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About My Book: Missing Voices in Edtech #corwince

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 6.29.10 PMAbout a month after Educon 2014, I was approached to join a group of “connected educators” to write one short book in a series aimed to help schools understand a plethora of topics about being a connected educator. This opportunity came about as a result of the conversation about diversity led by Audrey Watters and Jose Vilson. I like to refer to it as the moment when I found my voice.

Initially, I started writing about the conference circuit which led me to more research than I could possibly squeeze into 64 pages. I had every intention of writing about the lack of people of color and women in keynote and featured conference roles and I started writing all about how we (POC/Women) can be experts of so many tools/ideas yet are rarely given the same platform to share as many of our peers.

I found preposterous examples of tech companies hiring “Booth Babes” for the educational tech circuit in which models aren’t hired based on knowledge and skills but initially by physical attributes. (Bra size was choice #1) Unlike the “Booth Babes” of the gaming tech circuit, these ladies dressed in anything from polo shirts and khakis to pencil skirts and high heels. (I actually kept this reference in the title on my chapter about women)

Why is that? Well, it’s because the majority of school edtech decision makers are men so hiring “hot models” is a common ploy to get those decision makers into the vendor booth. This seemed to be common practice at ISTE 2013 in San Antonio where “event modeling” companies not only boasted about their ladies working the event but posted plenty of pictures. I nearly threw my computer upon reading this line… “Our ladies can learn anything well enough to increase your sales tremendously” because clearly, nothing sells software and expensive computers to schools like hiring a group of models to sell it.

As for the research of this…A simple web search of conference models + conference and year is all that it took. Enjoy!

In the end, after months of rewrites, sharing, living and learning…the entire theme of my book changed. I had a lot of aggressions about so much of the negative stuff that happens and I found that my book lost focus. I didn’t want to write a book that simply pointed out “the things” without giving solutions. In addition, I didn’t want to write something that did not speak to my intended audience…schools. I wanted to share thinking points, ideas and stories of the differences that can be made by intentionally seeking input from certain marginalized voices.

While I do recognize that diversity carries many meanings, I chose to directly focus on four while indirectly interweaving others.

About My Book

My Book, The Missing Voices of Edtech: Bringing Diversity into Edtech (Corwin Press, Connected Educators Series) is a personal experiential reflection of how teachers, students, women and people of color are often not heard when it comes to technology initiatives in schools. Yes, there are fabulous women in tech leadership all over the country but there are still far too many schools that lack such. There are amazing technologist of color but I can count the visibility of them on my hands. As for teachers, we know how that goes…the tool shows up in a classroom for teachers to figure it out. And students? They have opinions, needs and ideas. We must engage them more. We don’t do that enough.

Within my book are also contributions, vignettes, from a few members of my connected community. I will forever be grateful to Aimee Bartis, Lisa Johnson and Rachelle Wooten for sharing their journeys and perspectives. I also have two former students who proudly shared theirs. One of which, hand wrote his story on a paper tablet during his factory job break. (While meeting with me at Starbucks, to learn a few more skills, he has since created his first email address which is amazing since he is a recent graduate of a “tech heavy” school.)

While I thought that I wanted to add my voice to the non-diverse tech conference/edtech company circuit, I am actually thankful for the months of delays that led to my final product because at the end of the day, if we don’t address the embedded problems in school tech thinking, there is zero room for change beyond.

Why Diversity Matters (a snippet of thought from my book)

Diversity matters because with understanding comes intentional thought. A single person or group of non-diverse decision makers without an understanding of their learners decides based on the lens of their own view. They tend to look at scenarios from the scope of numbers and not need. On the other hand, a group that reflects the differences of the impacted learners as well as a collection of varying yet open ideas will almost always address the needs first to align with the numbers. Diversity matters in EdTech because not all tools, devices, apps, and ideas are created equally—nor are learners


My book is available for pre-sale NOW and will release January 2015.

The Missing Voices in EdTech

The Math of Things

The Math of Things

When I was a student, my math instruction involved a teacher writing problems on an overhead projector with clear transparencies and vis-a-vis markers. They all followed the typical, “I do, We do, You do” model. We didn’t do a great deal of thinking at all. We solved as asked, often regurgitating exactly as our problems were modeled.

In many classrooms, we’ve tossed out the overhead and replaced it with interactive whiteboards, projectors and sometimes even handheld devices.

But think about it…Has our approach to math instruction really changed?

A teacher recording problems on an IWB while kids copy and duplicate or a teacher walking around using their ipad as a writing tablet is really no different than the teachers who prefer the overhead projector. In every case, the teacher is “modeling” process while kids record steps. The tools changed but the pedagogy remains the same.

As a student, I was given tons of worksheets and homework was often solving even numbered problems from the textbook. Often times, my teacher would stand beside my desk or call me to hers in order to listen to me speak my way through a problem. Now, if kids aren’t getting physical worksheets or solving the same standard problems from a textbook, they might just be recording “how to solve a problem” on a mobile device.

Does working a problem out on an ipad make it any different than writing it on paper? What about listening to students via device? How is that different than listening while standing beside my desk?

Thinking about it makes math seem even more drone-like than I remembered.

Is This Real Life?

In math circles, we throw words around like “real world” problems and we like to think that we make problems “real world applicable”.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 1.24.12 AMAn example of a “real world” problem might start like so…

In a model of a ship, the mast is 9 cm while the mast of the actual ship is 15 m high…

I remember giving tons of those problems and then trying to draw and explain what a mast was to a group of kids who had never even experienced a lake. In my mind, the picture that I drew should have been enough. All they needed to know was that it formed a triangle, at least on paper, and that understanding the mechanics of the boat had zero to do with the answer.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 1.01.18 AMA few weeks ago, I traveled to the great state of California for the first time and I took tons of images because this was my first real experience with not only seeing a boat but watching it sail the ocean. When I experienced it, it was different than what I saw in a textbook…the same book that I used with my students.

Only, I didn’t wonder about the missing side of the possible right triangle formed by the mast, sail and ship. Instead, I wondered if varying sizes of “sail material” affected boats differently. I wondered why some boats traveled without their sails and if doing that affected speed in the water. I wondered how much weight could fit in those small boats before they didn’t sail so well. I wondered if angles mattered.

I wondered why we give kids problems like this and call it “real world” when most kids never experience it. This is not their world. This is not their math.  When I was standing on that beach, I wasn’t standing as a teacher but a person who was experiencing newness. The sights, sound, smell…I felt something…a connection.

Not just real…but human

Experiencing the World Through the Google Cultural Institute

Experiencing the World Through the Google Cultural Institute

A few months ago, I found the Google Cultural Institute while looking around for a few of Google’s initiatives and I have to say that this is my all time favorite thing that google has ever done. As a person who believes wholeheartedly in the power of experience through media, I love that users can take a virtual tour of a plethora of cultural cognizant artistic and historical pieces.


Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 8.52.03 PMOther things that users can do…

  • Click the dropdown next to Explore and visit featured projects like World Wonders which takes users on a Google streetview tour of “The World’s heritage sites” like the Taj Mahal while also connecting users to specific cultural artifacts
  • For every adult who ever convinced kids that street art was garbage, there is a specific exhibit which takes users on a journey of experiencing street art from a global perspective
  • Create your own gallery and share it.
  • Use the compare feature to create a side by side view of two different works which will certainly drive discussion.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 9.04.28 PM

  • Women in culture…Interactive, full of content yet so much more yet to be included!
  • Visit the Google Open Gallery, (you’ll find a link from the home page on the right), which is a platform aimed to help artists, museums and galleries bring their content online!

Combine Global Galleries with the Google Translate Extension

The beauty of having something as significantly accessible as the google translate extension is that when experiencing artistic perspective from another culture, translating is only a click away!

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 8.39.14 PM

I make a point to visit this one site daily and I learn something new every single time. The world is not necessarily within my physical reach but with tools such as this, it’s always a click away.

Why Connectedness Matters: Growth of a Former Sheltered Learner

Why Connectedness Matters: Growth of a Former Sheltered Learner

Today I asked my niece if she felt that she knew about the world around her. Her response to that question, that she did not, was exactly as I expected. She attends school where her learning is limited to the words in her state adopted textbooks. Learning for her is 100% “sit and get” with zero application beyond district purchased worksheets.  Aside from her personal social connectedness, my niece has zero experience with making connections with the world outside of what this town makes available.

She is a senior and by today’s standards, will graduate high school without being globally ready.

My niece’s story is my story…the one that existed before my social journey began over 5 years ago. My niece’s world was my world…my town…my school…my classroom….my life as an educator…the one that I vowed to change.

Inside My City Limits

I don’t think that people really understand how sheltered one can be in a small town, unless they themselves share the experience. There are far too many void of opportunity, accessibility, visibility and voice. In my town, this is typically the case, especially if you are black and even more so if you are hispanic and undocumented. The numbers of kids that fit into that category are staggering.

I worked very hard to create a space in my classroom where kids could not only feel success but feel encouraged, challenged and expected to aim higher than our town standards. My openness to understanding of the accessibility to information that technology provided helped tremendously. I know that for a fact.

As a teacher, I was isolated and in a sea of negativity where “my ways” were a bit “too open” and “out there” for many, I preferred that and my isolation was just as much defense mechanism as it was necessary. I was the weird one, the one with the crazy ideas…who always had to have technology, the one whose kids rushed to and also hated to leave. My room was not my room. My tools were not my tools. What was “mine” was certainly…THEIRS.

It’s still crazy to me that certain people never connected my connectedness with the kids that I taught to the empowering community that we established over the commonality of race. “He works in your room because you are black”.

“No, He doesn’t work in your room because your environment doesn’t allow his success”

And Then Came Twitter

My initial bout with twitter-edu came because of technology. I was and still am very excited about certain tools and their impact on learning. I started traveling to conferences and attending sessions by people who I was connected to…only to realize that I knew a lot more than I thought. After-all, “not on twitter” doesn’t mean “not knowledgeable”. It simply means “not instantaneous”. There is a difference.

I found chats and the more conversations that I had, the more that I evolved as a learner and leader. I moved from lurker to sharer and all of a sudden my ideas, the ones that were confined to my room, were helping other teachers change theirs. I think that I probably chatted 7 days a week back then…constantly connecting with educators all over the world which was amazing when you’ve barely stepped foot out of your own town.

Somewhere along the way…after downloading hundreds of apps, cycling between a multitude of devices, teaching countless sessions and mentoring teachers in their instructional growth, I found a much bigger purpose in connecting.

I found conversations that spoke to my experience as a sheltered learner and the affirmation of the environment that I created in my classroom. I found Diana Laufenberg‘s TED talk on failure, Frank Noschese‘s talk on inquiry and Jose Vilson‘s talk on teacher voice.

I connected with each of them and through their work as well as the work that they linked to, I found educational advocacy. I found that it was not only my right to refuse to remain silent on the need for more opportunity to inquiry based learning, access, equity and voice…but my responsibility.

I also found that if I didn’t use my experiences as a teacher of color in a non-accessible environment to help push the conversations for more voices to be prominent and necessary for change, I was doing it wrong. I will forever have Educon 2.6 (2014) to thank for that.

In a sea of devices and apps, I found a lifeboat in transformative thinking. I changed. My perception of the world changed.

My mission changed. My city limits are no longer limiting but metaphorically motivational.

My niece, as globally unready as she is, is about to get a crash course on the world…that has forever been at her fingertips.

Much like Dorothy’s Ruby Red Slippers…It was there all along.


Would’ve Should’ve Could’ve: Reflecting on the Google Teacher Academy Austin Submission

gtaThis summer, after the rejection that was GTA Atlanta, I sat and talked to my friend Lise while I was in Canada about my Google Teacher Academy rejection. She flat out told me that my biggest problem was that I do not talk about the things that I do enough. She reminded me of my network of connections and how I don’t “hightlight” them at all. She even said that I didn’t talk specifically about the mathematical connections that I help teachers and students make through inquiry using applicable tools. Then, there is the whole part about me speaking at conferences all over the country and teaching online webinars. Yeah…I don’t talk much about those things either.

The bottom line, in her words, was that I do no sell myself enough nor do I acknowledge the things that I do and if I wanted to be considered for such a thing as GTA or any other specialized group…I better learn how to sell…RAFRANZ. In other words, stop being so modest.

Honestly, I still struggle with selling RAFRANZ because in all honesty, I’d much rather spend my time helping others recognize themselves. 

And then came Austin…

I spent more time on the video than I did before…creating something that I believe spoke to who I am as an educator. In less than a minute, I created a look inside my life in a single day. I chose not to talk about the 15,000 chromebooks in our district, the in-summer google camps that we hosted, the countless staff developments, cross country sessions, webinars, google hangouts, cross curricular collaborations or even my upcoming keynotes.

I focused on what drives and motivates me. I also directly included Braeden since so much of his story lays the framework for what I do. It’s not about his insane puppet creativity, it’s how he learned, continues to learn and shares. Without youtube, there would be no puppets.

But then the questions…

What holds people back from applying is sometimes the intimidation of the video but the video is only a teeny tiny percentage. The rest is all about how you share who you are on “paper”. Every GCT that I have talked to, said that people needed to spend more time on the questions because they actually weigh quite a bit heavier than the video. For this application, we had 1 minute for the video and only 800 characters each on the extended questions. That’s not a lot.

Question 1 was a question about overcoming hardship and I shared a specific example about the event that pushed me to go back to college…forever changing the course of my family’s life. I’m actually okay with question 1 even though I considered writing about my struggles in tech & the absence of diversity.

Question 2 was more than likely my big miss. I may actually have gone all “nerd city” talking about connecting with “people like me” and the more that I think about it, the more that it bothers me because this question easily lent itself to talking about sharing the power of global learning and being able to have exposure to new ideas that I could not only take back to my school and connected community but home…to the kid that inspires every ounce of my work.

No regrets though…except question 2…darn…

Final Reflections

Let me be clear in saying that I didn’t write this post so that people would leave sympathy comments or even comments about “why I didn’t need GTA”. Please don’t. (There is a reason that I wanted to do this again and to those that care about me…and you know who you are…I need you to trust me.)

I wrote this post-submission reflection so that any others who may be thinking of applying can learn from me and my mistakes.

1. From my ATL rejection, I learned that making the video was much more about sharing my story as an educator while answering “the question”. Be creative. Get your story across in one minute but at the end of the day, with the video counting so little…it really is about answering the question and making something that shares who you are!

2. Take Lise’s advice. Sell yourself like crazy! What do you do? Why do you do it? When do you do it? Where do you do it? At the end of the day, if you aren’t willing to highlight what you do…why apply? (ok…fine!)

3. After you hit submit, don’t second guess any creative decisions. Don’t use voxer to whine about the things that you could’ve, would’ve and should’ve done differently. It’s done now. Instead, learn from it. Share with someone else and plan for the next event because at the end of the day, whether I miraculously make it to Austin or not, there is still plenty of work to be done.

In the meantime, I’m posting my video again because I am proud of it and so is the kid…even if “the specificity of how I innovate” is unclear.


Helping Teachers Make Global Connections

Helping Teachers Make Global Connections

Yesterday, I taught what I think was my new favorite session. It’s wasn’t a “connect to twitter” or a “build your pln” session but there were small nuggets of those. It wasn’t a “Google apps” or a “coding” session but there were small nuggets of those as well. My session was all about learning through global connections/projects. WhatContinue Reading

A Boy, A Lion and A Google Form

The other day Braeden decided that he wanted to involve “twitter” in his puppet decisions. As a kid who thrives on collaboration, making a Google form to share seemed like the obvious choice. Those were his words anyway. His questions… What should I name my lion puppet? Should I make a turkey costume for LennyContinue Reading