U.S. Professional Exchange Program: EdTech

I am delighted to announce that I have been awarded a place on a professional development leadership program in the United States which will look at EdTech: Games, Apps and STEM education.

The program will run January 11 – 25, 2013 and will include meetings in Washington DC, New York, Seattle and Boston with developers and start ups, science and tech organizations, institutions working on STEM outreach, educators, policy makers, researchers and school.

I look forward to a busy (and cold) two weeks gaining knowledge from key people and organisations in the EdTech field.

EdTech Day 1

Day 1 started with a wonderfully unique meeting in the US State Department in Washington D.C by Amy Storrow, the Senior Advisor for Innovation at the Bureau of Cultural Affairs. We also met Katie Leasor and Kinsey Casey who both focused on the governments focus to engage with Ireland, and particularly Northern Ireland in STEM awareness and initiatives.EdTEech Image

Following this we made our way to the National Academy of Sciences. Jay Lobov provided an insight into the NAS history and vision whilst Margaret Hilton focused on providing an overview of ‘Learning Science through Computer Games and Simulations’.

After lunch we met with 1776, a platform which ‘reinvents the world by connecting the hottest startups they need to excel’. This visually stunning space coupled with the extremely enthusiastic people we met was a great opportunity to hold a round table dicussion.

Next was a drive to the lovely city of Baltimore were we visited Betamore. This ‘award winning campus for technology and entrepreneurship’ provided their year in review and allowed is to gain an insight into their current operations and vision for the future. This was followed by a networking event in Baltimore. We all had the opportunity to met with startups and companies who are involved with EdTech in an informal environment which was the perfect ending to a very insightful day.EdTEech Image

Tomorrow’s meetings are with Artlab+, McKinley High School and Change the Equation.

EdTech Day 2

This morning we met with the passionate people behind ArtLab+ who welcomed us into their impressive digital media studio which exposes teenagers to technology, mentorship and certification.

Following this we made our way to the prestigious McKinley High School. After getting a warm Irish welcome from Dr Louise Jones and Robert Holm, we had the opportunity to meet teachers who displayed clear evidence of upskilling through paid, and personally funded opportunities. As a result we gained insight into a refreshing attitude which mirrored the ArtLab+ philosophy of not allowing their own lack of knowledge, skill or understating of technology to stand in the way of students development. We met with a number of students who showcased some exceptional work.

The formal day needed with a very productive meeting with Change the Equation which as at improving STEM education. Initially part of President Obamas ‘Educate to Innovate’ champaign. Dr Claus Von Zostrow facilitated a discussion on the common issues in the US, Irish and Northern Irish educational systems. Effective assessment

EdTEech Image

was a key topic in addition to pedagogy and appropriate use of technology in classrooms.

Tomorrow we leave Washington and travel to Seattle and will visit the EMP museum.

You our can follow our EdTech journey on twitter using the hashtag #EdTechIE

EdTech Day 3 (East Coast -> West Coast)

Today we travelled 2,758 miles from Washington DC to Denver onto Seattle. Once checked into the hotel we made our way to the EMP museum, http://www.empmuseum.org/

Our tiredness was soon alleviated once we started exploring the contemporary popular culture exhibitions. We all had brilliant time experiencing the music, green screens, the horror and sci-fi elements and the Martin Scholler exhibition, Close-Up.

The Space Needle on the door step of EMP was the perfect way to end our day with the breathtaking views of the gorgeous city of Seattle.

Tomorrow we visit University of Washington (Minority Scholars Engineering Program and Centre for a Game Science), Pacific Science Centre and Bungie Studios!


EdTech Day 4

Our morning started with a very constructive exchange with the University of Washington with Scott Pinkham, Stephanie Gardner and a number of staff members. We explored ways of focusing disenfranchised groups’ participation in education, specifically STEM education. Our hosts introduced programmes such as the STEM bridge, star and transition programmes which aim to support students thought various approaches. These included student and alumni mentorship and five year degrees, with one year dedicated to allow students to up-skill.

Still within the University of Washington we visited the Centre for Games Science. Richard Snider introduced this centre as one which has a focus on the scientific discovery of optimal learning paths for STEM education. We had the opportunity to engage with their games such as Dragon Box Adaptive, Vampire Vision and Creature Capture. We were talked through the process of paper based prototyping to release, the emphasise on the pedagogical elements of the game in addition to the statistical analysis was of particular personal interest. We also touched research interests such as rewarding players, personalisation, adaptation and real time feedback.

We met with the Pacific Science Centre after lunch. Bryce Seidl, CEO and Dr Ellen Lettvin, VP of Science and Education provided an overview of the centre and told us of such initiatives as the Portal to the Public, the Scientist Spotlight and the Modular Exhibition Space. The use of flipped learning was raised as one method of ensuring students had the hands on opportunity to engage in their learning process. A tour of the the science museum was provided.

We then had the last meeting of the day with Bungie studios famed for Marathon, Myth and the multi billion science fiction game Halo. After a tour of the studio we had dinner with Bungie. EdTech Image


EdTech Day 5 (Sleepy in Seattle and Bound for Boston)

This morning we were warmly welcomed by into Microsoft’s corporate headquarters, Redmond. Steven Duggan, the (Irish) ‘Director of Worldwide Education Strategy at Microsoft Corporation’ focused on policy, pedagogy and practice. I was particularly blown away by the video previewing their new virtual learning environment, Modern Learning Experience (MLX). The MLX offers dynamic personalised learning journeys, which include virtual classrooms, social learning and user analytics. This is a big deal, the MLX has potential to be the ultimate platform in teaching and learning.EdTech Image

Steve introduced the group to a number of programs such as Matuto, Learn for Life, YouthSpark, code.org and CodeHut. Microsoft are clearly engaging with the next generation and by providing free access to their software and technologies through such programs they are making a huge impact all over the world.

Stephen Coy and Scott Fintel provided an overview of Kodu. Designed from a perspective of putting students back in control, this game lab allows students to create a a program games. The evolution to Kodu, ProjectSpark was introduced.

Kent Foster enlightened us on collaboration projects, conferences such a FDG and GDC and the many employment opportunities available through Microsoft.

We met with VALVe and Tom Giardino gave us a tour of their studios. We engaged in dialogue with VALVe and we were introduced to teaching with portals http://www.teachwithportals.com worth checking out. We had a general discussion about the challenges faced with educational games. EdTech Image

We leave Seattle behind having had an amazing, insightful and fun time.

EdTech Day 6 (Boston)

Our first Boston based appointment was with LearnLaunch who support the creation and growth of educational technology and learning companies in New England. Marissa Lowman the co-founder and chief executive and Jean Hammond provided us with some key stats regarding the lack of money being spent in education in the US, but did highlight that this EdTech space is beginning to change. Three issues which need to be further addressed to drive more change were

1) cost pressure
2) personalised learning
3) globalisation

Key takeaways from this meeting: Marissa told us that coding is the second language that the students need to know and stated the tools we have in the classroom need to change in order to drive change. LearnLanch has co working space available to EdTech startups which we seen on a guided tour. EdTech Image

Following this visit we met with the Irish Consulate. After a very Irish welcome we each introduced ourselves and were asked to each identify key challenges. The meeting was chaired by Consul General Breandán Ó Caollaí along with representatives from the consulate, the IDA and Enterprise Ireland. The main emphasis was placed in building further links with America in both the North and South of Ireland. The ninja teddy from GotchaNinjas http://www.gotchaninjas.com was used as the talking point for the reminder of the meeting. We each took a turn to focus on each letter from ninja to voice our particular issues. They included:

Northern Ireland
Never giving up

EdTech Image

This led to a very constructive dialog and we thank the consulate for their warm welcome.

Tomorrow we visit Engagement Game Labs, MIT and the Boston museum of science.

EdTech Day 7

Our Tuesday morning started with a visit to Engagement Labs, an applied research lab at Emerson College focusing on the development and study of games, technology, and new media to enhance civic life.
I would encourage a visit to their website to check out the fascinating work http://engagementgamelab.org

Managing director Stephen Walker introduced some projects which included

Community PlanIt, a game that makes planning playful, and gives everyone the power to shape the future of their community.

Civic Seed, a multi-player RPG that harnesses the power of online social play to teach and certify students to civically engage with partner communities.

The folks at engagement lab really are making a difference in people’s life’s through using appropriate technology to engage audiences in real life issues. EdTech Image

We made our way to MIT, firstly meeting with Richard Larson who is the Principal Investigator of the MIT BLOSSOMS Initiative. BLOSSOMS stands for Blended Learning Science or Math Studies. It is a project sponsored by MIT LINC (Learning International Networks Consortium) a consortium of educators from around the world who are interested in using distance and e-Learning technologies to help their respective countries increase access to quality education for a larger percentage of the population. More information http://blossoms.mit.edu

Next we met with Rik Eberhardt’s, Studio Manager at MIT Game Lab. Combining the inventiveness of MIT engineering and computer science, the pedagogy of the MIT Education Arcade, and the research and development of the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, the newly configured MIT Game Lab brings together scholars, creators, and technologists to teach, conduct research, and develop new approaches for applied game design and construction http://gamelab.mit.edu/about/

The key takeaway from this meeting was the fact that exploration in games is key. Also that we need to ensure that we create games make children really want to play, with meet both the entertainment, but more importantly the pedagogical needs of our students.

Finally at MIT we met with Erik Klopfer whose research focuses on the development and use of computer games and simulations for building understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics http://education.mit.edu/people/eric-klopfer

Erik showcased Randix Endeavour. The game is funded by the Gates Foundation, and under development at the MIT Education Arcade in collaboration with Filament Games. The initial phase will cover topics in biology, algebra, geometry, probability, and statistics, providing students with a collaborative, social experience in a systems-based game world where they can explore how the world works and discover important scientific concepts. http://education.mit.edu/projects/radix-endeavor

Erik also showcased the Lure of the Labyrinth is an on-line puzzle adventure game, designed to promote math and literacy learning, and is targeted at middle-school students http://education.mit.edu/projects/lure-labyrinth

Key takeaways from this meeting included the need to embed multiple goals into games and to allow multiple ways of successfully completing games. Additionally we need to ensure games start simple but grow more sophisticated during gameplay. Lastly we cannot just remake first person shooter games and try to integrate educational elements. This was referred to as chocolate covered broccoli. We need to move away from this approach. EdTech Image

Moving onto the Museum of Science’s National Center for Technological Literacy. We met with the wonderful Yvonne Spicer, who was full of enthusiasm and vision for the integration of STEM in schools. A former middle and high school technology/engineering educator and administrator, Yvonne is the associate director for formal education (K-12) www.nctl.org.

Key takeaways from this meeting were the need to move away from books, utilise kids phones for educational delivery and get comfortable with discomfortable.

Yvonne led us to the hall of human life which is well worth a visit see http://www.mos.org/exhibits/hall-human-life

We leave a snowy, cold Boston behind and we are currently on a train to New York for our next set of appointments.

EdTech Day 8 (New York)

Having travelled from Boston to New York we met with Enterprise Ireland. Michelle Dervan and Farimah Schuerman introduced us to their office and spoke about what Enterprise Ireland can offer businesses from Ireland including funding, exporting and research and innovation. Check out their website


Heidi Egger was also at the meeting providing a great overview of what Enterprise Ireland have done for Marino Software http://www.marinosoftware.com

Day 8 started and finished here, tomorrow we visit KIP Academy and EduLab.

EdTech Day 9

This morning we had the privilege of visiting KIP, a network of free, open-enrollment public charter schools preparing students for success in college and in life. This school is very much focused on personalised learning, accelerated learning, character building and students taking responsibility for their own learning. Using Khan Academy and ST Maths students we seen students collectively meeting in the cafeteria to work on devices such as chrome books to access the after mentioned software which tracks their skills and progress. We have so much to learn from this school. The character building classes create the environment which makes it cool to learn, understand what it takes to be the bigger person and focus on graduating is refreshing. EdTech Image

We then met with EdLab, a research, design, and development unit at Teachers College, Columbia University. Hui Soo Chae provided us with some insight into a number of projects including


We had the opportunity to tour the library, we started off seeing their digitisation efforts which they aim to have ALL the literature from their extensive library collection from decades ago online. We then toured the informal communal spaces for students, talking and collaboration is encouraged. The lovely Kate Meersschaert popped in and gave a brief overview of her work and welcomed any collaboration from our institutes / businesses.

This concludes day 9. Tomorrow we visit P-TECH, Google and the CUNY games network.

EdTech Day 10

This morning we met with Principal Rashid Davis in P-TECH Brooklyn which is the first school in the nation that connects high school, college, and the world of work through college and industry partnerships. The goal for this diverse, unscreened student population is 100% completion of an associate degree within six years. http://www.ptechnyc.org/site/default.aspx?PageID=1 EdTech Image

Visiting the classrooms we certainly seen the flipped classroom in practice. Students took the role of teachers both in front of the class using whiteboards and in small groups using self prepared power point presentations.

We had a New York lunch (pizza on the run) and made our way to Google. Erin Mindell, Program Manager from the Google Education Group. Erin spoke about a number of educational projects including http://cs4hs.com. We learnt about google rise awards, google lit trips and google faculty institute. I had the opportunity to tell Erin about how the university of ulster are using app inventor in our outreach programs. We concluded our visit with a tour of the amazing building.

Our final meeting was with the CUNY games network. As stated on their website http://games.commons.gc.cuny.edu CUNY connect educators from every campus and discipline at CUNY who are interested in games, simulations, and other forms of interactive teaching and inquiry-based learning. We seek to facilitate the pedagogical uses of both digital and non-digital games, improve student success, and encourage research and scholarship in the developing field of games-based learning.

We had a fantastic exchange with Joe, Carlos, Frank, Rob and Kathleen about the use of games in education. We spoke about learning styles, the science of learning, game design excellence, flipped learning the CUNY games festival. We then spoke about our own issues such as shifting mindsets about game based learning and the integration of game based learning in our classrooms.

This sadly draws to a close two weeks of outstanding meetings, exchanges and company.  Thanks to Neil Peirce for this fantastic infographic summing up the trip.



Angela Shaeffer Director of Program Development at Cultural Vistas has been the driving force behind the logistics and smooth operation of this program and it has been a pleasure to have spent this time with her. Also thanks to U.S. Embassy in Dublin and the U.S. Consulate. This program is going to be the influence for a lot of change amongst the 9 other participants whom I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know on this journey.

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