SXSWEdu...An Opportunity For Educators To Stake Their Claim

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SXSWEdu...where educators collide with edtech entrepreneurs. This is precisely why I love this conference more than any other. It is the time I get to have direct access to those creating many of the tools I love and use. If affords me the opportunity to meet great minds like Shimon Schocken or hear great edtech leaders such as Alfred Solis from the Buck Institute. But it also affords me opportunities to have direct access to discuss my personal needs in a particular tool that I'm not currently getting, i.e. asking Edmodo two years ago for a question randomizer in their quiz tool...they are great for responding to educator needs. In fact, I've not found any of these startups not to be responsive to educator requests. I could go on and on about continual improvements to a variety of tools that are in direct response to teacher input.

Much is tweeted, blogged, and debated about the sad state of the tense relationship between these two sectors in the education profession. While some great points are made by many, I for one, am tired of the teacher mentality that we are victims, no one listens to us, and everyone is against us. Does not making big money really affect our self perceptions that much? I know I'm stepping out on a limb here, probably making a lot of teachers mad, but I am tired this debate. I KNOW what I do is important. I am empowered by my job because I know the influence I have on the next generation. I know how my words, my attitude, my work can shape and mold a student for success OR failure. I don't need anyone to validate that for me. I have the greatest job in the world...I love what I do. Is it hard? Yes. Do I feel like quitting sometimes? Yes. But that's life, move on. 

Don't get me wrong; I loved the EdSurge article raising questions about the role of teachers influencing emerging educational technology. But here's where I depart from the mainstream of thought...we as educators just need to stake our claim, stop making excuses, and if you don't like something, step up to the plate. At the end of the conference yesterday, a couple of teachers complained to one panel that teachers were under represented and why wasn't a teacher asked to be on their panel. I would like to ask "Why didn't you put a panel together and invite some representatives from the edtech industry?" As an educator, I have the opportunity to hear from educators on a daily basis; what I love about SXSWEdu is having the opportunity to have dialogue other sectors of our profession. This conference is not TCEA, which I also love, but this conference, in my opinion, is not so much about the "how to" but more about the "why or why not". There was some Twitter conversation following TCEA by David Jakes about sessions moving beyond the tools: 


While I totally agree with Jakes here, SXSWEdu is the perfect venue for this! Teacher-led panels on provocative topics that move past the tools will get selected. The sector I do feel that is underrepresented is the administrators. This conference is the opportunity to catch a vision for their district.

So where does that leave us? Maybe there does need to be a little fence mending, but frankly, this debate is getting old. Suggestions have been made by teachers for these entrepreneurs to visit classrooms, see what's going on...Teachers, again I say, stake your claim...invite them in, have them visit and meet the students using their tools. Like I tell students who are feeling left out of a clique, it's a two-way street. It can be done. Last week, we invited the app developer of Write About This, Brad Wilson, to do a Google Hangout with a 2nd grade bilingual classroom. He specifically asked the students to send him any ideas they had to make his app better. 

I guess I just want to go on record as saying I love this conference for its direct access to these edtech companies, networking events, and its efforts to bring educators to the table. We just need to realize we deserve to be there. I look forward to next year!
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