Bridge over the River Edtech

There is a river. On one side there are educators and on the other side there are companies building educational technology.

The river is fast-flowing, its currents are frigid.  It has carved its way through stone for many years separating the two distinct lands.

On one side of this river stands a citadel, a city surrounded by tall gray stone walls. Inside these walls thrives a community of skilled craftspeople, toiling to create new tools and technologies for others to use.

On the other side, is a camp of artisans, diligently working to grow and nurture their community and ensure its future success.

Motivated at times by the potential for profit and at other times by altruism, the craftspeople of the citadel peer out from their perches, high in the towers and watch the enterprising artisans, pondering what types of tools they might need, what they could sell them, what they could share.  There are times when they approach the water and yell across the river to a few nearby artisans but the roar of the rapids dulls or confuses the answers to the craftspeople’s questions.  The craftspeople return to their workshops and build new objects with little knowledge of the artisan side.

Regularly, the craftspeople wrap their newest inventions in cloth and take them outside the castle walls.  The packages might be covered in gold leaf or wrapped with eloquent proclamations.  Regardless of its decoration, a trumpet always announces the new inventions, flags are raised and ripple in the wind.  The craftspeople crank back the heavy wooden arm of a catapult and aim it towards the other side of the river.

The first trumpet blast provokes a variety of reactions on the artisan’s side.  Some scramble about trying to predict how the next package might help them, where it may land.  Others worry about the trajectory of the new delivery, worrying about the damage it could incur or the struggles that may ensue.  Others are skeptical and remain stationary, doubting this new invention. They remember days when the trumpet would sound and nothing came. They peer cynically towards the mountainous pile of objects, previously launched from the castle, now discarded and neglected.

The trumpet sounds again and the package is launched into the air. It lands with a thud, the depth of the sound when it makes contact with the ground reveals its weight before any artisan sees the contents.  The artisans find bricks and horseshoes within the gilded cloth.  Some immediately pick up the objects and test their use.  Some watch and slowly follow.  Others sit outside their tents, merely watching the clouds move across the sky.

Soon the artisans realize the bricks do not match their architecture, the shapes are incongruent to their own  They go about hacking at the bricks and bending the horseshoes to make them work as best as possible. They use the horseshoes to hammer the corners off of bricks that do not fit.  They use other items from around the village, sticky resin from trees to ensure the misshapen bricks stay in place. They go about patching, combining, and mending.

Soon, however, the artisans arrive at the futility of these actions.  In response to this disappointment, they yell across the river, but the rushing water swallows their comments.  They send doves with messages tied to their ankles.  Some don’t return perhaps plucked from the air by falcons. The artisans craft calligraphic notes, roll them into hopeful bottles and toss them from the river banks. Numerous bottles are swept away downstream, dancing in the current until they disappear out of view.

One day an enterprising artisan turns back aways from the river and stares at the pile of detritus from past packages. She decides, “We should build a bridge.”

June Labs is building a bridge that connects the designers and developers of the tech industry with teachers and administrators. We are crossing the moat and knocking on the front gate.  We are creating a phrasebook so that the artisans and craftspeople may converse for the benefit of both sides.

March 1, 2014

June Labs Enters the Blogosphere

It is May 2011.

It is early on a Saturday morning in Philadelphia.

I am skipping across Walnut Street.

Well, I am not entirely skipping.  I admit, there is an added bounce to my step, a hint of hopscotch. My gait has been lightened.  There is the youthful energy of inspiration and joy, yet there is the hesitancy and reservation of adulthood.

Instead of the numbered boxes written in chalk, I am moving towards an arrow on the ground.  The words EdcampPhilly propel me forward.

The Way to Edcamp Philly (photo by Scot J. Wittman)

I pause to look for the designated entrance and realize that I am a 35 year old man, skipping, on the way to an event unrecognized by spell check.

I have driven an hour on a Saturday to attend an unconference.

This is professional development not required by my school.

This is an event where they ask you to turn on your devices not shut them down.

This is an event where they encourage you to leave a session if you don’t like it.  Leave right in the middle, walk past the presenter, and out the door.

This is an event where none of the workshops are decided upon in advance and where anyone can lead a session about anything.  A 10 year old wants to show teachers how Minecraft could be used in the classroom? Done.

I smile.

I think I have found my tribe.

But who are the Edcampers, the connected educators, the edu-makers and the teacherpreneurs?

We build workarounds.
We attend hackathons.
In the faculty lunch room, we admit to missing the previous night’s episode of American Idol.
We don’t admit that we have never seen a single show but would prefer to build a website, teach ourselves Python, or attend a Meet Up for entrepreneurs.
We know the difference between a Maker Bot and a Makey Makey.
We continue to start sentences with the words, “I’ve got an idea…” despite the eye rolling of friends, colleagues, and significant others.

We teach tomorrow.
We aren’t afraid to fail.
We teach respect.
We inspire kids to always want to try their hardest no matter what.

-Caren MacConnell


We focus on possibilities and not problems.
We are #bettertogether.
We flip classrooms.
We find something brilliant in EVERY student.
We invite parents as partners in learning.

-John Fritzky


We know that learning is endless.
We know that humility is important.
Our most critical responsibility is to care for our students.

-Mike Thayer


We take small steps every day that add up to giant wins.

-Kristin Swanson


We attend Edcamps.
We know the value of school librarians.
We use Twitter & social media to build  our PLN.

-Elissa Malespina


We connect people AND things.
We have to trust our students – who else is gonna teach us this stuff??

-Dave Zirkle


We recognize failure as the road to success.
We act rather than acquiesce.

-Mike Ritzius


We trust our students.
We empower our students.

-Laura Blankenship


We wonder “what if” in the face of “impossible.”

-Mary Beth Hertz


What does June Labs do and how does it connect with these ideas?  

Teachers have always developed tools and materials for their classrooms.  The list is long: bulletin boards, anchor charts, graphic organizers, but for a number of years, unless they were gifted with significant technology training, educators were left out of the creator role in the digital realm.  Now due to increased access to creation tools, teachers can take a more active role in the invention process for their field. This empowerment, combined with partnerships with companies and organizations, will allow teachers to become designers and collaborators, not just passive consumers.

June Labs will disrupt the way education tools are made by creating greater digital channels for exceptional teachers, EDU Gurus, and students to collaborate together with developers and product designers from around the world.

We want innovators, like the ones listed above, the ones on the other side of Walnut Street, to collaboratively develop disruptive learning tools for the future.

What can you dream up?

What will we help you build?




January 20, 2014

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