IST2016 Summary – EdTekTalks

This is another multi-presenter session. In an hour and 45 minutes, you see 5 mini keynotes from distinguished EdTech leaders.

First presenter is Amelia Rose Earhart. As you might guess, she’s an aviator. In 2014 she did a solo, single-engine, flight around the world. Amelia told us the story of her life, and how she became one of few women who have flown around the world. She talked about how being named Amelia Earhart has led to a lot of turbulence in her life. She said “turbulence builds character, perspective, and grit that success never will.” She added that we don’t want to hear the story of how someone was handed something on a silver platter, but stories of perseverance. Very passionate speech about overcoming adversity and achieving your dreams. Glad I got to hear her speak.

Our next presenters are Dr. Janice Dias and Marley Dias. Marley is an 11-year-old girl who grew tired of reading only about “white girls and their dogs” in her classes at school. She wanted to see black girls, girls like her, in her books. She started a campaign to collect 1000 black girl books. This movement, through help with Black Twitter, the Ellen Show, and others, it blew up. Through her work, over 7000 books have been collected. Even better though, she has increased the conversation about the lack of diversity in publishing. This is a legitimate issue, and one that is getting attention now to actually see change. She is focused on having the literature in classrooms reflect the diversity that is actually present in classrooms. She is truly impressive, to have accomplished so much at her age. On top of creating a foundation for the donation of black girl books, she has also started a literacy tour in conjunction with the White House initiative of positive education for African Americans. She also points out that while black girls are unrepresented (around 11% of published books feature a black lead), Latinos and Asians, as with many others, must be even lower. She focuses on black girls because that’s her story.

The third presenter is Caleb Harper, Principal Scientist of the MIT Media Lab Open Lab Agriculture Initiative. He focuses on research in food and trying to improve it. He pointed out that the average apple you eat today is roughly 14 weeks since it was picked, and that through the processing, most apples have lost all of their antioxidants and are mostly just balls of sugar cellulose. He argues that the next movement in the world (after the coding movement, the maker movement, etc.) is the bio movement, where digital tools will be applied to farming and change agriculture. They are doing some amazing work on growing plants, focusing on growing plants in a perfect world. They are studying environments, and how variations in an environment will cause variation in the flavor of the produced food. They track all the factors and try to reproduce the specific environmental factors of a historical time and place. They have also worked hard to create open sourced lessons around what they do, and make a box to help grow the perfect plants using technology. Very cool stuff.

Next up is Ayah Bdeir, founder of littleBits. We are adding a littleBits makerspace to our school next year, so I’m looking forward to her space. She says “The 21st Century presents new problems that require new skill and demand new careers.” She created littleBits with the understanding that we need to build future inventors and thinkers who are able to solve problems on their own. The idea is to make STEM something fun for kids, so that they will actually want to do study STEM skills. littleBits does this through 4 goals:

  1. We make it fun.
  2. We go from STEM to STEAM
  3. We help make it personal
  4. We empower our educators

The general idea is that we cannot prepare students for future careers, because we can’t guess what the careers are. What we can do is make our students problem solvers, and build a passion for ongoing learning and experimenting.

The final presenting is Dr. Alex Thornton, talking about Technology and Learning. He focuses on the connections between technology, exercise, and learning. He looks at students through an optimal performance lens, not a developmental lens. In other words, he focuses on what everyone’s brain can do, not the limitations believed to be there. He had us all get up and do running in place for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Punch for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds. Then jump for 20 seconds and rest. What he says is that physical movement will reset the emotional setup (or make you happier) and also make your brain more active and ready to learn. Using EEG, they have shown that a kid who does a 20 minute walk before walking, will outperform themselves on reading and math (but oddly, not spelling). The extension would be that students would benefit from moving and being active before class.

Overall, fascinating talks.