Reimagining Ed Tech in Schools

Featured Sessions & Speakers

The conference will be fully online on Friday and Saturday, January 13 - 14, 2023 via Zoom. The conference schedule will include sessions featuring experts in the three key issue areas; open forums to allow for community building, networking, and the opportunity to grapple with new or challenging ideas; and an opening and closing plenary to identify common themes and cross-purposes across the conference strands. Presenters will model best practices in the use of digital texts, tools, and technologies for teaching and learning.

Why Focus on Reimagining Ed Tech in Schools?

Using digital technologies can foster curiosity, engagement, community, and joy in the classroom. But so many types of edtech can also normalize and accelerate the ubiquity of surveillance, data collection, distrust, and punishment in schools. Especially in the wake of emergency remote pandemic education, so many educators are grappling with what we hope the relationship between edtech and schooling to be. In this strand, we will explore creative and courageous alternatives—to help each other articulate the harms of particular edtech, but to not stop there as we insist on a different kind of edtech ecosystem.

Michelle Ciccone, Moderator

University of Massachusetts Amherst


Media Literacy Education in a Platform Society

In this session, we will map out the complex media environments created by digital platforms and consider how that complexity manifests in our classrooms and schools. To what extent does media literacy education prepare us to grapple with the complex relationships that are introduced within a platform society? And how might our media literacy education frameworks better equip us for this moment?

Presenter: T. Philip Nichols

T. Philip Nichols is an assistant professor of literacy education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Baylor University. He studies how science and technology condition the ways we practice, teach, and talk about literacy and the implications of this conditioning for equitable public education. He is the author of Building the Innovation School: Infrastructures for Equity in Today’s Classrooms (Teachers College Press, 2022), and he recently co-convened (with Antero Garcia) a Harvard Educational Review symposium on “Platform Studies in Education,” which explored the impacts of platform technologies on global education policy and practice. Phil is also editor of Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (English) and a 2021 National Academy of Education / Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow. He holds a PhD in Literacy, Culture, and International Education from the University of Pennsylvania, where he also earned an M.A. in History and Sociology of Science. He lives in Austin, TX.

Imagining an Alternative EdTech Ecosystem

The edtech market is dominated by products developed by Big Tech companies (i.e. Google and Microsoft) or operate along the same logics of surveillance capitalism business models. What would it take to build edtech outside of the data extraction business model, that are publicly or otherwise funded? What alternative edtech tools already exist, that are open source or otherwise locally maintained? What would our schools gain and what would they give up if we looked beyond the obvious, big players in the field for teaching and learning technologies?

Presenters: Nate Angell and Alija Blackwell

Nate Angell is an evangelist focused on community development, digital communications, meaningful education, open technologies, and sustainable growth, now leading communications and community at Creative Commons. He has worked across a wide variety of organizations, including open-source technology providers like Hypothesis and rSmart, Oregon startups like Lumen Learning and Little Bird, global communities like the Apereo Foundation, Mozilla Open Leaders, MYFest, and Virtually Connecting, and public/nonprofit institutions like Portland State University and the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry. Nate is ABD for a PhD in American Civilization with a focus on critical media studies. Nate lives in Portland, Oregon USA with some other cats and humans. Learn more about Nate on his blog, Twitter, or Mastodon.

Alija Blackwell, an award-winning foresight strategist and creative technologist, co-founded trubel&co, a culturally-responsive technical education platform that champions youth to disrupt society for the better through liberatory innovation. Previously, Alija was a Technology Policy Fellow with the Aspen Institute focusing on student data protection by design on edtech platforms. As a member of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology's Digital Literacy Accelerator, Alija designed an augmented reality game to teach students how to combat misinformation. Alija is also the founding director of Oneiric Lab, a strategic foresight and immersive design consultancy. As a Next Generation Foresight Practitioner Fellow with the School of International Futures, they facilitate speculative design workshops to advance pathways towards resilient and just futures by engaging the public imagination. As a Climate Justice Fellow at Second Nature, they develop resources to support the implementation and evaluation of equitable and just climate action planning initiatives for Second Nature's Climate Leadership Network of over 400 colleges and universities. Alija has a background in community environmental planning, digital media, and data science.

Refusal as a Strategy

The use of particular educational technologies in our learning communities can be mandated or encouraged by our institutions. What happens when we notice that particular edtech creates unintended or unwanted changes in our pedagogy, in our relationship to our students and colleagues, or in the habits of our students? Can we refuse to use mandated or encouraged edtech? And can this individual refusal become part of a larger structural and institutional strategy? In this session, we will hear from educators who have engaged in refusal, and discuss the possibilities and perils inherent to refusal as a strategy.

Presenters: Dr. Denisha Jones and Kyle Denlinger

Dr. Denisha Jones is the Executive Director of Defending the Early Years. She is a former kindergarten teacher and preschool director who spent the past 19 years in teacher education. Denisha is an education justice advocate and activist working with various grassroots organizations to dismantle the neoliberal assault on public education. She is a part-time faculty member in the Art of Teaching program at Sarah Lawrence College and the School of Education at Howard University. Since 2017, she served on the steering committee for the national Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. Her first co-edited book, Black Lives Matter at School: An Uprising for Educational Justice, was published in December 2020 by Haymarket Books.

Kyle Denlinger (he/him) is the Digital Pedagogy & Open Education Librarian at Wake Forest University’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library. In this role, Kyle works with faculty to design and implement digital class projects, with a specific focus on digital publishing and the creation of open educational resources. He also teaches undergraduate information literacy courses and supports student and faculty research within his assigned departments. Kyle earned his MA in Information Science & Learning Technologies from the University Missouri and his BS in Secondary Education from the University of Cincinnati.

Supporting Schools in Saying No to Problematic EdTech

Schools are under so much pressure to address a wide range of issues—from student academic achievement gaps to cyberbullying to threats to school safety. Amidst these pressures, it is no wonder that particular kinds of edtech appear to be silver-bullet solutions. But no piece of technology can solve any complex and socially-situated problem. How can we—as educators and/or community members— support schools and districts in courageously rejecting the adoption and implementation of particularly harmful edtech? How can we help others in our communities learn about and grapple with the unintended harms that come along with certain proposed edtech solutions? In this moment of widescale attack on public education, it is more important than ever to support schools in making these difficult choices. In this session, we will hear from community members that are working to build solidarity in their communities to help shift the conversation away from harmful technology implementations.

Presenters: Shreya Sampath, Marisa Syed, and Clarence Okoh

Shreya Sampath is a senior at Livingston High School, New Jersey. Incredibly passionate about representing Gen Z in the equitable technology conversation, she is a member of Encode Justice, a youth-led coalition fighting for human rights in the digital age. At Encode Justice, she is investigating school surveillance technology using public records requests, along with Marisa Syed, in their roles as New Jersey chapter leads. Also, as Chapter Projects Director, she is advising more than 15 chapters around the United States to pursue topics related to algorithmic justice and equitable technology. She hopes to create more transparency, protect privacy, and promote algorithmic justice in educational technology, facilitating conversations with teachers, technologists, activists, and policymakers.

Marisa Syed is a senior in County Prep High School, New Jersey. She is an advocacy fellow and Co-Chapter lead for New Jersey Encode Justice. Alongside Encode Justice she is the executive director of the Justice Education Project, an organization that strives to educate, empower, and encourage Generation Z to get involved in learning and creating reform within the Justice Education Project. As an executive director she has been in a published book which was promoted on Teen Vogue and hosted a workshop with the NY ACLU and Encode Justice about the intersection of Criminal Justice and Technology.

Clarence Okoh is senior policy counsel on the youth team, where he leads CLASP’s cross-team work that aims to empower communities of color living with low incomes to challenge new and emerging threats from the criminal legal system. Clarence’s advocacy leverages abolitionist policy design to support efforts to build systems-of-care that meet the needs of communities with low incomes victimized by racist divestment, mass criminalization, and technology-enabled rights abuses. Clarence’s work also explores strategies for leveraging civil and human rights protections to promote upward economic mobility and reparative justice for communities with low incomes. Prior to CLASP, Clarence was a civil rights litigator and Equal Justice Works Fellow at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund where he led an interdisciplinary project to challenge algorithmic racism and data-driven criminalization of Black communities.