Event Debrief: EdRev 2015

One of the great displays at EdRev 2015.
One of the great displays at EdRev 2015.

This was my fifth — fifth! — year at EdRev and it was maybe the best one yet. I’m so grateful to my gracious hosts at PEN for inviting me to speak and for welcoming me so warmly back to my west coast home in SF. Here are some highlights from my trip.

  • The keynote was terrific. Lieutenant Governor (and former San Francisco mayor) Gavin Newsom gave the keynote address and I just loved it. His message was inspiring: he’s dyslexic, and he’s managed to see his dyslexia as an asset that’s helped him be creative, flexible, and successful. That’s a powerful message to send to kids — to see one of the most powerful leaders of your state say he has the same learning difference that you have and that it’s an asset, not a liability. He was warm, funny, and very real, and I was so excited to see the kids’ and families’ reactions to his talk. (Also: is Gavin Newsom running for president? Because this SF native said some awfully nice things about the Dodgers.)

  • The tech section was better than ever. The EdRev tech section was run this year by assistive technology guru and all-around edtech rock star Shelley Haven, who I admire very much. This year, the tables were well-positioned with demos grouped by theme. I was at the executive function and attention table, and I was paired with Fred Jaravata, an edtech guru in his own right and a teacher and technologist at Schools of the Sacred Heart San Francisco. It was great to see my old colleague here, and we had a good time talking to families about the particular challenges their kids faced and what our best ideas were for addressing them. The positioning of the tables was really smart: we were interspersed with vendors’ tables but we were away from the vendors themselves. That way, I could talk about the benefits of various tools and strategies and then refer families over to the vendors’ tables (like Notability and Ponder, among others) to get more information and (occasionally) free stuff. (I’m a big Notability believer, and I was delighted when those kind people gave me a free tee shirt.) I got to talk to a ton of families about big-picture ideas about using technology to support their kids’ academic progress. Highlights included when I got to demo how well Notability’s audio recording features interact with its note-taking features (“are you kidding?!” one mom exclaimed) and showing a family the built-in accessibility features on the iPad. These “aha!” moments are the reason I love this event and the reason I love this work. I think the PEN folks and Shelley Haven did an exceptional job of making this one of the most high-impact elements of the day, and I was thrilled that I felt like I got to help a lot of people.
  • I feel good about my talk. In spite of flinging my computer off the table at the beginning of my talk and regrettably letting fly a mild expletive when my laptop hit the floor, I’m generally pleased with the talk I gave. I think folks were expecting me to spend more time talking about specific technology tools parents can use to help their kids with social emotional learning, but that’s not really my style (as you’ve likely gathered by now). I’m much more inclined to talk about the relationship piece: I think it’s important to talk about the real-world dynamics that we can model and teach to kids. Once we’ve got that larger infrastructure in place, then we can talk about the particular tools that help support that system. I made a big list of tech tools and websites and resources (which you can find here) that I referred to as I ended the talk; I’m hopeful that that was helpful to the people who came looking for that information.
  • I feel really good about my resource list. I’m really pretty proud of that list of resources. I highly recommend you check it out.
  • Have you watched Todd Rose’s TED Talk? You should. My former HGSE classmate and teaching fellow Todd Rose attended EdRev again this year. He’s previously been the event’s keynote speaker, and now he’s a key supporter of PEN and its efforts nationwide. Todd is one of the few people I know who’s as intensely kind as he is brilliant. Take a look at his TED talk (see below) and keep an eye out for what he does next. He’s doing great things for education.

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