Teacher to Teacher
by Teacher2Teacher Team | 01.26.16
Adam Schoenbart teaches English, grades 10-12, at Ossining High School in Westchester County, NY.
Dani Kennis is a special education social studies teacher and technology coach at Clarkstown High School South in Clarkstown, NY.
Launched by two longtime friends, #TheEduCal is a crowdsourced, searchable calendar that teachers can use to discover and share educational events taking place in their area.
Dani Kennis and Adam Schoenbart
Adam: Dani and I have known each other since we were three or four. We started going to edtech conferences last year [and] tweeted out to a few people in our PLNs—we wanted to know if there was a calendar where we could find more events. There wasn’t really anything. [We thought], “Why isn’t there a place for this?” It seemed like such an obvious idea—such a powerful and logical extension of all the things connected educators do.
Dani: We started brainstorming around it. [#TheEduCal] started as an [online] edtech conference calendar for New York and New Jersey, compiling events for the tri-state area. At EDnado, a few people came up to us, complimenting it, saying how much they loved it. We started thinking, “Why stop? Let’s go bigger and better. Let’s expand it—to the U.S. and to the world.”
Adam: Then came the bigger picture: What if we could geocode a crowdsourced map and database? Not just about edtech, but useful to all educators. That’s when I had the idea of the map. It had to be a MapQuest model, one teachers could use to find and search for events in their proximity—powerful and user-friendly.
We wanted to preserve the crowdsourcing aspect of the calendar, so the goal was to make the process of adding an event very simple, all while encouraging teachers to provide enough detail to make the calendar useful. We also list online events—I hope to see this area in particular really grow with webinars and all kinds of events that will appeal to a larger audience and be accessible to teachers in any environment.
Dani: We launched the ambassador program to recruit people willing to represent their state, promoting #TheEduCal through their websites and social media. The goal is to have multiple representatives in each state so that we can reach everyone. The next phase is to figure out how to actively recruit more. We would love to have ambassadors not only in every state, but also in every country.
We receive emails and alerts every time an event is added, and I just get so excited when I see events in places nowhere around me because this is what the calendar is about—it’s about teachers connecting and really putting those opportunities out there.
Adam: I love the idea of conferences, especially those that are really participant-driven—they’re a chance to learn more and collaborate with other educators, whether they’re experts, beginners or any mix of the two, and to see how our interests and our knowledge come together. The idea behind the calendar is to help teachers find even more opportunities to experience that kind of connection, collaboration and growth.
Dani: Adam and I are part of a PLN—it’s super nerdy, but we call ourselves, “The Ed Justice League.” It’s a group of us who met on Twitter and later at a conference last year—we’ve kept in touch ever since through Voxer. Every day, the six of us talk—about our edu-wins, our edu-losses, the things that we’re frustrated about, excited about. We even have a joke of the day to begin each morning.
It’s just [a way] to vent or get advice, and that would have never happened if it weren’t for Twitter and these conferences. Having a group of people to share with has been invaluable, and that’s what we wanted—through the calendar, to help [teachers] build and grow their PLN.
Adam: I return from conferences all the time hoping to bring another idea in, even if it’s something so simple as the power of social media—telling your school’s story, taking control of the narrative of education. Other times, it’s a new tool I can demo, and teachers can really see why students might get excited about it—how it might affect their learning.
We’re looking at a world where people are going to be connecting and creating in new ways. Teachers are professionals—we need to grow and we need to evolve with the world to prepare our students for the future. The hope is that Dani and I can help teachers do that, and teachers can help us do that, too. We all want to do better, and this calendar is a tool.
Dani: At the end of the day, “tribe” is exactly the word that I think of when I think of the calendar—it’s the reason we started it. When I started going to conferences, I had this epiphany, this moment when I realized that, “This is where I belong, this is what I need to be doing.” These people are my tribe—they’re passionate about the things that I’m passionate about, they’re curious about the things I’m curious about. That word, “tribe,” totally embodies everything I love about going to conferences. That’s why we wanted to make the calendar—to give other people the opportunity to find that same thing. To find their tribe.
Adam always says, “All of us are smarter than one of us.” I think that if we keep collaborating, keep sharing our ideas and being transparent—that’s really how change is going to happen.
Adam and Dani’s tips for staying connected with other educators outside of conferences:
Adam: Part of becoming more connected is building in the time for it, even if that’s just 15 minutes a day searching through hashtags on Twitter. You may find a dozen things that don’t interest you, but the two or three that do are what really make a difference.
Twitter is by far the best professional development tool I have ever found—it has changed my career. Find the people who speak your language and share your interests and those are the people you want to follow on social media and interact with—tweet at them, ask questions. This is something that, in the beginning, I found intimidating. But I’ve since found that if you don’t know who to ask, somebody else will.
Dani: I think Twitter is the best way to be connected—it’s a great first stepping stone. From there, it’s about courage and not being afraid to be innovative—to start your own conference if that’s what it’ll take because there’s definitely a need and an interest everywhere. It’s a big leap, but it’s so worth it to be able to bring educators together.