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EdSurge's Tech for Schools Summit in Baltimore: A Recap and Review of Products

Posted by Chris Brida

Mar 14, 2015 7:00:00 AM


EdSurge Recap

Edsurge_logoWell folks, it’s a wrap. The Baltimore Tech for School Summit is officially over, and it was a great day at the Four Seasons Hotel in the Harbor East neighborhood of Baltimore. As you may have seen in my last blog, I went into EdSurge with a plan and hoped to come out with some new tech that I can use in my classroom, especially as PARCC exams are right around the corner. I think that I was successful. I’m going to take some time here to review some products, including the benefits and some features that I hope will exist in future iterations of these products, as well as talk about other parts of EdSurge that made it such a great day!

The day started with a fantastic keynote address from Richard Culatta, the director of the Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of Education. He discussed the importance of technology in modern day education, and also the importance of developing strong products to use in the classroom. As he mentioned during his keynote, “Professional development is not an excuse for bad product development.” In other words, you can teach teachers how to use your product with as detailed of a PD as possible, but if it’s a bad product, then it’s a bad product. He told a number of anecdotes that showed the need for technology in our schools and talked about how 75% of the schools in the United States don’t have high speed internet. This is a big problem for a country that has Wi-Fi in all its coffee shops. Finally, he discussed President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, which is slated to bring high speed Internet to all students in the next five years. All told, it was a very engaging and personable keynote. I even got a chance to talk with him about it later while I was exploring the tech tools. Great guy!

Enough of that! Onto the tools! I started by listening to the pitches of the companies so that I could have some sense what I was getting myself into when I headed over to the “playground.” All of the companies had tables in a tradeshow-style room, and were separated by product type: Multi-subject, school-wide tools, STEM/Maker, Classroom support, Literacy and Assessment & test Prep. Without further ado, here are some of my favorites:

1. Class Compete

Class Compete is joining into the gamification of tech tools and trying to reduce test anxiety. They’ve designed a game that is very similar to Temple Run, but in order to move your character, you have to answer questions. The big idea behind Class Compete is to develop skills to answer questions with speed and confidence, something incredibly important as major state level timed-tests are right around the corner for our students. Class Compete is currently for elementary and middle school students, but they hope to add high school in the future.

What I love:

A lot of my students have anxiety when it comes to taking tests, so practicing through games that they are used to playing is ideal! I love the visual approach to test taking as a way to help students see the impact of correct answers in a way that is different than just earning points on an exam.

2. ListenCurrent 

This product aims to bring public radio into the classroom by offering a platform where users can find non-fiction stories that they can incorporate into lessons. The idea behind this product is to enhance listening comprehension and engagement. All of their public radio stories are tied to the Common Core curriculum, and teachers can differentiate lessons using the same public radio story for all their students.

What I love:

I have a soft spot for public radio (shout out to my local WYPR), but that’s just the only reason why I love this product. Radio is a medium so infrequently used, yet listening comprehension and engagement are such critical skills for school and life beyond education. Further, this is a great tool to provide students an opportunity to engage with current events.

3. Edulastic

Edulastic is an assessment creation tool that helps students practice both iterations of the Common Core Exams, PARCC and SBAC. Teachers can create assignments for students to do at home or in class and then can receive instant feedback on the progress of their students on these assessments. It has a number of assessments already created, but also has a crowdsourced aspect where teachers can look for assessments created by other teachers, and can create their own to add to the pile.

What I love:

This product was clearly developed with high-stakes testing in mind. My favorite part is the equation editor that they have built in. This is something that my students will have to know for the PARCC test coming up at the end of this month. It’s also a great opportunity for my students to practice taking tests using the same technology they will have to use for PARCC.

4. Classroom, Inc.

Another great game-based learning asset for students, this one focused on literacy learning. While their focus is primarily on developing literacy skills, they also aim to connect the classroom with the world of work. Students work through scaffolded reading activities that are linked directly to games, which always make work seem less like, well, work. Their games are innovative and highly engaging for their middle and high school users.

What I love:

On first read, you might think this would not be useful in a mathematics classroom, but the onset of Common Core literacy has become a critical component of success in my classroom. Aside from math skills, my students need to possess the necessary critical reading and analysis skills in order to know what a particular question is asking them. Literacy is so important in the math classroom and should not be overlooked.

While I only reviewed four products above, there was so much to love about this year’s Baltimore Tech for Schools Summit. It was a great day to explore different tools and meet with other teachers who are implementing tech in their classroom! I’m looking forward to implementing some new EdTech in my classroom and I’m feeling extra motivated to end this year strong!

Chris Brida teaches mathematics in Baltimore. He'll be blogging for us throughout the spring semester, so stay tuned for more!


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