Baltimore Educational Equity Summit

This past Saturday I attended and presented at the Baltimore Educational Equity Summit, which was organized by Teach for America.  The session of which I was a part was titled, “Using Social Media as a Vehicle for Change,” and looked at various strategies and tools organizations and movements have used to leverage the power of social media and digital tools to advance their causes and missions.

I got a lot out of this summit beyond just the experience of presenting.  First, from an organizing standpoint, the summit did a really good job in making the best use of a gathering of 1,000 people for one day. There were specific goals and objectives for the summit and the way in which they organized and set it up increased the likelihood that those would be met.

For example, one great strategy they implemented was that when people registered for the conference they were asked about what section of Baltimore they worked in or were familiar with.  They also asked what kind of work one was in – teacher, administrator, business professional, community leader, etc. Then, during the plenary portion of the conference people were actually assigned seats at round tables based on their responses from the registration form.  This guaranteed that those with whom you were sitting were also working in and interested in the same section of Baltimore.

Then after a few of the plenary speakers and performances, each roundtable was actually put to work in brainstorming ways in which everyone at the table could potentially work together to address some of the equity issues present in that particular section of Baltimore.  In short, the conference organizers did not take for granted that people would naturally network or have the time to sit down and actually brainstorm together around solving problems in such a short period of time.  They knew that those kinds of interactions needed to be engineered into the conference experience and they did a really good job with that.

Secondly, I attended a great breakout session titled, “Schools of the Future for the Present: Education and Technology Unite,” which involved 5 different edtech leaders and entrepreneurs working in and with Baltimore Schools. I was amazed at how much emphasis Baltimore has put in supporting innovative edtech.  It is clearly becoming a national leaders in this sector.

In this breakout session we heard from Vincent Talbert @vwtalbert who works for the Digital Harbor Foundation, which is “a Maryland-based non-profit fostering a culture of innovation, tech advancement, and entrepreneurship through local and global education initiatives.”  Vince and this organization were providing the funds and opportunities for people (students, teachers, and entrepreneurs) to create and integrate edtech into their practice.  As he said during his presentation, the nature of the work always starts with the “why,” which for them is to empower people to realize their full potential. Talbert referenced the “Start with they Why” video and concept, but was unable to to show it due to internet connectivity problems. But I think he was referring to the work of Simon Sinek and his website,  Here is one of Simon’s TEDx talks where he talks about this concept.

Next we heard from Nicole Tucker-Smith(@misstuckersmith) who is the founder of which assists teachers in sharing elements of their lesson plans and building a large online library where teachers borrow and learn from one another through these posted “lesson casts”. Check out the video to learn more about their work.

What I found really interesting about Lesson Cast is that is shows an appreciation for not just content creation but curation as well.  It recognizes that there are so many teachers out there doing creative, innovative, and effective things in the classroom and that those ideas should be captured and shared with other teachers.  In other words, its a crowd-sourced approach to finding what works best as opposed to relying on “experts.”
I was curious if there was a way to vote up the ones that worked best or a way to beef up and promote the ones that are not being used or recognized.  And in so doing was there a way to gamify the ways in which people contribute to the website?  She said they were working on elements such as these. So I look forward to checking back in to the site from time to time to see how it evolves.
Nicole also mentioned two other cool resources – Center for Technology and Education at Johns Hopkins University and Startup Weekend Education, which are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups!
 (Johns Hopkins University)

We then heard from a high school student, Evodie Ngoy, who is a refugee from DRC and now lives in Baltimore.  She shared a short film she made called, “An Education in Apathy,” which explored her experience coming to the United States and seeing how young people took their free education for granted.  It was a powerful film.  Check it out.

During the question and answer portion of the session I made sure to share my positive comments on the film with Edovie.  I asked her what the learning experience was like exploring this topic and story through film vs. if she had to do in the form of a paper.  She said that the all the creative elements that went into making the film made telling and sharing this story much more engaging – so much so that she made another film looking at the experience of other refugee students at her school and living in the Baltimore area.  This film is titled, The Paradise that Wasn’t, and is also outstanding. In fact, if I were to teach a course that had students exploring the issues, stories, and lives of refugees, I would no doubt have them watch this film.  Check it out.
The next presented in this session was Robert Earle (@rearle87) who is the creator of the website and online lesson plan creator tool,  He took us through a short tutorial of how the website works.  One of the key features was that all of the common core standards are already loaded into the tool so when teacher design and put together each lesson plan they can search all the standards and link them up with their lesson plan.  It also has neat functionality for posting your lesson on a public website so students and/or parents can access them on their own.  It also has the ability to print out what you’ve created online.  In short, this was a pretty fabulous lesson planning tool and one that I would definitely consider using if I were currently teaching in a public school that required that all lessons align with the common core.
Last, we heard from Bert Ross, who is Director for Classroom Support in Baltimore School’s Teacher Support System.  What was really fascinating about his presentation was to learn how technologically capable, committed, and innovative Baltimore schools are.
During the final question and answer portion I also learned of some other interesting resources and information.
PD360 –  This is the world’s first and largest online, on-demand professional development platform for educators.
Child Internet Protection Act – this is one of the reasons websites that are not specifically intended to be “educational,” yet are extremely educational, like YouTube are blocked in schools. CIPA was enacted by Congress in 2000 to address concerns about children’s access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet. CIPA imposes certain requirements on schools or libraries that receive discounts for Internet access or internal connections through the E-rate program – a program that makes certain communications services and products more affordable for eligible schools and libraries. In early 2001, the FCC issued rules implementing CIPA and provided updates to those rules in 2011. – was founded by a group of teachers from Atlanta and Boston public schools to connect educators and help them create, organize, and share their curricula.
Amplify – is a new business dedicated to reimagining K-12 education by creating digital products and services that empower teachers, students and parents in new ways.

Finally, we were left with this quote: “Live as if you will die tomorrow. Learn as if you will live forever.” -Gandhi

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