Reflections from an Open Forum on Open Source EdTech

In July, I had the pleasure of attending the very first-ever edtech camp hosted by the New Visions CloudLab team at the United Nations in New York. The event provided an opportunity for participants to discuss the adoption and mastery of open source technology in STEM education. Danieta Morgan, Community Product Manager for New Visions CloudLab, facilitated the participant-driven discussion, which included a Battle of the Apps segment that allowed participants to vote for their favorite edtech tools. The event also showcased the work of a student and two former teachers who are leveraging open source technologies and inspiring others to go from being “consumers of technology to creators of technology.”

High School Senior, Elle Park, kicked off the first presentation by discussing her current internship at the United Nations with the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion program.  Elle is driven by a personal mission to provide wireless access to women in developing countries, so they have access to STEM-related education materials online. Elle shared that learning to code with open source languages, such as Scratch and Python, has empowered her to “create something out of nothing” and she now has the opportunity to make a real impact in the world with her app, NüMe, which helps connect pregnant women with information, resources and doctors.

Like most of those in attendance, I was amazed by Elle’s accomplishments at such a young age, so much that I was moved to take action. Since the event, I have been exploring opportunities to bring a coding program to my school, the Business of Sports School (BOSS) in Manhattan, so that my students are equipped with the skills necessary to be competitive in the future and affect change in their communities.

The second presenter, educator and developer, Gabriel Sanchez, highlighted how he used Scratch and Pocket code to “create tools that intersect computer science, music education and learning.” The tools he developed, Scripthica and Beetik, are open source and aim to empower students to learn to code through the creation of music. His passion for music education was evident as he demonstrated his tools and the various music compositions developed by his students.

As a fellow educator, I applaud him for developing a curriculum and tools to help prevent the elimination of music education from schools. Additionally, I agree with several attendees who noted that his software could be a “gateway” to getting young people excited about computer science.

The final speaker Jeffrey Moore, a former seventh grade ELA teacher, closed out the night by offering participants an opportunity to reflect. He explained that his story began with a failed lesson examining Tupac’s poem, A Rose That Grew From Concrete. The lack of educational digital content to complete the lesson ultimately led him to create the blog, Everyday Power, which is an online inspiration portal.

I am truly thankful for the opportunity to attend this event and for the open educational resources provided by New Visions and organizations like Google Apps for Education. As a result, my fellow teachers and I have been able to leverage edtech tools to enhance student learning and instruction. RosterSync, a free add-on created by the New Visions Cloudlab team, specifically has helped streamline the school-wide adoption of Google Classroom by eliminating the setup burden for teachers. This add-on has empowered more BOSS teachers to become open to learning how to best use education technology resources in their classrooms. In addition to rosterSync, other favorite Google Apps for Education add-ons of mine are Doctopus, Goobric and Autocrat to distribute personalized resources and provide feedback, SiteMaestro to create student portfolios and the creation of interactive content using DocentEDU, Edpuzzle and Google Sites.

I can’t wait to attend the next New Visions edtech event and see what new add-ons will be rolled out in the future!

Stay tuned for more information about future New Visions CloudLab events. For more information about New Visions CloudLAb, visit www.cloudlab.newvisions.org.


About Gloria Canales:

Gloria is in her 9th year of teaching high school U.S. History and Spanish. She is currently at the Business of Sports School in Manhattan. She serves on the New Visions U.S. History Curriculum Project Teacher Advisory Board and is a Google Certified Educator (Level 2) and has been a Google Apps for Education user since 2009. Gloria began teaching through New York City Teaching Fellow. 

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