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FETC Keynote – Creative Schools: Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up

Here we are getting ready for the first keynote session of the conference. Sir Ken Robinson is going to be here!

Lots of great canned music, and some slides to watch while we wait. Just before we start, we get a “feel good” video about technology in education.

Getting started, VP for LRP Ed Chase. Ed welcomed everyone.

Note to self: Don’t sit somewhere where the speaker is behind the camera. They do put them up on the big screen, but it’s just a little weird. Will know for the next keynote session. Update: Sir Ken was right in the middle of the stage, not behind a podium so my seat worked!

Ed reminded us that the FETC fitness program is in full force with all the spaces being used and how spread out they are. Sessions get full, so have some backup plans. Just over 600 sessions here this week! Badges are scanned at every session, so you can track and get a veritend certificate.

Use the FETC Mobile App -> tried it. It’s okay, maybe borderline mediocre. Certainly has the content, but some of the steps to find and search and get the data you need can be a little lacking. Okay, just tried to open it again, bogged down. Thinking it’s likely a capacity problem. Wireless is available, but app is non-responsive.

Todd’s advice: Use the app in the evening, at your hotel to plan your day, and put the sessions you want into a quick reference place – maybe your calendar.

And here’s Jen Womble! – Program Chair

11,000 plus attendees! Lots of track chairs, and people working behind the scenes to make this conference happen. This is Jen’s 25th FETC – cool! First one was as an attendee and it transformed her work and her school. Lots to learn, lots to do. Jen did a great job of welcoming everyone and encouraging everyone to participate in every way they can!

Creative Schools: Revolutionizing Education From the Ground Up

Sir Ken Robinson

Ken walked onto the stage with a cane, and received a wild standing ovation!

Some of his books

Ken is living here in the USA, and is a resident alien – living among us. Just applied for US citizenship… Currently crisscrosses the US visiting and presenting about technology and education. Ken briefly talked about how is wife was teaching elementary school, with 42 kids in her class of 10 year olds when they met. All teachers had to teach the subjects, but had the opportunity to teach her favourite topics at times too. Conversations are still the same as they were back in 1977, just some of the tools and solutions are changing.

Things that we are concerned about in the USA, are not unique to the USA. We are generally concerned with global issues.

Change education: if we want to change education there are three things we need to think about:

  1. Must have some understanding of the problem we are trying to solve
  1. We need to have a vision of what the solution would look like?
  2. How do we get from here to there?

Some people think that the way to get change is to lobby government, or wait for someone to make a difference.

Ken suggests that real change comes from the bottom up, from the grassroots. There is a need for change, and it’s up to all of us in the education system.

Every country in the world is in the process of reforming their education system. When Ken was a kid, people were only interested in what was happening in their own countries. Now governments scrutinize every country’s education policies, like defence policies. The reason is because of economics. Pressure has been to raise standards in schools and have more and more people going to post secondary school.

What follows? A particular type of strategy. If people aren’t educated to a high enough standard in sciences and math, then it’s a problem for the world – according to the government.

Ken reminds us that the worst part about having kids is you are basically going back to school when they do.

However this pre-occupation of there being issues with Math and Science, and focusing on that, is not necessarily good, as we’re not paying attention to other subjects.

This is also driven by conformity, but human life is not about conformity. So why are we so focused on standardized testing, and prioritizing conformity. We also have systems based on compliance.

In 2013 the NFL (which is not football…;) was a 9 billion dollar business. US Box Office was 11.2 billion dollar business. Education system testing industry was a 16 billion dollar business (includes making, sorting, making sense of tests.) None has led to improvement in schools themselves or teachers, or students? What could we do in America if we had an extra $16 billion? It’s not about if there is enough money, but where it’s going to.

Third, the centrepiece of this system is competition. Atomized and highly competitive. Yet human life is based on collaboration.

Wikipedia has become the largest and most reliable repository of information and knowledge in the world. The willpower of collaboration. The other great example is the moonshot in the 60’s – one of the most innovative periods in American science. The grand bold vision that Kennedy shared, fostered an amazing amount of innovation and collaboration.

If you design a system to do something, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t. If you design a school to look like a factory, don’t be surprised if you get the same results.

In no other place do we organize people by age group. School district in Oklahoma partnered with a retirement home. Setup a fully fledged classroom in the retirement home. Some kids go to school there, and the residents help with the reading program – reading buddies, residents in their 80’s, 90’s, etc sit one on one with the kids. Those kids are outperforming all the other kids in the district. Why? Because they are getting one on one instruction and help. Getting a great cultural exchange. People working together at the beginning of their lives, with people at the end of theirs. Children are learning lots from the residents. Members of the retirement home have generally stopped taking sedatives, medications that help them sleep, because of the program. Every once in awhile the students learn about why their reading buddy isn’t coming back, because they have passed on.

Why do we divide the day into subjects? We don’t have to!

Can’t we base our system on diversity, creativity instead of conformity.

We have only had smartphones for 10 years, and some people can’t live without them. Really, it’s only been recently that we’ve actually had telephones! Remember the party lines? You had to share a line, you could pick it up and listen to other people’s conversations – just like Facebook…;)

Artificial Intelligence is about to become mainstream, and we don’t know what impact that will have yet.

Ken showed a video where people had to get a peanut out of a plastic tube that was bolted to the table and the table to the floor. Most people couldn’t solve it, but everything they needed to solve it was in the room. The problem was how they framed the problem, and how they saw the other items in the room. But would the problem be different if the bottle of water from the back of the room was placed next to the tube. At the end of the video, we see an Ape that easily solved the problem.

There is a big difference between learning, education, and school. We are deeply inquisitive organisms. In the first years, we learn to speak – and yet no one teaches them how to do it.

Kids love to learn. Problem isn’t kids or teachers, but how we do school.

And the good thing is, we can do this, we don’t have to wait for government.

Book: Creative Schools

We need to re-think Human Resources, and figure out how to personalize education. And also to customize education to a community.

Ken figures the Aims of Education are:

To enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they can become fulfilled individuals and active compassionate citizens.

Play is a vital part of early education. Kicking around, running around, making stuff up, falling down, getting up, blowing things up.

In USA, less than 15 minutes a day are spent outside by children. Yet in maximum security prisons, inmates spend a minimum of 2 hours a day outside.

Some schools are trying to add more free time, more recess. And go figure, playing is good for them. More recess means less distraction when in the classroom. But what took us so long to figure this out? This video is from a school in Texas trying more recess time…

Kansas City – we’ve prioritized academic, over vocational – where we actually solve real-world problems. Minddrive after school programs for kids to learn about math, science, technology, and environment through hands on projects. One year stripped down a car and rebuilt from the bottom up, and then converted to electric only. 100% of minddrive seniors graduate high school. Here’s a video link….

Organic Farmers have it figured out – get the soil right, and the plants will be fine.

We have replicated industrial agriculture in our schools.

Minddrive demonstrates that if you focus on the culture of the school, then the children learn in a way that is unprompted and through their own interest.

How do we change the system? We are the system, and we are already on the move. Our goal should be to transform education, not just improve it. There is some urgency, because the world is changing faster than it has before.

Ken’s presentation was very thought provoking. His dry sense of humour and ability to make people laugh spontaneously, while also talking about serious topics is very enjoyable. Thank you for all you do Sir Ken!


FETC 2018 – Technology track

Look! It’s a new year, and visiting Orlando for the Future of Education Technology Conference! This is a series of blog posts that are essentially my notes from the various sessions. You may find it interesting, you might find it boring – sorry.

This first session was all about explaining the technology track for the conference. The three speakers talked about the basics, session locations, how to get around, and some previews from their sessions and favourite sessions.


Derrick Brown – Chief Innovation Officer – Evergreen Public Schools (Wa)

  • 27,000 Students, 37 schools, 1600 teachers, $350 M annual budget
  • 6th largest school district – Southwest Washington

IT Leaders are:

  • Bridge Builders
  • Chief Storytellers
  • Collaborators
  • Resultants

Areas of Responsibility:

  • Cyber-Security
  • Educational Technology
  • Information Technology Services
  • Applications (SIS and Digital Instructional Ecosystem), Tech Support Services, network Infrastructure & Operations, IT Finance & Purchasing

Bruce Umpstead – FETC 2018 IT Track Chairperson and Managing Partner ScaleUp Education Partners

Bruce briefly spoke about the track, and suggestions – like don’t miss keynotes and important announcements. Pick a topic and stick with that one. Network – never eat lunch alone, find your tribe. Breathe! And don’t get overwhelmed, have fun and reflect nightly. If a session is full, have a plan B.

Think of ways to share with your team, you may have to justify attending again in the future.

Presentations will be uploaded to a “website” after they are completed. They will be tweeted out!

Apparently there is a document put out by the US Federal Government about technology infrastructure for schools.

“Building Technology Infrastructure for Learning” June 2017 US Department of Education

Caitlin E. Krause

Learning Futurist – Mindwise @MindWise_CK

The Future

Book: Homo Deus – Yuval Noah Harari

Todd’s Notes:

All three presenters spoke briefly about their sessions and also some of their picks for sessions that would be good to see and participate in. It was a good session to get started, and especially for new attendees to get a bit of a head start on determining their plans for the rest of the conference. Each of the three presenters had some great content and were clearly interested in helping everyone to have a GREAT conference.

Bad Rock Beat Down – Michael Prelee

Today’s book: Bad Rock Beatdown by Michael Prelee
Published in 2017 by: EDGE-Lite
Location: Todd’s Library

This is a really great book! Lots of Science Fiction involves some fictitious races of aliens, lots of unpronounceable names and new words and powers made up by the author. They usually take a number of chapters for you to get your bearings and try to figure out what is going on.

Not so here. The characters are by and large regular, normal human beings trying to find their place in the universe. This is a fun romp through the galaxy! Set in the future, a repo guy who is struggling between what is right and wrong, but tends to err on the side of right. Who would have thought you’d need repo guys in the future? But in this case, instead of repo’ing cars, or trucks, for someone who missed a few payments an defaulted on a loan – this guy repossesses spaceships! How would you like to wake up one morning and find your spaceship has been taken away, and you are pretty much now living on this planet?

This was a fun read, with a great storyline – enter the all-knowing mob, the low-life union boss who cares more about his money than he does about people, and of course the fledgling entrepreneur who is just trying to run his business. Mix them all up, with a couple of corrupt individuals, and a whole lot of interesting action, and voila, you have a great book.

I enjoyed this read very very very much. I didn’t even realize there was a first book, and this one easily stands alone. Language is reasonable, plotline – believable!;) (I know, I can’t believe I wrote that word either!) Prelee leaves us with an ending that suggests another book may be following – I can hardly wait!

Attribution – Christine Horner

Cover - AttributionToday’s book: Attribution by Christine Horner
Published in 2017 by: in the garden Publishing
Location: Todd’s Library

So a good friend of mine recommended looking at LibraryThing – a website and an iOS app for managing my book collection (which has grown to in excess of 1,300 books!)

As part of LibraryThing I became a member of the Early Reviewers Group, which occasionally works out that I get a free book in exchange for a review. Cool, eh?

So to the book – Attribution. Attribution is a story told in the near future, a future where water has become scarce and a new company has risen from this issue to help manage water around the world – and of course the world is still not all getting along, and there are plenty of players who want all the glory and wealth. Turns out that not only do you need water, but you also need rare earth minerals to de-salinate the water to make it drinkable. Of course the majority of the story takes place in the USA, but has many references to other countries, and even the Nobel prizes.

The main character, Truby, seems to be some sort of journalist, stuck in a remote part of Yellowstone National Park. Why she is there, how she got there, and why she is the protagonist is a mystery until near the end of the book. The book goes back and forth in time telling the story of a young girl genius who helps solve the water problem, but how this young girl is connected with Truby is a grand mystery until almost the very end. (No, it is not her mother, or the grown up version of the girl)

I found the story very fascinating, and had so many unanswered questions, that I couldn’t stop reading, although if I’m honest with myself, I probably could have stopped reading and not missed the book. But I wanted to see what happened.

Ultimately it had a very unique twist, that I’ve NEVER seen in the thousands of books that I have read. Not sure if the author is trying to make a specific point, or just using a very unusual form of hiding people in a futuristic Witness Protection Program. I’m going to go with the latter. Of course as this monster twist unfolds, it creates a whole new scenario to play out and see how the characters are affected. I think this would have made a great series of books – this story line could have made it into two books at least, and been a very awesome read. However the way it was wrapped up, well, it kinda feels like it will be the only one. Maybe I will be surprised!

This story is not what it looks like, and has an ingenious plot built in, but you need to get about halfway through the book before you are hooked.

Would this book make it onto my personal bookshelf? If it was a paper book, it’s a definite maybe. However I received it as an ebook, so it’s not really taking any space, so I guess I’ll keep it.

Immortal – Dean Crawford

Cover - ImmortalToday’s book: Immortal by Dean Crawford
Published in 2013 by Touchstone
Location: Todd’s Library

I know what you’re thinking. “Has Todd really gone this long without reading a book?” Haha! Nope, just been a long time since I posted a review, so I’m trying to get back into the habit!

Picked up Immortal from my good friends at Chapters – wonderful store!

Immortal follows two investigators / bounty hunters / ex-government operatives? as they investigate the apparent recent death, of someone who was in the civil war. Yup, a very strange start – situated in present day, there is a discovery that there might be some people who have been alive since the civil war, living among us. Of course the pharmaceutical industry is involved as they are in search of the elixer of life – that which would make immortality possible for those who can afford it. And there is the government which seems to be (as usually depicted) full of crooked people who are only interested in themselves, not the greater good.

Crawford tells an extraordinary story about a possible truth in longevity, and makes a great argument for a potential accuracy. I know, it’s vague. I haven’t read a story about “immortals” quite like this. Not science fiction, not fantasy, not a world of magic, but a seemingly plausible rationally explained theory. Wrap that around a good mystery, some intrigue, some not-so-nice folks, and voila, you have a yarn that keeps you up until you finish the book.

I really enjoyed how the plot continued to develop and change throughout the book, and he got me in the end – did not see the final twist coming. My only wish is that the book were a little longer, so I could see how this might play out. Who knows, maybe there is a second book in the series? I’ll be taking a look at Dean’s works and seeing which other titles I can get my hands on.

Did Immortal get a spot on my bookshelf? Yes it did.

Convergence Conference Keynote: Julielynn Wong

Well, can you believe it? We’re finally back to another ATLE Convergence Conference! This is actually our 12th annual conference. Wow, time is really flying! So you may see a series of blog posts from me, describing some of the happenings, and sessions at this year’s conference!

Julielynn Wong – Keynote

Disruptive Technologies:

  • 3D Printing
  • Drone Robotics

First, let’s talk about 3D Printing. Julielynn showed a picture of her 3D model selfie. Why is 3D printing so exciting? Because a physical object can be stored as a digital file. We can crowdsource, store, and develop amazing stuff. Historically if you wanted a tool at the space station, you would have to send the tool up through a rocket. But now, it can be designed in the ground, and sent electronically to be built on the space station. How cool is that?

Problem: Astronauts can’t take everything they need

Solution: Bring or uplink files to space and build the things they need.

Can now do 3D Printed Surgical Tools – for the 5 Billion People who lack surgical care –

Julielynn reminded us that her speaker fees actually go towards 3D4MD

Anybody Can Innovate

Smartphones are 3D scanners

3D design software is free

3D printers are accessible

What about the power of 3D printing in education? What if a stethoscope got lost in space? Looked up the original paper / spec for stethoscope. Took the original design, and the free software, and then printed it. Then found – where a high school student designed a 3D printed smartphone case to turn a smartphone into a stethoscope.

Problem: Assistive devices are often inaccessible for 4 million Canadians with disabilities

Solution: 3D Print assistive devices to save time and money

Examples: $25 3D Printed Prosthetic Hands – made by Canadian students.

3D printed custom finger splits – costs $2 to print at public library

3D printed cup holder – designed to fit any wheelchair

$1 3D printed syringe handle – attaches to insulin needle, avoids needing a homecare nurse

Print cheaper assistive devices for seniors in assisted living facilities

Be a medical maker!

  • Learn stem skills
  • Design sustainable solutions
  • Give back to your local + global community
  • Earn academic credit
  • Get reference letters for awards, grants and jobs
  • Author research articles
  • Be inventors on patents

Problem: Replacing medical items is slow and costly in remote & insecure regions

Solution: Scan & 3D print crowd-sourced designs locally

3D printed prototype to repair suction canister

Doctors without borders catalog – maybe some things can be 3D printed?

Medical make-a-thons

  • Launching events locally & abroad
  • Solve problems & learn tech skills
  • Add 150 designs to digital catalog

3D printed tourniquet to save lives in Gaza strip

Sorry about the short, brief notes. Julielynn and her team is doing some amazing things and it’s like drinking from a firehose listening to her – but the water is GREAT!

Start a local chapter!

Stories of students helping other students: 5 billion people lack access to proper surgical care. Talked about a student who lost both his arms, just above the elbow in an accident. Now trying to find solutions to help him. Having made a 3D scan of his arms, they can transmit these around the world and people can work on solutions, WITHOUT having to go to Nigeria!

What if Killer Robots were used to save lives?

Military drones have been used for decades, really effectively. Could we use drones to save lives instead of destroy them?

Problem: 3.75 billion people life in rural areas

Solution: deliver supplies to these folks

If you are a healthcare working in Rwanda, and you need blood, you can request blood through an SMS text, and the blood can be delivered by a remote drone. Happening today!

Drones can deliver antivenom to save time & lives in Amazon. Currently takes about 6 hours by boat to get treatment, using a drone, can get the antivenom within 30 minutes.

Problem: TB is difficult to diagnose due to transportation delays & conditions

Solution: Use drones to deliver samples to labs

Drone delivered AED – here in Canada, most likely to die by having a heart attack.

Drones used for disaster mapping

Mine Kafon Drone – find and remove land mines

Problem: 1 billion people live on $2 per day

Solution: Empower local markets to build drones and provide drone services

Problem: 4 billion people lack access to the Internet

Solution: Use solar-powered drones to beam down internet connectivity

Drone superheroes challenge

  • build and demo a drone to address a humanitarian need
  • Learn STEM skills & have fun!

Julielynn was a fascinating speaker, who is making a difference for students and people all around the world, and above the world. Lots of great ideas, and pretty simple innovations that are earth-changing. Looks like a fantastic person to connect with and find a way to engage with our own students locally. Very excited to follow what is possible!



ISTE 2017 – Keynote Reshma Saujani

Here we are wonderful and amazing readers! It’s the last major session for ISTE 2017. (I know, y’all are asking where my notes and pictures of the Expo Hall are? Don’t worry, still working on that post, hopefully by later tonight I’ll have that one!) For now, it’s going to be wrap up time, and then Reshma Saujani!

Here we are again, with another great musician with some amazing music before we have our final speaker. They always find great musicians for the ISTE conference, last couple of years has been a group from Manitoba, nice to hear some local talent!

First up: Jennifer Ragan-Fore – ISTE Chief Events Officer

Jennifer had a great video with lots of clips from the conference! Some scenes from  all over the conference! (I’m hoping there will be a YouTube link soon, if there is, I’ll update this post!) Jennifer reminded us that ISTE staff is only 50 people, so everyone is working really hard to make everything work! She also recognized the program committee who ultimately make the amazing and incredible program work.

Dr. Jennifer Parker – co-founder of 21 Things
The Digital Age Drive Thru

Jennifer spoke at length about some of the projects 21 Things has been involved in.

Mila Thomas Fuller – ISTE Board President is next:

Mila asked everyone to tweet one thing that they learned and can’t wait to implement, and introduced Lizzie Sider

Lizzie is passionate about dealing with and learning about bullying. When she was coming home from school, she would have this feeling that she was worthless, and she was able to adapt and wants to help other kids deal with bullying.

Lizzie reminded us that kids are kids, and when they feel involved, they feel empowered and they want to make a difference. Why do kids bully? Because they have been bullied before, it makes them feel powerful, because they are insecure. Same answer no matter where she goes, and what school types are out there.

How can school administrators help?

Often a lot of kids feel like they are alone, like they are the only ones going through something. Maybe they are the only ones with these problems. So it’s important to keep the conversation open with kids, and let kids and parents know that we’re all in the same place, and to be a listener actively.

What can faculty to  for a student who is experiencing cyber bullying and social media?

It’s really important to educate our children on how to use social media. Parents and teachers can be extremely helpful, and important in helping kids. We need to remind them that once something is out there – it’s out there, and can’t come back! People who cyber bully think social media is like a wall between them. However it can be so hurtful.

Lizzie did a live performance of her song Butterfly.

Mila thanked Lizzie, and then had two assignments for all of us. First, join a PLN, and find your local affiliate and volunteer. Second, cultivate the relationships with people who you met this year.

Tweet questions to @isteconnects for live Q&A after this keynote.

And now…

Reshma Saujani
Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code
Book: “Women who don’t wait in line”

Reshma wanted to talk to us about Girls Who Code. Although she is not a coder. Reshma is the daughter of refugees. Her parents had to leave their country, wearing shorts and t-shirts, flew to Chicago and learned about winter, and made a new life for themselves.

When she graduated law school, she had $300K of student loans, and after 10 years still hadn’t finished, and still hadn’t run for public service. At age 33 she decided to run for United States Congress, against an 18 year incumbent. Had a 1% chance of winning. Built a website, raised $50K from folks who were happy an Indian girl was running. Was the best 10 months of her life. During her victory party, which didn’t end up being a victory party, just got 19% of the vote. No contingency plan. Establishment was upset at her.

As she visited schools, during the campaign, she visited 100’s of classes, robotics, computer classes, and didn’t see any girls. Just boys who wanted to grow up to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, or Steve Jobs. But where were the girls? It didn’t make sense to her that the % of women in the computing workforce and prediction that % continues to decrease. In 1995 – 37%, today, 24%, in 2025 – 22%.

Thousands of jobs available in computing science, but not enough people to take them on. 91% of the jobs are outside of New York, Silicon Valley, or Boston. They are not in traditional technology opportunities, but in finance, retail, and medicine. The solution? More women coming into the workforce, but it’s not happening.


When computers came out, they were typically advertised as toys for boys. Marketing and TV ads were targeted at boys. Stereotype that successful technology people were boys, nerds. Even in 2014 the TV show silicon valley is about boys. Not only do they not picture girls, but the picture of boys is not even appealing to girls.

In the 70’s and 80’s only 10% of doctors and lawyers were women. In the 80’s, 90’s, and today, girls are inundated with successful women who are doctors, and lawyers.

Similarly it was cool for girls NOT to be interested in math, or science. There was a Barbie who says let’s go shopping, not do math. It is considered acceptable to say “I hate math, or I hate science” but it wouldn’t be acceptable to say “I can’t really read, I don’t really write.” How many Moms say “Wait until Dad comes home to help you with your math.”

We raise our girls to be perfect, but we raise our boys to be brave.

Reshma decided to start a coding program for girls. Bought the domain name. Handpicked the first 20 girls. Bought pizza, and in 2012 she had the first group. And then partnered with Girls Who Code, and the Internet exploded. Today have taught over 40,000 girls how to code. Rout times the amount of women who graduated in computer science last year.

They are successful in two ways. Embed coding into classrooms. And run clubs in all 50 states after school. And it’s working. in 2018 there will be 10,000 alumni, starting as college freshmen.

Everyone has something they are passionate about, and this is Reshma’s. This is bigger than closing the gap, this is about leaving too many innovations on the sidelines.

Reshma gave some examples of girls who have come up with amazing things as a result of learning code, from inventing new algorithms, to winning major funding on Shark Tank, to girls who wrote a game called “Tampon Run”. No boy would ever write a game called this. Men invent things to replace their moms, what will girls invent?

Even books released suggest that girls can’t code, but that they will need help from boys to make it work. Culture needs to change.

One of the ways Reshma’s group can help, is books about Girls Who Code. They have a number of them coming out in August, 2017.

We can start a club. They are free, for 6th – 12th graders. Can be hosted in your community. They’ll bring the best swag we’ve ever seen in our lives.

Reshma thanked all of her partners who help make Girls Who Code work.

Reshma was very intriguing. She brought up ideas and issues that I hadn’t thought of. Our culture is used to treating girls differently, and not encouraging them in the directions of math and science. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but she made me think, and look at things in our culture a little differently. Thank you Reshma for all that you do, and wanting people, especially girls, to do more.