Therefore you need to make the process of adopting your program* and bringing it into a school a celebration. You don’t have to be heroes, you’re already doing something exceptional. If, however, you’re courageous enough to take on this challenge I’ll be ready and excited to help.”
It didn’t take the graph they included in their presentation to convince me that technology matters. I know that its not just part of the common core, its a part of our lives and our students’ successful futures. This is what I loved so much about CodeHS. It will offer offer advantages to existing educational institutions and these advantages won’t compete with services that the school is already providing.
I am pleased to inform the reader that this story has a happy ending. CodeHS is currently strategizing the best way to make school adoption of the program feel like a party and hope to have made moves by the end of next month.
August 20, 2012
Ed. Tech. Cynic: Is there an educational technology bubble?
Me: Only if you choose to live inside it.
If educational technology has any form, than its a divide; a deep ravine that’s ready to reward those who have the courage to fill its unmet needs. The meek will go for what’s easy. They will be unwilling to build solutions for the greatest demands. Working in the service of independent and affluent schools, these ed. tech. companies exist in a bubble-and its more than economic.
There isn’t a bubble, there’s a giant divide and those with enough courage to bridge and fill that divide will be those who reap the benefits of supplying a solution to the majority of the market and the 14 billion dedicated to paying for it.
August 3, 2012
WEEKEND ITINERARY OF TEACHER ON A MISSION
Mornin’ – Check in at edsurge pad in San Fran for special ops assignment.
Noon – take train to Palo Alto and volunteer my time to hold office hours at ImagineK12 where I’ll help super heroes of tomorrow’s cutting edge Ed tech prep for educator day
Night – take two trains to SFO for flight to Orlando’s Start Up Weekend EDU
Mornin’ – Fly back to SFO & Post 3rd & Final Title-1-Tech Blog Post
Noon – take train to palo alto to be judge in RemixEd hackathon event
Night – train to San Fran for a night of rest at home.
Mornin’ – rise and shine at 6:00 to run and catch cal train to palo alto
9:00am arrive at AOL building to help founders practice for ImagineK12 educator pitch day presentations
FRIDAY’S EARLY MORNIN’ MEDITATION… hum to the tune of Dance for You
There is an answer,
I haven’t found yet…
but I will keep hustling till I do…
Cause a teacher’s gotta do
what a teachers gotta do…
July 31, 2012
I just sent out the latest beta testing opportunities to the edupgrade innovative teacher network. If you are an innovative teacher, don’t waste another second working on that killer tan/organic garden/BBQ contest/epic operatic score and sign up below so you can get in on the action and shape the technology of tomorrow!
July 27, 2012
Dear Super Hero Hackers, Rock Star Coders and Punk Technologists,
Hey homies! There’s this tool* that I’ve been dreaming of and know that a rock star coder could build it in their sleep. I need a way to define the standards by which we can define and celebrate educational technology that succeeds in the physical, financial, and political reality common to Title 1 schools. I want a tool that will allow educational technology entrepreneurs and companies to determine whether their product is being adopted and used in Title 1 schools.
As a Teacher in Residence at ImagineK12, I have the privilege of working with the Super Heroes behind tomorrow’s most badass ed. tech. I need this app because I want these entrepreneurial rock stars to have a more detailed picture of their product’s adoption rate. Beyond this, I also need an app. to act as an important signal of any products success in reaching the students and teachers who are often the most underserved by the current education system.**
The data generated by this tool is just the starting point. From there, its going to take some Reiss-style swagger to obtain the feedback you need to understand whether the adoption was voluntary or mandated, short lived or long standing, and ultimately its capacity to optimize teaching practice and student outcomes. While its considered extraordinary for any product to gain viral adoption, its an even bigger miracle for it to happen in the Title 1 ecosystem.***
There’s an upcoming remixedk12 hackathon, which is aiming to be a weekend of building web and mobile apps to help K-12 teachers in the classroom. If I weren’t a judge, I’d be submitting the following idea for hackers to spend time on. This tool could easily utilize the database currently available from the department of education and allow a company to cross reference it with their list of current users.
Its one thing to define Title 1 Tech, but its another to create the tools that entrepreneurs and companies need to measure rate of adoption at Title 1 schools and iterate accordingly. For those who are Super Hero Hackers, here’s a link to the DOE’s database of Title 1 schools. Once made, I would challenge every ed. tech. companies out there-especially those that define themselves by investment rounds-to use it. This would be the first step to proving your product is worthy of the Title 1 distinction, and moreover that you’re the disruptive innovator you think you are. Its not enough to define the problem, we’ve got to solve it.
*I am describing the function I dream of, but you’re the boss when it comes to form. I leave it in your genius hands to determine whether this tool would best be made into an app, website, download, program or transformer action figure.
**In a recent talk, Farb Nivi of Grockit discussed the importance of knowing the single greatest risk to your endeavor’s success. As a teacher on a mission, my single greatest risk is that ed. tech. companies won’t feel compelled to bridge the digital divide by making their products spread virally in the most underserved-and often hardest to penetrate-sections of the market. There are models out there that serve this population’s needs and one can take a note from Farb’s Grockit for Good initiative as just one model for doing so.
*** The reasons for this are far too complex to cover in this post, but I’m currently envisioning an absurd infographic to illustrate some of the one’s I’ve personally encountered.
Coming Soon: TITLE 1 TECH. (part 3) – Case Studies of Title 1 Tech.
July 3, 2012
Not all tech is created equal and as a Title 1 teacher*, I have a special place in my heart for educational technology that works in my classroom.There are extraordinary technologies out there, but within a typical Title 1 classroom, many of these programs become useless because we lack the devices or bandwidth to run them. When it comes to technology, what I really want to know is whether the “best” educational programs will still be the “best” once they cross the threshold of my classroom-a room with three walls (plus a curtain), spotty internet, and only 1 computer. While my definition for “Title 1 Tech.” is still emerging, here’s what I’ve got thus far:
Title 1 Technology
1. Technology that is developed to succeed in the physical, financial, and political reality common to Title 1 schools.**
2. Technology that bridges the digital divide by promoting competencies and skills needed to benefit from computer use.***
These are only my initial thoughts on what it means to distinguish an app or device as “Title 1 Tech”. Part 2 and 3 will discuss further specifics.
Happy 4th of July!
(*) I’m a Title 1 Teacher, which means that I teach at a Title 1 School. A “Title 1” school, is one that is considered “low-income” according to certain criteria for funding under Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). The largest federal program supporting elementary and secondary education, Title 1 was funded at $14.5 billion in fiscal year 2012. The goal of this legislation is to improve educational equity for students from lower income families by providing federal funds to school districts serving poor students. In addition to providing funds for high-poverty schools, Title I, Part A, Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged Program, is the federal government’s primary instrument for holding states, districts, and schools accountable for implementing standards-based education. Check Ed.gov for further information regarding Title 1.
(**) Classrooms in Title 1 schools are often characterized by slow-to-unreliable broadband connection or limited access to computers
July 1, 2012
As the director of an international network of innovative educators, I and the teachers I work with get free access to educational technology when it is in its earliest stages of development. We give the feedback that developers and entrepreneurs need to make their innovations awesome. We are special ops. teachers who have what it takes to shape the educational technology of tomorrow. I’m not alone in thinking we’re bad ass. In a 2009 Stanford lecture, Eric Ries , author of The Lean Startup Methodology, said early adopters like us are “more visionary and smarter than the founders of the company that served them.”
Given sweet talk like this, I was eager to hear Mr. Ries speak last Thursday at an event co-hosted by ImagineK12 and New School Venture Funds. The event’s invitation described it as a convening of the education technology community to network, learn from one another and engage in a “fireside chat” with Eric Ries. If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Ries or lean startup methodology, you should check out this incredible post written by Lesson Cast. I found it to be the most helpful resource when it came to translating startup lingo to edu-speak.
The place was already pretty full when I got there. The wine wasn’t boxed or twist-off, yet all the bottle openers were next to the beer buckets. Young entrepreneurs stood in small groups talking in cool anticipation of greatness. Having the social grace acquired from attending 9 months of b.y.o.c.-bring your own chair-faculty meetings, I held my head high as I entered the event space. I was wearing my Gap hoody to hide the orange marker stains on my “most-professional” teacher dress and stood alone. No board, no objectives, no agenda-other than listening to Mr. Ries champion early adopters are-I had no idea what to do. After a few paralyzed moments, I decided to simultaneously inhale my beer while staring at my feet.
Luckily, Michael Staton-for God knows what reason-came over and saved me from myself. His presence restored the dignity that I’d lost by standing at the most inconsolably awkward spot on the wall. Once seated, I remembered the excitement I’d originally had for hearing him speak. Having established the fact that even the most bad ass and genius entrepreneurs will be embarrassed by the first version of their innovation, Mr. Ries turned the discussion towards the reason early adopters are palpably excited to try out these mortifying first drafts. “Early adopters”, Mr. Ries explained, “have a mentally unstable condition.” Upon hearing these words, I felt my face turn red and my feet suddenly became the most interesting thing in the room. Ever the charming entrepreneur, Ries quickly justified our collective insanity. Our reason for being crazy is that we are desperate to have a problem solved. He made his justification all the more poetic with the following analogy “If your house is on fire, you don’t care if the hose has holes in it.”
Hearing Eric Ries’s insights made me realize the reason that I and the other teachers in the network are on a mission and excited to beta test. Given the conditions in which we teach, its no wonder many of us teach like our classrooms are on fire and find ourselves driven to find anything-even a hose with holes-to extinguish the flames. Mr. Ries’ powerful analogy will be added to the lexicon I hoped to build while out in the Bay area this summer. I need this language so I can help the other innovative teachers understand the importance of what they are doing and share our triumphs with the rest of the world.
If we all teach like our classrooms are on fire, we’re going to do everything we can to find solutions to the problems we witness each day. We’ll be excited to beta test something that entrepreneurs are too embarrassed to admit to. What’s more, we won’t be mortified or ashamed by the earliest version of an innovation, for they were the means we used to put out the fire that was consuming our student’s potential and future.