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