Laura Allen, Founder and President of Vision Education & Media / RoboFun, New York

Talk Title: What is our goal? What do we want students to know before they graduate from High School? 

Laura Allen is the Founder and President of Vision Education & Media / RoboFun. Located in New York City, Laura and her staff have been working in over 200 schools and public and independent school systems helping teachers and students use technology in creative and effective ways. Laura is passionately committed to helping children reach their learning potential through creative uses of technology while nurturing their innate abilities to problem-solve. Currently her company is running 90 programs in public and independent schools in the New York City area. 

Laura has worked with important leaders in the field of Educational Technology including Dr. Seymour Papert, co-founder of the MIT Artificial Intelligence lab and Dr. Mitchel Resnick, LEGO Professor of Learning Research and head of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Laboratory. Laura was awarded Enterprising Woman of the Year in 2006 and in 2008 by Enterprising Women Magazine. Vision Education / RoboFun has also been the recipient of Awards at the World Maker Faire in 2010, 20111, 2012 and in the fall of 2014, received two “best in class” awards at World Maker Faire.

Laura Allen, holds a Masters of Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education and studied at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Lesley College. Laura also has BA in Painting and Sculpture from Skidmore College. She credits her background in the arts as an important tool for running an enterprise that values creativity, innovation and thinking outside the box. She is an active member of the Maker movement and improving STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) education. Ms. Allen has worked with teachers and students for over thirty years, creating some of the field’s most effective solutions for using technology as a tool for learning and teaching. 

Laura is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including two National Science Foundation (NSF) Grants, totaling over 2.5 million in funding to work in with high needs communities in the South Bronx. In 2011, the MacArthur foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Competition funded 16 organizations out of a pool of 1100 applications; Vision Education was one of the 16 funded organizations.

Joshua Aronson, Associate Professor, New York University

Talk Title: “Steps to a More Elevating Education”

Joshua Aronson is associate professor of developmental, social, and educational psychology, at NYU.  He is also a research scientist at the Metro Center for Urban Education. He received his Ph.D. in 1992 from Princeton University.  Before coming to NYU, he was on the faculty at the University of Texas and was a postdoctoral scholar and lecturer at Stanford University.  Aronson’s research focuses on the social and psychological influences on academic achievement.  Among the most widely cited social scientists in the past decade, Aronson is internationally known for his research on “stereotype threat” and minority student achievement, research that offers a strong challenge to traditional genetic and sociological explanations of why African Americans and Latinos perform less well on tests of intelligence than their White counterparts, and why women trail men in hard math and science.  Aronson’s research with colleague Claude Steele has been cited in three Supreme Court cases and is considered a modern classic in social psychology, with over 4600 citations in scientific publications. Aronson has authored numerous chapters and scholarly articles on this work and is the Editor of Improving Academic Achievement: Impact of Psychological Factors on Education (Academic Press) and Readings about the Social Animal, (Worth), and Co Author of the Social Animal.  His work for the past decade has been devoted to enhancing the school experiences of disadvantaged students and improving their learning and test performance.  This work has been highly influential in the field of education, intelligence testing, law and social psychology—featured in best selling books like Blink, The Nurture Assumption, How Children Succeed, and Mindset: The Psychology of Success, among many others.  Aronson has received several awards and grants for his research including Early Career awards from the American Psychological Association’s Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and the National Science Foundation, and the G. Stanley Hall Lecturer Award from the American Psychological Association, and the William T. Grant Faculty Scholars award. He was the founding director of the Center for Research on Culture, Development and Education at New York University and now directs the Metro Center For Achievement Research and Evaluation (Metro CARE) at New York University.

Kerry Decker, Principal, Urban Assembly School for Green Careers

Talk Title: Harnessing Social Norms to Leverage School-wide Innovation

Kerry is Principal of The Urban Assembly School for Green Careers, a public district high school in Manhattan. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with majors in English and Spanish in 1994, and National Louis University (MA, 1996). Kerry started her teaching career in Villa Park, Illinois, where she was a bilingual teacher before moving to the Middle East to teach elementary and middle school at The American School of Kuwait, a State Department School. A graduate of Teachers College (2001), Kerry was Assistant Principal at Middle School 51 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and Principal of the Jacob Riis School, a Pre-K through 8th grade public district school in Manhattan where she took initiative to see the Learning Cultures model implemented for the first time on a school-wide basis in K-8 English language arts.

Ezekiel Dixon-Román, Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania

Talk Title: Digital Technology, Data, & the 'Social' of Innovation

Dr. Ezekiel Dixon-Romáis an Assistant Professor of Social Policy in the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. He also has secondary appointments in the Graduate School of Education and the Department of Africana Studies and is an affiliated faculty member in the Latin American and Latino Studies Program and the Warren Center for Network and Data Sciences. Dr. Dixon-Román is also an invited institute associate of the Taos Institute, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to the development of social constructionist theory and practices for purposes of world benefit. His research interests are on the intersections of the sociology of education, cultural studies, and quantitative methods with particular interest in critical policy studies. He maintains a program of research examining social reproduction in human learning and development and the critical questioning and rethinking of the quantification of these processes. His dissertation on the cumulative effects of intergenerational and historical inequality on the social distribution of mathematics and reading achievement growth received the 2007 Fordham University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Dissertation Award. Dr. Dixon-Román has published in leading social science and education journals such as The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social ScienceUrban Education, and Teachers College Record and is the lead editor (with Edmund W. Gordon) of Thinking Comprehensively About Education: Spaces of Educative Possibility and Their Implications for Public Policy. He has also received research grant support from institutions such as the Law School Admissions Council, Educational Testing Service, the American Educational Research Association, and the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. He has presented at numerous professional conferences and workshops including the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Sociological Association, the American Public Health Association, and the American Academy of Religion. Additionally, Dr. Dixon-Román was an appointed member of the Research Advisory Committee of the American Educational Research Association and The Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education. 

Christina Erneling, Professor, Lund University

Talk Title: Discursive Education

Christina is currently Visiting Professor in the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University. She is Professor of Psychology at Lund University, and the author of Towards discursive education: Philosophy, technology and modern education (Cambridge University Press, 2010), Understanding language acquisition: The framework of learning (SUNY Press, 1993) and co-editor of two books on cognitive science: The mind as a scientific object: Between brain and culture (Oxford University Press, 2005) and The future of the cognitive revolution (Oxford University Press, 1997). She is currently working on a research project investigating conceptual issues in evolutionary psychology and education: Evolutionary educational psychology: a biologising of education?

Edmund Gordon, Professor Emeritus, Yale University

Talk Title: Pedagogy: To Harness or Release Human Agency?

W. Gordon is the John M. Musser Professor of Psychology, Emeritus - Yale University and Richard March Hoe Professor of Psychology and Education, Emeritus - Teachers College, Columbia University. Among Dr. Gordon’s most recent honors is the "Edmund W. Gordon Chair for Policy Evaluation and Research" created by the Educational Testing Service to recognize his lasting contributions to developments in education including Head Start, compensatory education, school desegregation, and supplementary education. Dr. Gordon is cofounder and chair of The Gordon Commission.

Professor Gordon is concerned with issues associated with increasing the number of high academic achieving students who come from African American, Latino, and Native American families. He is widely known for his research on diverse human characteristics and pedagogy, and the education of low status populations. He is interested in the career development of Black men who have overcome enormous odds against success to become high achievers. Recent research interests include the advancement of his concepts of "affirmative development of academic ability" and "supplementary education" both which focus on improving the quality of academic achievement in diverse learners.

At the present, he is conducting a conceptual inquiry into the possibilities that measurement science can contribute to alleviating the tension between promoting both equity and the pursuit of excellence in achievement in education in a diverse learner population. The work of this conceptual inquiry assumes that measurement science should contribute to the development of mental abilities just as it has traditionally measured the status of developed abilities.

David Kirkland, Associate Professor, New York University

Talk Title: “Centering Students”

David E. Kirkland is  an associate professor of English and Urban Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at New York University’s (NYU) Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. He also serves as Executive Director of The Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and The Transformation of Schools. His scholarship explores intersections among race, gender, and education. In so doing, he analyzes culture, language, and texts, and uses critical literary, ethnographic, and sociolinguistic research methods to answer complex questions at the center of equity in education. Dr. Kirkland taught middle and high school for several years in Michigan. He’s also organized youth empowerment and youth mentoring programs for over a decade. Dr. Kirkland has received many awards for his groundbreaking work in urban education, including the 2008 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Division G Outstanding Dissertation Award. He was a 2009-10 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, a 2011-12 NAEd/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, and is a former fellow of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Research Foundation's “Cultivating New Voices among Scholars of Color” program. Dr. Kirkland has published widely. His most recent publications include: Black Skin, White Masks: Normalizing Whiteness and the Trouble with the Achievement Gap, English(es) in Urban Contexts: Politics, Pluralism, and Possibilities, and We Real Cool: Examining Black Males and Literacy. A Search Past Silence: The Literacy of Black Males, the fifth book that Dr. Kirkland has authored, co-authored, edited, or co-edited, is a TC Press bestseller and winner of the 2014 AESA Critics Choice Award and the 2014 NCTE David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English. He is also co-editor of the newly released Students Right to Their Own Language, a critical sourcebook published by Bedford/St. Martins Press.

Cynthia McCallister, Associate Professor, NYU

Talk Title: Considering New Spaces for Education Innovation

Cynthia McCallister is Associate Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at New York University. She is the author of Reconceptualizing Literacy Methods Instruction (Peter Lang, 1998), Unison Reading: Socially-Inclusive Group Instruction for Equity and Achievement (Corwin Press, 2011) and Cooperative Unison Reading: A Socio-Cultural Instructional Method, K-12.

Dr. McCallister is the creator of Learning Cultures®, an educational model based on the understanding that people learn best when they are curious, engaged, and attentive, and when they have opportunities to think in the company of others. Underlying the Learning Cultures model is a theory of literacy instruction she developed that accounts for the role that social context plays in learning. Learning Cultures establishes ground rules for literacy competence and the responsibilities that the student must assume within the context of the learning community. This approach teaches students literacy skills as well as the social competencies and responsibilities required of literate people. Dr. McCallister is also the creator of Cooperative Unison Reading®, a method of group reading instruction that emphasizes cooperative reasoning and perspective shifting as strategies for the development of reading skills and comprehension. The Learning Cultures model has been implemented in eight NYC public K-12 schools.

Ahmad Mickens, Founder, Revolution Youth, Stamford, Connecticut

Talk Title: Training the body, Intellect, and Soul  

Ahmad Mickens, founder of Revolution Fitness in Stamford, Connecticut, is the Director of the Revolution Fitness Youth Boxing program. Revolution Youth was founded in order to provide Stamford children and adolescents with a constructive physical fitness after-school option. Boxing is a rewarding and challenging sport, combining athleticism, physical and mental control and conditioning, sportsmanship, and self-dignity. Mickens is a certified boxing coach with over 12 years of experience as an amateur and professional boxer. Sparring partner to top professional light-heavy-weight contender David Telesco and former world champion Travis Simms, Mickens is Vice President of the Connecticut Boxing Association. Mickens has partnered with NYU Professor Cynthia McCallister, to incorporate Cooperative Unison Reading into the Revolution Youth program, where students are able to harness mental control, sportsmanship and self-dignity as they develop critical reading skills.


Dr. Heather Terrill Stotts, Executive Director, Innovative Schools Network
Talk Title : Exploring New Spaces for Educational Innovation

Dr. Heather Terrill Stotts is the Executive Director of the ISN and a longtime proponent of innovative education. A former elementary and middle school teacher, principal, college professor, and educational consultant, Heather brings deep experience working directly with students, parents, teachers, and administrators at the school, district, state, and national level. Overseeing all aspects of ISN operations to enable the Network to achieve its long-term goals, Heather's areas of focus include strategy, finance, public relations, human resources, board management, fundraising, and program delivery.