#LearnLaunch14: Boston is the Hub of EdTech

Over the weekend, we were at the LearnLaunch Conference at Harvard which hosted educators, entrepreneurs, and edtech advocates from around the country. Boston, home to leaders in technology, education, medicine, (and sports of course!), seems to be bringing all that together in their move forward in edtech. In the midst of a packed house of intellectuals, movers, and shakers, here’s what we learned from the LearnLaunch Conference of 2014.

Boston Public Schools makes moves

On Saturday morning, Marty Walsh’s chief of staff Daniel Arrigg Koh surprised conference goers with the announcement that Boston Public Schools is buying 10,000 Chromebooks for their schools. In addition, they announced a pilot with Learn Launch to get new technologies into classrooms. As you may remember, we had the pleasure of meeting Mayor Walsh earlier this month where he announced his ambitions to move Boston forward with technology in education.

Super-connected superintendents

The superintendent hot seat panel on Saturday featured the superintendent from Revere, Burlington, and Natick along with Boston Public School Chief of Staff Melissa Dodd. The first thing Parul and I noticed was that each of them had a Twitter handle, the first symptom of twenty-first century connectivity. Our suspicions were confirmed as the session went on:

Dr. Eric Conti, Burlington: The people of my district are much more tech savvy than I am. My job is to stay out of their way.
It was encouraging to hear the leader of a district speak so humbly and simultaneously exude such forward thinking.

Dr. Peter Sanchioni, Natick: Technology can be a $1,000 pencil if the teachers can’t use it.
This speaks to one of our favorite battle cries that teachers matter, not just the technology. Unless  teachers are on board, technology isn’t going to get off the ground, no matter how powerful or well-designed it is. Mr. Sanchioni spoke about the importance of professional development and teacher buy-in when rolling out technology.

Dr. Paul Dakin, Revere: Focus on internet access.
In the district of Revere, more than ¾ of students come from low-income families and 11% are English Language Learners. So while most districts are working on which tablets to buy, Dr. Dakin is extended school days so students can have access to the necessary resources like internet. Even more, Dr. Dakin is working with broadband internet companies to bring affordable internet to the homes of students, so that they have access to online resources and lessons at home.

A bright future

At one of the last panels of the day, high school students shared their view of technology in their classrooms. Overall, these students were well-aware of the role technology plays in their education. From the ability to collaborate with others, to better feedback from teachers, to new ways to express and prove their learning, the high school students told us that they were learning the skills that would greet them when they stepped into the real world.

At the end of the day, Parul pitched Gradeable to the conference as one of the finalists in the pitch competition. We ended up losing to our friends at EdTrips, but it was a great to hear from the convention goers and receive their support. Overall, the LearnLaunch Conference was a well-planned event and a reminder of the big things on the edtech horizon in Boston.

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