Ed-tech Companies are frequently admonished to receive teacher input at every stage of their product design process. This recommendation is so obvious that it barely merits mentioning, but in practice it is anything but easy. Teachers like everyone else are extremely busy, only more so, and asking a teacher to interrupt her classroom time to try out new technology is usually a bridge too far.
This is why we conceived Teacher Tech Jam. We wanted to devise an event where entrepreneurs and innovators could get their products into the hands of teachers in an informal setting that facilitated meaningful feedback.
Last June we attended a gathering of teachers hosted by Peter Kirwin and Ellie Roscher of Nudge Education. Peter and Ellie assembled a group of teachers to experience the classroom collaboration tools he had created, Whudent and Wevaluate. We were struck by the relaxed and lively atmosphere, and how it generated incredibly candid and actionable feedback.
Then in July we attended GLS11, the games and learning conference held every summer in Madison. This remarkable assemblage of researchers, teachers, education companies and game developers further impressed upon us the crucial role teachers needed to play in shaping our games for the classroom. We also met Seann Dikkers, a nationally respected researcher in games and learning, who we discovered was returning to the Twin Cities to chair the Education Department at Bethel University.
Enter Educelerate North. From its earliest stages, Andamio Games has been involved with this MeetUp group, founded by Steve Wellvang and co-organized with Steve Mesmer. Educelerate North has built a reputation for delivering compelling and useful sessions, and we recognized the power of its mission to nurture the ed-tech ecosystem in the Twin Cities.
Once we added the possibility of educators earning technology CEUs (credit hours required for re-licensure), the idea for the Teacher Tech Jam event received strong very strong support, indeed.
Here's how the event came together:
- Educelerate North invited us to organize under their banner; this gave us access to their membership and online registration, and they provided a catered meal from Be'wiched (thanks to their sponsors, Capstone and Capella).
- The Bakken Museum donated the superb meeting space, and Director of Education Steve Walvig conducted a private tour, introducing many teachers for the first time to this incredible gem of a museum.
- Seann Dikkers of Bethel University provided additional incentive to attending teachers by managing and issuing technology CEUs for their participation.
- Jenny Severson of Quantum Learning kicked off the workshop with an active session that modeled best practices for social-emotional learning in the classroom.
- Local teacher-preneurs Peter Kirwin (Nudge Education) and Matt Nupen (DocentEDU) introduced attendees to their remarkably useful web-based classroom technologies.
- Adam Gordon (Andamio Games) led three sessions where attendees were handed iPads, played the latest version of their neuroscience game, iNeuron, and provided feedback on the group play mode.
- And extraordinary local app developer Sean Berry (Algebra Touch) closed out the event with a compelling personal history of his journey to building educational apps, and a demo of his captivating math game, Algebra Touch.
For the organizers, the energy and enthusiasm were particularly gratifying, and the especially the strong cohort of teachers and students exceeded our hopes for the evening. The relationships that emerge out of events like this can become the engine of growth and innovation around ed-tech in the Twin Cities. We're already planning Teacher Tech Jam 2: we'll take the lessons learned from our inaugural installment, invite more teachers and a new batch of technology companies, and deliver an even more interactive and spirited workshop. Stay tuned!