The second lense is as a parent of a child of color. As every parent is about the anticipation of bringing a child into this world, I was full of hope, promise and excitement about what my child will experience, overcome, tackle and become as she grows. Life for her so far (in her tender 6 years on this planet) has been filled with so many opportunities, experiences and amazing journeys--near and far! My husband and I tell her daily that her dreams have no limits and we are here to support her and cheer her on!
My third lense is my own..as a person of color. One of being a double minority. Both a female and African American. It’s one that in my thirty four years on this beautiful planet, has not been told. Interesting enough, I discuss this with my parents, especially my mother often. I love my heritage, my life’s journeys and all the challenges in between. I grew up in an extremely rural area where people of color were sprinkled like peppercorns in flour. Before moving to such a rural area, I was born in a completely African American community and neighborhood. Neighbors were like family and everyone helped raise the kids in the neighborhood.
Why in the world would I tell my story? Because I’m keeping a very close eye on my daughter’s story as it’s unfolding. I’m watching the world transform in a weird way and “people” are talking.
People that look like me, well we always talk. But over this last week, people who don’t look like me started talking to me about these transformations in our world.
I attended the largest educational technology conference in the world in Philadelphia last week and before the conference officially started, I attended my first ever HackED: Unconference. There were a few hundred people and the setup was lots of fantastic conversations. Everyone in attendance, determined WHAT they wanted to discuss and one of the topics that came up was, #Blacklivesmatter: EdTech as (or vs?) Social Justice.
I was curious about the topic for several reasons: 1) curious which one of “us” started this? 2) what role can I play in this conversation 3) seriously, are we going to have a conversation?
So, I sat down in this hall and looked around to see...who could have written down this topic.Being a person of color, I instantly looked for a person of color. I instantly thought my friend, Rafranz Davis wrote this (honest to good), but it wasn't her--she wasn’t there yet. I actually put four stickers on it (don't tell anyone...lol) But being a person of color, I wanted to be apart of this conversation. (Side bar: this is my 2nd ISTE appearance and my first HackEd, remember?)
There were like five of us out of roughly 200 people. Yes, it surprised me but not so much for educational technology. I’m passionate about my profession, what I do and my impact but I don’t often times run into people that look like me in national or global circles. This view excited me even more to join the conversation.
When I sat down in the circle, I had to ask people, "where's the '#blacklivesmatter' group?"...and then someone said, right here. I instantly took a photograph. The number of people of color shrunk even more...to three people. Something in my gut told me that my role in this conversation is more so LISTENING than speaking. So I did just that.
I took the photograph to remind me of where I am. This image is beautiful. Passionate people speaking about the injustices being faced by students today because of the color of their skin. But I sat here the entire time wondering (like my students do) "Where are the people that look like me?" The hard conversations can be had but more diversity in educational technology has to also happen in the role itself. We must change the face of technology to be as diverse as our planet. We need to be here...in the conversation, discussing Global Connections and the impact on our world.
As the conversation went on, more people showed up and joined in, including Sarah Thomas and Rafranz Davis who just so happened to have written a book about this topic!
The conversations, lite and even deep continued into the night and actually throughout the rest of my ISTE experience, where I heard all over the convention center the question, "when can we have a conversation?” and “what can we discuss?" "How can I impact this?" "Where do I begin in this uncomfortable conversation?" Excitedly I exclaim, On your campus. With your staff and your co-workers!...With your students and their parents.
See, I have never in my entire life (sad to say) had a conversation about my story, journey or the lenses I wear with anyone outside of my race. (honest conversation here). I have dealt with racial profiling, stereotypes, even dished them out (again, honest conversation) but these were never the hard--meat and potatoes...nitty gritty conversations. The kind of conversations that I will have to have with my daughter. Not like the conversations I had in my classroom with my diversified groups of students. No. It’s now time for me to step out on a limb and have these conversations with my colleagues.
Just as I am being honest, we all must be. yes...We need to have this conversation too...and I realized we all need to have the hard conversations. Race is not an easy topic, subject matter and it won’t be that utopia conversation we see on commercials. One large reason children, their parents and communities of color are standing up, speaking out, protesting and walking in this movement is partly because of the blatant inequalities in the school systems for our children. Being at ISTE this year, I viewed the climate as a “we have” environment that doesn’t represent all schools or districts across our country. Everyone can’t afford to attend the ISTE’s of the world but those who do, I recognize are trying to find ways to change this culture using the technology available.
The initial conversation at HackED has opened my eyes and helped me check myself FIRST on the following:
Using my voice as a weapon will change the page on this injustice for our young people and for the inequalities in education. Today everyone should have access to the world. Especially those receiving a FREE education in our country. No excuses...just action to making it happen!
And I thought I was at ISTE to present and share my knowledge with the world...but who knew, right? The connections I made have been life altering and I won’t lose touch!
So what will I share with the world about #BlackLivesMatter in #Edtech?
I think we all need to start by creating a culture in our classrooms and in our school communities that our shades are beautiful and just as there are hundreds of shades there are hundreds of opportunities for them to explore! Let's use our voices(digitally and verbally) to amplify the sound to end the injustices some of us are facing with our students and in our schools. We can unify to break down the barriers using the same edtech companies that are in the expo hall to elevate our students and give them an equal playing field in educational technology.
I hope this is making sense...I keep looking at the group and this ISTE experience I’ve had and I hope that we (people of all shades) can journey into the uncomfortable to provide exceptional and endless opportunities to our kiddos!
I end on this note:
Understanding that just as our voices united amplify, so does the voices we hear inside of our classrooms. Let us not forget and to give our students the opportunity to share using their our narratives.
I so enjoyed listening, learning and at times sharing with others at #hacked15 and I'm looking forward to all of these conversations many of YOU are ready to have!
Let's help the missing voices find their way!
Have you ever attended a conference with a PRE-Unconference built in? Learning about this cool unconference event was a game changer as my first glimpse of ISTE in Philadelphia. Everyone arrived early and were eager to start talking about #edtech!
It was kind of like a family reunion of sorts because I feel like I have conversations with these "friends" of mine on a regular basis. The energy was happy and everyone excited to connect at this year's conference.
So, I have never experienced HackEd before. I have attended edcamps but this was slightly different. Why? Because of the number of people in attendance and they came a long way for this! lol I met people off the cuff from Great Britian and a spunky edtechie from Ireland by way of Mississippi and California (@JuliaSween)
My mission: To listen. I tend to be a talkaholic! I wanted to learn from others. Don't worry I did share but I learned alot. Especially from the first minute. The rules are the same as edcamp:
These are THE best rules on the planet!
This was ultimately the purpose of HackEd! Actually having a designated time to talk edtech with edtechies from all over the globe!
Once everyone has create a list of topics they would like to discuss, the sessions are put to a vote. The ones with the most votes are added to the sessions board...There was so many choices!
I started HackEd with a conversation on 'How to make our campus/district admin better edtech leaders.' Everyone in attendance are edtech leaders but everyone isn't a campus principal, head of schools, superintendent (eventhough there was one in the group) and understanding that they(our admin) too must be edtech leaders is critical for the success of educational technology on our campuses.
The meat and potatoes of the conversation:
This conversation was one I needed to have and hearing from district level admin and campus principals helped me create a vision that now includes why admins' voice, not just my own.